Oi! Hands off...
A veritable takeover of the White Lion this week as we greeted our personal best turn-out: nine people disenchanted by the chilling weather and the prospect of another Derren Brown special on the telly.
Several attempts were made to start a game as folks drifted through the doors, and I nobly stepped out of Love Letter to give Anne and Sam their second chance at Saint Petersburg. Rumours that a homemade RoWBGs' Love Letter deck might be forthcoming are unfounded. Or they will be until I get the card details from Tony.
Love Letter looks as neat and fun as you can get for a game with 16 cards and I look forward to getting a game. The incipient game between John, Tony Becky and Benedict was brought to an abrupt end by Bill's arrival.
Meanwhile at the Saint Petersburg table, Anne had completely forgotten all my tutorials from the week earlier, and Ledbury Dave promptly sat down and overlooked my heed to 'not run out of money. Really, don't run out of money'. Sam was well into his stride though, and pursued me to the finish, only missing out on a noble card or two.
The 'Essen goodies' table had got well stuck into Escape by this time, which looked like the sort of throw-dice-as-quickly-as-you-can-and-shout-about-it game which should really be played closer to midnight. It would appear there were some mixed reactions, but it looked harmless enough to me. They moved on swiftly to Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill - apparently a neat exercise in counting with lovely bits. Can't say it looked terribly exciting to me. We played a quick game of For Sale - because what else do you play with 10 minutes to fill? - to draw the two tables into unity. Sam won this one too.
Time for a re-shuffle. Dave had expressed his interest in a bit of Small World, and Bill was a well-known Small World buff. They were joined by Becky - reluctantly taking on the teaching role - and a bloodthirsty Benedict, along with Anne who went from "oooh, I don't know whether I'd want to play this" to "Die! Die! Hahahahahahaaah!" in the space of a couple of hours. Much vendetta-ism was had, particularly against Bill who is known to be a bit of a shallow-water shark at this game. But it's always the quiet and innocent ones that win, and Anne was first and foremost.
John, Sam, Boddle and I took to Trains, the much-in-demand Dominion-meets-Chicago Express, although we couldn't take to it until unwrapping and sorting out the cards, a task which took us until well into the third round of Small World. There was an embarrassing interlude once we got started when John asked some questions which made no sense and then decided he'd been playing the game all wrong, but on the whole it was pretty smooth stuff. I tied for a thrilling win with Sam, with Boddle and JP managing to come in a good ten points behind. Indeed, Tony's failure to buy any trains (= money) was so concerning that at one point I had to literally force him to buy an Express Train (= Silver).
I enjoyed Trains, but had already decided it wasn't going to set the world alight, and was pleased to have that decision confirmed. The map aspect is really cute - almost like a wargame in its territory control - and the managing of the deck-clogging waste is more interesting than trying to vest yourself of Curses, but the Kingdom cards are distinctly less interesting than in Dominion, and you can't fine-tune a deck in the same way, which is a big chunk of strategy down the drain. But play again? Sure. Better than Thunderstone, anyway.
And my, wasn't it late. 11:30 and even the regulars were making pointed comments, yawning and looking at their watches. And of course, being Essen week, I had a fair few goodies to take home: a lovely playtester's copy of Snowdonia; my pre-ordered Keyflower (as usual for Key games, I spent most of Saturday puzzling over the rulebook and failing to assemble the player screens), and a second-hand La Citta, which looks awesomely, bafflingly deep. And a copy of the Pi Deck to add to my Big Box Of Agricola Stuff. Having perused the cards, I think they probably did the right thing leaving some of these out of the WM-deck! All I need now are the Belgium Deck and More Buildings Big & Small to round out my unnecessary-farming-expansions Essen release collection.