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The Ross-on-Wye Boardgamers

Beer and Boardgames at The Plough Inn (formerly the Prince Of Wales, formerly the White Lion). "It's not F-ing Monopoly, alright?!"

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Friday December 1st - Proud Mary Keyp on Burnin'

Ben Bateson
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Unusually for this high-strung collection of gamers, the annual Post-Essen trauma (whereby we discover that no-one else likes our brand new prized finds) hadn't seized yet, and we were all pretty amicable with the new additions to our collections. Tony and I had a mission to try and play them all before Christmas, and thereby it was that Keyper and Transatlantic were pre-set as tonight's agenda. Gary stated his intention to turn up, and by a new group agreement we started a half-hour early to give the poor chap time to slog halfway across Herefordshire and back.

Despite a rulebook that would make Stephen Hawking wail and gnash his teeth (or at least croak electronically and wiggle his eyelids), Keyper proved to be a fairly easy teach, even the assorted fringe rules about lying down workers and so on. Having only played 2P before, it was clear quickly that the worker distribution was going to go skew-whiff fairly quickly, and hence Tony began Autumn with an unappetising collection of oranges, blacks and no whites. As Becky began targetting her objective of laying down pretty much every single meeple on everyone's board, the Boydell complaints started about over-complexity and too many resources and too much chrome and how he couldn't work the boards.

Rather amusingly, the latter complaint appears to be utterly true, and the best comedy I had all week was watching Tony haplessly manipulating and swearing at the Rubik-like board. On the note of his other gripes, I do have to concede that he has a point. Keyper is massively, almost comically, over-complexified. It is to Keyflower what Caverna is to Agricola, and consequently will never be quite as good. I find it a curious novelty, but it is not going to scale the ranks of my top 200: of that I am quite confident. The final result even close, Becky breaking three figures in style with Tony lagging behind on less than half her score. Amusingly, after a good 45 minutes of chuntering, he professed his intent to play it again 'to see if he was right'.

After this pantomime, I had slight qualms about setting up Transatlantic. I'm not sure it's as good as Concordia, and although comparisons are justified, they are in fact subtly and distinctly different games. Gary was happy to plough straight in, given he had prior experience, and Tony listened to my rules overview with furrowed brow...

...but he really liked it! I'm pleased, for Transatlantic is rapidly becoming a favourite of mine too. The engine feels very Concordia-like, but there is an nice economy wrapped around it, and - rather entertainingly - a game of Top Trumps bunged straight in the middle. Tony said midway through that it 'just feels right', and I can't think of a better compliment.

Mr B built a big, early and colour-specific fleet and left us all straggling on the leaderboard. Becky picked up the card that rewarded diversity and Gary set his eyes fast on Blue Ribands. I went for a bit of coal and an exercise in wringing as much money out of my poor overworked ships as I could. But, even despite our early start, time was ticking on, and despite an accelerated pace, Tony was flinging increasingly urgent glances at his watch, with youth once again awaiting collection.

About a half-dozen rounds before the end, he had to dash off, leaving us to play his cards in a sensible fashion and just two ships on the New York board, which we charitably declined to bump off, while buying him a total of three Headquarters cards. The end scoring saw a boom for Becky, who had a half-dozen more boats than Tony, and she overtook him at the very last to make a clean sweep of the evening. Thanks to my charity in allowing Tony to buy 'my' black headquarters, I straggled in a very close third. But the best news was that one game, at least, was inexcusably a triumph.

Becky is now undefeated at both Keyper AND Transatlantic. What's to be done, eh?
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Wed Dec 6, 2017 8:21 pm
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Friday November 24th - Cloth, and touching it

Ben Bateson
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Last week was spent visiting Midcon, getting my car broken into, and generally engaging in past-midnight gaming with aplomb. There may be a geeklist summarising all this if I can muster the energy.

Tonight's event was proceeded by protracted sessions trying to placate both Tony (who wants to play EVERYTHING he bought at Essen all at once) and the most awkward member of the games club, to whit my wife, who wanted to play lots of stuff but teach absolutely nothing. Eventually, some sort of uneasy compromise was reached, and I chucked a few 6P games in the bag as well as the planned stuff for two tables of three.

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong was one of these. I quite like this blend of Mysterium and Werewolf, but Tony was having none of these frothy mechanics tonight with a bag of 'proper' games waiting. He tried a second game and still didn't enter into the spirit of things, and with Becky raising eyebrows at it as well, I suspect I'll struggle to get this any more table time at Ross.

Onto the main event, and Becky grudgingly agreed to teach something she new well, and dished up Viticulture for the benefit of Gary and Xander. Tony, John and I dug into Nusfjord, hindered only marginally by Tony's reading of the rules, and I carefully built a working Elder engine while they went crazy for fish.

Nusfjord is a VERY Rosenberg game, but I really liked the restraint in only having three resources (compare and contrast Keyper, with something in the region of 20), and the smartly-planned interaction between the three is clearly the basis of the clever engine that is central to all the worker placement. It will compete happily with Glass Road for our attentions: it doesn't really bear a resemblance to our favourite other than in length, weight and level of general intrigue.

Gary, scoring a personal low 5 points in Viticulture, blamed tiredness and chose to go home, which left us 5P and ripe for a game of Calimala. This was a doddle to teach, even for Tony, and we were soon underway. My compulsion with this sort of game is NEVER to give free stuff to other people, which might be why Calimala and I fall out in the long term, but I did enjoy my first play, ending in victory as I gobbled up a lot of fabric shipping and left the others to fight out the donations.

People are saying lots of good things about Calimala, and I like the compactness and potential in the random setup. But it also feels quite fiddly with the actions swinging back and forth, and the 'extra action' deck is a bit of a fudge. Like all area control, you can get frustratingly out of contention as well. I just don't see myself playing this beyond a half-dozen or so plays.

With the clock ticking slowly tonight, we had time for a rousting few games of Dobble (Hot Potato variant, natch), followed by some lop-sided Codenames, both of which saw Becky and I on the losing team.
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Sat Nov 25, 2017 4:00 pm
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Friday November 10th - A bombardment of bibulous birthday boardgamers

Ben Bateson
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Yes, I do still have a blog. And I sometimes keep it up to date, as well.

This particular Friday was the prelude to Tony's big weekend-long birthday bash: two days of Essen Hauls, customised beer, and gamers of all shapes, sizes and descriptions (including some that were positively indescribable). Over a dozen assorted people therefore descended on the Plough's back room on Friday night, where we had had the foresight to set up three times our usual table acreage.

Forgoing opportunities to play the shiny new Calimala and Santa Maria, Becky set up her staple 'game to horribly batter newbies', Lancaster. Suprisingly, this attracted willing victims in the form of our very own Gary, along with visitors Craig ("I'll be hopeless at this" he said, rather prophetically) and Steve. A sprinkling of New Laws added plenty of intrigue to rounds 2 and 3 with more than a little diplomacy breaking out at the prospect of actively losing resources. As was utterly predictable, Becky won at a canter, with Steve coming through for a brave second. Craig managed an impressive 18 points, which I think might be an all-comers record for losing to Becky.

Acquiescing to Craig's request in defeat, we went in for Keyflower. We lost Steve, but acquired Ben M - a man who later provided my own highlight of TonyCon with his sock-puppet impressions. The random draw ran long on basic resources and green meeples (indeed we were to drain the supply of greens, which made me all the happier that I hadn't bothered getting involved), but not so much on gold or transport.

Becky discovered that downfalls cometh fast at Ross, with a pretty woeful (although funny) 23 points, and Gary adopted the air of an old hand as he cruised to 49 points. But I set a personal best at 'vanilla' Keyflower, clocking up a whopping 83 points by steering clear of all the green meeple shenanigans and running my own little engine with brutal efficiency.

Surprisingly, we had run out of time after just two games, but there was much more to come over the course of the weekend. My personal games log contains no less than all the following:

Gaia Project (frankly unnecessary expansion on Terra Mystica, a distant third behind Richard and Claire)

Ora et Labora (comfortable win over Becky and Stuart, but felt a bit soulless for some reason. Perhaps this one has served its time?)

Montana (not the best Essen purchase: a very procedural take on resource juggling, won by Stuart over Jules and myself)

Glass Road (won by me with a very low 18.5 points, notable for Stuart's comedy ineptness and Ben's aforementioned sock-puppet voice from the table behind us)

Revolution (A huge late burst from Stuart won this and left Phil stranded on a miserable 58 points. Fun, but too chaotic).

Azul (definitely the hit of Essen '17 for me, won comfortably by Becky).

Notre Dame (I was edged out by Keith after a cracker of a finish)

Keyflower (comprehensively outplayed by both Martins - a rare loss for me)

Sushi Go (won - I think - by Craig as a pre-dinner filler)

Agricola (a luxurious and splendid Sunday morning session, where Richard did lots of farting around in finishing fourth and I scored a good win over Tony)

Noch Mal (great roll-and-write fare where I embarrassed Surya and Myriam in what is apparently Belgium's national game)

Inhabit The Earth (in which Richard and I were comprehensively rolled over by Alice Boydell)

Phew - what a weekend!
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Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:40 pm
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Friday November 3rd - Oooh - Shiny!

Ben Bateson
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Previous years have seen quite a bit of post-Essen fallout at Ross as - having safely procured and paid for Tony's muling - we have frequently proceeded to pour scorn on his new acquisitions (who can forget the infamous 'Sandcastles Incident'?). But we must be growing up, or getting the hang of each other's tastes or something, for tonight was a veritable trove of bonhomie and excited shared game discovery.

Tony and I had pretty much subconsciously agreed on the agenda for the evening, so the opening game of Azul was broken out with barely any decision-making involved. And, as Tony correctly surmised, it's always a good game introduction when people demand to play it twice. Well produced, simple to learn, and full of great decision points, it is a worthy SdJ nominee (and probable favourite, no?) from a great design pedigree. And we enjoyed it too, Tony winning the first game with John and I in a thrilling tie for the second.

On reflection, Azul isn't a Qwirkle-firer, as I've been hearing. The skill-set is much closer to the likes of Coloretto. And, to be honest, I wouldn't want to play it TOO often. But it is a tactile little treat, and you can play it pretty much as passively or evilly as you like.

Mini Rails was filling Tony with excitement on the Essen run-in, and he had brought it along to demonstrate why. The game does an admirable job of slimming down all the excitement and screwage of bigger railway stock-market games (I won't namedrop 18xx because some humourless old fart will no doubt come along and complain) into a 45-minute game, where the most complex bit was trying to assemble the board, or so Tony made it appear. Despite coming a woeful last (John eventually winning something outright), I really really enjoyed it, even from the beginning of the rule explanation (and enjoying Tony's rule explanations is an acquired art in itself), and the way it generates all the interaction and doublethink of bigger games without necessarily sacrificing any difficulty (although I'm sure I'll hear from Mr 18xx on the point). This has gone right to the top of my wishlist.

With an uncomfortablish amount of time left (not enough for a biggie; too much for a filler), Tony suggested we break into my copy of Fast Forward:FEAR, where the big selling point of course is to collectively learn the rules as you go along. Or, in our case, collectively explain the rules to John as we go along. I've heard good things about the series, and am wondering whether I missed a trick in not getting all three, but I'm guessing there'll be plenty of second-hand copies on the market soon.

We played four brief rounds, and I won't give too much away except to endorse the Cribbage-style mechanics as being perfect for this group, what with our love of Too Many Cooks and all. I can't see it going too far, but we're only into about the first third of the deck, so who knows?

Having run out of new Essen stuff, we retreated to the familiar ground of Port Royal, and I outdid everyone not just in lewd Pinasse jokes (oh, thank you Mr Pfister, for your unintentional trans-lingual amusement), but in actually winning the game as well, hitting 12 points on the back of a red-ship combo while the others still trailed around the 6-8 mark.

It was still a bit of an early finish, but that was OK - I had games to unwrap and punch. devil
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Sun Nov 5, 2017 11:34 am
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Friday October 27th - From a Mooch in Shepherds' Bush

Ben Bateson
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This week, of course, Tony was away at Essen, procuring games large and small, feasting on assorted pig parts, and generally being a big man in designer social circles. So it was just three of us for proceedings.

With unerring accuracy, John unearthed the only unplayed game that I had brought, and we set into London Markets, only mildly disconcerted by the revelation that two colours of my self-loaded poker chips (paper money? Just say 'no', kids) were almost indistinguishable under pub lighting.

Like all Michael Schacht designs, London Markets revolves around difficult decisions build out of simple actions: in this case a sort of pseudo-shareholding game where you could choose to improve your shares at a given market (with the trademark USP of stacking-domino type things), cash in your shares for hard cash (=VP) or use your shares to pick up goods which could be cashed in for points or bonus cards at a subsequent blind auction. John picked up a very strong-looking tiebreak card early on, but was comfortably overhauled by Becky who had sensibly spent some time preparing her portfolio. Opinions were divided over whether the game was trying to be too clever, but it was agreed that it needed 4P for the full experience.

For some reason, Uncle Tony has had a dim view of playing Concordia 'for real', preferring the sterile online implementation, of late. So this was the perfect opportunity to break it out for a complaint-free session. Becky and John were poring over the France map, which was hitherto unplayed when I briefly nipped out to the bar, but eventually retreated to the comfort of the Britain map where - after a difficult opening layout - Becky edged to a narrow win despite my collection of Minerva cards.

With still plenty of time for another of our favoured chunky 60-minute games, we opted for Thurn & Taxis. This is a perennial pleasure and is keeping perfectly good route-building games such as Hansa Teutonica on the shelf, so it must be doing something right. Becky undid all her previously good work by scoring a frankly comical 7 points, but at the grown-up end, I pipped John by a point by picking up three bonus tiles and triggering the game end simultaneously.

For a comical closer, we gave another run-out to The Other Hat Trick, Brett Gilbert's pleasing but determinedly mad deduction for three. And Becky pulled off the infamous Other Hat Trick in the finale to pip me by a point. In her first game, as well!
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Sun Nov 5, 2017 11:07 am
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Friday October 20th - The Spice of Wife

Ben Bateson
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With Essen - and undoubtedly a big bag of new games - on the horizon, I took the opportunity to suggest using this week's meetup to revisit some old favourites. And it was the usual four 'old favourites' that turned out to make an evening of things.

With minimal rules-explaining, we had time for three solid games and a short filler. We had pondered kicking off with Concordia, but an even greater and more renowned game came to light, in the shape of Goa. The fact that it is well-known to all of us didn't really stop Tony floundering around like - well - a flounder, for the first couple of rounds, and John took the opportunity to pinch the Start Player flag a few times and set Tony up for an unappetising choice (or, indeed, no choice at all) of auction tiles. Borne on a game-long supply of free ships, I abandoned two progress tracks altogether, accumulated a scoring set of four Expedition cards, and scored a triumphal 43 points without ever having taken a single bonus Action card. I've won games before, and I've scored 45+ before, but I've never done it with just the 16 actions I was born with.

During our pre-games planning ramble, Tony had popped up with the unexpected suggestion of Zooloretto. I love a good Michael Schacht game, but I had erroneously believed this is the sort of thing with which Tony would have no truck (see what I did there?). It turned out, though, that he had a passing addiction to the iOS app, which became somewhat evident when he found himself unable to rage-quit back to the home screen after the first four rounds or so. His final score of 9 matched Brett Gilbert's bucket-flicking in our annual 'terrible but terribly funny' stakes. Meanwhile, Becky seemed determined to hand John the win - apparently to compensate for our beating him during his birthday games a couple of weeks back. After she gifted him some 8-10 points on the final round, my number was up, and I slunk back to a mediocre 3rd.

Of all the 'games that don't get played enough', Manhattan is the Prince, King, Prime Minister, President and Benevolent Dictator. Area control stripped back to its most laughably simple, it has never yet failed to immediately engage everyone I've put it in front of. Tonight was no exception and Tony - having barely played it for fifteen years - was effusive with praise as he romped to an overdue victory (mostly by hotly denying me ANY building rights at all). There's an awful lot of game in 30 short minutes, and I hope the reprint gives all the Essen-ites a chance to (re)discover it.

Tony was away slightly early as usual, and I tempted to give Becky and John a run-through of Wizard Extreme (aka Zing, aka Die Sieben Siegel, aka god knows what else). But they pooh-poohed it and plumped for regular Wizard as usual. Despite attempting six tricks out of seven midway through, I couldn't stand the pace and John romped away for a slightly lucky win, given that several rounds had resulted in EVERYONE scoring negative points.
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Wed Oct 25, 2017 7:33 pm
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Friday October 13th - Between a Bluff and a Hard Place

Ben Bateson
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Every now and then, we are treated to a visit from my mother. A fair gamer in her own right, she has comprehensively defeated us in the likes of Dream Factory and Qwirkle.

I was going to break into some quality 5P games this week, but John sent a last-minute email to the effect of 'Xander also coming!'. Clearly, we hadn't frightened him off with last week's nonsense, but I did have something of a dilemma in that we had the awkward 6-count, and I didn't really want to split into two tables with two newbies on board. One solution that presented itself, and is rarely offensive to the Ross faithful, was Absolute Balderdash. I packed some other stuff in the bag, but it was pretty obvious what our main event was going to be.

After a brief pen-and-paper-salvage operation, we kicked into full-on 'Dashing mode; unsurprisingly Mum being up there with the best of the bullshitters (although any requests at civility had taken a back-seat immediately upon Xander's response to the first clue, which involved foreplay). Laws were popular tonight, and there were umpteen transparent variation on 'in the town square on Sunday', although John's fine reading of it only being permissible to tightrope-walk in church bore no comparison and went a long way to catapulting him from last place into joint first. Amazingly, Tony wasn't winning, and he had to resort to tenuous rules disputes and, on one occasion, moving his piece twice-over in order to catch up. He also had mild hysterics over my definition of 'Snying' (pretending to sit on a chair that isn't there), which was a final indication that perhaps he wasn't fully in form. Eventually, Becky pipped John and I for the win, but it was academic for all the merriment that was had.

Perhaps the weirdest of all games at Ross is Between Two Cities. John keeps requesting it, even though last time I brought it he riposted with 'I'd be quite happy never to play THAT again'. Becky dislikes it for no accountable reason. And Tony, bizarrely, has managed never to play it. Tonight, I aimed to put ALL of those right!

Well, it nearly worked. Tony passed positive comments throughout the drafting before deciding he didn't really like it after all. Becky put on a smiley face but didn't really engage with it very much. And Mum put on a joint victory with Tony, which seemed to be all fair and just. I do like BTC, but it is somewhat thin, it's true.

There was just time for a round of Codenames before Tony disappeared on chauffering duties. My excellent team of Mum and Xander kept us well out of trouble, despite the worrying selection of words (do you fancy cluing TUBE, PIPE and ROW while avoiding LINE and TAP?). The tortured logic that seemed inevitable from John and Becky on the other team was also a comforting factor.

With Tony gone, we settled for an all-in game of Dobble, as it had been quite a while since we played. A fitting end to an evening of the light and frothy, but certainly not without merit.
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Sat Oct 14, 2017 11:40 pm
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Friday October 6th - Church To Me Take

Ben Bateson
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'It's my birthday this week' cryeth John, before reeling off a laundry list of games utterly unsuited to the eight (yes, count 'em) diverse players I had lined up. But the cancellations started rolling in from lunchtime Friday and, due to assorted viruses and family issues, eight was reduced to four by teatime. Making a welcome return to gaming was Xander, who was even more welcome in John's eyes because of the accompanying luxurious 4x4 which enabled John to sup cider all evening instead of his more sterile orange-and-lemonade.

Harrumphing his way through the pile he had requested, John tripped over a game I'd packed on the 'just in case', so Broom Service was our opening course. A doddle to teach, we were up and running before 7:40, and boldly proclaiming ourselves to be Weather Fairies and Hill Witches. A brief panic when a card appeared to be missing from my black deck was quelled in baffling fashion when we relegated the black deck to 'taboo' deck and the allegedly-missing card was turned up in round 2.

I had previously an undefeated record at this game, having performed heroics of deduction at OxCon earlier in the year for a very satisfying victory. But the fates weren't going my way this time: Becky was always a step ahead in aiming for the lucrative far corner of the board, although her winning margin of half-a-dozen points wasn't as convincing as I'd feared.

Hamburgum was one of John's more surprising requests. He had clearly enjoyed its outing a couple of weeks before and was looking forward to exploring it in more depth. This is something that all of us needed: frankly I have no clue how to strategise the game well, although I felt I did a decent job of it by latching onto a brown-building combo early on. The browns fuelling my economy without having to worry about anything as mundane as goods, I picked up a comfortable 20-point scoring marker and sat on it until game end, John scrabbling around with ship-scoring tiles for second.

I had thought we might be in 'filler' territory, so it came as a surprise when I next returned from the bar to find Modern Art being broken out in all its glory. Xander picked up the auction mechanics very quickly, given the experience of the rest of us, but regrettably didn't attempt the American accent required by his screen, which should have resulted in a technical disqualification. Little good it would have done; he handed a couple of tasty deals to me in the midgame, and I wrenched an unexpected third scoring out of my handfuls of Karl Gitters for a win that was not - in all honesty - in any doubt.

One of John's pet games is the delightful madness known as Buccaneer. I'm not sure if he has quite the ideal record that I have had at Broom Service, but he is usually damn close when it comes to the final reckoning. But tonight, he was not reckoning on Xander playing a blinder. Picking up two treasure majorities (at my expense, no less!), he swept the board in the final reckoning, leaving John without any sort of win on his birthday. How we laughed.
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Sat Oct 14, 2017 10:59 pm
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Friday September 29th - The King is Dead! Long Think the John!

Ben Bateson
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With Becky away house-sitting and Tony at a designers' love-in this week, it was a timely welcome back to Bill, replying to the marshalling email for the first time in many a month.

John and I were promptly over the threshold, and while we awaited Bill, we dug out Isle of Trains and tried to recreate the fun introduction we had had to the game a couple of weeks ago. It petered out a little bit to a draw, and some minor gaps in the rules became a bit apparent, but it still plays efficiently enough for now.

Bill arrived in plenty of time to watch us put the trains to bed, and I mandated we have a go at The Other Hat Trick. This is a neat little three-player deduction (think Love Letter/Coup) game from the virile pen of Brett 'Divinare' Gilbert, a print-n-play that I had picked up from some random geeklist when it seemed like just my type of game. And so it proved, as I won both rounds: one played to the rules, and the other with an experimental 'second time through the deck'. I think we preferred our modified house rule, and both Bill and John were enthused in defeat, promising to go away and print their own.

I left the boys in possession of the games bag while I went to the bar, and Bill selected Kraftwagen, a game which has had plenty of currency with us of late. Personally, I love the mixture of the Glen More-style rondel, combined with the simply brilliant valuation phase. I did have some concerns about runaway leaders, but tonight's experience put that to bed: Bill overhauling John's early run on research by building souped-up engines and winning Grands Prix like Fittipaldi. He finished a mere two points ahead as I restricted myself to pottering around picking up bonus tiles. It didn't work.

To the overtures of a pub band who limited themselves strictly to Mod classics from the period 1980-82, we launched ourselves into another 'definitely for three' game, in the shape of The King Is Dead. This is a lesser-known game of manipulating the leading faction on the board, with each player limited to a miserly total of eight actions throughout. With such a small decision space, you'd expect it to be rapid stuff, but it quickly becomes apparent that every card has a half-dozen immediate ramifications, plus a couple which might only take effect later. This is all overlaid with a mindboggling series of tie-breaks to take all eventualities into account, and I had seen fit to organise into a neat laminated player aid. I feared John's brain - never the fastest organ in the room - might begin dribbling out of his ears when he was down to his last three cards. Although he did manage to play his usual bonus card, that of: 'I didn't understand the game-end condition', he never revealed what he thought the game-end condition actually WAS.

For some evening-ending light relief, we broke out Keltis: Der Weg der Steine, and excellent little-box Knizia which wraps up in 15 minutes flat but contains plenty of good Coloretto-like strategy. And John and I finished the evening as we began, with a nailbiting draw. Five full games of an evening is nothing to be sniffed at!

I had one more brief entertainment to as - the games room empty - I bade goodnight to Kate the landlady and lifted my 'Games For 3' case to take it home. Unfortunately, I had neglected to engage the latches, and the damn thing burst open, scattering dice, chits and random currency units to all corners of the backroom. I had a worrying enjoyable time picking up and re-cataloguing them all...
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Tue Oct 3, 2017 7:56 pm
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Friday September 22nd - De-de-de-de-de. Dum dum. Dum Dum.

Ben Bateson
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It's always a pleasure to welcome guests to Ross, and none more so than our semi-regular traveller, Phil. He took a break from the nearby slog that is CastleCon (and, looking at what they've played, I don't blame him), and joined us all in The Plough this week. In the rare absence of John, we had opted for Agricola, and why not indeed?

Phil and Gary made up our table-of-5, and both were cautiously keen - indeed Gary's enthusiasm extended well into the 13th round and several presumptuous actions. Despite room building, he never really got going, and finished on a single figure score. Phil promised to do interesting stuff with the glut of clay in the 5P game, but a lack of board development cost him in the end. But both enjoyed themselves and pronounced the game thoroughly satisfactory, which is probably more than JP would have done.

Far be it from three old hands to let these scamps get away with enjoying themselves: Tony built a very early oven and spent too much time baking, Becky grew family with the Wet Nurse and dabbled as usual, and my Perpetual Student was grateful for people drawing all the best occupations out of my hand early on. Combined with a whole shedload of 'future food', it put me in prime 42-point position. My favourite bit, however, was when I played Swan Lake, and Tony embarked on 10 seconds of vaguely-tuneful humming which petered out into "Oh no, that's The Blue Danube, isn't it?" This led to a frankly nonsensensical three-way banter around late-Classical and Romantic music, which took in Manic Miner and The Apprentice along the way. I can't believe all this nonsense helped Phil and Gary concentrate, so perhaps they can blame us after all.

As Phil was a guest, we gave him free choice of the second game. "I never say no to Isle Of Skye" spake he, and Gary nodded agreement. Not that they did much about catching up, finishing fourth and fifth in this one too (although in the other order), while Tony pipped me by a point and scornfully swept the tiles into the bag before I had chance to recount my many endgame-scoring tiles. Interestingly, the promo tiles that had proved so good the week before were largely dumped unceremoniously back into the bag, including the Snowdonia tile which was axed to general merriment.

With Gary leaving for his trek to North Herefordshire, we closed out with Eggs & Empires, a sort of multiplayer BraveRats which we hadn't dug into for too long. The reason for our abstinence might have something to do with a prodigious winning streak for Becky, and she threatened to do it again, outscoring Tony and I by a factor of four or so in the first round. This, of course, made her prime 'target' material, and she was mercilessly subjected to scores in the teens for two more rounds, after which I'd managed a comfortable win, although grudging mention should be mention of Tony roaring back from last place with a whopping 40-something in the last round and a narrow runners-up spot.

Phil has promised to be back next week. How exciting.
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Wed Sep 27, 2017 8:52 pm
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