Oi! Hands off...
Even by my standards of lame blog titles I think that owes an apology.
David had been allowed out again this week, and duly joined Becky, myself and JP in the back room of the White Lion. At which, the place promptly cleared and left us all alone that the band of geeks that - in fact - we were.
Possibly expecting Brian to show (turned out he had been delayed by the rain), we opened with Buccaneer, a game at which Brian held me to a thrilling tie last time out. John and David professed themselves highly intrigued by this game, and JP pushed me hard for a thrilling 98-97 conclusion, with Dave and Becky somewhat further behind.
Aqua Romana is a new acquisition of mine, indeed a free gift from Boydell in return for helping him stock his infamous charity bookstall (Newent Onion Fayre, September 8th). Becky immediately decided she couldn't get to grips with the geometry (although she has no problems with - say - Eurorails), and let John run her into all sorts of corners; meanwhile David used his free tile placements to very inconveniently get in my way. JP finished well clear, with Dave squeaking second place. I doubt Aqua Romana will get a lot of table time, but it's simple enough to teach newcomers and the family, and is a nice tile-laying gateway which I shall cling onto.
A subtly-worded 'my vote's for Oregon' from John brought that to the table next, and we wrangled with the nitty-gritty of establishing townships in the Midwest. Actually, even if the theme is a bit thin, you could never accuse Oregon of not integrating it well - I'm always more than impressed with the way the settlements grow up around goldmines and churches.
John spent a long time stockpiling gold and coal, while David hummed and haahed around the placement of harbours and Becky went for a prolonged dig for the right cards. But Oregon is an opportunist's game, and several missed spots gave me an early lead. Would it be enough to hold off John? Only just; and I won 97-96 (compare with the Buccaneer score above).
We were playing swiftly, and it was barely past 9pm when Becky insisted on playing 'Soup', or Too Many Cooks as it should more rightfully be known. This delightful little take on multiplayer Cribbage is becoming a bit of a cult favourite at Ross, with several members now requesting it on a regular basis (Jules? Peter? Where art thou?). Plus, more importantly, it's a card game that my card-game-detesting wife understands and can play well! As she promptly demonstrated, giving us all a hiding. JP made the error of holding onto his 'No Soup' menu until last for minus-a-lot-of-points.
Still adequate time for a closer, and TransAmerica hit the table to round out the evening. Forgive some immodesty, but I played an absolute blinder, opening in Seattle to start with and racing eastwards while the others refused to open up my west-coast line. Second up, I tied with Becky while completing what I christened the 'Central Poker link' of Santa Fe, Omaha and Chicago, and lastly I lost a few points but nowhere near as many as David who embarked on a rather foolish solo line around the Great Lakes.
My winning aside, I invariably enjoy TransAmerica for no good reason, and the others were very positive about including Vexation next time round - it's a real value for money expansion which will add a great deal of nastiness. And that's no bad thing, of course.