It Beats Watching The TV

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Wanna Buy Laundrette? - All Aboard 2nd December

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Saturday morning brought us to The Barns cafe for our last little game session before Christmas. As is traditional our table is wedged right up against the tree and the cafe menu full of festive treats (gingerbread lattés all round!)
With just Billy, Mrs B and me present for the moment we played a game of Herbaceous and chatted to cousin Katy who was in for a coffee with her daughter. I thought I'd won and was quite surprised that when counting up both Mrs B and Billy had comfortably scored more than me.



Mrs B was needing to pop out to have her nails done so we needed something else quick and plumped for Sushi Go!, which I did win comfortably, and had one round with nothing but nigiri for a whopping 24 points. Nom nom.



We had a couple more join, thankfully as I hadn't packed anything specifically for two and out came Nations: The Dice Game for some light civ building. Billy kept suffering from some disastrous dice rolling and was sadly short of re-roll generating tiles and continually had to use the "spend two dice as a single gold coin" rule to be able to afford anything.
The game is very light indeed but I do quite like it. Still haven't managed to get the expansion into a play of it though, which might add a little bit more in the way of choices, perhaps.
My three wonders helped me take the win here and I'm also tempted to try out the big box game that this is derived from when I've a little more time.



A larger and somewhat fluid group now, with a few comings and goings, settled down for a few games of the (already) classic Codenames. I had one of those spreads of cards where I was faced with an almost perfect alignment of words; Octopus, Film, Casino and a couple of others that I can't remember (covered in photo) which would've been ideal for a "James Bond" clue but for the word Agent being the assassin..!
Ross did later manage to work a "Boris Johnson, Five" when he was giving the clues, things like that are what make this game really satisfying and fun. Absolutely love it, still.



Other players melted away and the cafe had quietened down considerably so the four of us remaining played the boisterous Chinatown. Before long we were all bartering and offering up outrageous deals, trying desperately to avoid making inappropriate accents whilst doing so! The beauty of this game is the fact that, once lots and shop tiles have been drawn, anything goes in a free for all negotiation where butting in, talking over others and undercutting are all actively encouraged. This makes it simple to teach and the rules (such that there are) get out of the way and let players make what they want of the game.
In the end all the scores were, we thought, remarkably close with all four of us over $1,000,000 but a spread of only $80,000 from last to first.
Fantastic!



As we're only meeting once a month here now that was our last session until the New Year, and perhaps there'll be yet more fresh games to air there.
I'm really enjoying these meetings again now that they are a little less frequent, the gap between them makes it feel enjoyable rather than an obligation.
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Sun Dec 3, 2017 8:33 am
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Pleasure Little Treasures - All Aboard 4th November

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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I was really happy Saturday morning, and looking forward to the day ahead. Now that our All Aboard sessions are just the first Saturday of the month they are something that I look forward to and treasure as there seems to be such a long gap between them. These drop in meetings are the perfect opportunity to play lots of small games, in terms of table space, game length and complexity.

As there were four of us to start with I was keen to try out SpyNet which, whilst it contains rules for 2 & 3 players is clearly a 4 player only partnership game. Being brand new to all of us there was a little fumbling our way through "what would be a good idea to do here?" moments but the game did reveal itself nicely as we went along. On your turn you either draft (recruit) cards, looking at the first of the 3 cards, taking it or adding another card from the deck if you don't and move on to the second, etc (it's a type of draft system from Magic the Gathering apparently) OR you play (deploy) them to the table. When deploying you play one coloured agent to the respective colour bar in your tableau, if it has an ability then you may trigger it, you may also pass a card to your partner and you may play a mission card face down to the respective colour *if* you have the highest sum (are dominating) of agent cards played in that colour (only your 2 opponents count here, you can ignore your partner's cards).

As the game is a straight 'run through the deck once and then you're done' it moves very quickly and is an intriguingly tactical game. You aren't allowed to discuss what you hold with your partner but the passing of a card can give important information and/ or help. The drafting is interesting because you have the dual tension of it being advantageous to hold more cards, but if your opponents play agents out quickly then they can score whilst you are stuck with unplayable point cards in your hand. With 4 players and 4 colours it should be that each player is dominating in one of them, but that depends mightily on successful drafting and passing.
An interesting game - we tied and the game was won on the tie breaker - and one that probably needs a little more exploration to reveal its true tactics, but a good first impression.



We also played Medici: The Card Game which is a set collection/ push your luck adaptation of Knizia's classic auction game. Turn over 1,2 or 3 cards from the deck and then you must take the last card you flipped plus you may take 1 or 2 of the previous cards in the row. You have 5 spaces on your boat to fill and play over 3 rounds, just as in the parent game. There are cards in the deck that have a green banner and do not take up space in your hold, and there are black cards that are big money but have no goods symbols on them. As per Medici highest value boat gets points (and then decreasing amounts for 2nd, 3rd, etc) and then majority in each of the goods types earns 10 points for first and 5 for second. The game only comes with coinage divisible by 5 and so any ties are rounded down to the nearest 5, making it perfectly possible to earn nothing for placing in the minor positions. This makes ties very bad new indeed, and very common due to the tight nature of the game.

I really enjoyed this one, it is a good way of playing the same, but different, game and removes the auctions, which is always what people seem to struggle with. A good Knizia filler.



Mrs B had left but we had been joined (for a while) by an elderly gentleman called Jeremy, and Laurence (not so elderly). Initially I was apprehensive that Jeremy wouldn't be aware of what he was getting himself into but he mentioned that "my son has had me playing something called Settlers? which I've really enjoyed" so we were speaking the same language. Andrew did have a copy with him but Jeremy was keen to try something different. We went for the daftness of Camel Up and then, joined by young Luke, a few games of Tsuro. I think Jeremy enjoyed Tsuro a lot more and after his few games and coffee he thanked us and went on his way.

Billy was keen, what with it been Bonfire Night(ish) and all, to play Hanabi and the five of us remaining did just that. Boy oh boy is that game a tricky little bastard! We got off to a great start and thought we were in with a chance of getting all the cards out, especially when Laurence inferred, brilliantly, about the make up of his hand despite having been given little to no information all game, but then chose the card next to the one he could've played instead. We were all about to give him a huge round of applause for some quite brilliant deduction but it wasn't to be. Our fireworks display fizzled out at 21/25 points but it was an excellent game.



We all went our separate ways after that, and I took Mrs B into Oxford to have a nosey around the new huge shopping centre that has just (re)opened. It's made quite a change to the city (not least the traffic...!) and it was great to have views over the dreaming spires (and council houses) nearby from the excellent rooftop dining/ drinking/ mooching areas. Most of the shops within are of the posh clothes and posh eatery type and we stopped for a drink in one of the flashy new offerings (my weird spiced apple and twig/ urine sample pictured above). I was also a little unsure of the hanging display of bras (for a good cause) outside the entrance in Bonn Square, a traditional haunt of pigeons and drunks - I suppose at least it gives them something to sit in (the pigeons...) and pleasure themselves over (the drunks...)?

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Sun Nov 5, 2017 8:26 am
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Morning After the Night Before - All Aboard at The Barns Cafe 7th October

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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With my brother and his wife over from France and staying with us for the weekend Friday night was the ideal opportunity for us all to go out for (a very posh) dinner, as we've all had a birthday or two since we last saw each other, and a few drinks.
Now that our open gaming sessions at the church cafe have been trimmed to just the first Saturday of the month (in at least some part due to me not being able to commit to more than that) it would've been bad form to miss it and so, leaving the ladies at home (for a bit at least) Billy, my brother Duncan and I went along (Charlie busy working at the library).



We were a little late and there were people already playing so we set ourselves up with the lighter flicking delights of PitchCar Mini and Mondrian: The Dice Game to warm up with, and some much needed caffeine.



After that, with Ross now in attendance and the others still busy trying to save the world (Pandemic: The Cure) we played a round of No Thanks!. Although nothing of great note happened it was interesting as it showed that Duncan likes to read the rules, despite them being very simple and explained by me in 60 seconds; perhaps 40 years of life has taught him not to believe his older brother...?



Some re-jigging and some new players meant that we somehow ended up with 7 for a game of Celestia, which is only meant to take 6. Nevermind, we just found an extra playing piece, the (somewhat) appropriate Harold the Helicopter, and carried on regardless. I do like this game, as long as everyone is paying attention and quick to respond to the "staying in or getting off" decision every turn. Ross and Laurence ensured there was little dithering and so the game whizzed by until I declared, having picked up a 15 point card that took me to 65, that I had more than the required winning total of 50. Which I should've declared a turn earlier, ooops. (I hadn't realised that the eyeglass cards were also worth 2 points and so had thought I was on 48, nevermind.) The game certainly was broken by us squeezing in an extra player - I wonder how many games can handle such a situation?

I think blue is a little airsick perhaps?


There was quite a bit of love for the pleasingly tactile Potion Explosion, which I've only ever played in digital form. It's not brilliant, but it is fun, and was a perfect game for Andy to bring along to the cafe.



We continued with the frankly daft Nobody but Us Chickens, which I feel goes on too long with 6 and so called it in half that time. It's 'just' a guessing/ outgessing your opponents/ self as every player has the same deck of 10 cards that they choose 1 from and all play simultaneously; 7 chickens worth -1 to 4 and then a rat, a fox and a dog. Foxes divvy up all played (including any left from earlier rounds) chickens between them in order, rats get to take a chicken after all foxes have taken their first and dogs get chickens if (and only if) they are played at the same time as any predators. Mrs B was the most wily player here and there was some impressive groupthink on display when one hand saw 5(!) guard dogs played to no avail!



A few more departures left Mrs B and I to play the always enjoyable puzzle of Sagrada with a couple of others. Newcomer Andy (brother of Heather, who works with the church and longtime All Aboarder) is hoping to set up a similar arrangement back in his hometown picked my brains (what there were of them) whilst carefully picking his way to a big score and a comfortable win. Whilst I tend to play this game as a quick and fun filler he certainly demonstrated that careful strategy and considering the odds will pay great dividends. All very good fun though.



And after a couple of hours of that lot it was time to head on home, open a few bottles, stick some food in the oven and get on with what I wrote about yesterday! This blog does not recognise time as a linear thing, it's much more wibbly wobbly than that.
(also goes for content quality!)
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Mon Oct 9, 2017 6:25 am
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Knizia at the Kafe - All Aboard 2nd September

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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There's been a change, for the better hopefully, with the All Aboard group; due to people being more unavailable than able to cover the sessions (ideally we want 2 people to run each session) it has been cut to just the first Saturday of the month at The Barns Cafe. I'm happy with this, I was prepared to commit to doing every other one when they were twice a month but as they're only once now I've signed up for every session, and the others will be able to ensure that we've always got at least 2 of us present each time, which will make it much easier to cope with the regular and the drop in players. Billy has also said that he'll be able to come with me each time so we should have plenty of people who can teach games and, if we're quiet, enough of us to have a good game or three amongst ourselves.



We had players straight away, and they were very keen to play Pandemic: The Cure so Andrew sorted them out and they played it 2,3 times maybe? Billy and I meanwhile played Pickomino in case anyone else should come by. This gave Bill ample opportunity to start up his usual moaning and complaining about "too random", "unfair" and "you're too lucky" when he's losing at a game. It finished with a comfortable 15-3 win for me and I tried to explain that it's more about probability, mitigation and pushing your luck (or not!) - it's a Knizia ffs! But he wouldn't have it, dismissing it as "totally luck based and no strategy". Sigh....



As we had now been joined by Luke I thought it perhaps a good idea to try and appease Bill with a Knizia that features no luck whatsoever, the rather old Tutankhamen (almost 25 years old) that I picked up a while ago in a charity shop. Once all the tiles are randomly laid out, snake fashion, players take turns to move their pawn along the path, as far as they like, taking the tile where they finish. It's a set collection/ majority scoring affair, which triggers each time the last tile of a set is taken (or discarded if moved over and unclaimed). As soon as a player reaches the target score they win. There are tiles that allow you to steal and the first person to reach the end of the track can take the pharaoh tile as a wild, it's all completely open information. And I still won. Must've been lucky...
(The game's ok, nothing special but a diverting 15 minutes or so)



A quick jaunt to have a look at a new (2nd hand) car for Mrs B that should make driving more comfortable for her (weird driving an automatic, I've only done it once in all my years behind a wheel).
There were now just 5 of us and, feeling a little peckish, we decided to share out some pizza between us. New York Slice is a favourite filler of mine, it feels 'bigger' than it really is due to the quality of the components. There are good, agonising decisions to be made here; somewhat surprisingly Billy doesn't moan that "someone can gift the game to another player by dividing up the pizza poorly", although the final round of this game was very tense with young Luke doing an admirable job of divvying the dough so as to make for some tough choices.



Next up was some quizzing/ betting/ marvelling at just how wrong everyone can be with a bit of Wits & Wagers. It was still fun at 5 players but I'd rather play it with a full table of 7, or even more and put people in teams. This really is a party game and is very much a case of "the more the merrier" I think.



Liam and Luke left us at this point and with just myself, Bill and Andrew we decided (along with getting some food) to keep it light and play an old favourite, Ticket to Ride, using the Legendary Asia map. This map mixes things up by making players give up extra trains when building in mountains, which can speed the game to a conclusion quicker than you might expect if you're not paying attention. It's also very tight when playing with 3 (no double routes and plenty of choke points) plus there are not very many long connections to claim, so you have to risk drawing tickets that you might not be able to complete if you want to score well. I like this side of the board a lot, the Team Asia map on the reverse remains, as yet, unplayed - must try to rectify that someday!
Bill actually won this game and so would hear no (tongue in cheek) complaints from me about "luck of the draw" on tickets and drawing locomotives from the top of the deck...



Mrs B returned, replete with new wheels (she'd been off with her Dad sorting all that out, lest you think I'd abandoned her to the task alone - plus it was a car that belonged to a friend of his...) and wanted to join us for a game or two. Back to Knizia then, and something that had been away from the table for a shamefully long period, the classic Through the Desert.
This is another "no luck - all down to player choices" affair and makes for a much more cerebral challenge than the cute pastel camels might make you believe. Before too long we were all carving up bits of the desert, claiming our points and cutting each other off, it really is a devious and vicious little game. Initial placement of your caravan leaders is critical and it's possible to put yourself out of contention with poor choices here. There is also an element of "who's going to be the one to block player X?" where it becomes apparent that one player is going to score heavily unless "someone" blocks them off, but then that would mean sacrificing your own game a little so maybe "someone else.." should do it?
I really like this game. It's a proper Knizia klassic.



It was time to close out the games playing, but there was still 20 minutes that could be filled, and there's certainly one designer that you can rely on for a filler that can be taught and played in that time, without it being throwaway. Formula Motor Racing isn't much to look at but it has plenty of opportunity for some smart play under the hood; it's best if you play a series of races but we went all out for a single winner takes all affair.
Billy, naturally, had some grumbles - especially when targeted by negative cards, despite spending 3 turns playing cards in the (1 in 4) hope of causing my pack leading car to blow its engine - but even he was won over by the solid maths and mitigation on offer here. It's a nip and tuck affair right to the line in this one and it was again Andrew (following up his camels victory) taking the trophy in this one.



Seven games played and a new car acquired. A busy morning indeed!
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Sun Sep 3, 2017 6:25 am
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Do Bears Fit in the Cafes? - All Aboard 15th July

Stuart Burnham
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Abingdon
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This weekend was the last All Aboard session before the summer holiday break and Bill and I went along, joined for a short while by the lovely Mrs B, finding Andrew and young Lewis ready to play.
We started off (with Mrs B spectating) with those damn bears again.
For once, quite possibly the first time, I managed to squeak out a win, a couple of points ahead of puzzling pugilist Bill (it was getting 2nd place for each of the achievements wot won it I feel). Not sure that the game is going to hold up in the long term for us at home, but it is ideal for situations such as these, quick to teach and easy to play.



Bill then sat out/ stuffed his face whilst the rest of us played Herbaceous and again I managed a first ever win at a title.
Taking the biscuit did indeed help greatly with the result.
This game is very interesting at 4 players and offers a good simple decision on each of your turns that essentially amounts to "will the pot (community garden) get back around to me in any worthwhile state or should I do the best I can right now?" That is really all that it is, but it knows that and the distillation of a game to a single mechanic is certainly not a bad thing in this case.
I do foresee a long term future for this one at home!



Mrs B left as did Lewis and it was pretty apparent that no-one else would be joining us and so we fished through my bag to find some things suitable for the 3 of us left.
Both Bill and Andy were keen to see what all the wooden blocks from Totemo were about with them spilling out on the table as I emptied the bag and so why not?
Both of them were thoroughly captivated with the scoring problem/ puzzle that the game presents you with on each turn and whilst I can see that the game could become a straightforward optimisation exercise if you let it, it does play out as a close and tense experience.
Bill managed to play his full 3 blocks on his final turn, including having set himself up for a serendipitous 12 point move with his final piece, streaking him ahead on the score track.
He pronounced it to be an excellent game and that he would tell Tony exactly that (which I've done, as he'll probably not get round to posting on his blog again..!)



Another recent cafe introduction, Costa Rica, was to be next.
This is a much different experience at lower player counts as you really do need to push your luck a bit more and try to get a lot of tiles. Leaving a sole explorer on their own with a large chunk of the "board" to explore is asking for trouble...



...which Bill fell spectacularly foul of, as Andy and I conspired to leave him adrift with just a tile or two in a couple of corners of the map and he had some very unlucky flips in other parts of the board, leaving him with *ahem* 18 points whilst I had "somewhat" more (see below) and Andy somewhere inbetween. A bit lopsided for sure, but it was very funny!



A final game sought, and found, in Plums - which is undoubtedly better at 4 than 3 (but better at 3 than 5) but which we still all enjoyed playing. I've not had this hit the table for quite some time now but I think this is the first time that I've ever taught it correctly! (It's always the scoring timing that I've messed up).
Since last playing this I've enjoyed Honshū each time I've played it and the "highest card played to trick gets first choice of all cards played" that it's borrowed from here (or this has from something earlier?) is a really neat mechanism that should be used more often in card games. It makes for a very good set collection experience and, because of those all important plum cards, getting a hand full of low numbers isn't necessarily game ruining.
Another one that I'm determined to play more often now.



It looks like there will be a refocusing on the hosting when the cafe reopens for (Saturday) business in the autumn and Bill and I are prepared to commit to doing the game teaching just once per month so that makes me happy about the future with All Aboard.
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Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:25 am
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Fading Out? - All Aboard at The Barns Cafe 1st July

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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It seems that the extra business that the parents and children of the ballet classes bring to the cafe have dampened the attendance of our All Aboard meet ups; there are far fewer gamer 'regulars' (although some younger kids do drop in often) and it appears that if Bill and I (and Mrs B) didn't go along each time then there'd often be no-one with any games at all, let alone prepared to teach them, present - certainly the organisers (we're kind of just nominal ones) frequently are absent*, and we never know if anyone at all is going. It does get a bit like this in summer months usually when people are more busy socially but I can't escape the feeling that this group is fading away, which makes me enormously sad as it was our introduction to gaming groups and so many friends were made here.
It's going to take some real focus after the August break to keep it going because I don't think I can keep committing to 4 hours every other Saturday morning with other things going on at home.

*babies, weddings, family - all are understandable and there's probably a very good reason most times but I never actually hear anything.



Anyway, enough doom and gloom; Mrs B, Bill and I arrived (half an hour after opening) to find an empty table and set up Terra as Bill was hoping to display his knowledge, and we knew that other players could just drop on in, which the young and very keen Lewis did along with his (unshared) box of stroopwafels and he was delighted to get several answers correct. I've said it a few times recently but this is a pretty good game.

The brothers Luke and Ben showed up a little while later, with a couple of their games and so we played those for a bit...

Er...Waiter? There appears to be a fly in my Chai!


...starting with Cockroach Poker which Lewis struggled amusingly with for a while but then we all ganged up on Billy and forced him to exhaust his cards and thus lose the game. Teaching the future generation well!

We then played a few rounds of Good Cop Bad Cop, including one hilarious one where poor Lewis, upon grabbing an equipment card with his first turn, accidentally flipped the wrong alignment card and revealed himself as the Undecover Agent; cue a whole load of gun drawing, equipment playing and general chaos in a rather Tarantino-esque manner. The game isn't meant to be played quite so briskly but it was a lot of fun to experience that one!



We also played the game I wrote in detail about the other day, Costa Rica and it was very much enjoyed by all. Mrs B thinks she prefers it to Incan Gold and I can't wait to get the nieces round as I think it will be perfect for them, especially Molly who loves photographing nature generally and animals specifically.



We finished up with the sadly oft passed over but still brilliant set collection game of Coloretto. If you don't own a copy of this superb little filler then correct that the next time you are making an order somewhere. It is a true classic and I must play it more often.
And then, with lunches to sort, errands to run and the 3 kids disappearing it seemed like time to pack it in...



One more session and then the cafe closes for the summer holidays and perhaps after a pause things can be looked at again. There are so many families and young kids around, not to mention gamers that are involved with this church and community that I'm sure we can get some sort of proper rota for teachers and game bringers to be present. I think that some gamers might actually be staying away because they feel like they're going to be obliged to babysit someone else's kids just because they are there and can teach Codenames or similar to an interested family instead of being able to just drop in for a coffee and a game of their own choice.

It should be a pleasure and not a chore.
Here's hoping.

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Tue Jul 4, 2017 6:25 am
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Another Quickie at the Cafe - All Aboard 17th June

Stuart Burnham
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A very warm Saturday (dog making full use of the paddling pool I put out in the Garden for him) and a few errands to run meant that we'd only have a short time to go to The Barns Cafe for All Aboard, and it was a good job we did for there was no one else bearing games around (for a while at least).



Mrs B and Bill had come along with me and we soon met Sarah there so, unsure what attendance was likely to be, we played something quick and easy - Age of War. Sarah and Bill have a playful gaming feud stretching back years and that was on full display here once again, allowing me to sneak the win on a tiebreak of she'd nabbed a card from him.
Whilst that was wrapping up Laurence arrived for breakfast and had with him a copy of Sushi Go Party! with which he entertained Bill, Sarah and a father and his daughter at one end of the table...



...whilst at the other end their brother/ son joined Mrs B and I to play Taluva. What a lovely simple game this is to teach and play!
As with many abstracts it's very straightforward to get into and the interesting consequences of your decisions start to reveal themselves as you play. You can identify quite quickly what would be a better idea next time and it becomes apparent who is doing well and how you might need to start "squishing" their settlements to break up their ability to get more pieces out (although doing that can sometimes help them!)
Playing with 3 gave it an interesting dynamic and I think I slightly preferred that to a 2 player head to head.
A marvellous little game and it looks great on the table as well.



As the others were continuing with the Sushi Going (and later, Welcome to the Dungeon) I thought that this was the ideal opportunity to get Wyatt Earp to the table again (it just "works" with 3). Despite not really having any classic card game experience as a reference point Young Thomas quickly understood what was going on and how to play this excellent (Mystery) Rummy style game.
I've found that with 3 players it typically takes 3 hands for someone to break the $25,000 winning line and after the first I was sat on a paltry $4,000 with Mrs B and Thomas sitting smugly well into double figures.
A rather longer and very interesting 2nd round saw me claim the bounty on 2 outlaws in their entirety, including Billy the Kid who hadn't been apprehended in the previous round and was piled with $bills - upon totting up I'd bagged $21,000 in that single round and had just reached the winning condition courtesy of having a single card out for one of the other crooks who'd been caught - gasps and guffaws all round!



It was an excellent 90 minutes or so and we all left at the same time to get on with getting on with the day.
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Sun Jun 18, 2017 8:26 am
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Short and Sweet - All Aboard 3rd June

Stuart Burnham
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Abingdon
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On a blissfully quiet Saturday morning we found the Barns Cafe unusually empty, except for the alluring site of a table full of gamers - it dawned upon us that as it was the last week of half-term that meant that there was no ballet class in the hall next door and consequently a distinct lack of parents seeking caffeine. The 'we' in question was myself(!), Bill and Mrs B - deciding that an hour or so at the cafe before heading off to her rehearsal (see yesterday's post) was better than sitting at home.

She was immediately requesting to play Sagrada and then proceeded to sport a face that looked like a teenager who'd had their phone taken away and had been sent to their room. She'd made an illegal placement of one her dice and, as per the rules, had to remove dice until her board was in correct order. The huffs and the scowls were a sight to behold.
Of course, she ran out winning anyway...



At the other end of the big table I had a full five for some timely swashbuckling action (there's another one of those theme park ride stretched out into a 3hr movie Pirates of the Caribbeans just hitting the cinemas) with the nice and simple, yet still full of good decisions, Buccaneer. This is an excellent Cafe game and I was pleased to play it again, everyone seeemd to enjoy themselves; there were a few moments where a mutiny or a miscalculation resulted in the captain of a boarding party being amusingly screwed over and ending up out of pocket and we somehow managed to mix in one of the ship cards twice, slightly messing up the booty majorities but it didn't really matter as the smiles were as bright as the gold pieces.

A little re-jigging and a couple of departures (everyone had something on for Saturday afternoon) left one end of the table playing the beautiful Herbaceous, attempting to get as many herb based puns in as possible - "that's a wise move" when taking Sage cards, "is it Thyme to pot these I wonder?" and so on...



Mrs B, Andy and I were playing another dice drafting puzzler, Blueprints, which has long been a favourite of hers and has occasionally featured in these pages. I was mulling over the similarities between this and Sagrada afterwards and we tend to prefer both of these over their more complex contemporaries (Roll Player nowadays and Cubist back when Blueprints was new). We like all four games but would rather go with the game that takes 30 minutes and recquires only mild concentration.
I would actually advocate using them as excellent games to introduce non gaming family/ friends to as they have their main components, dice, as very safe and familiar objects but use them in different and new (subjectively, to the non gamers) ways and also don't have many rules and scoring is pretty straightforward. They also both look nice, which helps!



So Mrs B had a lovely hour or so at the cafe, with a couple of her favourite games, a couple of her favourite people and seemed to somehow also find the time to scoff and quaff her way through a cream tea and other refreshments - claiming that they were necessary fuel to assist her in the forthcoming afternoon and evenings singing. As Sarah posited "the ballet classes are great for Cafe business, but sometimes it's lovely to just be able to relax, chat, and play some games with you nice people" - here's to more short and sweet Saturday sessions.
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Mon Jun 5, 2017 6:28 am
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Which Witch? - All Aboard 6th May

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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It had been a little while since we'd been to the Barns Cafe for a Saturday morning session and so this time round Mrs B, Billy and I all popped along for a couple of hours to play some games, eat some cake and drink some coffee/ Chai latte/ ginger beer (you can guess who had what if you like).

We started off with some 5 player Sagrada, which is only a 4 player game so Mrs B and I played as a team (apparently this is "not fair") and ran out winning after some careful and considered choices of dice, prioritising filling in the mandatory spaces first over getting high valued dice in our colour. It does seem to be quite punitive to end up with gaps in your windows especially if the bonus scoring categories include points for rows or columns (of numbers, colours or whatever) - we scored heavily in this area and still are very much enjoying this light, bright puzzle game.



There were not many passing gamers this week although the cafe was rammed full once again with parents whilst their children were at ballet class in the church hall. This rush of people for the first 2 hours does put pressure on the place and several potential customers walked in and walked out due to there being no available seating anywhere; we're nice and happily offer people any spare seats at our big(ish) table but none of them wanted to join in a game this time.
The friendly young Lewis did drop in for 45minutes whilst his sister was dancing and we played a hand of UNO with him before a few games of Codenames: Pictures, which I find more difficult to give clues for than the original word game. If I had the choice I'd play that but many seem to prefer the picture version.



After Lewis left we were back to five again and I pulled out something simple for us all, and that I knew Billy would enjoy as it's (kind of) programmed movement (and at which I am utterly useless) - Fearsome Floors. The game is a Scooby-Doo sort of affair as your player pieces try to get out of the monster's lair before being caught and sent back to the start/ eaten. Each piece will move up to 7 spaces over 2 turns (depending on blocking or slipping on blood) but it's the monster that is the programmed movement part, following strict rules over moving towards anyone he can see, but checks line of sight at every step and moves towards anything he can see that's closer so can be 'directed' into opponents pieces via "hey you, over here!" style placement of yours.
Of course 2 of my 3 characters were gobbled up due to me not spotting what Billy(!) had done....



With only a little time before heading home for some lunch I thought we'd try out Broom Service: The Card Game which is a very short and simple set collection game that uses solely the brave/ cowardly mechanism for you to play out up to 12 cards for 3/1 potions at a time.
It's super light but I enjoyed it, although messed up the deck to start with, missing out an entire colour which did make things a bit awkward.
Points are awarded for numbers of potions in your sets and for 3 'task' card goals that are public information so you usually want to be either going for the tasks or trying to collect large numbers of potions that are not recquired for those, hoping to be able to get away with calling "brave" on those colours more frequently.
It is hard to shuffle a large deck of mini cards but that is my only complaint with the game, the card artwork is excellent and funny in a Pratchett kind of way although I must admit that I was particularly taken with the yellow witch and consistently tried to collect that set...



That was that, a short and sweet Saturday morning gaming session, before back to doing all the boring chores...
(Although I did find a couple of games in a charity shop whilst I was out and about - Hey, That's My Fish!, Neuron and Hisss)
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Sun May 7, 2017 7:26 am
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The Fool on the Hill - All Aboard 1st April

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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The first of April brought with it the opportunity to fool around with some games at the Barns Cafe and Billy and I (later joined by Mrs B who went to have her nails done first) popped along taking in the mild Spring sun.



Whilst people were yet to arrive (aside from all the parents who had kids at ballet class in the hall next door, some of whom saw the All Aboard table as the perfect place to dump all their coats and bags - seriously? some people!) Billy and I had a quick game of the most excellent YINSH which I won when Bill made a properly foolish move that made five in a row for my third point and gifted me the win.



We were just about to play a game of Nations: The Dice Game with Jason when Luke and Ben arrived so I took the bullet (and the sleepy teenager) to the other end of the table for a hand of Flip City whilst Luke took my place with Jason and Billy. Ben's younger brother Luke is quite sharp and picks things up very quickly but he himself is currently full of the teenage morning brain-fug and perhaps my choice of a game where you need to make sure that you "don't turn your bloody cards around!" (seriously? some people!) was asking a little too much. After much exasperated "no, you shouldn't play that one as you've then bust" and "no, you can't stop at that one, the card says if it's on top of your deck you must play it" we finally finished our "quick" game with me having gained the requisite 8vps in a turn at about the same time that they'd finished nation building at the other end of the table, clearly having had much more fun with an excellent little big game. Next time...hopefully!



With Mrs B having perfectly timed her arrival to coincide with me at the front of the queue for coffee and cake - "oooh, could you'd get me a fancy tea and a bite to eat please" (seriously? some people!) we were now six and, with Billy having only around 30 minutes left before heading off to play drums and guitars with some mates it seemed the appropriate (half) hour for some New York Slice. This proceeded serenely (it's a simple game) until it was time for Ben to be the slicer whereupon he appeared to have forgotten all of the rules despite being 4 rounds into the game, much to the exasperation of his brother, myself, and his parents who were waiting at the end of the table to set off on a journey (seriously? some people!)
The scores were all pretty close and Jason had pipped the win at the post by a single point.
Luke and Ben shot off with their parents and, I am convinced, the rulebook for the game which later could not be found and which I distinctly remember being at that end of the table. Near a pile of newspapers. Which were scooped up and whisked away. And with which my (file unavailable on the Geek and Bezier won't replace rulebooks) lovely pizza menu styled rules, from my birthday gift from Mrs B, probably now reside in someone's recycling bin.
(seriously? some. bloody. people!!!)

whatever way that pizza is divided up there's going to be a lot of pepperoni eaten!




After taking Billy over the road to the Co-Op because he wanted a snack before meeting his mates and subsequently finding myself shaken down for bags of crisps, cans of coke, pot noodles and a pack of batteries (seriously? some people!) I returned to the cafe to find Mrs B had rummaged through my games and was merrily setting up Schwupps, which she absolutely loves. It was just us two and Jason left at this stage and the game kind of plays out on rails so it was perfect whilst we all had something to eat.



We then went on to a game of Flamme Rouge which is usually a hit and so it proved again with Jason. I need to brush up my technique and teamplay some on this great little bike racing game; the hills are absolutely critical and once again I found myself with a rider (my sprinter) being cut adrift at the back on the big climb of the course and thus totally unable to keep in touch, and filling his deck with exhaustion. I consistently make a fool of myself in this game mucking up the hill climbs despite always warning new players to pay careful attention at these parts of the course, specifically the movement restrictions on the way up and benefits on the way down. My rouler was in touch though and he finished agonisingly one space shy of crossing the finish line allowing Jason's Sprinter to use his final '9' card to just pip me at the post (again).



As we finished up we were joined by Rebekah (who'd been doing actual cycling herself and arrived famished and proceeded to demolish a couple of plates worth of carbohydrates in short order) and Heather (who'd been tidying her office at the church) and so we stayed for one more game, Archaeology: The New Expedition, which was greatly enjoyed and which Jason won again (seriously? etc. etc!) and as we packed away we noticed that another table had ninja-ed in and somehow snuck away one of my games and were merrily tossing it around on the other side of the cafe ( ? ggnnhhh! arrggh! gaaah!) and it was at this point that the missing rules issue came to light and sent me away from the cafe in something of a grumpy mood.

Still, more fool me for not keeping a closer eye on things eh?
Sigh.

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Sun Apr 2, 2017 7:45 am
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