Oi! Hands off...
Having braved the downpour, Ben Becky and JP shook off the rain and opened with Tikal, half-expecting but not really sure if anyone else was scheduled to turn up.
Tikal - until recently - held the ignominious 'shelf-sitting' spot in my collection, and was part of my 2012 New Year's Resolution 'Free trade If I don't play them' Geeklist. Therefore it hit the table amid a wave of indifference, but we were soon hushed as we realised why this is rightly regarded as one of the classics. Action points, area control, tile laying - Tikal did most of it first. And I'm still struggling to think of another game which uses any of these three mechanisms as effectively. It didn't even bring on John's Analysis Paralysis, and the game swept by in just over an hour: perfect length, I'd say.
Perhaps the best of it was how little we failed to anticipate the game's ending. Becky had indulged herself in treasure tiles and was slipping slowly behind, but she put together a cracking 56-point final scoring round and overtook me at the last for the victory.
With Becky and Tony already indoctrinated in Waka Waka, the time had come to teach it to John. It was my first time playing it with more than 2 (and, let's face it, if you've got two, that's what Jambo is for) and the timing aspect of the game becomes increasingly important as people will start stockpiling gold waiting for the Shaman's fire to relight. My concern is that when we hit the harder status goals - one of the most intriguing bits of the game is that you can tailor it to the difficulty and time desired - this stockpiling will become over-ridingly strong, but I'd like to think Dorn is a better designer than that: we'll have to see.
Becky won Waka Waka, clocking up her final status promotion while John and I were still stuck on Level 3.
After developing a 2-player set of rules for Boydell's Guilds Of London (Becky's favourite of his designs; I recently relegated it to third after discovering how great 2-player Snowdonia was), we had been carrying the prototype around with us for some weeks, and it wasn't difficult to talk JP into a three-hander. We favoured the Virginia Plantation (Ireland is strictly for more players, in my view), and Becky snapped up a good Church gold-card given the proliferation of church guilds on the opening layout. She didn't have it all her own way - even to the end as we nastily black-balled her from two guilds with our remaining black cubes - but was able to pick up two copies of the 'all five types' gold card for the win. Note to Tony: this card is TOO strong to have two copies in 3P as well as 2P. Perhaps just have one copy in the deck, full stop?
So, so far, all three games had gone Becky's way, and after having fondly 'played a Boydell' in his absence, we closed by digging out the 'anti-Boydell' - the Good Doctor himself, and one of his more recent offerings, Keltis: Der Weg Der Steine.
Well, it might pain some people to admit it, but I really enjoyed this little cross between Lost Cities and Coloretto, and I can only imagine it would get better once you learn the location of the bonus points and shamrocks. Perhaps there's a tad too much luck with drawing shamrocks (basically a 'bonus turn' tile) at the right time, but the basic strategies from its two illustrious forebears are still present, along with just a touch of trademark Knizia mathiness. Plus, there's nice bits and it plays comfortably in 15 minutes. Better than Kickstarter, folks, better than Kickstarter.