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Cambridge Gradpad Games - how this girl spends the first Saturday of the month

Blog about the games I play at Gradpad each month

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March 2017 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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As has become usual the last few months, I started Gradpad with a game of Terraforming Mars, as the reprint has still not arrived, so it's my only chance to play it. James had said the night before that he was keen to play, and we easily found two more gamers to join us. I spent the first part of the game increasing the oxygen, to get to my card that needed 7% oxygen, and then spent the rest of the game blasting comets and asteroids at Mars, killing off Tom's plant collections as I did so! This strategy seemed to work well for me, finishing in first place.

As we finished around lunchtime, people who had already eaten were congregating around my games suitcase looking for games to play. There was interest in Hacienda, so I offered to teach that, as long as they didn't mind me eating while playing. I did misremember one rule (the copy is German, and I didn't have English rules included), which made money rather tighter than usual, but apart from that the game played out fairly typically, one player going for lots of markets, another for a large area, me for something in between etc. It ended as a tie between Maddy and I for first place, with Ray making a mistake on the last turn that cost him the win.

The rest of us wanted another heavy game, while Maddy was after something lighter, so she left us at that point, to be replaced by Shane for a game of The Princes of Florence, which Lynne had played once a while ago and wanted to play again. With Shane and Lynne both being fairly inexperienced at the game, some of the auctions went rather differently from what I was used to, especially as with 4 player no-one was too fussed about enticement cards. Jesters still were expensive though. I managed to win, with Ray not too far behind me - he couldn't manage to fully do his prestige card.

We then pulled out Tigris & Euphrates, and here my extra experience at the game showed. I rapidly got into a situation where I was getting a cube of each colour every turn, while the others were scampering around trying to get in the temple areas of the board, and an inability to draw anything but red proved very useful in the mid-game when my opponents tried to remove me from the board via internal conflicts, as well as to get back on the board after some external conflicts did finally knock me off. I had more than doubled everyone else's score at end-game, but it was very close for second, coming down to the fourth colour for the tie-break!

Meanwhile the game of Mysterium had finished, and Maddy and Paul had asked me if I could teach it to them at that point. Lynne and Kathy joined me too. It did not go well though. Firstly almost no-one could guess their initial clues - in fact Maddy only progressed through the last stage because she only had one option left! Things did improve a bit, and Kathy in particular sped through the next couple of rounds, getting on the same wavelength. However, the final deduction was a complete disaster, with the group trying to decide between two sets, neither of which was the one I had in mind! Oops!

We then finished with a couple of hands of Codenames, girls v guys, both of which the girls won, although it has to be said that there was a huge degree of luck involved in one of the games, as we kept guessing the wrong words, but they happened to be the right colour!
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Mon Mar 27, 2017 4:06 pm
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February 2017 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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This month I turned up at the start, and a game of Terraforming Mars was looking for another player, especially one who could explain the game to two new players, which I was happy to do. It was a very different game to the previous couple I've played, with the board getting much more full than I am used to, and most of the points for two of the players coming from the board. I was getting a nice economy going, and lots of cash, but my board presence was minimal. It was enough to put me in second position anyway.

As I was finishing Ray was angling for a game of Terra Mystica, and we played a game of Codenames: Pictures while waiting for the Saint Petersburg game to finish, which provided our fourth player. I drew Engineers, and managed to get the bridges aspect working well - took the +1 shipping on the first turn to spread across the river, taking the double terraform, then infilled bridges, and bought my Stronghold on turn 3, and my third bridge on turn 4, for good end-turn points each turn. On top of that I managed to get two towns completed, and a reasonable amount up the tracks. I even managed to get third largest region with an area of size just 6!!! This was enough for me to win, ahead of Ray, who with Swarmlings was swarming all over the boards, with very little competition for largest region!

I then slipped into a game of Power Grid: The Card Game, which I'd been wanting to try as Power Grid is a favourite of mine. The card game takes the market/power plant aspect of Power Grid and distills it into a short filler, taking just about 30 minutes to play. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it actually - I thought it worked pretty well! Maintained the feel of the game much more than I expected, with the competition for resources and plants.

After that I tried Mystic Vale, which I'd seen played a lot at Gradpad over the last few months and wanted to try. I liked the idea of card crafting, but the game itself turned out to be disappointing. Two of us got didn't get lucky draws early on and weren't able to buy the more expensive cards, instead running out the basic cards very quickly. Meanwhile the other two players both managed to pick up some expensive cards, and one a vale card which gave him 2 cash a turn, and they rapidly started escalating away from us. The problem was that this also meant their turns escalated in time, whereas the other two of us mostly couldn't even buy anything useful, even with pushing our luck - I was at least lucky not to miss any turns pushing my luck, but rarely managed to get enough cash to have a choice of what I could buy - just buying the cheapest card available. I would try it again with just 3 players, to see if the base cards running out so quick eliminates the problem of players getting shut out, but it wasn't a satisfying game experience.

After that I was waiting for my passengers to finish their game, so looking for a few short fillers. First was 10' to Kill, which I'd heard about and was interested to try. This was another disappointment, with the deduction being fairly simplistic, and slightly unsatisfying just working through options until you caught someone, then moving on to the next one.

We finished by trying out Spyfall 2 - six games in total, first with 6, then with 8 players and a second spy. It was the usual fun, with many laughs - in fact so many that I had to rush off to get a glass of water at one point after having a coughing fit from laughing after Paul, as vicar at a wedding, saying "Please will you stand up?" to his next door neighbour.
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Wed Feb 8, 2017 1:06 pm
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January 2017 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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I arrived early this month, and sat chatting waiting for others to arrive and moving my car. On my return there was some interest in my new A Feast for Odin so I offered to teach it to anyone who was interested. I easily found enough to fill the spaces. I explained the rules and we got on with playing. Ray had played before, and was keen to prove he could get a good score this time, and went for a boat strategy. The other two were new to it - Adam got a nice animal strategy going, with some early sheep breeding, but as with most new players to the game, wasn't sure how to turn this into points, and was getting frustrated with getting pieces to tesselate. I won comfortably, unsurprisingly given how much more I'd played this than anyone else, but Ray got a good score too.

I then had enough people hovering to suggest an 8 player game of Captain Sonar. I set the game up and explained the rules. With 7 new players I was expecting a bit of chaos, but luckily Peter was quick to pick up the rules and was able to help his side when they were stuck - possibly at the expense of his radio operator rule a few times! They were fairly quick to track where we were early game when we had to surface, and we took forever mending our boat when surfaced - players not very good at drawing between white lines!! Once we dived we went silent and lost them, and then our radio op was able to get a better idea of where they were and we were able to get some shots off on them to finish them off. We then turned round to find the rest of the room deserted - we'd been so involved in the game we hadn't noticed the rest of the room go off to lunch!!

After lunch I was keen to get a game of Terraforming Mars, as I haven't picked myself up a copy yet. I easily found two people who wanted to try it, and a fourth joined us while we were just a little way through the rules. It was a rather longer game than my previous one of this, as some of the players took rather a while reading through all the cards. David set up a nice combo early on with microbe cards and plants, and that was getting him a good selection of points, and then later starting putting plants on the board. Peter went for a heat overload - he was struggling with space on his heat square as he had so much heat to store!! He had the ability to use it as cash too, so was piling out cards early on, then decided it was time to terraform, and the temperature on Mars went up rather dramatically very quickly, as did his terraforming rating! I had the city building starting corporation, and rapidly put down 6 cities, which got me a good income, which I was then able to use to buy some valuable cards out, and also started to place plants round them for points. James was able to piggyback on my city income, and was going for lots of disaster events. In the end I won, just a few points ahead of Peter.

While we were getting towards the end of the game Ray came over and asked if I fancied a game of Terra Mystica as they ideally wanted one more. I said as long as they didn't mind if I wasn't totally ready for a little while, yes, and as I was generally passing out of the Terraforming Mars rounds first, doing double actions every time, could do setup at least between my TM turns. I insisted on drawing races rather than auctions, and then drew Halflings (again - I always seem to get them or Swarmlings right now!). It wasn't the best setup for them, with Marco as Nomads, and not much in the way of brown bonuses, and then Pete drew the black race from the bag, which was even worse. At least Ray was Dwarves and not likely to interfere. I was first to place, and decided on a safeish brown hex on the bottom map, near to where the Dwarves tend to set up, but without any obvious hexes for the other two players. I returned to find Pete had played right next to me, which was unexpected and took out one of my early terraform squares, and that the other three houses were all in a cluster just over the river. I placed my brown house in the brown/black area on the right, one space away from the cluster, and hoped I could break out quickly enough. Then Marco placed his other house next to me too!! This was the starting set up for the game:

Eek!! I managed to build my first city quite comfortably but then had a few hairy moments building across the river without being blocked by Ray. I had to build expensive trading posts, which didn't help though, so although I got a second city, I wasn't able to spread as much as I liked, and the cash for the expensive trading posts left me short of building my Stronghold for the bonus on turn 5 - not that I really had anywhere to use the terraforms as I was getting so blocked in. Ray meanwhile had an excellent Dwarf game - he was too blocked to get a city, but was able to hop easily with only minimal terraforming for lots of points. Pete struggled with being blocked like me, but was able to get out and form a third city, which was enough to put him safely ahead of me. Marco, as Nomads, was the least experienced with the game, and never built his Stronghold, and struggled to keep up with the rest of us points-wise.

I then finished the day with another 8 player Captain Sonar - which Paul had made a condition of borrowing Terraforming Mars. Peter joined again on the other team, and I was Captain of my team. Paul, my radio op, initially didn't have too much clue where they were, but then later we managed to get an almost perfect location on them, although I had problems trying to fire at them while not firing at ourselves, and we finished them off very quickly in the end.
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Mon Jan 9, 2017 6:22 pm
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December 2016 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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It's been a few months since I've managed to get to Gradpad, for one reason or another, but this month I made the "Not quite Gradpad" that was on, just in a slightly different location to usual.

On arrival there were three of us, and I spied several games on Paul's pile I wanted to play, as well as Ray's Codenames: Pictures. Paul was just parking his car, so we decided to set it up and get it ready to play on his return. Sergio arrived at this point, so we ended up playing 5 player - a team of 2 vs a team of 3, and Sergio and I, as the team of 2, were victorious, although not without a little luck. Ray was struggling to avoid the assassin tile, as well as a few beige ones, and his first clue got him nothing, and his second clue one from his first clue and one of his second. Meanwhile I had said 2 both times, and Sergio had picked two of the right colour each time (although the second time, one of them was not one of the ones I'd planned!). Ray then removed the card of his that was causing me problems, and I finished quickly with another pair, then a single. I think however I do prefer the original, although I would happily play this one as an alternative.

I then begged to play Terraforming Mars, a game I've been eagerly wanting to buy, but not managed to find, except at ridiculously high prices. It didn't disappoint. Although it has a board, it is essentially a card engine building game, with a bit of drafting going on too. I really enjoyed it and hope I will manage to pick this up some time. I just won, with huge numbers of points on my microbes cards, and my titanium one that I'd had from the start of the game. It was nice to see that all four of us pursued different strategies, and it felt like the cards you drafted dictated which direction you went in.

Next was a break for lunch, and then I started reading the rules for Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure, Paul's next game I wanted to play. Unfortunately sitting reading rules encouraged people to try and join the game, and we found ourselves with 5 players for a 4 player game, and had to kick one out before we could start. The game itself is very similar to Ascension, which I love, and could accurately be described as Ascension with a board - the third "currency" on the cards being board movement. We played one slight rule wrong, which made it slightly too easy to return home without risking dying from damage, but we all enjoyed the experience.

Next Paul suggested some of his other games, and we played The Big Book of Madness. This was my only disappointment of the day. It just felt like it was nearly impossible to complete the curses in time, and almost never to beat up the monster. And there also wasn't much opportunity to tune your deck - if you tried, you generally just ended up taking a curse, which meant taking more madness, and your hand started to get blocked. We lost on about the fourth page from our madness deck running out, as we all starting drawing more of it than we could cure.

With half an hour left before I had to leave for an evening event, I suggested a repeat play of Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure, now that we had the rules right. This time Paul tried for a quick down into the dungeon and straight back, but stalled on his return, and Richard, who'd played for a very heavy feet deck, managed to delve right to the bottom of the dungeon, wander into several dead ends, almost die on two turns because he had every single clank cube in the bag, and still get back before him! I meanwhile had gone for a very low foot deck, and although I occasionally took the odd step, most of my time was taken up beating up monsters, or using my large amounts of cash to buy tomes - of which I had 7 at end game, plus a bonus for my cash, plus a bonus for my tomes. I took as small a detour into the depths as possible, then dashed back to safety, and slowly made my way back for the bonus points, but ended up one room short. However, my score, even without the bonus points, was way higher than either of the others, in three figures, so it was a comfortable win. I can see this is one I might enjoy, although I'm not sure it'll have the huge replayability of Ascension.
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Mon Dec 5, 2016 1:09 pm
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July 2016 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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Paul asked if we wanted to try CV, and it was one I was interested in, so I joined in. It was a 4 player game. Paul started with the worst luck, getting married, and then very shortly after divorced as he rolled three bad dice straight away the turn after. Richard meanwhile had a very well-paid job and had lots of disposable income. I meanwhile was struggling with my goal, as Lee to my right kept taking all the right coloured cards for me! There was lots of heckling, mainly as that's all you can do when it's not your turn. Overall I enjoyed the game, although there was a bit of downtime, especially later when players started getting more special powers and it wasn't as obvious immediately which cards were and weren't possible.

After that Paul was keen to try his copy of Tajemnicze Domostwo. As the only other person who'd played I was Ghost, while Paul explained what to do to the others. It was fun, and a little frustrating at times, trying to give clues with the cards - I gave Timothy an egg-timer, as it was the same shape as the dumbbell, only for him to think it was about time and the clock. And I gave Paul a boat that looked like a steam iron, only for him to focus on the water aspect etc etc. But that's all the fun of this game, and actually they did manage to find their clues surprisingly quickly. Then at the end-game we ended up with a 2-all tie between two answers, and it ended with Richard being the tie-breaker - and he did choose the right one!

At that point we went for lunch, and after lunch we gathered for Terra Mystica. I was dealt Cultists, but it was a terrible selection of races for building next too - one being black, another being Dragonlords, and the third being Auren. I started close to a likely Auren building location with my first house, hoping to find a nice spot for my second one in the midst of the others - but then all three of them piled into the centre island, leaving no space for me, and neither of the other two outlying settlements were anywhere near a good brown spot, so I ended up playing a completely non-Cultist Cultist game, which as you might imagine wasn't overly successful, although I did hold on to third ahead of the newbie, and had I not being blocked from connecting by Ray at the end, might have been very nearly second.

Then we mixed with some other groups, and some players wanted to try Orléans, so I taught them that. They picked it up reasonably well after the first few turns, but Orleans is a game that rewards repeat play. I got a traditional cog/building strategy going, and it gained me a huge number of VPs. Then we reverted to a few familiar games- Vegas Showdown, where the game seemed to like me, and all the tile and card draws worked hugely in my favour for a huge win. Then came Alhambra, where my luck went all the other way, and I was completely stomped! We finished with a game of Splendor, where Robin from nowhere took the bonus tile that I had been competing with another player for, taking him to 14 points (that was his third bonus tile too!!!). Luckily he was unable to get to 15 points on his next turn, and I was able to buy a VP card and take a bonus tile to land on exactly 15 points.
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Thu Jul 7, 2016 6:27 pm
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April 2016 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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This month I arrived at the car park at the same time as Paul was there unloading some games, so got easy entry to Gradpad, and on the way in he asked if I wanted to try Paperback, and it was one I'd heard about and thought I might enjoy, so that was the first game to hit the table. It's Dominion meets Scrabble. You're building your deck from letters, and trying to make the longest words you can with them, so that you can buy the more valuable letters and then the big-value wild cards that score you points. Neat idea. In this first game Paul pointed out part way through that the wilds scored points, which up until then we had been ignoring. At that point I had quite a few high value letters in my deck, so rapidly bought three of the 7 point wild cards, and several of the smaller ones, and when the two decks ran out fairly shortly afterwards, I was ahead by miles. Paul himself seemed to have forgotten to buy points, just getting some from one long word. Lee, despite worrying about a word game while being dyslexic, came second.

Next Douglas was keen to play Eclipse, and we had enough for two tables, and four players who were keen to play so we set it up. It was new to David, while all the rest of us had played a few times, but admittedly not enough to be fluent with a rules explanation. Setup and the early game did require quite a bit of remembering rules from the rulebook. Douglas was friends with the aliens, and rapidly set up a large empire with aliens around him, and an amazing 10/10 income in orange and pink. Meanwhile I had a terrible start, with my first three explores all finding empty systems, although admittedly with undefended discovery tokens - but this didn't help my early income production, and my next two explores were a very small brown system and a system defended by aliens! David found several systems, but none with orange worlds to conquer, so both of us were struggling with actions rather. I eventually built up two cruisers and took on the aliens, and then build another two cruisers to take on the centre, which then put me next to Douglas's by now mega-empire, that needed taking out if he wasn't to win by miles. I moved in my cruisers, but Douglas had so many actions more than me he was able to react by building, and equipping two dreadnoughts with mega-missiles to blow them out of the sky before they reached land, and I didn't have neutron bombs so couldn't blow up his population quickly either. The next turn, with a new wave of cruisers, he built star bases in reaction, also with missiles, which were similarly hard to break through, and I spent the last turn (or maybe extra turn - the turn marker was not getting moved on very regularly!) of the game building monoliths for points, and defending the areas of my empire I could from attack.

Two of the table went to lunch, but the other two of us joined the collection of people looking for a game, but very undecided on what to play. Eventually Lee returned from dinner and suggested Suburbia, so we pulled this out. Lee and I were jostling all through the game for the most yellows and highest reputation, and I also had highest income, and with Lee on 15 for most of the game, was really struggling to score that - especially while having a high reputation and crossing lots of lines, although I did just manage it on the final turn!! Gill was playing for lowest reputation and least cash at end of game, and unfortunately this got her in a bit of a mess near the end game as both her income and reputation were so low, especially with me spending out on the last turn, she didn't even manage to get the bonus. Andrew was going for most cash, and was sitting on a huge stockpile of cash all game, and ended the game with over 35 of it, but then Lee's last purchase was a building that got him something like 30 cash (2 for each yellow building), and his income was high too, and his total was over 45!! I won, with Lee second, but as Andrew said, losing that goal, as well as Gill tying him for lowest reputation on the last turn (-4!), was quite a costly last turn for him!

We then played a quick game of Rise of Augustus, which was very close at the end, with just ten points between top and bottom, and lots of jostling for bonus tiles. I ended up second by two points, as Andrew beat Lee to the six card bonus tile.

As we finished there was another group milling around looking to set up Macao. I'm always happy to play it, so joined in. My first card I took was every city tile I bought being one cheaper, so I set myself up for a city/shipping game, taking bonuses for shipping (one extra per good, and doubling certain types of good), and ended up with a massive 9 size area in the city, and lots of goods to ship. This didn't get me many points early in the game though, and I had no income for the prestige bar, so was lagging rather on the scoretrack for most of the game. It wasn't a high scoring game though - most of the early dice numbers were low, and the only numbers ever rolled high were black and grey, and also the same colours being rolled on the same spots repeatedly meant everyone discarded at least two cards due to not being able to buy anything with dual colours on! Pete however was going for a scroll strategy so didn't get penalised, and also managed to pick up a huge number of cards that scored him VPs at end-game - why did they never turn up when I was ahead on the wall?!? Juliet early on managed to get out her card that gave a her a cube of her choice each turn, and this helped her with the more complicated cards. James, new to the game, went for a very heavy cash strategy, and was doing well with points from the prestige bar. Anyway, at final scoring James and Juliet ended on the same square, with me jumping over them with my large region and end-game scoring cards, and Pete out of sight in front!

I then jumped into another game of Paperback that was just starting, although this time I did rather less well - ending up with some dual letter cards that just didn't combine well, so struggling to make the longer words and couldn't buy more valuable cards as early. Paul won, but scores were much more even in this game.

I was going to head off at this point, but Lizette suggested a game of Codenames, so I finished my day with a pair of games of this, with the usual amusement. Andrew said "Air" to his team, who immediately went for "Brush" - having heard "Hair"!!! He then clarified, but it was a bit late by then. Marko then went for "Formula", at which I looked at the cards and rapidly asked my teammate for help, as I couldn't see any cards that matched either chemical or mathematical formulae - he said after the game he was going for Formula One - if we'd worked that out we'd have done a lot better!! As it happened it didn't matter though - the other team's next clue was "Time", going for clock and "Pass" - unfortunately they saw "Day", which was the assassin word, and this lost them the game. Then it was my turn to describe, and I had a terrible selection of words to combine, and with two of my earlier pair-clues not working (and one giving the opponents a word I hadn't even considered them picking from what I'd said!), I found myself left with Octopus, Boom and Millionaire, and them guaranteed to win on the next turn with an easy pair! After a bit of thought my best solution was "Sonic" - which got boom, but not either of the others, not really unsurprisingly.
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Sun Apr 3, 2016 8:30 am
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March 2016 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
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Shefford
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I arrived fairly early at Gradpad again this month, and Paul said he'd never played Linko!, so we started by teaching him that. There was quite a wide range of scores, with Gill sneaking a win while Pete was trying to stop Paul and I from going out!!

Then Paul suggested Roll for the Galaxy, which I leapt at the opportunity to play again - I enjoyed my previous plays, but haven't bought it due to the high cost. The other two players needed a rules explanation, and Andy found himself without a game, so I introduced him to The Game (2015) while they had the rules explained to them, and we actually managed to finish it completely. George then joined us just as we started. Gill was struggling a bit with the rules, so Sarah joined in helping her. I tried to build a 6 development in the mid game and that cost me rather, having two turns where I did effectively nothing trying to build it, and it not being worth enough at end-game to justify those wasted turns.

We then split into two tables, and I played a quick game of Splendor, which came to a rather abrupt end! I was going for the 4/4 green/blue tile as my second tile, and just needed a green, but none were turning up. Sarah bought a car from the top row on her turn, revealing a green 5 point card that I could buy outright, and also got me the tile, putting me on 16 points, while no-one else was anywhere near.

After lunch a few of us were back earlier that the rest, so played a couple of hands of 6 nimmt! while waiting for the others to return.

Then when the others returned Terra Mystica was suggested by Ray, which I leapt at! James and Timothy both joined us. We dealt races, with me getting Darklings, Ray Dwarves, James Nomads and Timothy Chaos Magicians. Timothy was a little hazy on the rules and this didn't help him at times. I got off to an early points lead, playing very heavily for turn by turn points, but was aware that others would catch me at end-game as my track position was weak. James played an excellent first half-game as Nomads, then completely messed up his last two turns, failing to found his third town, and losing himself a ton of points as a result. Ray managed to catch me at end-game, and it ended up as an exact tie between the two of us!

We then played a quick game of The Bucket King with the four of us and David, while waiting for a couple of other tables to finish. David's aim was to not come last, which he managed very successfully, actually winning the game!

Then we split into different tables again, with me playing Suburbia, with Timothy and James again, but also Marco. Timothy and I were comfortably ahead of the other two, with Timothy having an impressive income, while I was playing lakes with double income. We both managed our personal achievements and one of the public ones, but Timothy got more points during the game, and from cash at endgame, so was ahead of me at the end.

Next was a game of Antike, which I'd brought in the hope of playing. It was new to two of the players, so they took a while to work out the finer details, but it is fairly quick to pick up the basics. We all rapidly expanded to 10 cities, with James going to 15, and then looked to other achievements. I started ship expansion to get my 7, and then 14 sea regions, and started a bit of military armament in everyone else, players being worried about me taking over their cities. It also led everyone to build walls, while I saved gold, and bought up two of the other researches for two more achievements. One more research and three more temples and I was at my 9 achievements, safely ahead of everyone else.

We then finished with a 7 player game of Incan Gold. This was very much James's game. Early on he'd been left in in a round, and walked away with about fifteen, where everyone else had gained considerably less. Then on the last round four of us all ducked out simultaneously when the disasters hit, leaving James in, and the deck produced a 17!!! I didn't even know the deck went that high!!! He almost doubled the score of the next player.
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Mon Mar 7, 2016 12:34 pm
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February 2016 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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On arrival there were enough of us to split into two tables, and Paul had acquired Between Two Cities, which I was keen to try, so I sat at that table, with the rest of my carload, and Ray joined us partway through the rules explanation. It's a drafting tile game, building cities, and trying to make them both as valuable as each other, as you score for your lowest scoring city. My issue with it is over-balance - the range of scores for cities was a few points, and as it was I happened to have the joint 2nd most valuable cities, so was guaranteed first place, and as four people shared the weakest two cities they lost, with one player in between. OK, but not stellar.

After that we split our large table into two smaller one, with me joining Ray and Colin for a game of Egizia. For me it was a game that didn't go well - none of my bonus cards that I drew were doable - twice on drawing three cards I put them all to the bottom of the pack, and of the ones I took I only scored 3 of 5! Colin wasn't doing a huge amount better, having some starvation issues early on, while Ray at end-game amassed a huge number of points from bonus cards, and pretty much lapping both of us!

Naturally, being the three of us, Terra Mystica was suggested next, with Lizette joining us, not having played before. She was dealt Giants (it was my set so we were playing base rules), and played an excellent game for her first game, coming in second. I was Mermaids and went for an odd start, going for an early points grab, but at the expense of income for later. It nearly worked, but couldn't match Colin's end-game points for Auren - top of all four points, and largest area, which put him past all the rest of us. Ray, as Alchemists, had a complete disaster!

We then went for lunch and on our return I suggested Through the Desert, which found four players easily enough. We then switched tables around a bit, and I found myself in a 5 player game of Code 777, which Gill had brought along hoping to play. As usual I won, being the only person to get three correct. Ray managed two, while all the others were on one, many with a failed guess as things went wrong for them, or they guessed on a 50/50. We followed that up with Bohnanza, in which Gill won, but it was very close - 16 15 14 14 13.

Then we mixed tables up again and I played Notre Dame, again five player. Timothy and I were the only two who knew the game well, so we took first two spots quite comfortably. Ray had major rat problems eating up all his VPs, so even getting Notre Dame to himself once wasn't able to get him above fourth. We then lost one player and continued with The Pillars of the Earth, just the base game, which was strange to me as I'm used to playing with the expansion. Timothy and I managed to get the stone strategy working, but he also picked up a lot of cash and a way to turn that into VPs at end-game, and this pushed him past me at the end.

We were getting towards the end then so wanted a few fillers to finish with. We started with a 7 player game of Terra - yes I know it doesn't go up to 7, but with some bits from Pillars of the Earth we expanded it to do so!! Timothy won that too, with me second again!! We then played a couple of games of Spyfall with the same group, the first time James Wood giving a few too many clues to Timothy, who guessed quite quickly where he was. The second round he was the spy, and guessed nearly as quickly where he was. We then finished with one round of Codenames.
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Mon Feb 15, 2016 6:16 pm
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January 2016 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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We arrived at Gradpad quite early this month, and only one other pair was there, so the four of us sat down for a quick game of Terra. The first question, the largest Atoll, lost most of us most of our cubes, as we had no clue on dimensions, and Michael was very confident on location, but wrong by one space, so the adjacent cubes weren't right! I was able to recover from this by being very cautious and only placing cubes that I was confident on for the next few rounds, and getting a few exact matches. Kathy was also regularly scoring and was the only one to have most of her cubes all game, and came in second.

The table behind me were setting up Terra Mystica as were nearing the end, so I joined them, although with elements on the expansion I'm not fond of, such as bidding for races and the extra bonus scoring tile (which just seems to double the score of the person with the largest area). I ended up with Swarmlings after the bidding, a race I'm very hit or miss with. I started my first settlement on the bottom island, where there is a nice clump of three, with space to expand over the river, only for the Aurens to build in my river expansion area, and Ray to start right next to me, and take out one of my squares on the first turn. I had to decide whether to just abandon that settlement at that point, or go for a treble terraform - I went for the latter option, upgraded my terraforming track, and treble terraformed to get me out of trouble - but that was very costly, and although my early game swarm had been good, that turn when that was effectively all I did cost me, especially as I then ended up one cube short of building my sanctuary the next turn etc.... Pete however, as Chaos Magicians, was able to do whatever he wanted, with no interference, but while being adjacent to the Aurens for building trading posts, and won comfortably - I still think these are one of the strongest races in the game when played by an experienced player.

After that I suggested The Palaces of Carrara, as I know Ray and Pete liked it. It was new to Sergio, but he rapidly caught on. The goals were quite tricky ones - three groups of 2 wooden tokens, plus cash, plus building combinations of green/orange buildings. It was very much a game of building lots of small buildings, and the greens were quite valuable for the pairs, but I scooped up quite a few cheap low value blocks which I used to build a couple of larger buildings too, while Ray to my right was going heavily for valuable blocks and building in the top value places. I triggered game end when Ray was completely not expecting it, and as start player didn't get a last turn to recover, and one turn to early for Pete, who failed to get a third pair and so couldn't score his huge collection of wooden tokens. Sergio however had almost completed it himself, and while scoring well, and looked like he might win - until Ray pointed out that I got 5 points for ending the game, winning me it by precisely one point!

Next was lunch, and after lunch we settled on Primordial Soup, one of my older games I haven't played in years. Playing it I was reminded why we're trying to trade it - the parisitism strategy is SOOOOO annoying - it stops everyone else doing what they want to do, and scores well. We then played a new game, Bomb Squad, which is basically Hanabi, but with a board instead of piles to play on. It was certainly better than Hanabi, but I found it still had the same frustrations as Hanabi of people not doing what you're expecting despite them having the information to do so. I think I'd always choose this of the two though - the board and robot bit does add to the game. We then played two games of Codenames, both very close, one going each way.

By this point various other tables had finished and were mingling around, so we joined them in deciding the next game, and ended up substituting one of our players for another and playing Eminent Domain. Two of us went for settling, while the other two went military, and three of us were trying to research. Ray was also trying to produce/trade, but on his own - despite that he managed to get quite a few points from it. I was just taking over planets as quick as I could, with a few actions taking huge numbers of ships, as most of my deck seemed to be military by the end. Colin was doing the same as me, but taking more research cards, and I assumed he was ahead of me, but at end game it was actually a tie between the two of us, with Ray's production taking him 2 points ahead of us.

We then switched a player again, this time playing Macao, the third table to be doing so! In fact, we raced the table next to us, starting when they were already on the third round, but finishing comfortably before them! Ray got an early "scrolls are one cheaper", which coupled with "3 scrolls of a kind get you 6 points" gave him an obvious strategy to work with. Robin meanwhile was amassing huge amounts of money, but being permanently last on the wall was hurting his card choices. Colin was going heavy shipping, and I was going for lots of end game points. At the end of the game every good on the board had been shipped, not something I've seen before! Colin won, with Ray just sneaking ahead of me with 12 points from two sets of three scrolls - Colin and I had tried to make it hard for him, but although we stopped him getting a third set, it would have cost us too much to stop him getting the second one.

We then joined the group milling around by the games, and ended up playing two large 8 player games of Spyfall. The first it took a while to work out that Ray was the spy, as we were in the Embassy, and with various people not too sure about Embassies and their roles we had some slightly odd answers from people. Ray's comment about the General rang alarm bells, and he was eventually found out. The second game dragged on rather longer, as everyone had given reasonably convincing answers that made it obvious they were at the restaurant, although Colin being the musician caused a few odd answers. Colin decided Richard was the only one who hadn't given an obvious clue that he knew where he was, so accused him but was blocked; tried to trap him but failed, but eventually the person who'd blocked the accusation accused Richard herself and he was unmasked.

We then split into two tables, with Paul teaching three of us Porta Nigra. It is very point salady - you use your cards as best you can to collect blocks, which you turn into VPs, and there didn't seem to be much in the way of long-term strategy you could go for. I found it very frustrating, as you couldn't guarantee to draw a card with the actions you needed, or that the blocks you wanted to buy would be there, or that you could build when or where you wanted, and the bonus cards seemed to never turn up anything anyone could do so were very stagnant. Shane won, thanks to getting a collection of four bonus cards and then steadily upgrading it.

We finished with three 5 player games of Spyfall, all pretty quick. The first one, on the beach, it didn't take too long for Paul as spy to work out where he was, with clues about warm weather, ice cream - and a monkey (Colin was a photographer with monkey!). He then started the next round (at the zoo) with a question to Colin about his monkey. Colin, as spy, didn't know why there would be monkeys around, and this was obvious from his answer, so he was rapidly unmasked as spy. Then the third round Colin started with a question, "Can I help you?" to his neighbour, which is a long-standing joke from a previous game where we were in the Bank - Paul as Spy knew this, so the minute money was mentioned correctly guessed where we were, for three wins in three games for him!
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Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:06 am
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December 2015 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
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Shefford
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This month I was one of the early arrivals, and we decided to start with a filler while waiting for others to arrive - Doodle City. Everyone has the same board, and then you roll and draft dice and fill in lines on the board to try and connect various symbols on your board - scoring for things like connecting cars to each other, and building long tracks, and taking penalty points if you are forced to take a dice that you can't use. I made a mistake early on and formed a small loop in one corner, which turned out to be a bad plan, as ideally you want to connect all your lines together for big scores late on. I then was forced to take a useless dice no less than four dice in a row, crossing off four trees, which was the most at end game. I had a dismal score of just 24 at the end, with George, who'd triggered game end, scoring more than double my score!! At least Paul, whose game had been going about as badly as mine, was only two points ahead of me.

I then suggested playing my new purchase, Mombasa, ideally with just 3 as it was a learning game. The problem was there were 8 of us, which naturally would split into two 4s, so I agreed to play with 4, but then one of the players said he didn't want to try it with 4, so we ended up back with 3 again!! We spent a while punching it and working through the rules, then started. I was dealt the white starting company so decided to go for gems, while Simon went for expansion and James books (and cash!). All four companies expanded out fairly equally early on, and then two of them carried on expanding and squished the other two a little. None of us went heavily into shares of any type, so at end-game we all had similar points from shares, although Simon had spent all his game doing board expansion. I'd managed to get my books track to the corner, and just missed upgrading my gem track to 50, and this game me a good score, but James's book strategy, with lots of cash, turned out to be a bit better - although we were misplaying a rule, which meant he was taking bonuses for every book, not just the one he ended on! Definitely enjoyed the game and am keen to play again and see how differently it plays out next time!

This was lunch, and Ray had borrowed Simon's copy of Terra Mystica to play before lunch, and I jokingly had said "Only if you play it again with us after lunch!", but we held to that. As soon as James saw Terra Mystica was tabling he jumped in, despite being just about to start a 7 Wonders game! I agreed to play certain elements of the expansion and drew one of the expansion races - Ice Maidens. I'm not totally convinced about these, as it seems you are penalised for terraforming for no real gain, but then at end game I was only one point behind Simon, who won with Dwarves, and comfortably ahead of the other two, so I can't really complain. The bonus points tile was distance between your two large buildings, and Simon went for a mega Dwarves hopping strategy, completely ignoring town building, and just spreading in a line across the board, with his large buildings at either end! This, combined with his Dwarf points, and the town he did just manage to build at end game, gave him a huge score, although Ray did take largest region off him at the end with his Alchemists. I completely abandoned the bonus, as it was clear early on that I wasn't going to be anything other than third, and that only if someone chose not to build them, so instead concentrating on maximising in-game points and scoring on the tracks.

We then had about an hour before I had to leave, and Adam asked about Broom Service, which I'd asked Paul to bring in from the car. I must say that although it wasn't a wonderful game that I would rush out and buy, I did quite enjoy the play, would play again quite happily, and I can see why it got its award. The brave/cowardly mechanic is quite novel, and it was fun at times trying to work out if you dared be brave, or instead wanted to play safe, as well as the frustration of people picking roles in a different order from what you wanted. Adam in particular got very frustrated by this!
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Mon Dec 7, 2015 11:04 am
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