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With 5 of us, after a delicious grilled chicken dinner, I pull out Small World. First time for me with 5 players and first time at any number for Jess. It would get crowded quickly.
J pays down the line for Berserk Ratmen and rampages around, while my Forest Orcs are more restricted in the rampaging but do find a few trees which makes them happy. Tom gets the Stout Tritons and makes for the lake. Mike comes in from the top with Bivouacking Skeletons and Jess from the bottom with the Commando Wizards. Tom suffers first - squashed from top and bottom by Mike and Jess, while J also gets some pain from the Skeletons. I mostly remain to myself, but start to pick on both J and Jess as we begin to run into each other (and I see too many points for pointy hats and goofy teeth). In fact the Rats are first to decline, giving way to Heroic Giants, who take up positions in the northern mountains (checking the expansions of the skeletons), but they are themselves checked by Tom's Dragonmaster Trolls, who in the process of gaining a little payback at the expense of Mike's skeletons hem in the giants' access to good places to invade (troll lairs don't count as good places to invade). Jess and I are last to turn over a new race, she takes the Seafaring Sorcerers (best said with a lisp) and I pay a buck or two to get the Flying Amazons, who attempt to stem the tide of points that the magic combo of races is giving Jess. I can't avoid leaving a few vulnerable spots though and Mike, who had taken Diplomatic Elves, picks on me, as does Jess who steals away some Amazons and teaches them dark magic. Both Tom and J run out of steam again and Tom takes the Mounted Humans for a ride (a great combination by the way), while J takes on the last turn the race no one wants - the Dwarves. Merchant Dwarves too, meaning the lowest possible number of counters, but for one turn, it works very well. In the final accounting, I was surprised to see that Tom had come up on the rails though i just held him off, but J had jumped ahead with the inspired dwarven pick. But it was Jess who had worked her first timer magic for the clear victory.
After that epic tale we wanted something a little lighter and quicker. I'm looking around my shelves and spy High Society, a game I got in trade and have not played much at all. In logging the game, I realized I have not played it in SIX YEARS and no one else at the table had played it at all. Let's give it a try, think I.
A brief rules recap, though for this that is brief enough: 10 items to bid upon, with each of us holding an identical set of cash cards. No change can be made, so if you use your $10M, it is gone. In addition to the goodies are 3 x2 tiles (which double the value of your acquisitions and 3 bad tiles: a thief steals one, the gambling debts are a -5 tile and the tax evasion halves your total. Game ends as soon as the 4th multiplier tile is revealed (including the x 1/2). The important extra wrinkle is that the player holding the least money in hand at the end can't win, so spend but not more than everyone else!
In our game, Jess gets hit with the Tax (x 1/2) early on, though the rest of us did spend to avoid it. Mike and Tom battle Jess for the x2 tiles, Mike gets the 9 as well. Tom is sitting with just the x2 for a long time, while J and I hold a few low items but with cash reserves in hand. Tom finally gets something to double - the 8 right before the end of the game and then the game is down to Tom and Mike and their cash reserves. Mike has 2 more points - but also $2M less, making him the poorest and out of the running. Tom is left standing with $20M and J and I, especially, reflecting on our unspent millions.
Mike: 18 (lowest $)
J: 4 (but at least she got the red sports car)
This got an immediate request for a 2nd play. We did correct a slight misplay (though it affected the play quite a lot) as we had just bid then paid afterwards, whereas you are supposed to lay down cards for your bid and can only use what is in your hand to add to your bid. We did it correctly this time. Determined not to be left holding my wallet this time, I bid hard for the castle (9) and get it, but the next 2 that come out are the island (10) and the 8 tile. So Mike and Tom have also got good tiles. Mike actually gets the 6 as well, putting him in a cash short but otherwise strong position. This time Tom and Jess get the x2 (which also leaves Tom low on cash). But when the Thief comes round, Tom puts down his $25M, forcing Mike to take the hit, costing him his 6 tile. J is having a little trouble with the numbers she needs to match bids and her gains are set back by the gambling debt, while Jess gets the 7 tile to double. The game ends with 3 of us scoring 16, with Tom 8x2, me 9+4+3 and Jess with (7+1)x2. Tom is out as he has but $13M left. Tie-breaker is highest single tile - I also won on ready cash left in hand. Whew!
Tom: 16 (lowest $)
Jess 16 (7 high)
Me: 16 (9 high)
We had a lot of fun but particularly gratifying is seeing the reaction of the table to High Society - it really struck a chord with the table. There will be further requests for this one and it definitely won't be 6 years till I play it again!