Ben Bateson(ousgg)United Kingdom
Ross-on-WyeOi! Hands off...
With much of Wales and the West Country threatening to sink slowly into the Irish Sea, I was pleased and surprised when, dripping liberally, I hoicked two piles of games into the White Lion and found JP, Dave and Gordon all patiently waiting.
No sooner had we applied the 'black cloth of doom' (according to Gordon), than Anne and Sam showed up, and with six I suggested TransAmerica would make a suitable starter. Well it would have done if Tony hadn't showed up just after the first round and had to sit patiently and wait for us to labour to a close.
We played with the Vexation expansion for the first time, and John and I were impressed with how much more intricate it made the game: not only is there the obvious pure screwage element to it, but the intricacies of networks are enhanced, and I found myself explaining WHY exactly I only needed two rails to complete my route at the end of Round 2. The bottom rather dropped out of my world after I picked up Atlanta and somehow interpreted it as 'Phoenix', and Dave and Sam both suffered heavy disasters, although not as many as Gordon, who plunged through the buffers a la Thomas The Tank Engine, leaving Anne as a very content winner.
With 7 players now present, an obvious course of action was to split into two groups before re-uniting for a climactic 7 Wonders (damn you Bauza, but how easy is this to play?!). Rather unusually, though, both groups decided to settle (see what I did there?) for Keyflower, the current game that Boydell won't stop banging on about - these things go in cycles.
I finished my teaching early on the table of three (perhaps leaving Anne in a little bit of bafflement, but again that's nothing new) and we cracked on with what was more of an exploratory game than anything else, not helped by an utter lack of metal and a surfeit of gold. I spent quite a lot of my final round abusing the massive crowd of red workers that I had been passed, trying to pick up a couple of yellows to outbid Gordon for the Jeweller. It turned out to be in vain, though, as he scored a comfortable 65 points.
I'm pretty sure that 3P is Keyflower's sweet spot (interlacing nicely into 3 colours of worker, of course), but after three games I can't for the life of me see any emergent strategies, and its my concern that if it continues to be unstrategisable, I will just have to downgrade it as an optimisation game. A fun, interesting and diverse optimisation game, sure. But I don't think I can be convinced that there's little enough chaos to make it worth trying to predict what will happen in the final round.
I have absolutely no idea what happened on the other table, other than Sam making Tony's life a complete inconvenience. Which, let's face it, is a secondary objective on any given game night, so I'm happy to call that a victory.
The 4P game taking that little bit longer to complete (which is understandable, even if I pretended otherwise), we had time for a lightning game of Poison, a game which was due to leave my possession on trade the next day, so I thought we might as well get some brief entertainment out of it. Plenty of agonising was the result for Gordon, as we exacted a bit of revenge for our flowery trouncing, and Anne and I shared a 16-point win.
Having all the 7 Wonders cards ready to go as the final points were tallied on the 'main' table, we wasted no time in plonking everyone behind a Wonder, and dived in headlong. My Pyramids weren't exactly the most exciting, but I made the most of them by building up all 4 side-B stages in a brief flurry of Age II cards. Sam, to my left, was hitting Science hard, Gordon went in for the Blue VPs, and Dave was looking strong with a hefty army and 24-points worth of Guilds. But a lovely set of four green cards, and some delicate goods artbitrage, was all I needed to pip Dave by a single point: Tony lagging behind in third with an efficient but not-high-scoring-enough bag of bits and pieces.
Next week - my continuing attempts to revist my New Year's resolution and avoid having to trade away any of my games.