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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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November 2017 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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I arrived when several tables had already set up, but more people were still arriving, so we chose to play a short game, Piece o' Cake while waiting for more people to arrive. We started with 4, knowing that we were likely to become 5 before we started the game. I hadn't played the game since shortly after its release, so I, like everyone else, needed a rules explanation. Then we started splitting pie. We all tried different strategies. Adam and I kept most of our pies, Andrew ate all his, and Andy and Gill were collecting heavily in a couple of types (one of them the same type!), and eating the rest. Adam was last to split, and with all the types he was collecting could make it so that four of the five slices were valuable to him, while the fifth was unlikely to get past Andy and Gill as they were competing for it. He won, with 42 points, with me second at 37, while Andrew's eating strategy netted him 30.

After that we had a sixth so split into two tables of three. After some discussion I joined the Orléans table, and a fourth player arrived to join us while we were explaining the rules to Shane. I haven't played Orleans for a while with 4 players, and I have to say that it is a lot tighter with 4 players than it is with just 3, and things are much more competed. I was fourth player, but from the way things worked I had the first chance to get the lady on the bottom track by buying two greys. I then picked up one red to increase my hand size, and would have liked to buy another but just couldn't draw a blue and black together, and always needed to use one of the two just to do something useful. It didn't help that my wild disappeared as soon as I bought it, thanks to a "lose a chit from the bag" event tile! Apart from that my main strategy was to buy cogs, but unfortunately two other people went for them too, which meant they ran out before I could cover everything I wanted to, and my lack of hand size was definitely limiting me, although spending two people every turn to get money equal to my star rating was getting me a good score every turn. With no reds I ended up ignoring the board completely, and just going for sacrificing everything I'd bought on to the board, which picked me up quite a few more ladies. The problem came when that board started to fill up, as I started to run out of useful things to do with the ones I couldn't sacrifice. I was also incredibly unlucky with my bag draws the last few turn - my bag was basically split into four roughly equal groups - original tiles, white, brown and grey, and on the last three turns I kept drawing all tiles form one of the groups. On the last turn I had nine disks in my bag, of which four could be sacrificed for a point, a grey/black combination would get me stars, and anything else was useless - and I drew all basics and whites I couldn't sacrifice, giving me a particularly useless last turn! Timothy beat me to second place by exactly one point, which made it just that little bit more frustrating! Adam won fairly comfortably, with the best board presence, and having headed up the white track at full speed.

We then had a short time before Adam had to leave, so he suggested a couple of games of Spyfall before lunch, and Gill joined us from her table. Both rounds were fairly quick - the first time it was fairly obvious from the first questions who the spy was, and I accused him quickly, and he said yes straightaway, without waiting for the vote from everyone else. The second time we were in space, and Timothy's question "Have you had to travel a long way to get here?" gave me a complete giggling fit, and that, combined with a slightly cautious answer to the previous question, meant that I accused him as spy before realising it could have been trying to catch me out, but the others didn't agree. A few more questions in and I was still suspicious, but also of a couple of other players, and eventually Shane as spy (again!) decided to guess where he was rather than get caught out, but he guessed the Polar Research station instead, so lost.

We then had lunch and started to play the "What to play next" game. We were fairly stuck with no real decisions until Timothy got Merlin out of his bag, at which point I demanded to try it, and Timothy went to pick it up, and it was fairly obvious which people also wanted to try it, as they followed him round the room carrying it to the table! The remaining four sat down to Steve's game, but a third table starting up let Gill, who wasn't too sure about the game, drop out and play something she was familiar with, so it worked well all round. My main impression of Merlin was that it was a very typical Feld, where everything seems to be worth a similar number of points (2 in this particular game), and you're trying to maximise your points per turn so that you just get slightly more points than everyone else. The cards you could play every turn played a bit part of it, and the player who got stuck with their initial hand draw was lagging on points rather, and the owner of the game did say this was a slight concern, as the cards as such a key scoring part of the game. Obviously once you start playing cards, you choose the ones you add to your hand, so you rapidly start melting through them once you do start to score. I even got to the stage where I couldn't play all the cards that were scoring for me, as there was a limit of one a turn, although I had very little sympathy from my fellow players about this!! The scores were surprisingly spread after final scoring, with me winning, and Andy, who I thought was going to catch me at one point, in second. The other two were just one point apart a way behind. I enjoyed it, and would play it again, but won't buy, as I can't see me wanting to play it more than a handful of times - I can't see where the variability comes in.

As we finished Paul's table had also finished, and I asked if he would teach me Bärenpark, which I'd had my eye on all day, but not found anyone who knew it to teach me. It's an amusing Patchwork style game, where you acquire Tetris like pieces and are trying to place them on your board for maximum benefit - the catch being that placing the tiles gets you more tiles, of various types, but that some tiles are worth points to place, and there are also missions if you place your tiles in certain combinations/positions. I found it a very neat tessellation puzzle, and enjoyed it enough to consider buying also, but I suspect again it might be one that doesn't have a huge amount of replay, once you've got used to which shapes tessellate with which.

Paul had mentioned Dice Forge while we were playing, a game I'd been desperately wanting to play, so I asked to learn that next. It's a neat dice building, with dice like Lego dice, where you can pop the faces on and off, which I hadn't expected (I thought you'd build them more abstractly somehow!). You then roll the dice and acquire one of three currencies, or VPs, and the game is then managing those three currencies to best effect to get VPs, from buying cards (two of the currencies), or new dice faces (the third currency), with the twist that you only get to buy things on your own turn, but roll for income on everyone's turn. I found it very enjoyable, and have already ordered myself a copy, as it wasn't too expensive a game. I think there should be lots of replayability thanks to both the luck of the dice, number of cards in the game that you can choose to buy, and the variety of dice faces. I hope to try it more soon! This time I went for a heavy cash strategy, and then used one of the cards available to convert it to VPs - which worked well until those cards ran out, at which point I found myself with a huge amount of cash and no way to convert it to VPs any more, and not enough of any other currency to do anything useful! I dropped into third place, with the first two players a good 30 points ahead of me, despite being in the lead points-wise all game, as my game just ended about three turns too early and in those three turns they amassed a huge number of points!
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Mon Nov 6, 2017 7:16 am
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August 2017 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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I turned up at Gradpad this month keen to try some of the SdJ nominees, which I know Paul tends to buy. Looking through his bags I rapidly made a pile of his games to try, and Seb and Gill joined us to try them.

First came Kingdomino, the SdJ winner. After lots of chat during the rules explanation, which definitely took longer than the game, we played - and all the gold tiles came out early! I ignored them and built up some large areas in other types, but then at the end managed to block myself so I could only take water tiles, none of which came up, so didn't finish my square for the bonus. However, I still won, tied with Gill.

After that we were joined by a 5th, so pulled out Magic Maze, which looked briefly like we might take a 6th, but then one left to join a new arrival. We explained the rules, and started, but didn't remember to turn the timer a second time when it ran out, and lost. The second time we got closer, getting to the shops at least, but not exploring the whole maze first and as a result missing one of the exits, and this made it impossible. The third time we lost again, and this was completely my fault, as I was being really dense, and completely forgot about turning the timer and they couldn't manage to move either of the two pawns to a timer without me. Doh! I must say although it was very frustrating, especially with two people seeming to have different agendas, and people like me being thick at times, I really enjoyed this game. I'm almost tempted to buy it and see if it would work with my home games group, but I have a sneaking suspicion that quite a few of them might not enjoy it because of the frustration aspect.

After that frustration meant we moved on to another game, Century: Spice Road, which I'd heard compared to Splendor many times, so was keen to try. I must say, I didn't really see the resemblance to Splendor particularly - the comparison to Bazaar that I'd also heard was closer. I found it hard to decide what I thought about this one. I liked the idea of building up an engine, but a bad early choice of cards left me a bit frustrated when I couldn't find other cards that linked with them, and played with 5, it was a bit slow to come round the table each time. However, the underlying mechanics were ok, and it's one I might enjoy with more replay - certainly I'd be very happy to try it again. Not one I'd rush out and buy from that experience though.

At this point we broke for lunch, and after lunch Paul had asked me to teach him Great Western Trail. I was hoping to play with 3, as it was with new players, but Tim and Shane were both keen to play, so I went with it, especially as they are both gamers that are quick to pick up new games, so that aspect of it wouldn't be an issue, and I was correct, it wasn't. Surprisingly for me too, given that I beat almost everyone I play at this in my regular game group, Shane managed to win! I had a trashing deck going, buying some larger valued cows, and gradually increasing the value of my deck. Shane, with a very well placed "2-tax" building just in front of the cow shed, was making a huge amount of money, and this just gave him so much more flexibility than the rest of us.

After that a fifth player joined us, so I suggested another quick game of Magic Maze, determined to beat the game. It's arguable as to whether we did or didn't, as the timer ran out just as Paul moved the pawn onto the final exit, and there was discussion as to which happened first, but at least we were close! If Paul had moved onto the timer square we were trying to get him to step onto, we would have finished comfortably, but he didn't think we needed to - I think both sides were right - by the time we'd delayed we did need to, but if we hadn't bothered with it, we probably didn't need to! At least it proved it can be done, but I'm not sure about the increased difficulty options!!!

Paul then dropped out of the group to let us play Karuba 4 player, a SdJ nomination from the previous year that I'd missed out on. I quite liked the idea of it, but it turned out to be ridiculously easy, with everyone finished the temples, collecting all the gold we found, and ending up on almost exactly the same scores - 30 for two of us, and 28 for the other two. The owner said it wasn't usually like that, so maybe we just didn't set up well.

Next Honshu was suggested, with the drafting variant rather than the original rules. I must say, I can't really comment on the original rules given that I didn't play them, but with the drafting variant I was really impressed with the game - a nice little filler with the placement aspect of Hanging Gardens, but the fun of trying to draft cards that were valuable for your situation. It was a tie between me and Timothy for the win, but Timothy won (comfortably!) on the tiebreak, as I'd covered almost all my wasteland!

We then wanted something heavy to finish with, and after some discussion settled on Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization, which Shane wanted to learn. The other three of us were all familiar with the older version, although none of us had played it much recently. Unfortunately for me, this game went on rather longer than I had anticipated, and meant I left for home rather later than originally planned, leaving my passengers playing lots of short games while waiting for me to finish. A war on culture by Shane put him in first place with a 20 VP swing, and Marco, the recipient of the war in last place. I was lowest on military as soon as my Age 1 leader vanished, and the constant drip loss of VPs and other things as a result of this put me in third - and very glad that I both wasn't the target of the war (Marco being rather ahead on VPs per turn at that point - although I caught him the next turn), and had the option to take Ghandi to defend myself further!
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Wed Aug 9, 2017 12:24 pm
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July 2017 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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I turned up to Gradpad with a whole suitcase of games I wanted to try, but ended up arriving just after the initial tables had all set up - the people I followed from the car park taking the last places in those tables. However it was still early, so I was fairly confident more people would soon turn up, and sure enough they did. Fliss wanted to try Terra Mystica, and although I was booked for a game the next day, I was happy to play. She had played before, but only once, so needed some rules reminders. James, whose copy it was, ducked out of the game he was about to start to join us, as did Timothy, who had also just arrived. I dealt out races, getting Swarmlings myself. James went for a very non-standard Engineers start, getting blocked with both his settlements, so building two bridges on turn 1 to get his houses down, but this worked well for him, as he put down his Stronghold in turn 3, and was scoring lots of points from then on. Fliss rapidly spread with her Giants to form her first town, then later a second one, but never connected, so James was able to claim the 6 points for third largest area cheaply. Meanwhile Timothy was Fakir jumping all over the board, but suffering from a lack of power, as no-one upgraded anything he built next to! He did eventually form a town, but it was hard work. I meanwhile swarmed well, forming three towns, and being the only player to play the tracks, as well as getting largest region, which was a lot of end-game points!

We then mixed with another table for a quick Sushi Go Party! before lunch, which I enjoyed, and the variability from the basic Sushi Go was nice, and it might be a game I pick up for the kids at some time - they are big Sushi Go fans.

After lunch Fliss was keen to learn Terraforming Mars, so having located a copy (I hadn't brought mine, having played it twice in two days already and knowing I was going to play it again on the Sunday!), I offered to teach it to her, and Ben wanted to learn it too. Ben in particular was very quick to pick it up, and was only a few points behind me - but it was a low scoring game, with everyone terraforming different areas, so that there was no stall, but Mars was terraformed fully very quickly for once.

We then only had a short time before I had to leave, so finished with a Splendor, which I just managed to win over James, who was well ahead, but I was suddenly able to jump my score from 9 to 16 with a top-row purchase, which gave me the win. I then played a quick Race for the Galaxy before leaving.
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Wed Jul 5, 2017 7:15 pm
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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
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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
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Shefford
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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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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 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 Unnamed Object. 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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