One's weekend routines are hard to shake; thus, I find myself writing up a session report for last night's Ross-on-Wye boardgamer's meeting even though I am 240 miles away.
Despite leaving a little earlier than normal, Jobbers was (again) already reversing his sleek Beamer into the last decent parking space outside the Pub. I have no idea how he does this: managing to be five minutes ahead of me, come rain come shine - perhaps it's something to do with that tag around my ankle? Anyway, with the annual Wye Dog Tossing still in full, excuse the pun, 'swing', it wasn't even possible to park on the Bridge so - instead - I was forced to back the Touran in to the Marketplace and get a taxi! We pulled up outside the White Lion just as a beautifully-manicured Labradoodle was sent howling, fully 50ft, from the medieval river crossing and in to the low, swirling water; the crowd, if not the shaggy mutt, roared their approval.
Already in the midst of a two-player Abaloney Boffo and Smudge, newly returned from their own vacation*, were variously surrounded by discarded pork scratching packets and empty beer glasses; Boffo had forgotten to cancel the weekly order and they were arrayed in a thin line of ale from the 'usual table', along the edge of the Bar and out on to the riverside decking.
Jobbers, clutching a shiny sixpence he'd found in the gutter on the way in, was trying to exchange it for a low-alcohol water and a cheesy biscuit; it was difficult to make himself heard over the cheering crowd outside, bellowing enthusiastically every time a Scottie or a Spaniel nose-dived the reedy shallows.
Ledburian Dave was a definite no-show this week, on account of being in the Mediterranean; but he HAD sent a series of postcards each day detailing his approach and moves for a number of potential games.
Dan's dramatic entrance through the window sealed the group for the night: "I didn't know you could hang-glide from Skenfrith?" I asked. "Yes," replied Dan, bent roll-up protruding from his hairy nostril: "You just need to take a good run up along the A449".
With five, it would've been ridiculous not to play Porko Rico or Agricolie so we didn't; settling, instead, for two Fibonaccis and a solo Read My Eclipse until, that is, Byll turned up 30 minutes later complaining he'd been diverted to the Cottage Hospital after taking a Terrier to the Temple.
Never ones to miss out on the chance to play Lanacaster - which Byll had 'brought with' in his pelican-like throat sac - we reset the table and set-to! Strictly speaking, Lancaster is NOT a six player game but Boffo has come up with an interesting extension whereby one player takes on the role of Prussia (or Spain, or any other non-involved European country tbh) and utilizes an "impartial observer" mechanic. My role, in this capacity, was to ensure the correct revelation of Laws, storage of chits and other components and the maintenance of army supply lines: "We march on our stomachs!" Boffo boasted, "...two more pickled eggs and a pint of Butty, Herr Prussia!". I have to admit I didn't really feel I had any meaningful decisions in the game, but I guess that's down to experience and the others certainly seemed to be making much more of their resources.
Mercifully, the game ended quite quickly and with Citadels peeping teasingly from the top of Boffo's unicycle panier, it seemed rude not to get stuck in...to 7 Wonders. Smudge was keen to try the '7 Blunders' variant, where players try - within some clearly-defined rules - to score as low as possible to win. Jobbers would seem at a distinct advantage here as he can consistently score single figures despite logging the most 'in game thinking minutes'. Smudge successfully negotiated the Brewster's Millions strategy to win the first game with Jobbers coming last with an all-time Personal Best of 78. It was amusing to try this variant but we reverted to 'normal' for the next two games: it's mandatory to play AT LEAST three once you've set everything out and sorted. A stray Pekinese, sliced awkwardly, ricocheted off the Dessert Chiller cabinet and across the Age III cards just as we were totting up the totals for Game 4 which had to be declared null and void and covered in little hairs.
Before departing into the good night, the Batesons handed out their holiday gifts to us all: sticks of rock with the phrase 'Arse Gratia Artis' running through...handmade by a disgruntled employee, apparently.
As I hailed a cab and returned to my car, the distant barking of the Red Setter Motorcycle Display Team heralded the climax of the canine festival: a pyramid of glossy-coated and wet-nosed acrobats vrooming from one bank to the other! It's a shame we don't see much more of this kind of thing, but the old traditions are - like many of the competitors - dying out.
*bog-snorkling in the Fens
Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Father, Grandfather, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer.
- [+] Dice rolls