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 22nd May - Phone Keys

Ben Bateson
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Write the blog Ben.

Write the blog Ben!!

WRITE THE BLOG BEN!!!!

Easy for you lot to say. A bunch of blokes playing computer simulations of boardgames every week does not exactly provide stimulating literary material, especially when we end up playing more or less the same stuff every week. I am having much more luck with my Lockdown Knockdown list because at least we are playing some new stuff. But, in the name of my loyal readership (both of them), I will persevere and get us up to date.

It was a bijou threesome tonight: just myself, Becky and Gerv. And the latter was struggling with life generally (thankfully he's been more cheerful since the football came back on TV), so we finished early giving me even less to report.

First up, Keyflower at Gerv's behest. He's very enamoured of the BGA implementation and starting to understand the game properly for the first time. And it showed, too: a solid mid-fifties score beating Becky back into third place. It would have been more impressive if they hadn't let me score 108 based on an enormous and abusive meeple engine.

We taught him Bruges next, although it wasn't a success. We INITIALLY decided we wanted to play Transatlantic, but then realised we couldn't remember how, and Yucata's interface both doesn't let us quit the game AND forces us to do something when it's our turn. Therefore, our game of Bruges was liberally interrupted with repeat visits to the high seas, which is far from ideal for a teaching game. We all finished distracted, frustrated and fed up, which seemed about the right time to pack it in.

Not a fine hour in the history of RoW games - you can see why I don't write the blog sometimes, can't you?
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Sun Jun 28, 2020 4:13 pm
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Friday 15th May - Mr Blue Skype

Ben Bateson
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Threatened with a recall to work next week, I was in need of cheering up, so it was nice to catch Tony and Ian in fine fooling form as they recounted stories of Salty The Seal and gently teased Karen Boydell (making a slightly inebriated Skype over-the-shoulder visitation) about her 'garden barden' (it's a den with a bar, in the garden. And Karen had been celebrating).

Tony started matters off by saying: 'let's play something light and fun - what abut Can't Stop?' This, of course, lasted all of about five minutes before he was moaning about how dull it was, so we polished off the remaining turns, got schooled comprehensively by Ian, and never spoke of it again. Until I wrote this blog, of course.

BGA has some smashing implementations, but Can't Stop isn't one of them, and the forums and general UI around the games is an almighty mess, so it took me quite some time to add Tony to my friends list and other such basic tasks. Just saying - I've paid some money, chaps, smarten the site up a bit.

Still waiting for Gerv's weekly latecoming, we fired up Stone Age in - apparently - another opportunity for Becky to teach us how to play. However, the game turns on little decisions and, with nothing much appealing on the display, I chucked 6 men on the hunting space in midgame. This relieved enough food pressure for me to mainline valuable cards and huts (I was game-end scoring huts in a big way) for the next four rounds and, for the first time in living memory, I actually won a game of Stone Age! Tony tried to downplay it by saying my winning score was under 200, until I pointed out that Snowdonia could easily be won by a score of 60 under the right circumstances. Cheeky bugger.

Gerv turned up bang on time for the switch between games, so 7 Wonders seemed the right way to entertain a five-hander for a bit. Three games went one apiece to me, Becky and Gerv (although he did score a whopping 63, so perhaps his half-baked 'strategy advice' is worth reading). Tony finished dead last in the latter two games and grumpily bade his farewell.

While lockdown games are proceeding very much in the spirit of Ross-on-Wye banter, it has to be confessed that the selection of games are somewhat restricted, so we found ourselves back at Macao, this time giving Ian a lightning introduction to the rules. It's actually pretty damn easy to teach on yucata as the implementation is pretty intuitive (at least it is once Gerv's prehistoric graphics driver wakes up), and - other than a lasting confusion over the tribute table - Ian was up to speed and putting together a nice office combo within a few rounds.

I was lucky enough to get the Healer (one cube discount on activating people) out early, and built up a tableau consisting almost entirely of people. Having a pretty good Macao track record, a reliable gold income, lots of bonus cubes, and a crucial 'score tribute table points twice' bonus, I felt like things were cruising home until the last rounds. Then, Becky jumped into first on the wall, nabbed the tea storage, and the tribute table threw up an outrageous 10-money-for-11-points. All of a sudden, a sure win was slightly in doubt as Becky raked in some forty points. But I collected just about enough dribs-and-drabs of shipping to rake in a huge 97 points - this was a stunning finish to a great game.
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Sat May 16, 2020 10:18 pm
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Friday 8th May - Ring, Ring, why don't you build castle walls?

Ben Bateson
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My phone-themed blog titles are necessarily becoming a bit stretched after eight weeks.

Ian joined us for opening affairs tonight as we waited for another unavoidably-delayed Gerv. He wanted another go at 'that card game that Gerv found really dull' which I enterprisingly translated as San Juan. Becky was unable to transpose her heroics of last time, though. I sat quietly on several 6-buildings and a tasty Prefecture/Customs Office combo and racked up a huge 40+ score without ever building a second production location.

Gerv was on board by now, so we dived headlong and fearlessly into Caylus. Both Ian and Gerv had decent half-memories of playing this, so it wasn't difficult to ease them into things, and they made a good fist of things, although both were prone to optimistic castle placements. Ian, in particular, set up quite the building operation and was trying to construct pretty much everything for VPs until I shut him down by callously (in true Caylus style) overbuilding the Quarry and hastening the game to a close. Becky had typically been throwing resources at the castle and the Kings Favour board, but for once it wasn't enough to catch up.

In search of something lighter, we moved on to BGA's ultra-slick 7 Wonders implementation. This is crying out for a couple of expansions, now, and I hope they can step up to the mark. Cities and Leaders, please! Gerv had created a bit of notoriety online this week by claiming that 7 Wonders strategy was totally elementary. He claims he was fishing for a reaction, and that was borne out by some pretty mediocre results that saw him finish 3rd, 1st and 2nd respectively. I won the two games he didn't.

And to close, of course, it was the new club favourite of Las Vegas. Turns out that THIS was the game that Gerv should have been trumpeting the strategy of, as he roared his way to a monster $560,000. I earned pretty much nothing for the first half of the game, so was pleased enough to nab second with a massive score on the final round.
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Sat May 16, 2020 9:49 pm
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Friday 1st May - Hold The Line, Gerv isn't always on time

Ben Bateson
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Gerv has been making inexplicable lockdown appointments of late whereby he doesn't return to our screen until about 9pm, so games opened this week with just Becky, myself and Dave who - despite dire warning of Blue Screen Of Death issues - lasted without technical mishap.

Becky already had our opening stint lined up: a play of Stone Age, a game at which she has an intense rivalry with John and a more friendly burgeoning rivalry with Dave. I also suspect she has been practising on her own time, for she made mincemeat of us both with a Field-strong game. I was pleased enough just to nudge Dave down to last place. The boardgamearena implementation is lovely, but I really would like an Undo button!

Gerv arrived in time to watch us play out the final couple of rounds, and we set sail on the good ship Keyflower again. Dave in particular has something of a fascination with the degree of optimisation in this game. He and Becky made my life difficult, Dave in particular seeming able to outbid me on nearly everything I wanted and I had only five tiles entering Winter. It looked very much like Becky was onto a winner until I snarled up one of her tiles with an opening activation of three meeples. She didn't go quite as far as outright abuse...but it came close. Game end saw me on a regal 77 points, ahead of Becky's 73 and Dave's 62. Gerv was flagellating himself for misbidding (no Undo button again) which left him a meeple short of a double-figure play that would have put him in contention also.

Dave took early departure, so we finished the evening with a 3P Macao. This is one of yucata's less-clunky implementations, and Gerv enjoyed it very much. I took a 'winning the wall means easier cards' approach and won reasonably comfortably after hammering together a universal money engine out of various office cards.
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Sat May 16, 2020 9:30 pm
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Friday 25th April - Fifth Dan

Ben Bateson
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We were joined online for the first time by Dan this week, although for quite a long time we weren't, given that he had enabled some Skype function that prevented group meetings. So, while I untangled the mess (by Skyping Dan first and then re-adding everyone else), we played a jaunty little Port Royal, replete with enough Pinasse and 'Two Anchors' jokes to keep Rik Mayall satisfied.

Having been favourably impressed by the implementations on Boardgamearena a couple of weeks ago, we turned our attention there as it boasts a rich repository of five-player games. There was still a little bit of uncertainty over whether it would kick anyone out, and the tension involved in starting a game AND making sure everyone was gathered up by the server rivalled The Blair Witch Project. But it all worked, and we decided to make the most of it by playing four whole games.

7 Wonders to start, and without all the fiddliness it occupies little more than a filler slot, so OF COURSE we played it twice. Dan has had some notably comic experiences with 7 Wonders at The Plough, so I was a little hesitant to suggest it, but he overcame his latent AP to win the second game (although he was a little miffed at having been dealt the same Wonder when everyone else got something new). I had taken the first round after a fairly orthodox blue-card strategy, but dive-bombed the second after being heftily beaten up by Ian on my right. I am starting to wonder whether sitting next to Ian is good for my sanity...

Libertalia was my next suggestion, met with unanimous approval. In a first round packed with night-time prowlers (indeed I think we played every night-time character in the deck over the course of the three rounds), Gerv got off to a mid-30s flyer, but then injured himself badly in round 2 with a single figure score. It was enough to maintain a lead, though, especially with the experienced hands of Becky and me lagging well behind. In a final round where the only sensible thing to do with the Surgeon was rescue the Parrot, Dan did just that, and crawled up to Gerv's shoulder for an outright tie.

Rather than starting with the heavy games and progressing to light fillers, we were going in the opposite direction tonight. All of the above had only taken about 90 minutes, so we settled down to a closing Puerto Rico. Teaching this was something of a trial (I have perfected my teaching art on Tabletop Simulator thanks to John Shepherd's 'press tab for a pointer arrow' tip), but Ian and Gerv both came through relatively unscathed (although the latter gave it a dismal review of being 'too dry') to tie in joint-third place. Becky ousted me for a tobacco storage early and the game proceeded her way. My achievement of note was building five (yes, FIVE, one more than is actually useful) quarries in a game where no-one else built a single one at all. It ended in a melange of nonsense where we alp pinched each others' premium buildings and no-one got the one they want. One of the more bizarre games of PR I've played, certainly. And we didn't even have time for our closing game of Las Vegas, either.
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Fri May 1, 2020 12:04 pm
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Friday 17th April - On the very best of lines

Ben Bateson
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A pristine Skype connection tonight left me with crystal-clear images of Gerv, Ian (in a silly hat) and Tony all beaming at me as I pondered my opening moves in Snowdonia. I am a bit mean to Tony sometimes, but I have to confess that a full 5P Snowdonia is a treat to be savoured and has never disappointed, right from the early-prototype days when it was still called Mountain Railway and we were standing around the pool table in the back of the White Lion. I still like that weather mechanic...

After my traditional opening grumble about 'last-seat problems', I opted for a plod-up-the-mountain-in-the-rain approach, something that was foiled in equal measure by a hailstorm of events cubes, Tony and Becky nabbing the contract cards that I needed, and Ian hogging the start player marker. I finished a desolate last, although I wasn't far behind the designer himself and Becky (some might call that justice for nicking my cards, of course). The relatively fresh-faced inexperience of Ian (whom we hear has been practicing against strange Germans) took second place, which meant a storming victory for Gerv, who 'only picked up a contract card in the penultimate round in order that I should probably score some points'. Notably, Ian and Gerv had both built early trains where the rest of us hadn't bothered. I swear you need to be a psychic to play this well...

During a drinks-break in Snowdonia, there had been a bout of teenage swearing. We pretended to nod sympathetically with Tony who now had to go and sort it all out, when of course we all had found it hugely amusing. But we were down to a four-player, and - given that Yucata seemed to be on steroids tonight - we stayed put for San Juan.

"I really like this, we should play it more often" commented Becky, halfway through a game that she won by nearly doubling everyone else's score. I like it, too, but I have to say that I enjoy the variety of the second edition too much to go back to just the original set of cards too often. Also, Yucata appears to have hidden all the 6-value cards because I didn't see a single one all game. Just me, then?

I'm sure we played Las Vegas after this, although somehow I seem to have neglected to log a play so can't tell you who won or, indeed, much about what happened. We presumably chucked some dice and assigned them to cards. As you do.
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Fri May 1, 2020 11:42 am
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Friday 10th April - Hanging on the Telephone

Ben Bateson
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There might not be any gaming at all tonight if no-one replies to my emails, so I'd better busy myself with getting the blog up to date. Three weeks' worth!

This session started with connectivity issues. Skype kept dropping me out and Gerv's neolithic internet connection made him sound like a man wailing into a bucket (of course, that might just have been the Strongbow). But once we'd got ourselves sorted out, we decided to venture over to Boardgamearena. It had gifted the general populace with a server upgrade and - allegedly - was no longer booting out random commoners onto the street with no warning.

Keyflower was our choice, and what a magnificent choice it is. I went looking for an old blog entry the other day where we logged our only - acrimonious - play of Hanabi and was amused to find we were every bit as excited about Keyflower in 2012 as we are now. It was just our second play then, and I'm pretty sure none of us, then, could envision it still being quite so brilliant now.

So, having had a little jab at the BGA infrastructure, I have to applaud their implementation. They've done a truly terrific job with Keyflower - the interface for a pretty complicated game is intuitive, readable and smooth. There is no 'undo' button, though, which led to some nervous clicking in the opening exchanges. Dave W went for his usual Keyflower strategy of 'build it first; work out how to get points off it later', which left him with a massive village and no transport. Gerv played a thoughtful meeple-based game which sort of petered out in winter, and Becky hammered skills tiles, which didn't go unnoticed when the Scribes came out in winter. Unusually for me, I plumped for a Summer Boats strategy, and some canny pre-emptive bidding in Winter saw me scrape over the 60-point barrier for a win.

We had exhausted Dave and BGA's tolerance, so Becky, Gerv and I set sail for Yucata, where we rebuilt the German postal service for something like the four-dozenth time. Yes, Thurn & Taxis was our destination, and I launched my postal carriage out of the starting blocks like Fittipaldi, notching three carriage upgrades while the others were still on their first and - inevitably - going on to win.

We chose to treat Gerv to Vikings next. This is one that Becky and I play a LOT of 2P at home, and perhaps we should have eased Gerv in more gently. I don't think he was ever quite at home with what was going on and finished on a (admittedly amusing) final score of minus-one, thereby clocking himself another entry in his coveted 'most Lowest Scores in Ben's stats app' collection. Up at the top end, I pipped Becky by a single point.

To finish off, our late-night visit from our own Key Worker, Ian, and the now staple closing fare of Las Vegas. I think Ian might have decided it wasn't worth the effort when he failed to score anything at all in the first two round. He wasn't really in contention in a thrilling three-way finish that saw Gerv come out ahead. No Lowest Score on this one!
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Fri May 1, 2020 11:13 am
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Friday 3rd April - Sun Hits The Skype

Ben Bateson
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No Daves, and Ian working late this week, so there was just a petit foursome for online gaming. Knowing it would appeal to Gerv and, at minimum, mollify Tony, I suggested Snowdonia as a suitable opening activity. As it happens, the yucata implementation is absolutely perfect for this game (I am already tired of the fiddly representations of Glen More and Navegador), and the game played delightfully well. An event-riddled opening saw Becky assuming that the whole thing would be over in a flash, but a bout of mid-game sunshine, followed by terminal rain and no white cubes whatsoever saw some real development work take place: my and Tony's acquisition of a train looking increasingly like a good idea. As it was, it took only a petty bit of blockage on the last round, taking the contract card I wanted for no direct benefit to himself, to win it for Tony. But there was only a measly two points in it: Snowdonia is rather a good game sometimes, isn't it?

We moved onto Santiago de Cuba, and quickly encountered a major difference between the yucata version and the rules as normally-played. In the tabletop version, pretty much everything is kept secret. Yucata dispenses with all this hidden-but-trackable nonsense, and quite rightly too, for it makes a much more interesting and tactical battle. It was a first-time play for Gerv, but he took to it like a duck to water, leaping into those important 'ship-or-carry-over' decisions and surging out to an early 5-point lead or thereabouts. But a lack of money starting to become his undoing, and there were points when each of us threatened to overhaul him. Eventually, Tony loaded an extra good or two onto the penultimate ship and there was no catching him in a 30-27-27-26 thriller.

Tony found all this winning quite exhausting and turned in for the night, but Gerv Becky and I stayed up to greet Ian (the closest thing we have to a key worker: he works for supermarket logistics) for what is rapidly becoming our standard closing game online: Las Vegas. We managed to squeeze in most of a lightning Machi Koro beforehand, a game which I won comprehensively on the under-rated 'single die' strategy.

Las Vegas lacked the squeaky excitement of last week, as I led start to finish, and ended with a comprehensive half-million (personal best, apparently). However, there was some minor tension at the bottom of the table, as Ian roared back from two completely scoreless opening rounds to overtake Gerv, who was rolling haplessly as usual.
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Mon Apr 6, 2020 8:56 pm
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Friday 27th March - Groovy Gravy Ruined My Plan

Ben Bateson
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You'd think that 'working from home' all day would give me plenty of time to keep the blog up to date, wouldn't you?

At points, we had six players and one spectator on the Skype call this week, which made a mockery of my Gallery view and I had to relegate the least attractive video link to a thumbnail at the top. Tough call.

Good 6P games being in short supply online, we split into two threes for opening games. I entertained Daffers and Ian with yucata's Finca implementation, and when that finished we all piled over to boiteajeux to watch the finale of a thrilling Concordia hookup, played on Becky's favoured Britannia map. The closing throes saw us all willing Dave to take a move that - to us - looked like it would win, but he picked something else and Becky sneaked through for a 110-108-93 (Gerv, who rejoices in the frankly ridiculous online moniker of 'GroovyGravyG', in third) squeaker. Tony had also dropped by at about this time to distribute generally chaos and rudery.

Despite (or quite possibly because of) this, Daffers had to call it a night, so we all piled in together for a closing Las Vegas. It was an absolute thriller of a finish, too, with just $30,000 separating me in third from a victorious Dave.

Online gaming is going well, but the lack of choice of 'games we actually know' might get tiring as the weeks go by. I'm hoping to inspire folk into Tabletop Simulator which has got a much wider menu. Unfortunately it makes Tony's laptop melt - I don't think it was really designed to run on a Mac.
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Mon Apr 6, 2020 7:32 pm
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Friday 20th March - A Hatful of Skype

Ben Bateson
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I am likely to pull through the pandemic due to being at least a week ahead of the UK Government on everything. Although we have four guinea pigs who would be frankly better than Boris Johnson at anticipating what's going to happen in the future. They always know when it's going to rain.

Anyway, we are all homebound, but not down and out, oh no! For we have Skype, and we have boiteajeux and BGArena and yucata (which I've finally managed to stop Tony calling "You-carter") and a host of fine games at our disposal.

It also allows us to bring Dave 'Daffers' back into the fold. His main niggle is that Fridays are - rightly - 'family-time' in the Daffin household (he works away from home a lot) and he has never been able to make it on a regular basis. We were also promised threatened with a drive-by appearance from freelancing 'influencer' Ben Maddox.

Well, as it happened, Jobbers disappeared, Tony was off on emergency conference calls trying to rescue Network Rail from (yet more) ignominy, and Maddox found a better date. But that still left five of us: in addition to Becky and I, Ian dialled in with several cans of Strongbow, and we heard from Gerv until he hooked up his webcam, when we saw pictures of him as well. Gerv looked a bit rough, and it turned out his 'flu' was the result of a suspicious skiing trip to Austria in February. He cheerfully admitted to being one of the country's first super-spreaders, although his descriptions of the symptoms were pretty shocking. Stay inside, folks.

Skype added some new threads to the club's banter. I peered at my split-screen once to see everyone fondling their chin in clear contravention of Government face-touching advice, and my makeshift iPhone stand was a constant source of amusement as it toppled over every time I got up to get a beer, affording the others many interesting views of my ceiling. Ian's wife dropped in on us and waved cheerfully as if she was altogether unfamiliar with the concept of video conferencing. Bless.

Yucata's silly turn-based system had already gotten on my wick, so I dragged everyone off to BaJ for a game of Concordia on the Imperium map. Teaching Ian the rules from scratch without any sort of physical props was a challenge, but he got up and motoring soon enough, although Becky had had the good grace to steal most of his target cities first. Dave looked to be more of a threat, though, rapidly expanding cities into forsaken bits of the board and Gerv had a good stab at some fancy-assed production. I went pure and simple for low-cost goods and getting all my figures on the board and it worked very neatly indeed - final scores were pretty much in order of experience.

Fun, yes, but it did take the best part of 2.5 hours, which is running a little long for Concordia. Dave had to retire, but we closed matters with a fun and not-overrunning Las Vegas. This was MUCH easier to teach everyone, and MUCH easier for them to beat me. The final round was mostly about Gerv and Ian battling for second place behind Becky, though, as she seemed almost magnetically attracted to the precious $90,000 notes.

I don't know how many weeks we'll have to keep this up, but I'm game if they are.
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Tue Mar 24, 2020 6:00 pm
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