Cambridge Gradpad Games - how this girl spends the first Saturday of the month

Blog about the games I play at Gradpad each month
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Decemberl 2011 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
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Games, games and more games!
It was my turn for the afternoon/evening session this time, so I arrived shortly after 2pm, and my husband had just started a Nefarious. He threw me some money to give to Andy (we were buying some games off him), and then came back to hand me the car keys (oops, that could have gone wrong!), and left me in it, with me having no clue what was going wrong. I discovered Andy was right behind me, and totally free, so handed the money over, slightly bemused as to why Sami hadn't, and Ray very kindly did a short rules explanation for me. It turned out that several of the other players still weren't totally clear on the rules either (it was a 6 player game!), so my late entrance to the game didn't have too much of an impact thankfully. I had been quite keen to try this game, because of the designer obviously, but I just found it a totally pointless exercise. Yes, some of the cards are quite funny, but there didn't seem to be any sort of "strategy" - it was just pick a role (and I do wonder whether picking a role at random would be any worse than planning!), and then executing it, finding out what random effects you have from other player's buildings, then repeat. It may not have helped that we had our men pinging off the board every few minutes from the random scroll, or whatever it's called, and also had to play to 30VPs, which made it longer. I didn't dislike the experience, but did feel that I was just going through the motions. It wasn't long though, so I may try again to see if it was just a bad fist game, but I can't see my opinion changing drastically.

As the game finished another table was starting up Macao, so one player left to play that, leaving us with 5. I browsed through the pile of games to see if there were any Essen releases I hadn't tried that handled 5, and Last Will seemed the most popular choice, so we went with that. This was a game I'd liked the sound of, but we hadn't bought, so I was keen to give it a go. The game was only partially unpunched, and none of us knew the rules, so we took a while to get going, and none of us really had a clue what we were doing in the first round - just playing through the turn to see what happened. After that things gradually became clear (and Keith realised that he couldn't have played his first turn worse!) Colin's coffee started to kick in, and he set up a white card strategy, while I was trying to go action heavy and into property speculation - not a great combination, but it seemed to be losing me money at a reasonable rate. We got to turn 5 with a number of us on less than 10 cash, so it was fairly clear round 6 was going to be the last round. As it happened only 2 of us managed to go bankrupt though, and due to Colin making a mistake on the penuultimate round, I managed to win. I've given the game a preliminary 7 rating for now, but I did enjoy it, and am quite keen to play again and see if it lives up to its promise, or turns out to be a bit repetitive.

After this Colin went for a nap, and we mixed players up with another couple of tables who'd finished at the same time, and I found myself on one of two tables playing Eminent Domain, with me being the only player on the table who knew it. It turned out to be one of the oddest game of it that I've played yet. No player went heavy into research, but instead the colony deck was drilled very quickly. However, no second deck was drilled particularly, with most players having a fairly balanced deck, and deck thinning mainly being done by the main colonising players having all their colony cards on planets! All four of the other decks got down to 2 cards in fact! By end game everyone had between 7 and 9 planets out, way more than I'm used to. Two of us were Produce-Trading, and this turned out to be the difference over hte ohter players. There were a few cards from Researches, but not nearly as many as I'm used to. It went a bit longer than most games because of the way it played out, and the newer players having rules queries, but didn't feel like it was dragging much. This is one of my favourites of our new purchases, so I was glad to play it again with a different group!

It was now dinner-time, but I decided to get settled into a game first, and then go upstairs to get my sandwiches, rather than miss out (as has been known!). One player picked up Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, and as it was another new release, and from a designer I sometimes like, I was keen to join - and volunteered to teach from the rules if we didn't have anyone who knew it. Luckily this wasn't needed - a player who knew the game joined us to make a fourth, and taught it to us much quicker than I would have done from reading the rules! Dashed upstairs and got the last tuna melt panini and some chocolate cake - mmmm - and brought it down to eat while listening to the rules. We then got started. The experienced player seemed to get a rather better start than the rest of us, and was rapidly bankrupting us by stealing all our money, amassing a huge pile in front of him, and playing way more cards than anyone else. Everyone else was fairly aimlessly playing pieces on the board, trying things out, as they learned the mechanics. I suddenly realised that there were 7 pain counters on the board - with some help from me - and that I was in a good position to win (my win condition was 8 of them). Meanwhile we were trying to stop James getting to 50 cash, as it really looked like that was his win-condition! On my next turn I added two pain counters on the board, the other two new players didn't know enough to realise that I might be about to win, and James couldnt's top me, so the game ended - and we had only just started the second deck!!!! (And had about three turns each!). As that felt a bit unsatifying, we decided to play again, now we understood it better (and James meanwhile revealed that money wasn't his goal anyway, that was just coincidence!). The next game was the exact opposite of the first one - players were much more aware of the various goals, and three times I was prevented from winning, despite having my win condition at the end of turn (you need it at the start of you turn to win), James also came close numerous times, and Keith was only 1 cash short at the end of the game. The deck ran out in the end, and it turned out that no-one had that win-condition, so the game went to scoring, something that we'd been told nothing about, other than it might happen! We counted up, having not played for it at all, and I had well over 100 points, while everyone else was only on 50 points!! Pure coincidence, but I wasn't going to turn down a win!!

Keith then produced a TieBreaker deck of cards, and while packing up we had a bit of fun with a few of them - I was surprised that I hadn't even heard of their existence - not that I'd care anyway, I'm quite happy to have ties in games!! Managed to pack away the man from it in Discworld, so had to hurriedly retrieve it, and then it was on to the next game.

It was getting quite late now, with just an hour left to play. There was 6 of us, after various people had decided whether to leave or stay, so we split into two threes. I said that I'd better play with Colin, as we were leaving together, and James with Dave, so that left the other two players to join either pair for games. Colin and I were joined with Robin, and as Colin was extremely tired by now, we stuck to fillers. Just as we opened the box of the first, Fairy Tale, all the lights went out (were they trying to tell us something?). The usual arm-waving trick got the majority back on, but for some reason the strip by the window didn't go back on, so those of us sitting on the tables there had to move! I haven't played Fairy Tale much, and playing it again reminded me how much more I enjoy 7 Wonders - Fairy Tale just seems to be lacking slightly, although it's hard to say quite what's missing. Next we went for R-Eco, which was new to Robin, and we all managed to hold off from garbage dumping for a long while before first I, and then Robin, succumbed. Colin held out a bit longer, but I eventually made a move that forced him to dump (even if it wasn't the best move for me, I think it was better than him getting points from never dumping!). Fun little filler - shame it gets forgotten about nowadays. Then we played a very quick Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age - trying to prove Robin wrong when he said we wouldn't get it in in the time! It almost came down to a three-way tie, but Robin rolled pestilence on the last turn for -2 for himself, putting him 2 behind. We had forgotten what the tie-break was and not recorded goods remaining, so we called it a tie. We finished with a quick Escalation!, joined by first Paul (escaping from a mammoth Ninjato game), and then Timothy (as the rest of his table left - we blamed the bad average score he started with on Robin!). I had an absolute disaster in round 2 which meant I was last by miles, and it came down to the last hand deciding which of Colin and Paul was to win.

Yet another enjoyable Gradpad - I hope to have some more fun again there next month!
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