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Oi! Hands off...
A six-hander again, for the 3rd time in four weeks. If we keep going at this rate, I'll shall have to start booking us two tables for our weekly meets.
Young Peter had requested Too Many Cooks (or 'the soup game') as it tends to get called, given that my Dutch version of 'Veel Soeps' doesn't lend itself as easily to the memory. John arrived just in time to be dealt in with myself and Jules - I have a not-terribly-intuitive feeling that most trick-taking games play best with four, so this was clearly optimum.
The real beauty of this game is the last round, when if you're not careful you get stuck with a menu card which your hand doesn't suit. Peter discovered the hard way that leaving the 'No Soup' menu until last isn't a great idea; it's very tempting to leave the chilli until last (playing chilli, it doesn't matter too much which cards you pick up), but you run the risk of a big clash if everyone tries to do the same. All damn clever, and definitely one of those Knizia's with enough depth to come out more often. John beat Ben out by a single point, while Tony and Ian made themselves comfortable and contemplated deeper things.
Six is an inconvenient number on many an occasion, but not this week because Tony had a prototype which would seat that number comfortably. It's a courtroom-meets-poker-meets-storytelling type of game, and everyone agreed that the central mechanism was pretty sound. Plenty of feedback and discussion ensued: John and Ian were in favour of making it as much like poker as possible, which I felt somewhat defeated the object. My view is that using the poker combinations to score is fine, but the rest of the gameplay needs to move away from being poker-like, especially in terms of integrating the theme. Ian came up with a much better name within two minutes of starting the game, and 'So Sue Me' (which still sounds like an item from a sushi menu to me) quickly became '(I'll) See You In Court'. It looks like further discussion of this nascent masterpiece will be forthcoming next weekend. I seem to remember winning this, by means of a carefully disguised full house around hand 4.
Not being able to support any more games with six, we split into two threes. Tony, Ian and John went off to tackle Tony's sparkling new copy of Drum Roll, one of the few Essen games that had aroused my interest. It might be a bit unfair of me to critique a game that I've not actually yet played, but I wandered by to kibitz the last couple of rounds after the other table had finished and - well - I wasn't massively impressed. I'll certainly grant some excellent theming and presentation, but for the large part, it just seems to be another exercise in collecting and shuffling cubes with fairly standard worker-placement mechanics. Still, at least it's not on my Secret Santa wishlist yet: in fact the only Essen release to have made it that far is the unpretentious and fun Santiago de Cuba. Just a thought in case you're reading, Santa!
Over on 'the cool table', Jules, Peter and I engaged - as we are prone to do - in some proper manly card games. Kicking off with a couple of rounds of the criminally overlooked High Society (one round each to Ben and Jules), our love of auctions was enough to pull out the much adored For Sale as well. The innate unpredictability of this one led to some very close scores, with everyone thinking they'd won. But, actually, it was Jules that won. The score? 51-50-49!
We'd enjoyed Ninety-Nine enough the week before to close with another round (OK, so there's at least one trick-taking game that emphatically isn't best with four...). Jules and Peter had been practising, and it showed! They both played a hand open in early on and left my cautious play lagging behind (note to self: if you're going to make no tricks, please make sure you BID no tricks otherwise you get no points at all). I picked up nicely with a tight bid-and-made 7, but still lost out to Jules who then played a second hand open and couldn't be stopped. Little avenues of cleverness keep opening up in this game (it occurs to me how important it is to declare a bid early against experienced players, even if you don't make it); I simply love it!
Next week: a massive, jumbo blog post with all the news from CiderCon - a whole weekend of gaming in Much Marcle.