Oi! Hands off...
A cosy trio in the back room of the White Lion this week, carefully avoiding all sorts of chaos in the public bar. It's a long time since I've seen anyone get thrown out of the White Lion, plus we had a pub crawl to contend with, and a friendly trio of corporate suits who 'thought we were playing Risk'. Well, it's better than Monopoly, I suppose.
Anyway, Becky and Ben had the Troyes board out and ready to go for Ian when he arrived. We'd all enjoyed it the week before and this week was no different. Our initial learning game allowed us to embark on more distinct strategies: Becky went for Cathedral and a money-rich strategy: Ian dabbled with bits and pieces before last-minute rush on the VPs by filling up nearly all the activity cards with his workers, and I launched a full-frontal attack on the Event cards, clocking up a mountain of unneeded Influence into the bargain. Despite being almost transparent about my character card (yes, Henry II, who rewards Event cards), the others didn't latch on quick enough, and I ended up with a fine old collection and six bonus VPs, which was enough for the win.
Every now and then, Becky gets a hankering to play Eurorails: a game which I don't dislike particularly, but it is something of an irritation that it takes up about 80% of a games evening. It's not exactly a game that lends itself to easy strategic session reporting, either!
To cut a long story short, Becky doddered about a bit in Central Europe before embarking on incessant and fruitless drawing of route cards, and Ian started off in Eastern Europe before embarking on a ridiculously optimistic trip to Portugal which plunged him horrendously into debt ("Does OWING £250m count as a victory condition?"). Meanwhile, I'd managed to construct a neat circular track up through Germany and France, over to the UK, across to Scandinavia and back down into Poland, and was ferrying goods about like nobody's business with my super-duper express locomotive. A double concession followed rather than see the game to its gritty and inevitable end. Perhaps not the most fulfilling game we've ever played, and certainly some way from the last time we played and the winning margin came down to literally the smallest possible margin.
A bit shocked to find it was already twenty past ten, we scoured about for a quick-ish closing game, and rapidly settled on Artus, partly due to Becky's guilt at buying it for my birthday but not having played it until now. It's a game I really enjoy, to be honest: playing the deck correctly to exhaustion is a very satisfactory process, especially when you realise that other players are going to have to make sub-optimum moves towards the end. I agree that it is probably best as 2-player, but it is not devoid of strategy with 3 or 4, and it's no more chaotic than Innovation, Yspahan or a number of other well-rated games.
Becky latched onto Artus quickly, declaring it as 'totally evil', in the best possible sense. Ian thought likewise, and there was much lip-smacking and teeth-sucking at the prospect of getting rid of difficult cards, as indeed should be the case with a good game of Artus. I clocked up a massive score early on with my 'opposite sign' scoring card, but taking a 20-point sacrifice shortly afterwards to change the position of the king was a good strategic move, which I justifiably feel able to boast about, having won by ten points or so with cards still remaining. A rare clean sweep of wins for me this week: can't pretend that happens every time - it's usually Tony's domain.
The last 'un before Essen next week, which is only of concern to Tony because the rest of us aren't going. But it's a good opportunity to foist our shopping lists onto him and his long-suffering van. We love you really, Boydell!