The Ross-on-Wye Boardgamers

Beer and Boardgames at The Plough Inn (formerly the Prince Of Wales, formerly the White Lion). "It's not F-ing Monopoly, alright?!"

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Friday July 7th - You're not the Phobos of Me

Ben Bateson
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With excited thoughts of upcoming holidays, packing the games bag was a bit lacklustre this week, and my thoughts were turned to whether Tony would bring Terraforming Mars, which I don't mind for an occasional runout, despite ongoing concerns that it really lacks any serious strategy.

I wasn't to be disappointed, and forgoing a dip into my bag of exquisitely-chosen 4-player fare, I picked up Tony's TM - and the box of Wordsy, which was lying on top and had clearly been brought in order to soften me up - and plonked them onto the table.

Becky was a little hesitant at attacking Wordsy, but as it turned out most of the difficulties were not in the word formation, but in the fiddly maths that surrounded the adding up (in fact I managed to deduct 20 points from my own score which Tony gleefully tried to accept under a 'no backsies' rule that had suddenly materialised). I don't think it will be on a par with my word-games favourites, Anyways and BuyWord.

So, Terraforming Mars was pretty much as expected: an interesting way to set up a card synergy in 30 minutes and then spend the next 90 watching them do their work without playing much part in the strategy. Trouble is: I do enjoy it. My energy-loving corporation gelled with a Science Project to reap a huge end-game cards score of 35, but the highlight was the Mike Ashley-type approach I took to the opening of the game:



I finished second, which seems to be pretty much my default placing at this game. Or, more accurately, my cards finished second with little assistance from me.

Tony was definitely on chauffeur duty (after a spate of recent cancellations) tonight, so we only had time for a filler. Given our recent burn-out on Too Many Cooks (it'll be back), opted for Sushi Go, and a freakish card distribution in the middle round allowed Tony to latch onto some Sashimi (two rounds in) which was enough for a win. I opted to go pudding-free, which wasn't a success.

And with Tony gone, we tried out a brief String Railway. For such a simple game, this has a pain-in-the-arse learning curve, which is one reason it doesn't get enough table time (the other is Tony's irrational distancing of himself from it since he designed Paperclip Railways). Watched by a semi-polite regular from the bar, John dismantled Becky and I, although the game was frightfully lacking in interaction with 3, and it definitely must be played with 4+ next time.

So, as hinted, a couple of weeks holiday beckon. We'll see you on the 28th!
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Sat Jul 8, 2017 11:30 pm
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Friday 30th June - Of Cabbages and Kings.

Ben Bateson
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Last week, we played one excruciatingly long game and not much else. This week was a far livelier proposition with no fewer than four quality offerings hitting the table, thanks to Tony's welcome recent trend for pretending he's off early but actually staying for the duration.

We have a vague need to play SdJ nominees every year 'just to see what they're like'. Tony had already proffered a miserable review of Magical Maze and was gloomily predicting a Knizia win before he selected Kingdomino from my bulging bag. I had had a couple of 2P warm-up games midweek and opted for a couple of the additional scoring rules for the best experience, and these proved much to Tony's liking. He rushed out to a substantial lead and professed to enjoy the game very much. Me? I'm little unconvinced that the depth of decisions is there, but it will make perfectly good fodder to take home to the folks.

John had expressed absolutely zero patience for a Kingdomino rematch, so I allowed him to choose our 'fish course' for the night. He returned from the games bag with the delicious Metropolys, a deceptively straightforward games from Ystari. Essentially an exercise in incrementally bidding your way around a map, it becomes really devious in the mid-to-late game where you start looking for opportunities to cheap-bid on blocked spaces or with high values that the other players can't beat. I ran myself out of large buildings a little early on, but was happy that I had tied down a couple of big-scoring areas. Not as many as John, as it turned out. He ran riot over his bonus scoring cards and finished nearly 20 points clear.

Becky trailed in a long way back so - with everyone in full knowledge of what she would pick - we let her have the next choice of games. Sure enough, the warming-up of the pub band and the rapid filling of the public bar (a GREAT atmosphere at The Plough this week, to be fair) accompanied the setting-up of the Lancaster board. With everyone starting off with a suitable level of confidence, and a sprinkling of penal laws from the expansion, it made for a terrific contest, and everyone was in with a chance at certain points of the game: there was no allowing Becky to run away with things this time. Wars were fought, tapestries built and laws bid on with all the unpredictability of a 12th-Century Parliamentary Labour Party. And in the end? A thrilling tie between John and Becky, which couldn't even be broken by (made-up) tiebreakers on money and squires. I know we all complain about losing to Becky once too often, but even from my luxury of fourth-of-four position, this was an awesome session of a game that just doesn't get enough love.

So, everyone else had had their pick, and as the band gamely slogged their way through a variety of Kings Of Leon numbers, I popped club favourite, Too Many Cooks, on the table. Last time we played this, Tony and Becky both blew a substantial lead by leaving their 'No Soup' card until last, and blow me if they didn't do the same thing again, Becky deploying it for a tactically-significant minus twenty-four points. I couldn't keep pace with John this time, though, and he rounded off a successful evening (excluding Kingdomino which, I am sure, he will deny he ever played) by profiting on Tony's aversion to taking tricks.
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Tue Jul 4, 2017 10:55 pm
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Friday 23rd June - Schyte

Ben Bateson
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As per last week, there was an unexpected attendee, but this time it was a pleasure to welcome Norm back after a prolonged absence. Tony had just the game for six players, too. He is ready to rave about the joys of high-player-count Scythe to anyone who cares to listen, and we twisted Becky's arm enough to convince her that it wasn't all about war and sci-fi.

I really like the offbeat theme and lovely art to Scythe, but I think that's about where the love affair ends. This wasn't helped by a torturously long 6P game where I spent more time making 'hilarious' bottom-action jokes and visiting the bar than actually doing anything of use. Frankly, the whole thing was just dull. It wasn't help that I was dealt two pacifist objective cards which were at odds with my aggressive Russians. The whole thing plodded along, Tony popped down a couple of stars early and there was no real competition at all. I made a final-round last ditch attempt to stop him, only to watch him steal the 5-value combat card I had carefully hoarded in order to stop him. Becky and Norm struck out in various directions to try and gain elusive resources, and Gary? Well Gary didn't seem to do very much, despite a potent 'traps' special power that should have seen him creating a minefield out of the central territory.

One interesting discussion that came out of affairs was the comparison with last week's Viticulture. There are definitely some common strands that run through the two games, but I couldn't really identify any way in which this week's mech-assembly improved on last week's winemaking.

Becky seemed to be similarly disaffected AND the game had eaten all but 45 minutes of our evening. With Norm and Gary trotting off early, we broke out something that provided all that hexy satisfaction in one quarter of the time and played a brisk Kingdom Builder. My favourite Nomads were on the board, and given the bonuses for water-adjacency and many-villages, it was a no-brainer to start sliding houses around the board. Tony picked up a variety of bonus tiles, though, and just about outdid us in a close final scoring.

Only two games AGAIN this week. Something must change...
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Sat Jun 24, 2017 11:33 am
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Friday 16th June - You Can't Call Me, Al

Ben Bateson
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I must get out of the persistent two-in-a-row blog post habit.

Tony hadn't replied to the weekly 'call to arms' email this week, so it threw everything into disarray and left my bag of 4P games rather redundant. Luckily, we had just about enough stuff to muster a couple of 5P games, and we started with one that had been on my vaguely-intrigued list for a while, Al Rashid

Despite assurances that he knew what he was doing, Tony lapsed into twenty minutes of puzzled staring at the rulebook and aimless angry tirades at the colour scheme. Normally, I would take the piss out of him mercilessly for this sort of behaviour, but in this case it was more or less justified. Al Rashid has a couple of really nice mechanics (the 'mixed goods as currency' thing, and the ability of the players to determine which order to resolve things - I have had some vague ideas about nicking this latter idea and expanding on it because it can have a lot of interactive [ie. screwage] potential), but it is let down by the most ridiculous, unhelpful, style-over-substance I have ever seen in any game, ever. Awful font choices, tiny text, no iconography, unclear colour scheme - the list goes on and on. My previous holder of the 'most unhelpful presentation' award (Macao) looks like Qwirkle in comparison.

As a result, it was difficult for any of us to engage with it, and the final totting up declaring Becky as the winner came as a complete surprise as she'd been stoutly convinced that she wasn't actually achieving anything. Gary thought hoarding goods would be a points-earner when, in fact, it wasn't. No-one was very satisfied and it was no surprise to see Tony put it up for sale two days later.

We moved onto something that felt altogether a lot easier. I don't think Viticulture will ever join our small pantheon of great Worker Placement games (Agricola, Caylus, Lancaster, Keyflower), but it is delightful in an amiable, rambling sort of way. It's one of those that is so intuitive that you can play it straight out of the box, which came as a refreshing change after torturing ourselves through Al Rashid. John stole a march on us with some early points-generating visitors, and despite a late flurry of wine sales, I just couldn't catch him up. Tony complained throughout about his visitor cards, which he claims was all in jest.

Fun though Viticulture is, I can't help but feel it lacks in any 'hard' gaming qualities, and so went home a little bit dissatisfied this week. Thankfully, a scorching weekend gave Becky and I plenty of opportunity to rectify that with a torrent of 2P gaming.
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Sat Jun 24, 2017 11:13 am
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Friday 9th June - Wheel Bearings

Ben Bateson
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I feared it would be 'one of those weeks' when Tony started ranting about the parking EVEN BEFORE PULLING INTO THE CAR PARK and John had brought his own table because the small ones at the Plough were unsatisfactory to him (to be fair, the tiny tables are the only drawback of any sort at present). But everyone calmed once presented with the fizzy drink of their choosing, and - espying Tony's new copy of Barenpark - I flipped it onto the table to open proceedings.

Barenpark (sorry, I don't do umlauts until we've REALLY decided we love a game) is a tasteful, nicely-themed and gentle little Tetris puzzle: a semi-demanding exercise in covering up icons to get more stuff. Sort of Feast For Odin in one-eighth of the time and without the stress. It garnered a general comment of 'this Walker-Harding, clever bloke, isn't he?' until the endgame when it became clear that no-one would be able to fill their four park tiles and - bizarrely - the rules made no accommodation for what seemed like a fairly routine occurrence. Perhaps this had something to do with my early attempts at bending the strategy and gobbling up all the playgrounds, I'm not sure. Anyway, we drew the game to a close in the only logical way, and Becky pipped Tony and I by a point. Enjoyed, would play again, have suggested a rules improvement, perhaps not quite as replayable and backstabby as Imhotep.

Tony, in revenge for making him read rules he wasn't familiar with, merrily chucked my unopened and un-researched copy of The Builders: Middle Ages (which he had muled back from the Expo) in front of me and demanded I teach it from scratch. This is possibly a mild revenge at all the times I have slagged off various teaching sessions in this blog. Thankfully, the manual was four tiny pages in length and the whole thing is designed for maximum transparency. EXCEPT the 'extra turns' rules which baffled Becky continually until the end. It's a very simple affair, all told: draft workers that 'make stuff' and buildings that 'need stuff' and pay your workers to build the buildings. As John noted early, there is some rigid arithmetic holding the whole thing together, which made for a satisfyingly crunchy game when you realise you're going to have to take inefficient actions. John himself was most efficient, and pipped Tony and I in a thriller of a final round.

What with the 'race' ending and the limited actions available, Tony and I were put in mind of Guildhall, and I suspect The Builders might also be at its best with 2P.

Kraftwagen has been getting plenty of love lately, and hadn't played it yet at maxed-out player count. Essentially there are three areas of 'progress' in the game (engines, car bodies and Grands Prix) and in theory putting the fourth player in should maximise the amount of competition. It did feel all a little flat, though, when John got a good combo up and running from his opening Start Tile draw and went on to win at something of a canter. No, it wasn't his Start Tile draw that was solely responsible, but the research boost he got seemed to put us all on the back foot. We house-ruled this a fraction by declaring that the first two research cards should not be turned over until the relevant start tile is selected.

One thing that is definitely more interesting with more players is the turn-order track, and there was definitely more pondering on how much was to be gained by jumping forwards. And the valuation aspect of the game is a lovely set of decisions that you don't see often enough outside of auction games. This game is definitely earning its place.

Tony anticipated getting away early (although a phone call ten minutes later changed his mind) and we played what we thought would be a closing game of Too Many Cooks. There are very few games which have hit the Ross table to as much merriment, on such a routine basis, as this one, and it didn't fail to deliver tonight: Tony and Becky both unwisely left their 'No Soup' until last and - well - it was carnage from what had been a very tight low-scoring game. John and I came out of things on a well-deserved 20 point tie, but Becky's epic -21 on the last round was definitely the highlight.

And we had time for one more! Five games in a night is always a thing to be treasured. Our fifth was the long-neglected Fzzzt, a game that Tony has clearly played way too much, winning something like 83-31-31-28. The blind-bidding and constant tie-breaking and passing-around of the SP marker still make this little-box game feel somewhat unwieldy to me, but it's hard to put my finger on what exactly doesn't work. Perhaps I need to play it as much as Tony.
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Sat Jun 10, 2017 3:26 pm
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Friday 2nd June - Ploughing a New Furrow

Ben Bateson
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So, the Ross gamers were on the move again. Last year, after our untimely eviction from the White Lion, I had also received an offer of gaming space from the landlady at The Plough, so as soon as the Prince Of Wales informed us it was closing (in - I hasten to add - a much more polite and apologetic style to that which removed us from the Lion), I tapped her up again via the miracle of Facebook to see if the offer was still good.

It was, and I only had a couple of doubts. Firstly, that it was the UK Games Expo this week, so we were unlikely to provide a large number of gaming customers, and secondly: was it 'our' sort of pub?

I used to live just around the corner from The Plough, and my impression of the place was locals-only, spit and sawdust, and to be honest I'd never tainted this impression by actually going in for a pint. This, as it turned out, was a massive mistake: we got a lovely welcome, a perfect little gaming corner (with excellent lighting) and a full resume of when our games evenings might be disturbed in future by visiting bands and suchlike. I don't think we could have asked for more, and we might consider staying even if the Prince does re-open.

My first fear was a little better-founded, though, and we could only muster three core gamers in myself, Becky and John for our opening week. Ironically, 'myself, Becky and John' also described the finishing positions for all three games we played tonight!

We opened with one of my many 'doesn't get enough recognition' Schacht games: in this case, China. This is an offshoot of Web Of Power, but for some reason I always recall the 'Daddy' game as being slightly better than this: there's something irritatingly compact and twee about an otherwise fine game of area control, and the European map felt more sprawling, familiar and open to exploration. After a frustrating opening four turns that left my hand identical to the one I started with, I pulled away at the end with two large embassy bonuses. But I think I'd much rather trade this in for Web Of Power.

Becky and I had very much enjoyed our first exploratory effort at Kraftwagen, and 3-player seemed to be the perfect number. So we inducted John in the ways of early car manufacturing, although I decided to neglect any mass market stuff in favour of a thrill-ride Grand Prix career. Aided by three speed-inducing engineers, and sneaking the occasional cheap banger onto the market, I romped to a victory:


My pit crew

Becky and I were eyeing up a relatively early finish tonight with an early start for my brother's wedding on the cards. So we selected another 'chunky 60-minuter' (by far my favourite category of game), in the shape of Viticulture (Essential Edition), the oddly-opaque worker placement game that we think we might enjoy, but are all still a little bit suspicious of. The suspicions weren't helped by some pretty horrific opening Wine Contract cards, and it was a good half-dozen rounds until any of us actually sold any wine. One thing I do like about this game is the VP track and the way it allows you to steal a march on your opponents - this is one game where it really doesn't pay to be too far behind. Sensing such a gap was opening up, I hoarded some VP-paying visitor cards (thanks to the Cottage my Pappy had left me!), and cashed them all in during one devastating season. To be fair, John and Becky made a good fist of getting within five points, but it was too little and too late.

So, welcome to The Plough, at least for the summer. But it looks like a great place to make our permanent home too.
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Sat Jun 10, 2017 2:51 pm
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Friday 26th May - The Boss is a Troyes

Ben Bateson
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For the second week running, we were expecting 6P, but with Mischa and James somewhat slow to turn up, we comfortably had time for a starter game of Tony's new copy of Starving Artists. This is a moderately enjoyable jumble of Cubist and Pastiche, although it seems to have omitted any real strategy. John criticised the 'rich get richer' mechanic and I'm inclined to agree with him. But it was pleasant enough stuff for a time-filler.

Assuming that James and Mischa weren't coming, we set up Troyes (Tony had brought it for several weeks on the trot, so of course we played my copy) and no sooner had I started to dish out the rules when guess who turned up? That's Mischa and James, not the actual game Guess Who, mind.

With a bout of impressive logic and realism, Tony suggested that M&J learn Troyes given that it was already set up. He took Becky and John off for a session of Le Havre - the Rosenberg I cannot bring myself to love - and by all accounts it was cracker, playing up to its 'best with 3' tag perfectly.

I was impressed with how quickly M&J - keen but not terribly experienced games - picked up Troyes, which is somewhat disjointed at the best of times, and they both showed no fear in getting themselves established on the activity cards. A hilarious neglect of the Events left us rolling 7 Black dice at the end, and my chronic inability to roll anything higher than a four left me fighting quite a lot of them. James had picked up on a big-money engine to edge me into third place, but Mischa was generating sizable quantities of VPs from round 3 onwards, and it was looking like her game well before the end. Unusual, this: it's only rarely I've been able to accurately predict the end positions at this game.

With the coloured-chameleon wrangling of Coloretto (and all Tony's associated trash-talk) well underway on the other table, I offered Mischa a choice of 'easy but thinky' or 'easy and less-thinky'. James chose the former for her, and so The Boss hit the table. This proved to be a perfect choice in terms of player count and card-wrangling skill and we pulled our way past closing time in finishing the game - and another win for Mischa. The obvious highlight was James being blacklisted from Cincinnati, only to be dealt all three cards for that city.

Unfortunately, we have outlasted another pub. The Prince is going to be closed for some time for refurbishment and I don't know yet whether the new owners look kindly on board gamers. So next week sees us at yet another Ross-on-Wye locale - perhaps we should become a touring group?
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Wed May 31, 2017 10:28 pm
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Friday May 19th - Visitors in Ross: part four!

Ben Bateson
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We are quite the popular group at the minute, and this week played host to 'Sneaky' Pete Hazlewood, courtesy of the Bromsgrove gamers. He was here in good and fine time, which is more than can be said for a couple of the regulars: we sat around for ten minutes, letting John talk his usual nonsense, waiting for Dan, and even slapped a five-player starter on the table in order to incite Charlie to turn up. In true Sods' Law tradition, this worked a treat, and we at least managed to set to our first games before 8pm.

Tony had an exciting new copy of Yokohama to play with John and Dan, which - from a distance - looked like the usual jumble of Euro mechanics and jokes about 'putting your man in a president'. I do have a lot of time for the designer, though, so it will probably warrant a go at some point.

Pete, rather helpfully, had sent me a shortlist of stuff he wanted to play, and even more helpfully we had a suitable player count. Glass Road was new to Charlie, but he picked up the rules commendably quickly, despite claiming he was choosing everything at random and throwing his final score into some doubt after magnificently sweeping his entire board of tiny dobbers across the table during Round 3. It was around the same time that Peter called me a 'twat', which earned him a short round of applause from Tony and honorary membership of the group. I think this was a bit of an over-reaction to playing my Supplier first, though.

What with learning, dobber-sweepage, general-abusiveness and so on, it wound up being a marathon 90-minute game of Glass Road, but it was 100% worth it with final scores of 20-20-19.5 (Charlie being the - slightly debatable - 19.5). Like Kingdom Builder last week, I can't imagine how a tie-break would actually work, so Peter and I grudgingly shared the honours.

The other game on Pete's shortlist was the charming Airships. This was much easier to teach, although I had my doubts I had done it probably when Charlie confidently picked up two white dice to roll a five, without realising that they went up to 3. Pete skipped over red dice to go for blacks early, which wasn't really wise, and finished on a rather mediocre 10 points. Charlie and I engaged in another ding-dong of a finish, and I managed to score 20 again, this time to his 18.

Time was eluding us rather swiftly tonight, and with the Yokohama boys now whipping through a brief Coloretto, Pete only had time for a quick chukka of Push It before leaving. He threw the result into some doubt by succumbing to a 2-point penalty as he sent Jack flying into the sideboard lamp, but eventually battled back to win a heroic fight 7-6-5.

Tony was on pick-up duty tonight so we were down to 4P with half an hour left, and it generally doesn't take long to fall upon Codenames. The random draw pitted Dan and me against John and Charlie, and we raced out to a comfortable lead in the first game before I relaxed into giving a rare '1' clue. This gave John the chance to pounce, and he clued a magnificent 6-to-win, a new club record (sorry, Benedict) and - even for John - worthy of some praise.

The reverse fixture put Dan's lateral-thinking brain in command, after some pondering he came up with 'CEPHALOPOD:2'. I mean, what sort of clue is that to give somebody who's already had half-a-dozen pints? Not being able to call my A-Level Biology immediately to mind (also difficult because I didn't actually take A-Level Biology), I ruled out 'Worm' (correctly) and stabbed hopefully at 'Platypus'. I didn't think it was what Dan was aiming at (correct, again), but it happened to be right. This gave me enough confidence to poke at 'Lion', which turned out to be the Assassin. Turns out Dan was trying to clue FACE+BOOT. Sigh. So, one monumental game of Codenames, and one utterly inept one, marked the end of the evening.
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Wed May 24, 2017 8:59 pm
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Friday May 12th - A Nice Cup of Key

Ben Bateson
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Perhaps this should have been 'Visitors in Ross: part three', for upon returning from my first trip to the bar, I was pounced upon by a very nice gentleman named Bodie (who, apparently, isn't yet sick of all the 'Doyle' jokes). After a quick panic, for I had predominantly packed games for 4P, we realised we had plenty that would play five too, which is more than can be said for Tony, who had yet again brought Troyes, which - no matter how much he looked in the box - wouldn't accommodate a fifth.

Keythedral was our choice to start: a pleasing throwback to looser game designs in this era of ultra-balancing and catchup mechanics. It really shines with five, and went down to some tense turn-order jockeying (reminder: get the Start Player rules CORRECT next time), before Bodie pinched a single-point victory over me. Given that all of us within a mere handful of points of the lead, this was a thoroughly worthwhile experience, even if Tony did have an inexplicable sweary fit midway through at his inability to identify primary colours.

Kingdom Builder is, I believe, by far best with five, and I've never figured out why it wasn't designed for maximum player count in the first place. It's also a game that all and sundry were swift to acknowledge that we don't play enough. After remedying Tony's failing eyesight by dragging one of the pub's lamps onto the table, giving the whole thing a pleasing 'haunted cabin' atmosphere, we dealt a relatively gentle selection of boards (Oasis, Mine, Cottage, Tower) and end-game scorers for 'all rows' and 'next to hexes' (I can never remember the proper names). We also had the 'three in a row' scoring card, which Becky entertainingly ignored for about six rounds. Bodie, meanwhile, was finding out why the opening move is so critical for beginners (and, I guess, why so many people hate the game or come up with stupid 'variants' to improve it). A terrible card draw left him stranded in the corner, although he did spread quickly towards the endgame. A low-scoring game saw John and I tie for first place; the lack of a tie-break was rather unsatisfactory, but then again I can't think what one would look like.

Advanced playtesting on Snowdonia MkII (aka 'A Nice Cup of Tea') is underway, and a full-blown 5P session gave me the opportunity to try some spoiler tactics. Going heavily on excavation and ignoring the stockyard altogether brought me enough tea to nearly empty the supply and I footled about enough in the gaps to fill another two contract cards for a hefty winning margin. Tony's claim that I was lucky with the weather is partly justified, I think, but I was also well-served by Bodie and John grabbing the start player marker. Leastways, 'Tea' is a distinct improvement on the last iteration that I played, and is a much neater presentation - even this early on - than Snowdonia to boot.

Satisfied that the Ross gamers met with all his expectations (apparently, he only reads this blog), Bodie waved us goodnight and left us with time for some light drafting Sushi Go fun. A startling display of cowardice on the part of the other participants allowed me to complete a 3-card sashimi with my last three cards in Round 2, followed by a 2-card tempura with my last two cards in Round 3. And, yes, I won. Two firsts, a joint-first and a narrow second: not a bad result!
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Sun May 14, 2017 9:07 pm
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Friday May 5th - John's quasi-mojo

Ben Bateson
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Gary, as he is prone to do, sent another reply email this week with a long list of games that he wanted to try. This makes it a lot easier to pack the games bag, especially when he picks all my favourites. In a pleasing twist of fate, Princes of Florence was on the list AND we were to be the optimum 5P count. It's hard to say no under such circumstances.

It took a round or two to get Gary up to speed, and he ended up in the unfortunate - but not uncommon - newbie position of having to fritter his last two actions after Becky outbid him for a crucial recruiting card. Meanwhile, Tony was going Big Builder and John hoarded two Prestige cards early on. As is my usual with this game, I faffed around and had to fight Tony hard to get a crucial second builder otherwise I would have shafted myself out of the game totally. With John having the best of the auctions, he found himself only a few points behind Tony at the end, and those Prestige cards made all the difference.

With Tony only having brought Troyes (doesn't play five, even with the expansion), it was free rein on my bag tonight. I went for a pee and a pint and by the time I got back, Notre Dame was already being unpacked and distributed. Having done this 'hard work', Tony Becky and John noisily messed around while I tried to run Gary through the basics. It's hard being a games club organiser sometimes.

Gary picked this one up a lot quicker than PoF - indeed, he seemed more
au fait with the rules after Round 1 than John, who was going through another of his intermittent cycles of terminal distraction. I had established he wasn't at his most focussed after he had earlier interrupted his discourse on the advantages of feminism by leering at a cyclist and saying 'Phwoar - women in lycra', or words to the effect.

Having been passed two Cathedral cards in the opening draft, I elected to play a sort of 'extreme starvation' strategy, and lost countless points to the plague. It looked as if it were working for a while, but the others geared up various Park strategies to reap 5-6VPs a time while I was still scrabbling around after singles. Eventually, Tony won it (he DOES have a tendency to do this) from John, with only Gary ensuring I wasn't propping up the leaderboard. Note to self: don't try starvation again.

Gary and Tony were both done in by two such fine games, so Becky, John and I pulled out - what else? - Wizard as our card-game closer. Despite a couple of outrageous rounds where nobody came close to achieving their bid, John managed to double my score and virtually quadruple Becky's, putting an end to my brief winning streak at this most devilish of trick-takers.
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Sun May 14, 2017 5:53 pm
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