It Beats Watching The TV

A daily blog about games, family and occasionally random other things. Well, it gives me something to do, and you something to read doesn't it!?

Archive for Secret Songs

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Sometimes I Can't Believe it, I'm Movin' Past the Feeling...

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Well, where has the year gone? We're already into the month of May (although the weather seems to think otherwise!) and there are so many games still to play. I really don't think, and neither must you if you're reading this, that the time spent playing games is merely wasted hours - it's a vitally important part of my social and familial interaction. (I'm a modern man who likes to spend time with his kids instead of watching sport.)

On Saturday myself and Billy, after a brief discussion (I wanted to play Rococo, he Castles of Mad King Ludwig) settled for the classic Ted Alspach game of Suburbia.
I think that this game is superb and after our last game of CoMKL, where Bill had grumbled about the bonus cards making it too swingy, I suggested that this more strategic take would be up his street. Setting up on the dining table, it being the only empty room in the house that morning. This had the benefit of (I) being bright and airy as opposed to the living room's half light, (II) having a great view of the recently tidied (by me) garden and the deep blue sky and (III) easy access to the snack cupboard!

After grabbing some sweets and cans of fizzy pop we were ready to start our little suburban war. The public goals were most civic buildings and most residential buildings, so nice and clear. In a 2 player game it can become a bit of "you take a green, I take a green" (for example), and with 2 tiles offering this type of bonus it could also be a case of "you take green, I take grey" (for example). The second of these is the way it went in our game; in the past we used to wait until the last couple of turns before committing to a bonus so as to throw the other player(s) off but this time it was much more overt. At one stage the only green, other than the starting tile, that Bill had was a retirement home (I quipped that it was like our town of Abingdon - "a city with no children it seems, just lots of oldies"). The suburbs continued to be taken by me at every opportunity, or when no "decent" tile was available in the market, leaving him with the greys and a very civic and business heavy town.
The game was very close and ultimately I won by having 5pts extra on my private goal than Billy did, and having a bunch of extra cash courtesy of my early casino purchase.

In our after game chat / debrief we were trying to decide on the weight of the game, it's not a complex one, it's not a light one; in the end we settled on a "half light" one.

Here for your perusal are The Suburbs that we constructed:

SPRAWL I (Billy)


SPRAWL II (Stu)
("they heard me singing and they told me to stop"...)


A good game, much enjoyed by us both, and with a suitable soundtrack for the duration of the play...

whistle



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Sun May 1, 2016 6:30 am
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Stood by the Bus Stop, With a Felt Pen, in This Suburban Hell?

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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On Wednesday night Mrs B was away at a small conference and so I was left to my own devices. I thought about settling up something on the table for some solo play but after being boring and doing all the chores decided that some iPad gaming in bed was the only option.

I chose the excellent Suburbia, which is a game design that I find intruiging, challenging, and great fun to play. There are lots of opportunities to score points and the game presents a different challenge each time. The app is an excellent implementation and as well as the standard game there is a challenge mode which I find so hard; there are many tricks and techniques to doing well in this game, and I'm only just beginning to find them.

I like the minimal design aesthetic, the clever engine building, the target goals and the market mechanic. I find this game is soothing and considered to play and, home and dry after a walk with the dog, ideal for winding down.



Socialism rules! No blues around here! It's a sin to be a capitalist in this suburb!



After completing a couple of games, including my best ever win (against the AI - did you see me coming Ted?) I gave Mrs B a quick goodnight call before turning in. It transpired that they were out for a "little drink" in the West End. Girls eh?


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Fri Feb 12, 2016 6:30 am
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High and Dry

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Well, what a let down that was.

A sad man, recently


Tuesday evening is "our" evening at the pub for Games For A Laugh - but not this week. Despite assuring us that all was clear for our normal games room we were unceremoniously dumped late on Tuesday afternoon by a phone call from some creep to poor old Gareth.
Despite him having checked that everything (was) in its right place at the weekend the King Charles room was "suddenly" full with a party of 50. Not only that but the Poker Room was also out of bounds and they were close to capacity in the pub with all the Christmas Diners.
It must have been like spinning plates for our de-facto organiser / social media guru / head of marketing trying to inform all of our disparate gaming group members.
There, There Gareth, don't go getting the bends trying to fix things.
He was in a bit of a sulk as he'd given up a free trip to the brewery (see last weeks "GFaL" non-write up, they're so popular at Loose Cannon they run 2 parties tours in December).

I suppose that being as we get to play for free almost every week we shouldn't complain too much - our typical pint or lime & soda and bag of crisps verses hordes willing to pay £30 per head for the Christmas menu?
No surprises what what wins out there!
Perhaps the pub can put the extra revenue toward some better Christmas decorations and a proper Norwegian spruce - they've only got fake plastic trees in there at the moment.
I might be wrong but maybe they had the Karma Police pay a visit as there was apparently a power cut in town Tuesday evening.

Well, when I got home (and after checking Mrs B acquiesced) I gave him a call and just like a jigsaw falling into place he came around, not to watch some talk show host on videotape or to listen to a motion picture soundtrack but to play a quick game - which I'll write about tomorrow.
And now I will give up the ghost and ask you - "How many did you spot"...
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Wed Dec 9, 2015 6:30 am
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Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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I wish you were here to have witnessed the game of Diamonds that we had at the weekend; Charlie was winning tricks and stealing gems on every turn and we were all convinced that he had the victory sown up but in the final reckoning it transpired that I had won comfortably. Numb from the shock of that result, and his dethroning as "card game king" he vowed to not play any further that day and run like hell lest he be roped into something else. (Actually he does tend to hit the wall after a single game and often refuses to play a second.)



Let me wind back a little: I first played this game almost a year ago when Gareth first purchased it and it was played a couple of times at Games For A Laugh; he had high hopes for it but it turns out that it wasn't really for him and he recently put it (and several others) up for sale in the GFaL Facebook group; well I was only too happy to hand over the money as I had really enjoyed its simple twist on the trick taking genre and I was confident that I would get it played with the family and that it would be useful to introduce to non-gaming friends.

This isn't a mind bending, brain damage inducing card game; it's a straightforward trick taker, with the addition of "suit actions" that you take for winning a trick OR, importantly, when you have to discard because you can't follow suit - this makes not winning a trick not only viable, but probably vital, to winning the game.
Diamonds = put a diamond straight into your vault.
Hearts = put a diamond into your showroom.
Spades = move a diamond from your showroom into your vault.
Clubs = steal a diamond from someone else's showroom and put it in yours.
There are a couple of tiny other rules but that's basically it.
At game end Diamonds in the showroom are worth 1 point, those inside the vault are worth 2 points.
You can plan and try to strategise a little but it's really a game that allows you to breathe easy and play whilst you chat and that's fine, perfect at the right time actually.
I hope that there are more games to follow in Stronghold Games "Pocket Line" soon.



Karen, Charlie (despite shock defeat) and Billy all enjoyed it and are keen for it to be an after dinner game and something to play with grandparents when they visit.
My only criticism would be the "if you like hearts and spades, you'll love diamonds" tag line on the box: Charlie immediately suggested - "why didn't they put "the card game with added sparkle" on the box instead?" which I just loved as an idea - maybe he's got a career in marketing if playing the guitar doesn't pay the bills....

And continuing the straightforward card games bent I am on, I've just ordered us a copy of Clubs...

I recommend that you take a look at Diamonds; it has certainly become another brick in the wall of games in our front room!




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Tue Sep 29, 2015 6:30 am
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If I Could Turn Back (The Tides Of) Time

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Just a quick little post to "Cher" my thoughts about this neat little title from Portal Games, the excellent 2 player only drafting game Tides of Time.



A 2player only drafting game? How does that work? Well, yes, it does need a little love and understanding; a hand of 5 cards each, keep and play one, pass the others, repeat until all are played. Scoring conditions or special powers are on each card, total them up: choose 1 card each to keep in tableau, discard one from the game: re-deal 5 cards and repeat the whole process: re-deal a final time and repeat once more, now all cards have been used: final scoring, add all 3 round totals and you have a winner: 20 minutes for a first play, then about 10 thereafter. It's ideal for our home life because sometimes all I really want to do is have a very quick game and then get on with the evening chores. It's a very compact and enjoyable little game and plays smoothly.

The artwork is good quality standard fantasy landscapes, no dwarves or trolls nor gypsies, tramps and thieves here. The cards are large and pleasing to hold and the game is very cut-throat, as long as you can remember what you have just passed you'll be fine! (My biggest problem!) There have been many times when I've played this with Karen and was confident that I had a good thing going, thinking "I've got you babe!", only to be completely shot down in flames (just like Jesse James) because I'd forgotten that there was no castle icon left available for me to complete a decent scoring set.

It is quite a gamerly game, and I don't think it'll capture anyone's better half if they're not already into modern board games; I know that I'm fortunate that I found someone (or rather "groomed" someone) who'll play games with me. I would still advocate buying this excellent little package though if you have a games group, it's handy whenever you're near to one game finishing and need to re-jig groups to play something else.
It certainly benefits from repeat plays with the same opponent because the meta-game comes into play and it develops its own life between the 2 of you as you try to outthink one another (and probably just end up out thinking yourself!)

I believe it's an excellent game that should be a staple part of any gamer who regularly plays with just one opponents collection.






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Sun Sep 13, 2015 8:56 am
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The Cure

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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The play for today was yet another of Karen's faves - Pandemic: The Cure (she must have a thing for brightly coloured dice).
This was a birthday gift for her earlier this year from Charlie and Billy, as she's always loved Pandemic (and also owns Pandemic: On the Brink).
It was one of those inbetween days when we didn't want to watch TV but didn't have time for a "big" game so something like this is ideal (in fact, at 30-45 minutes it's just like heaven for Karen). Sitting side by side at the kitchen table, along with the dog (who has to be close to me at the moment, he doesn't like the fact that I've gone back to work) we got down to some hot hot hot dice rolling action!


"Can YOU save humanity?" - nope, not this time!


I had a very strange time rolling the dice, consistently getting biohazard symbols with my own rolls, but then, instead of usually getting never enough, I was making miracle rolls when attempting to find the cures; this meant that the game was surprising close and tense - which is something that Pandemic in all its iterations seems to excel at. Ultimately we lost on the outbreaks track, with one disease left to try and find a cure for - the end of the world!
I find that this game is easier with more players, 2 is a tricky number as you can never quite seem to keep on top of the sheer number of dice that keep on coming out. Still, boys don't cry eh?

So, at 10:15 Saturday night, she was tired and went off to bed, leaving me to try my hand at another "saving" game - SOS Titanic, I fared equally badly at that one as well, of which more another time....

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Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:06 am
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The Fun, Fun, Fun of the Autobahn (Erm, Trambahn)

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Trambahn is a new 2 player only card game from Lookout Games and a fine little one it is to.
This early Trans-Europe express (ok, Trans-Munich to be pedantic) form of travel beginning with quaint horse drawn trams, through steam powered, to the modern day man-machine combo of electric powered and lit by neon lights is recreated through playing cards of different colours in ascending numerical order, not unlike Lost Cities.
The model here though is not exactly the same, requiring more hand management and manipulation of the cards and many turns when you will have to use cards that you want to actually save as either passengers (to trigger route scoring) or as money (otherwise you can't buy trams, there is no other way to obtain cash in this game). It is relentless, you are forced to face the music, non-stop, on every turn. Even the robots programmed by someone on a home computer would find the decisions a challenge. After the tenth scoring is triggered a final tally of the scoring of all 10 routes, plus any bonus journeys you may have made (by getting 8+ cards in a route) will reveal the victor - you will probably need a pocket calculator to work it all out.

I have really enjoyed this game so far and look forward to playing it some more. I'm not sure if it will have the staying power of a Tour de France rider or a Sunday morning cyclist, I will let you know in due course...




*I am "away" this week, with questionable access to the wilds of the internet, so hopefully these posts I've stacked are getting published! I'll check in if and when I can, just know that I'm not ignoring any comments you may make!*
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Tue Aug 4, 2015 6:30 am
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William, It Was Really Nothing

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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As a little extra birthday present this charming man, the youngest son Billy, wanted to ask that today's blog post is focussed on his "owning" me at games recently. Well, what difference does it make, really? Games and table talk banter go hand in glove after all.



Here goes;
(As I wrote yesterday)he beat me at New York 1901 and he also beat me at Indigo whilst we were at the games cafe. He has also beaten me recently at Murano, Age of War, Ingenious, Rolling Japan and Blueprints.

There you go son, I've written it, it will stand as a record on t'internet for all time: (heaven knows I'm miserable now...)
But don't panic, win records can oscillate wildly and I'm sure I'll get some revenge soon.

And here is the first dose; he lost to his grandmother (and mother) at 6 nimmt! after Sunday dinner; twice! Ha - Bigmouth strikes again!

So I shall be saying my little prayer to the gaming gods tonight (who are they I wonder?) that they please, please, please let me get what I want - a resounding victory over him asap. Agricola is calling....

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Tue Jul 28, 2015 6:28 am
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Hymn From A Village

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Monday evening Karen suggested that we sit down and play one of her favourite games, Village (she's a star isn't she?) - I was only too happy to oblige.



We always tend to play with the Village: Inn expansion and I added the "life goals" cards from the Village: Port expansion also.
I do think that the Inn is pretty much mandatory for a good game, Port I can take or leave, but the life goals are fun.
Life goals come in two levels, silver (worth 5 points) and gold (worth 8 points) - you get one of each and as soon as you meet the requirements you flip the card and score the points.
That many points is significant in this game and can guide the play.

I've heard criticism of this module in that it is too random - God only knows you could get great synergy between the two and be laughing or you could have difficult to mesh objectives - I disagree; I think it makes players play differently to the way that they might want - as in a standard "get craftsmen in and build up the wagons to travel and the goods to hit the market" (as these are the two biggest point scoring areas, as well as dead bodies in the chronicle) - and that is a good thing in my opinion.

So, guided by the cards to some degree, our destiny calling, we set off with the game: I was hopeful of getting my gold bonus by making 6 market sales but I kind of messed up by being unfocused (and Karen loves to sell on market day, and always has a stash of goods ready to flog). I had one family in the council , two in the church, one craftsman making wagons, someone brewing beer like mad, and yet another reading to travel to distant lands...
Really I was just waltzing along aimlessly....

After a pleasant 90 minutes or so it was time to ring the bells for the final mass of the game. Somehow the final result of the game was an 11 point win for me, having been bolstered by my travelling family member and the barfly dodgy uncle in the pub (winning me the guild master who got me 6 points and 7 points more from other characters).I eventually got him to come home and die at the farm to fill a vital space in the village chronicle.



Interestingly neither of us ended up sending family members to unmarked graves, we were both focused on helping family members to efficiently pass away and fill vacant spots in the chronicle.



At the end of the game Karen asked "how was it for you" as I've been reluctant to play the game for a while, preferring the new hotness (or new to me at least) and she was worried that we'd not play her favourite euro again (if that's what it is - it's got cubes so it must be, right?) but I'm really pleased to have played it again. Instead of it just being laid gathering dust on the shelf it will hit the table more often, I'm sure.

Sometimes, it's good to reconnect with a favourite that doesn't get played as much.

...?
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Tue Jul 14, 2015 6:31 am
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