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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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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!, 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!, 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 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
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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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 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
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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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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November 2015 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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After a gap of a month due to an ice hockey match I got to Gradpad again this month. I saw Paul's copy of Terra, and asked if we could start with this. It was a popular suggestion, playing with the full complement of 6 players, and turning other interested people away! I absolutely love Fauna, so I was very keen to see how this compared. There have been a few rules changes - firstly that the land bonuses don't scale any more with number of regions, but are always 7 and 3, and the number of cubes is reduced by one, and no longer has a minimum apparently, so it was much easier to get messed up by losing cubes. The cards themselves seem quite mixed in topic - we had Spanish speaking countries, Marco Polo's expeidition, Uluru, the tallest church steeple and Easter Island Statues - and Paul said in a previous game he'd had the biggest ever food fight. With 6 obviously the land areas were often hotly contested, as mostly they were easier than the dimensions. There was definitely more potential to be badly wrong on dimensions than in Fauna - most people thought the Easter Island statues were much larger than they actually are, and also that there were a lot less of them - and 6 cubes were placed on those guesses, so there was a wide range of guesses to start with. Overall my first impression wasn't as positive as Fauna, and I'm undecided as to whether I need both, but I am still quite tempted.

After that we needed to pick a new game, and another table of three were just starting up a game of Istanbul. Paul suggested 504, which I was not keen on trying having heard very mixed things about, and another player suggested Dead of Winter, which I dislike, so I headed for Istanbul. As it happened, no-one except the person who tabled Dead of Winter seemed keen on that, so tabling it made everyone decide on one of the other two, and Istanbul became a 5 player game - which was great, as it can be very tight at this player count, and with everyone but one player familiar with the game, it wasn't too slow either. I started badly, going for the green/red upgrade tiles, but being shut out of the red one unless I upgraded my board by two, so gave up on that, and didn't even use the one I had bought once in the entire game, instead switching to a post office/market strategy and buying gems with either goods or cash. Robin had gone early for a wainwright strategy, and rapidly upgraded all three tracks, bought some upgrade tiles, then got maximum goods, and bought gems to finish the game - just two turns ahead of me thanks to a bad dice roll for cash. Mike was incredibly unlucky with his dice rolling - you wouldn't believe anyone could roll so many 2s and 3s, and this definitely didn't help him!

We then headed to lunch, and on our return we started Codenames. This turned out to be a great after-lunch game, as we just absorbed players as they returned from lunch, until we had enough people to start thinking about splitting for other games. We played three hands. There were the usual fun moments - Mike in the first game had a real problem, with Fighter being one of his words, while Soldier was the black word - eventually on his last turn, needing three words he came up with the brilliant idea of saying "Trade", with his remaining words being Fighter, Scuba Diver and some other profession - Journalist maybe. Robin, one of his partners, suggested all three immediately and I thought we'd lost the game, but his teammate talked him into picking Soldier instead, and they lost, much to my relief, as I could have gone for both of my words on the previous turn, but had decided to play safe, not considering that they would manage the three at once!!

Next one of the gamers suggested Mysterium, which I'd been wanting to try for a while. I was slightly disappointed by it - although i enjoyed the Dixit style clues of pictures to give hints about pictures, I found the game itself rather slow paced, and as a result a bit unsatisfying. I'd play again, but I don't think it's on my buy list any more. We failed on the very last turn - Robin and I chose the right combination, but the other three voted for a different collection - the cards could definitely have been used for both, and none of us were very sure which was the correct set.

Next, keeping on the same style of game, we played a couple of hands of Spyfall, gaining a few gamers from a nearby table for the second game, although a couple chose to spectate rather than play. The first one I apparently gave away too easily with my "Where is the milk?" clue, as the Spy immediately guessed Supermarket. The second one had an amusing end - one of the players asked me if we had weapons aboard. That sounded a very suspicious question, coming on top of a couple of mildly suspicious answers already, so three of us simultaneously accused him as the spy. Everyone agreed except Ozzy. In discussing why he might have disagreed, George suggested that maybe this was because he was the Spy himself and didn't realise he won if he unmasked the wrong spy, leading again to a double simultaneous accusation of Ozzy as the spy. He was indeed, but had thrown everyone off the scent earlier with a wonderful response to Gill's question about whether he felt sick, which made us all think he knew that he was on a boat!

After that we split into two tables, with Gill suggesting Code 777. Three people managed to guess their first clue before I got the final tile of mine - only to discover that the person giving the club had given the wrong clue, and I hadn't got it right. She was deducted a point, but as with the correct clue I wouldn't have known mine, I couldn't claim one. Rosie had mis-guessed her first rack, of 6 6 6, only for Gill to put exactly the same numbers back up. She was given that one easily from a couple of clues, given a new rack, and then the next two cards just gave her it instantly - three consecutive numbers adding up to 18 or more - 5 6 7 maybe! Her rack was redone again, and at this point everyone but me had all 5s, 6s and 7s on their racks - and my question - how many numbers can't I see? 4!! Well, everyone was well on their way at that point, and I stood no chance. Rosie won, with everyone else on two points.

Lizette then asked if someone could teach her Power Grid, and I agreed as long as it was 4 player, as I didn't want to stay much more than 90 minutes more. Ray and Ozzy joined us, and we had to turn away various offers of a 5th player. I was distracted mid-game, and for some reason decided to buy the 21 power plant, three recycling powers 5, despite the fact that I was already powering 6 houses and only had 3, and really didn't need a power plant at all. I was last left in and it appeared, and I don't know why I thought it was a good idea - Ray queried it at the time! Anyway, this definitely lost me the game, although my experience at the game was able to just keep me in second ahead of Lizette, who played a very impressive game for her first game and only lost on a cash tie-break. Ray left himself in a very dicey position for the last round, with Lizette able to buy enough recycling to stop him powering if she had so wished, trusted that she wouldn't be that mean. It worked for him, as she wanted to buy her 17th house so didn't do so, but that would have put him from 1st to last place, shunting everyone else up one position. As it was he could build and power 18 comfortably, while Lizette and I could only build to 17 houses, so he kept the win.

One of my passengers had now got themselves stuck in a never-ending game of Bohnanza, so we played three more hands of Codenames while waiting for them to finish, again gathering players as we went, as other tables finished and their players joined us. We finished needing Lock and Hole on the last hand - and James was really struggling giving us a clue for them - finally coming up with Canal. Robin meanwhile, the other describer, had already said that we'd won as there was an easy clue - Key!! As it happened we managed it from Canal, but there's no doubt Key would have made it a lot easier!
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Sun Nov 8, 2015 9:55 am
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September 2015 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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At the start of this month I arrived just as a few starter games were finishing up, so we waiting to merge with one of the groups. Quite a few of the gamers were wanting to play something new, but I wanted to try something familiar, so ended up with a couple of a similar mindset, and we started with Bohnanza, an old favourite of mine, and one of the first games I played when I first started attending the group Michael had belonged to. It was a lose game between three of us, but Michael had good luck with valuable beans and this gave him the win. Kathy, despite her terrible start, was able to overtake both Colin and I by just one point.

Then Dominion was suggested, and I asked to play one of the expansion sets I'm not so familiar with, and the first one we located in the giant box of Dominion stuff that Michael owns was Hinterlands, so we played a selection of 10 cards from that. I mispronounced Scheme when setting up the set, and Colin delighted me in teasing me about this, and bought a whole pile of them just so he could use my mispronounciation as much as possible, combined with a card that stole silvers from other people's deck. I went for the card where you draw 5 cards and discard 3, which got me several early Provinces. I then realised that the Province deck wasn't going down as quickly as usual, but we decided to play with what we had rather than count - it turned out there were 15 in the deck rather than the usual 12. I also discovered the worth of a little card costing 2, that gave you a card for each VP card in your hand, which didn't seem that great, but then also said that it gave you 3 actions. A couple of these were a great addition to my deck. Kathy also picked up a few Provinces, but then both of us were suffering from overload of green cards, and Colin was able to get his deck working enough to pick up a few later game, but not quite enough to catch Kathy. I was safely ahead though.

We then suggested Carcassonne, another old favourite, but then we realised that the only edition there was the Hunters and Gatherers version, which Colin hates. He was talked into playing anyway, and proceeded to win, with a very large hunting region, which I thought I had joined into, but then he joined a second man in too, and a similarly large river system, which he had also stolen after Michael had joined him and me into it. I had a terrible late game, with three of my men stuck on the board, and unable to get points for several turns, which put me last.

Then it was lunch, and after returning from lunch I ended up with a different group, playing Deus, which was new to Paul, but the rest of us were familiar with. Paul went on a land grab, not realising how easy it was to jump through other people's areas with your armies. Timothy went for barbarians in a big way - using his armies to get next to several of them, get lots of cash, and placing one army so that it could steal 1VP from all three of us every time he ran his army line, which he did the full five times. This unfortunately for the rest of us meant that we kept getting forced to give him VPs as we built our buildings, and he then played ships to enclose areas - the amusing thing being that despite having 4 ships at end game, he had never used any of them - they were purely for enclosing areas. I made a mistake at end-game that allowed him to steal one barbarian area that was mine, and the swing on this was enough to give him the win. I meanwhile had several VP buildings and was running these repeatedly for VPs. Colin had an impressive grain start - building two production buildings for grain, running them three times, amassing such a large amount of grain that there wasn't any in the supply for anyone else, then selling it all on a ship! It didn't help him much with points though, although he was just able to stay ahead of Paul on VPs, as it was Paul's first game.

After that the room, which was a smaller one than usual, was getting a bit crowded, so we went to see if the people using the usual room had finished so we could move over, which we could. There were 7 of us, and not much game deciding was getting done, so Paul suggested that we played a couple of hands of Spyfall while waiting for one of the other tables to finish. The first one Ben was starting to become obvious as the Spy, as the rest of us had all made suitably pirate responses, but he guessed, incorrectly, the Cruise Ship first. The second game the Spy was less obvious, with a couple of obvious suspects. Adam came through from the other room to ask if I wanted to play Core Worlds, which he knows I love, and Colin used the interruption to accuse Paul. We all agreed, and it turned out Colin was the spy - grrrr!!

So next I was playing Core Worlds with Paul and Adam. Paul had played a couple of times a while ago, but was hazy on the rules, and had never played either of the expansions, so we left out the events and upgrades (I forget the real name of them), but did play with the new cards from both sets. I was playing a very starfightery deck, but so was Adam, but luckily I was just before him so was usually able to take over the worlds first. Paul was playing out huge numbers of troops and taking over worlds, and it wasn't until the third round that I realised he had a rule wrong, and was playing multiple troops for one action, not an action per troop, which was giving him a distinct advantage (he was just trying to get out more troops than he had actions, which was when I noticed the error!). We decided we couldn't do much about it then, so he just played the rule right from then on. I was taking all the worlds worth most points, as well as drafting the cards worth points, so was well ahead going into the final round, but then we entered the final phase, and both the others managed to draft four(!!!) Core Worlds each, to my one (there was only one fleet one on the first turn and Adam nabbed it). Adam had an amazing engine set up, where his troops were out, he had tactics to keep them out after combat, and a card that gained him energy when he played it, to enable him to get out the others that did vanish after combat - not to mention a tiny deck. I had a tiny deck, but not enough energy or actions to do as much as he did, but did draft a huge number of Prestige cards with my energy, which was worth easily the equivalent of a second core world and more. At end game Paul won by one point, unfortunately the result of his earlier rules misunderstanding helping him, I was second, and Adam just one point behind that - incredibly close end!

While we were playing another group had set up on the table behind me, with a pile of games including Colt Express, which I was keen to try thanks to its SdJ nomination. They had nearly finished their game, so we waited for them to finish (dashing up to the cafe for a quick snack!), and then Adam and I joined them, while Paul joined with people from another table for Augustus. Colt Express definitely has cool bits, but from that one play I can't say I was convinced that the game is anything other than luck. On my first turn I was shot multiple times, but never drew any of my shots back to hurt anyone else, only able to move and pick up one treasure. The second turn I then picked up all my bullets from the first turn, meaning my choices were extremely limited, and on the third turn, having picked up even more shots, was forced to use one card play to draw cards. I ended up with three bags of swag, just slightly more than one other player, but well behind most of the rest, and the winner was the one who had shot the most bullets - but just because he had been lucky enough to draw them when we hadn't (three of us new to the game all said we'd shot when we could but hadn't seen any more cards than that), and also with the ability to evade bullets if anyone else was around, which meant he was the only one not to have his deck full of bullets. Definitely not convinced.

There were several other games in his pile that I also wanted to try, one of them being BANG! The Dice Game. I enjoy Bang from time to time and wanted to see how the dice game had captured the game. Well, it was definitely shorter - I was eliminated before my second turn, when the Indians attacked, and the the player to my right finished me off, and no-one had more than three turns. The role side of it carried over well, but the dice aspect meant that it just didn't feel as if it had as much in it, and left me feeling a bit unsatisfied compared to the base game. Certainly not terrible though, and I can see it would be fun as a quick filler, but I feel no need to buy it.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf was my next choice, to play in the half hour before I had to leave. I am a huge Werewolves fan, but we rarely get enough to play it, and although I like The Resistance it doesn't scratch quite the same itch, so I thought this might do - I have read lots of good stuff about it. So the rules were explained, the roles handed out, the app started. I was a Villager, so closed my eyes, listened to all the app stuff, and couldn't hear any signs of movement from anyone, opened my eyes and then was told we had to try and lynch a Werewolf. With what infomration?!?!? Three of us hadn't played before, although we were all Werewolves players. One of the ones who'd played before identified himself as the Robber but said he hadn't robbed, which we had no reason to disbelieve. The other guy said he was a Villager, and then all three of the rest of us claimed the same thing. By now we were running out of time, but didn't seem to have gained any information at all, so the lynching stage was very random - two of us pointing at the villager who had played before, and others pointing at others. It turned out the girl who hadn't played before was the Werewolf, and had seen the other Werewolf card in the middle, but we hadn't heard anything. But how on earth were we supposed to deduce anything?!?!? I still have no clue!! It's like the first night of Werewolves when you're all in the dark, but without the later nights when you have more information to go on!!
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Sun Sep 6, 2015 10:17 am
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