JRR Tolkien: My First Gaming Session with The Inklings
JRR Tolkien
United Kingdom
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After the positive reception to my first 'Geeklist' (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/46504) I thought that I should make the effort to get to know a little bit more about your culture. With the help of the young man who introduced me to War of the Ring (First Edition) (see my previous Geeklist) I organised a gaming event at 'The Eagle and Child' public house and invited members of the Inklings to come and take part.

My young friend, Jason, supplied the games as my collection is embarrassingly non-existent at the moment. He also remained with us to teach us how to play, as many of the games we played were new to us (Gervase Mathew seemed to have played most of these games before). Jason is a fine, though somewhat greasy and acned, fellow (though he did have the most peculiar habit of replying "Are you Tolkien to me? I don't see anyone else here." whenever I asked him a question).

What follows is a description of the events that took place on that day. I add the disclaimer that my memory is not what it once was, and I may have left out some details that were of little consequence.

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1. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:282] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
JRR Tolkien
United Kingdom
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We began with this game, as Jason recommended it as a good 'gateway game'. I must confess to being a little confused by the technical terms that Jason threw at us all day, but I'm sure I'll pick it up quickly enough.

I began by placing both of my starting settlements on the coast, reasoning that a coastal location would aid trading as well as providing a steady food supply. It turns out that this was not a good strategy as the economic engine that this game employs seems to be a little streamlined. This wasn't the only thing that puzzled me. None of the other players could give me a convincing explanation of how they were able to irrigate their fields, let alone provide water and sewerage systems for their cities.

We had only been playing for a few turns before everyone started putting the Robber on one of my adjacent hexes, and as no-one rolled a '3' I failed to collect sheep from my other hex.

When I asked Hugo Dyson how he intended to ship his goods off the island without access to the sea, he just rolled his eyes and sneered "I don't know, maybe I'll load them in barrels and float them down a river to the Elf King." which I felt was unnecessary.

Winner: Gervase Mathew
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2. Board Game: Axis & Allies [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:1051]
JRR Tolkien
United Kingdom
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Jason suggest we play a few turns of this wargame to give us an 'Ameritrash' experience as well as a 'Euro' one.

C.S. Lewis played as the Americans, Hugo Dyson took the Russians and Gervase Mathew played as the United Kingdom. Jason offered to play as the Japanese, which left me the Germans. At the moment I can't think of 'Germany' without thinking of that Reiner Knizia man who did such a horrible thing to my intellectual property.

The game was abandoned on turn two after a rather heated argument broke out as to whether or not The Lord of the Rings was an allegory of World War II. (It's not, by the way).

Winner: Game abandoned.
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3. Board Game: Cutthroat Caverns [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:1155]
JRR Tolkien
United Kingdom
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Steve Holden
United States
Hudson
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suggested that I consider a lawsuit against Smirk and Dagger for this game. Apparently some of the characters closely resemble the heroes from my epic, and I must say that he is quite right. When I suggested this to my friends they all agreed, except for Hugo Dyson who told me that I was stupid for thinking that I could "...claim copyright on a picture of a man with a sword..."

I greatly enjoyed playing the 'My Hero' card on him when I killed the Gasbag creature in the second round of game.

C.S. Lewis' character died quite early on, but he kept bringing her back claiming that although the game knew the Deep Magic, there was a deeper magic still. Even Jason tired of trying to explain the game to him, so we eventually gave up. As a result C.S. Lewis won by virtue of being the only character to survive the dungeon.

Winner: C.S. Lewis
 
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4. Board Game: Say Anything [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:815]
JRR Tolkien
United Kingdom
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Following the tension of the last few games, Jason suggested we try something a little lighter. I was keen to try this game, as I believe that it was designed by this fellow

Dominic Crapuchettes
United States
Bethesda
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North Star Games designs party games that don't suck! Play them with your non-gamer friends over the holidays.
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who practically begged me to sue him in my last Geeklist. Anything to oblige, young man! I was keen to play this game and see how many infringements I could find.

As you might imagine, this game proved rather a success in a room full of university professors (and Jason) despite the lack of clear legal offences. I was rather pleased when the question "If you could be someone famous, who would you be?" was asked and three of us responded with 'J.R.R. Tolkien' (Dyson wrote 'James Dean').

Gervase would have fared better if he hadn't written 'The Byzantine Empire' for every answer.

My apologies, Mr. Domcrap. Your lawsuit will have to wait.

Winner: Jason
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5. Board Game: Beowulf: The Legend [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:1844]
JRR Tolkien
United Kingdom
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After C.S. Lewis' frankly ridiculous answer to the question "Where is the best place to take off your pants?" in the last game, I think we felt that it was time for something a little more cultured. Jason suggested this game, which is apparently based on an obscure fantasy legend that I have never heard of and in no way have been influenced by, despite what

Dann May
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implied in my last Geeklist.

Well, this was a fine fantasy romp and I was enjoying myself greatly until I happened to notice that this game had been designed by Reiner Knizia.

As a result the experience was soured somewhat and I lost focus in the latter part of the game, allowing Gervase to sneak ahead of me for the victory.

Winner: Gervase Mathew
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6. Board Game: Middle-earth [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:921]
JRR Tolkien
United Kingdom
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Ove Hillep
Estonia
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suggested that I should take a look at this game following my last Geeklist. Unfortunately we were not able to play it, but Jason was able to explain the game to me.

It certainly sounds like the sort of thing that should invoke my legal wrath, but it's given me an idea for a new book which I shall sell one chapter at a time. The genius of this idea is that I shall make sure that the chapters are all individually wrapped so that you don't know which one you are purchasing at the time, thereby increasing the chance of people purchasing chapters that they already own and increasing the money that I make.

I explained my idea to my friends and they seemed supportive enough, though Dyson spilt his pint into my lap. He said that it was an accident but I think that he did it deliberately. He has never forgiven me for once inadvertently spilling Ribena onto one of his manuscripts.
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7. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:2542]
JRR Tolkien
United Kingdom
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This seemed like an excellent time to bring the event to a close, as we were getting a bit tired and I needed to change my trousers.

I think that I am beginning to understand the attraction of this board-gaming hobby that you seem to consider so important. I have come to realise that some games seem to value mechanics above theme or narrative, so I shall be more prepared next time I enter into this world.

I am keen to try some more games from Jason's collection, perhaps one of the games that seems to crib from my works? I am certainly excited about the narrative potential.

I would very much like to organise another of these events, but we shall see how things go - and perhaps next time I will try and get Charles Williams along. This hobby seems like it might be just his type of thing. Maybe he can come instead of Dyson.
 
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