Tuesday, 28 August 2012

"The Battle's Roar"

We start with a commercial battle
So James wheedled us into this “pure negotiation game” which he’d played on Monday at work quite successfully. Each round the players are dealt plots of land in downtown New York and components for businesses- “Seafood”, “Dim Sung”, “Laundry”, etc etc. Then there is a freeform negotiation phase, timed to 5 minutes in our case, where everyone can swap anything for anything. There’s money as well to sweeten the deal. Then the players put their businesses onto vacant plots and let the money roll in. If you can get three or more tiles of the same type adjacent to each other then you get more money. Some chains work best with a set of three (e.g, Seafood), others with four (e.g Florist), five (e.g Dim Sung) or six (e.g Factory).

The first round saw lots of things changing hands without much knowledge of what they were worth. I sold a vacant lot to Paul for $10,000+a business component and bought a vacant lot from James for $30,000 +a business component. Everyone was earning about $30,000- 3 lots with a single business $10,000 each. Tom only had 2 lots so was earning $20,000 and either Gareth or Paul had a set of 3 and was earning $40,000.

In the second turn I was able, by dealing away everything else I owned, to complete two sets of three- a Sea Food chain and a Dim Sung chain. Gareth had a Florist in the making and Paul a Factory, in the same area of the board.
I started to lose track around turn 3. I made what I thought was a cunning move by placing a single Jewellery piece between two of James’ Jewellery pieces, hoping he would offer me good money for it. However, James decided to complete his Jewellery set in a different (slower but promising more tiles eventually) way.

 Meanwhile chains were appearing everywhere. Tom had a nice Dim Sung business which he maxed out to five spaces (meaning it was impossible for me to extend my Dim Sung chain, although that didn’t stop other players trying to sell me an extension!) Paul completed his Factory and was raking in the money. Gareth had a Florist, a Laundry and a Camera shop by the end of the game, and made a valiant effort for Tropical Fish. James did eventually complete his Jewellery set. Tom was able to complete an Antiques Chain by purchasing two antique spaces from me at $140,000. Paul was throwing a lot of money around, helped by other players intervening just to raise his prices. I didn’t complete any chains after round 2. Everyone expected Paul to win comfortably but the result in the end was very close.

Tom and Philip $920,000 (No tiebreaker apparently) Paul $910,000 Gareth $900,000 James $890,00

Now for a more private battle...

Murder of Crows (thanks Tom)
Whilst Gareth and Scott were waiting for Andy to arrive for their weekly game of Through The Ages, Tom arrived and offered to play Murder of Crows as a quick filler whilst they waited. Neil joined so four players ended up delving into the nefarious machinations of MoC.

The game as before was relatively quick despite the fact that neither Scott or Gareth had played before. This may have been assisted by the fact that Andy turned up soon afterwards! In the end, Tom triumphed through the playing of a wild crow to complete his Murder. Neil's unbeaten record (of 1) had been decimated.
Tom - Won; Gareth, Scott and Neil - Lost
A battle in a dungeon next...

Dungeon Fighter (Thanks Tom)
Following Chinatown, Tom suggested that they try his favourite dexterity game, Dungeon Fighter. Gareth II voted himself out due to a bad back and Philip quickly escaped toward the table of Kingdom Builder in a hope for a Euro. This left Tom, Paul and James to form a motley trio, with Dan (the other DF veteran) playing horsies and moo cows with Amanda.

On the subject of moos, James quickly chose his character, the Paladin, Sir Moo, and promptly started reminiscing about his special edition of Moo. I would not be surprised if it made an appearance next week! Paul picked Goldfinga, the thief, and Tom chose Lanky Lowshot, the elven archer due to his helpful re-roll ability. This was to come in handy over the next hour! With the team assembled and the dungeon created, it was simply now a case of escaping the dungeon.

Paul soon proved himself very adept at hitting the board with his die and stealing equipment from the various monsters as a result. However, despite some early successes, the dreaded Warthog reared its ugly head leading to the dreaded far shot being required (i.e. throwing the dice from at least two feet away from the table). Soon enough, the heroes were rather badly beaten but triumphant.

At the first shop, James acquired a weapon that required him to bounce his die over a card and on to the board. Loud and continuous practice ensued which showed the dice to be made of the most resilient substance known to man as the Apprentice's poor table slowly splintered. This practice would soon pay off with perhaps the most outrageous shot this reported has seen in his short DF career as James threw his dice with his hand below the table (as required by the monster's ability), it shot into the air, hit the table, bounced over a card, and landed in the three ring of the board causing five damage. A brief round of applause ensued, followed soon after by Paul knocking over the tower containing the gold coins, leading to everyone searching on their knees for a few minutes to locate them. This was of course all James's fault.

Everyone was rolling rather well and, despite a particularly vicious battle with a self-healing witch who was only defeated with some vigorous cheating (and excellent rolling off his nose by Tom), the adventurers reached the final boss, the Final Destination, staring out us with his health, 35 health and 8 attack. We were doomed.

However, a healthy number of white dice had been accumulated throughout the adventure, thanks in large part to Goldfinga's stealing and Paul's excellent early die rolls. So it was that it ended with Tom, the veteran, needing three damage or more with the last die. He paused, he rolled, he screamed in anguish. It was an absolutely terrible roll that hadn't even reached the board. We were defeated, despite our almost having triumphed against all odds (cue Phil Collins). Heartbreak in the end but satisfaction too with quite possibly the most fun dexterity game around.
Death- Won; Paul, Tom & James - Lost
A battle for jewels...ok its more a race really.

Diamant (Thanks Tom)
After the agony and the ecstasy of Dungeon Fighter, Dan and Amanda finished their highly realistic re-enactment of the EU's Agricultural policy, and together with Alan (who had somehow contrived to miss out on the game of Lancaster that had just started on the other table), they joined Tom, James and Paul for a game of Diamant, the classic game of push your luck.

The game didn't get off to the most serious of starts when James referred to the deadly scorpions as "cave lobsters". Much mocking came from Dan's side of the table. Oh, bitter irony (as we would soon learn).

The game played out with Tom "doing a Gareth" and leaving the mine whenever there was a chance that he would pick up any leftover diamonds. Soon, he had accumulated a small stockpile. Unfortunately, his choice of yellow for his meeple was unfortunate and led to besmirchment of his manliness.

Whilst Tom was proving himself a crafty coward, Dan and James began something of a standoff on the fourth round, pushing further and further together into the mine despite numerous dangers making themselves apparent. James was the first to blink leaving Dan to continue into the dark on his own. As he waved his torch, it alighted upon something glinting in the pitch black. Slowly, he ventured forward hoping for more riches only to find that the light was reflecting off the carapace of a deadly cave lobster! Daniel was savaged and all his goodies lost.

After the remaining adventurers (plus a somewhat shaken Dan) had enjoyed a tasty lobster thermidor, they went back into the cave for one last time. Tom, to form, escaped after the second area stealing the 9 diamonds that had been left (the 4 and 5 cards being too low for the six players to collect anything). This proved to be the decisive play with Tom triumphing by a good margin.
Tom - 24, Everyone else but Dan - 11 (or thereabouts), Dan – 0

Finally the battle for France...with extra English euroness included.
Lancaster (Thanks Neil)
A new game for both Phillip and I, and one I have been wanting to play as it is high on my wishlist. First impressions were good, lots (and lots), of well-made components, a nice board with my home county on it, pretty rare to say the least, and after about 20 minutes of setting up we had about the same length of time to go through the rules. It isn’t that it’s overly complex, there are just plenty of different mechanisms in play. So, whatever sort of strategy do you go for here?

The worker placement options are pretty varied although you can be deposed pretty easily, so you have to keep plenty of alternatives in mind. There’s even an element of co-operation when it comes to the battles you may choose to be part of. The second phase is the voting in, or not, of new laws for parliament, and you need some friendly folk to help pass through the one you need for extra VPs. Then you can start picking up the rewards from your knights, and this is really well done as the order means there are still opportunities to improve your rewards, for the battle for instance.

Rufus and Gareth were certainly looking to promote their knights as much as possible, they and Sophie were also keen to upgrade their castles too. Phillip went for collecting gold, and was even told that he was ‘hogging’ it at one point, apparently not a great strategy… until one of the laws was passed enabling him to convert gold into victory points, mm. I went for my usual ‘collect victory points’ plain and simple routine I go for in most first plays. And round and round we went. Plenty of player interaction, plenty of blocking and usurping, and plenty of laughs too.

It was getting late… everyone else left, the pub had closed, and we still had another round to go… or did we? No, no more laws left, we’d slightly miscalculated. So we were left to a frantic calculation of scores whilst Rufus packed everything away. I’d enjoyed it a lot, certainly will play again, but was a bit unsure of how I’d done as points were awarded for bits I’d completely forgotten about; the largest upgraded castle, the most knights. And then I’d won… my strategy of going to war and collecting noblemen had paid dividends, wow. It’s always nice to win, just a shame I honestly didn’t really know what I was doing!!

Final Scores; Neil 68, Phillip 60, Gareth II 55, Rufus 48 and Sophie 25.

 P.S “The battle’s roar” is a quotation from Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

"In Prophecies, Witches and Knells"

Something of a supernatural evening...

To begin the evening, five early birds sat twiddling their thumbs wondering how to pass the time: Neil; Tom; Paul; James II; and Rufus. It was decided to start with the usual filler and the brand new Murder of Crows was chosen for this task.

The premise of the game is simple. The deck consists of six different cards which consist of the letters M,U,R,D,E and a wild Crow card. Each player draws an initial hand of five cards and thereafter will draw one, play one (or if they wish draw two only) with a view to spelling out the word Murder before them. The principal mechanic is that each different letter card when played triggers a particular effect: a M allows you to steal a card from another player's Murder into your hand; a R allows you to draw an extra card etc.

Each letter card has one to three crows in the top left hand corner. Players can avoid the effects of the active card by either discarding a card with the same number of crows as the active card or discarding a Wild Crow card. The Wild Crow card can also be played as a normal wild card (which can only be cancelled by other Wild Crows) or to remove a stack of letters in one Murder; the latter is useful as players can stack cards to avoid being too disadvantaged by the M or D card effects. This is a long-winded way of describing what is essentially a set collection game with take that elements which appears to be somewhat similar to Braggart in visual style, especially with the great artwork and flavour text creating a scene as each player's Murder builds.

The game as played swung between each player with James II especially close to securing a win at one point. In the process, there was a lot of gnashing of teeth over the merits and disadvantages of discarding cards in hand to save those in Murders. However, in the end, Neil proved victorious and then read out the Murder that he had created - the details of which have been lost into the mist of times except for the use of poodles as the instrument of death and the unfortunate victim, Mike Miserbean.

Good fun appeared to have been had by all. The game is very quick to pick up and learn. At the same time, any luck elements are downplayed by the general abundance of resources brought by the limited card set, the respective card powers, discarding to avoid effects and the sheer power of the Wild Crow. It will certainly be staying in the games bag for the foreseeable future.
Neil won, Tom, Paul, James II and Rufus lost
More players joined the throng and we split into two groups.  There were two games of out next item, but the first game doesn’t seem to have been reported...

Kingdom Builder
After the first game, everyone seemed to have enjoyed it so much that they were more than happy to play again. An hour or less and the game provides the feeling of having played something substantial, without being draining. An understandable Spiel des Jahres winner this year.

After the first game, we drew a random selection of four segments of the playing board and ended up with exactly the four that weren't used for the first game*. This dictated the 'special ability' tokens that are available to collect and meant that in this game we could add an additional desert tile, one to the edge of the board and could also move one of your tiles to the same terrain as the terrain you're laying.

We also drew three totally different scoring cards, which meant that scoring would only happen for the number of different groups of settlements, your longest horizontal row of settlements and your largest settlement.

It quickly became obvious that it would be a totally different game - a high level of re-playability being one of the attractions to Kingdom Builder.

James II's strategy was to build the largest kingdom possible, for which he was rewarded handsomely at the game end.

Paul went for a bit of everything, and worked out somewhere near the game end that he could 'split' some of his kingdoms with his 'moving' card therefore creating multiple separate kingdoms which each scored him point.

Philip seemed intent to show everyone that it really was best to lay down as many tiles as possible, although he was not the one to put down the most, with Rufus drawing the game to the end first.

Both Paul and Rufus had forgotten that the scoring mechanism allowing the player with the most settlements in a quadrant to score big was actually from the last game, and Philip and James II seemed very happy to watch them vie for position in one sector, all for no points, which seemed to affect Rufus more than Paul in the final scores.

Rufus and Philip were concentrating on the edge of the board which became very congested.

At the end some very different strategies yielded some close scores, but it was the 'little bit of everything' that edged out the 'one big kingdom' by just one point.
*editorial ahem: that was no random selection, though Paul could be forgiven for not noticing my stacking the deck!
Paul: 43, James II: 42, Philip: 39, Rufus: 27

Meanwhile Rats and Witches stalked medieval Europe...

Jon and Andy’s first game of the evening, with Jon being the only player with previous rat and Black Death experience. There were initially two distinct strategies with Jon and Neil favouring the far east of Europe and Tom and Andy sticking out to the west. The plague marker swiftly moved from Germania and found itself circling between Hispania, Anglia and Gallia. This didn’t seem to be having too much of an affect though, too few cubes were being removed. Andy picked up the King early on and had a strong bent towards placing his minions in the castle. Neil got rather stuck with the Witch and whilst this allowed him to gain valuable information he used it poorly. Jon steadily introduced his cubes and by joint use of the Merchant and Peasant cards was able to spread his minions far and wide. With all the rats suddenly all over the board the game finished for a final hefty outbreak of death, wiping away much of Tom and Neil’s minions. Jon’s strategy had paid off although he played down his win by declaring that ‘having played a game before it would be morally wrong not to win’. On such sweeping generalisations are true legends born. Oh and Andy loved the size and quality of the influence cards and the expansion characters that we hadn’t used as well.
Jon 10, Andy 8, Tom 5, Neil 5

The witches move centre stage with our next game...

The crow theme established earlier in the evening continued with Witch's Brew. Although out of print, Tom managed to uncover a brand new copy in a shop whilst up in Manchester over the weekend and was keen to try it out. The game has been played previously at IBG but apparently not by any of the Rattus boys so a Tom rules explanation was required. This is never good.

A simple role selection game at its core, it was a fun, chaotic game which was perhaps assisted by Andy's lowering of the tone from the very start by dubbing the potion vials as resembling prophylactics. When they weren't playing "Name That Tune" whilst listening to the Apprentice's tasteful sound collage and humming along to Wax's 1987 hit "Bridge to Your Heart" a number of last minute acquisitions of roles, declarations of vengeance and bawdy banter ensued.

Jon managed to acquire a number of cauldrons and shelves at a steady pace throughout the game until the fourth crow cawed. This coupled with his sizeable pile of "condoms" meant that he was the winner by some margin and it was declared that he was the Warlock (coo coo catchoo).
Jon 21, Tom 15, Neil 15, Andy 14

Sticking with the supernatural theme, although no overt witches...

And so the final game of the night. Jon takes Andy and Tom through the rules, neither having played before and Neil listens intently as his amnesia has struck despite having played once before. Tom immediately starts rolling the dice and isn’t happy that the game doesn’t actually include that mechanic. Andy has doubts about the amount of luck that seems to be involved in this set collection exercise. And off we go. If only we’d have known that within the 7 discarded cards the ‘brown’ set had lost both a ‘3’ and ‘4’ value then it could have been so different. As it was the first half of the game went pretty smoothly with Andy clearly keen on collecting blues, Tom reds and Neil greens. We were all a little unsure what Jon was doing but then he had played before and presumably he had all the brown and orange cards. There was the usual dice influencing resulting in only the orange ending higher than the starting position, the others all sitting at 3 for the auction. This kicked off with Andy and Tom keen to outbid each other for more blues and Jon going for the final dice influencing card to increase the orange dice up to 5, ok, so he’s certainly going for those then. And as always with Biblios it’s over before you know it, a good feature of the game (any game I guess!). And then the revelation that despite being on top form all night Jon hadn’t won… he was only collecting oranges, it was Andy all along who had the browns. Those together with his blues made the victory his. Tom had scuppered Neil’s red collection by 1 point so they finished best of friends in joint last place.
Andy 6, Jon 5, Tom 3, Neil 3

P.S ”In prophecies witches and knells” is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Sorceror”

Monday, 13 August 2012

"For He Can Prophesy"

No Thanks
Four games of No Thanks were played over the course of the evening. All involved Philip, Rufus and Sophie and one involved Woody as well. Unfortunately we neglected to take a note of the scores of the games, which was a pity as some remarkable runs saw some very low scoring, one player making -5 on one hand, with a run from the 14 to the 3. Rufus and Sophie were quicker to take cards than Philip, with Woody somewhere in between.

No, it isn’t a game about Olympic gold medallists...
It was 10pm and 3 became 4 as Jon’s mate Calum unexpectedly turned up. A good opportunity to have a go at the much overlooked China, a great area-majority game that plays in under 45 mins.
This was new to Woody and Calum, and James had only played a couple of times before in the dim and distant past. As usual, the emissary scoring is a bit hazy until you finish the game and see how it actually works, so players mostly focussed on scoring regions and roads.
Woody had a mammoth road that no-one apart from Jon seemed to want to stop. James was moaning about being picked on (again….) but seemed to be doing ok with the region scoring. Calum also had a decent road network, and started toying with emissaries too. Jon had no roads, but was dumping several emissaries, hoping for a nice bonus at the end of the game. Woody and Calum had placed their fortifications wisely (on their roads), and received a nice double-points bonus.
It always surprises how quickly this game goes – the deck went through twice in no time at all, and when the dust had settled, Calum’s mixed strategy of regions, roads and emissaries had won the day. Although, maybe everyone had just been nice on the new boy…..!
Calum 48; Woody 46; James 41; Jon 34
From China to bulls...

Add caption
15 minutes to go and this ever-popular (amongst some people!) filler came out. New to Calum, but that hadn’t stopped him in the last game…
Having 4 players leaves you with less safety margins, and with most players seemingly having low cards, it was a tense affair.
Jon and Calum picked up the fewest bulls heads (with Calum scoring the magical zero), whilst Woody and James had bulls heads coming out of their ears (an interesting mental image..)
Calum 0; Jon 2; Woody 24; James 24
Back in time, both in theme and circumstance...

Philip, Rufus and Sophie played this neat Egyptian auction game. I had played before and explained the rules to the others. In the first epoch I had a good start with 4 civilisation tiles, most Pharoahs, and some gold, while Rufus accumulated huge numbers of monument tiles- I think he had seven different types of monument before the first epoch was over, an achievement even more impressive because of the speed which the Ra! Tiles came out. Sophie had some God tiles and a little of everything else.

The second epoch saw Rufus pick up his eighth type of monument and a pharaoh killing disaster as well as several Niles and a flood- Sophie and I also picked up Niles and floods but this was an even shorter epoch than the last one and both of us failed to spend all our Sun tiles.
For the third and final epoch I maintained my lead in Pharoahs and found a flood for my many Niles, while Rufus gathered 3 Civlisation tiles and the highest total value of Suns. I had lowest total Suns, but I was nevertheless the winner. Scores are approximate only.
Philip 54 Rufus 48 Sophie 40

Philip Rufus and Sophie again for this rather different type of bidding game- players bid how many cards in each suit they think will be played, earning points for successful predictions. Although players start with 8 cards each they pass cards to their right-hand opponent at intervals throughout each hand.
We were all new to the game and I was certainly pretty bewildered, simply playing my longest suit to avoid committing myself.
The four suits are Sky, Crystal Ball, Tea Leaves and Palmistry, btw- in keeping with the divination theme. Some bids are worth double or triple points- because they are particularly unlikely. We were pretty good at bidding roughly the right numbers- a near miss gets  you 1 VP, a wider miss is worth -1 VP and a precise guess is 3 VPs. Not many 3 VPs were scored over the course of the three hands- so Sophie’s triple point correct guess in the second hand was a pretty good sign she would win the game. As indeed it proved...although once again no one kept score!

Santa Cruz
The same trio now ventured into Santa Cruz, aided by James’ elegant rules explanation. The game is a bit of an exploration exercise in the first half, combined with careful positioning for your VP cards. Then in the second half almost all locations are visible so it is more of a points optimisation exercise. There’s also a bit of deckbuilding- four prebuilt decks are available at the start, then midgame you change decks.
I had the roads deck, together with a scoring card for gold, a scoring card for settlements on rivers, and the “volcanoes erupt” scoring card, which is unique in destroying buildings and giving out negative VPs. I was able to score fairly even on the rivers and make sure I wasn’t hurt by the erupting volcanoes, but Sophie had all the gold so she benefited from my last scoring card. Sophie and Rufus were indeed generally more successful in scoring for fishes, wood, grain, wood and grain, four houses, and so on. I entered the second half of the game in last place.
Fortunately for me that meant I benefited from the game’s catch up mechanism, allowing me to choose my deck and go first. We were each dealt an extra scoring card before choosing decks- I drew positive volcanoes, so I picked my old deck again and discarded the “volcanoes erupt” scoring card – face down of course. Rufus chose the rivers deck and Sophie the ships.
Since I could see everything I was able to sail up the main river with my double move card, straight into the volcano area, while side-tracking a little by road to pick up gold, wood and grain. Rufus copied my route but had to travel by road as I was blocking the river spaces. Sophie concentrated on the edge of the island with her ships. Rufus achieved his 5 settlements connected by road scoring card and then discovered he couldn’t move- he only had river cards left and no river spaces he could move to. Final scoring reflected this...
Philip 127 Sophie 125 Rufus 105
Earlier in the evening, on another table...

Santa Cruz
In lieu of actually being on holiday, Woody, Jon and myself decided to spend Wed evening exploring a small island... interestingly the only Santa Cruz that shows up on googlemaps is a region of California, so despite sounding like a good name for an island it's nothing of the sort.

It's a simple game, you all have a slightly different deck of cards (7)
showing roads, rivers and ships. Also 3 distinct scoring cards. On your turn, you can play any card. A scoring card triggers a scoring round (for all players), while one of the other card enables you to explore further. After all cards are played, you do the same again, but with (more or less) the same scoring cards, so this time players are aware of what might be coming up and can explore with that in mind.

As a first game for everyone progress was a little slow. Jon was darting around the perimeter of the island, while Woody and myself were rushing inland. The scoring cards for me were all based on particular resources (discovered via explorarion), while Jon had one for coastal regions. Woody had the dreaded volcano card giving negative points to anyone building on the lucrative (but risky) volcano areas. During the first round Woody and Jon seemed to score well, and both were picking up lots of bonus bird tiles while I didn't take any.

So to the 2nd round. Here a lot of information, previously hidden, was not available. I was lucky to get a scoring card giving positive points for volcanos which lead my strategy to buld on those areas hoping others would think it was a foolish plan. Jon took the scoring cards I had which didn’t leave him many options.

This time around I made a beeline for the volcano areas (in a somewhat obvious manner), while woody focused on coastal areas (preferably with fish). Jon was feeling squeezed a little with the deck he had.

After a few turns it was clear that Woody and myself were getting a comfy lead on Jon, and as the last few cards were played I'd managed to push ahead... but Woody had a enough birds to open an aviary and this would settle the game... Nice game, not very deep, but enough going on to keep things interesting, and a nice change of pace at half time when the game presents a slightly different set of challenges for the 2nd round of exploration.

Jon 138... James 145... Woody and his harem 149.
P.S “For he can prophesy” is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Sorceror”

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

"He should all means essay to put the plague away"

We’ll start with the all-nighter.

Through the Ages (thanks Scott)
The fourth week now for Through the Ages, with the previous week seeing Andy and Gareth hone their skills, trying to take down Scott. Despite their effort without Scott around to keep the rules in check they didn’t quite make it out of the Middle Ages.

This week Gareth tried to perfect a military strategy although struggled to get any early technologies and tactics that would work well together. By the mid-game though it was gaining traction and with Scott just about keeping pace, Andy bore the brunt of the aggression that curtailed his civilization and kept him the whipping boy. Towards the end Gareth had done enough damage to Andy and needed to close the gap with Scott who was focussing more on Culture than Strength and even had Andy stealing some of his science; but the defence against Gareth was high, and with a quick Age 3 Gareth failed to get his war started once he had boosted his strength further.

Scott started modestly with a library for some science and culture but all of the early upgrades for mines, farms, anything really were snapped up by Andy first of all and Gareth if not so it would be Age 2 before Scott could upgrade his mines, farms or science significantly. Moses early on had gotten all of his population cheaply and helped avoid a need for much upgrading in Age 1. Luckily Andy was the target for Gareth in the mid-game, giving Scott a chance to upgrade and having dodged some attacks towards the end of Age 2 he took off in the last age, leading in science and culture, rebuilding strength and keeping Gareth at bay.

Andy made a strong start with some Pyramids to get extra actions to steal the best technologies before Gareth could get his hands on them. An early Iron upgrade and things looking good, except there was a bit of a shortage of food and some events to kill population hit hard, followed by Gareth’s attacks keeping Andy in a bit of a rut, using any available food and rocks to rebuild military and having to conscript people out of mining that never really recovered all game, culture points barely got a look in.

The events at the end favoured a lot of infrastructure which helped Scott the most, then Gareth and Andy, keeping our positions fairly stable as they were quite divided by then anyway. The importance of a military presence was highlighted by Gareth who will seemingly keep trying to attack his way to a victory.
Scott – 180 Gareth – 125 Andy – 63
And now for something completely different...

Skull and Roses (thanks Jon)
Looking for a ‘quick’ game that would handle a large number of people at the beginning of the evening, Woody brought out 2 copies of Skull & Roses for a mammoth 8-player game. Notable events were:
Dan was the first to be eliminated, after playing do-or-die.
Surprisingly, Woody “the skullmaster” soon followed.
The game lasted for a whopping 45 mins (thanks to the judicious use of skulls by Tom and Rob).
Philip played a masterful game, keeping all of his mats and never finishing a bid until the very end, when he suddenly scored 2 points in 2 rounds and swept to victory. Well played sir!
I’d forgotten how much I enjoy this one (although maybe with slightly fewer players…) – bring it again Woody!
Philip - won; Dan, Woody, Tom, Paul, James, Jon, Rob – lost

Dan, Woody and our American guest, Alan sat down for a quick filler while the elongated Skull & Roses was concluded.

High Society (thanks Woody)
In Reiner Knizia's High Society, players bid against each other to acquire the various trappings of wealth (positive-number and multiplier cards) while avoiding its pitfalls (negative number and divisor cards). While bidding, though, keep an eye on your remaining cash - at the end of the game, even though all those positive-number cards might add up to a win, the player with the least money isn't even considered for victory.

Dan set off aggressively and seems destined to wipe the floor with Woody & Alan. Woody's caution meant that he collected very few cards when he was lumbered with the theif that stole his highest card. However, the tide turned when Dan's wealth of cards became void at the end as he had the smallest amount of money. That left Woody with 1 pt x 2 and Alan with 23 pts / 2 .. so Alan was the winner.
Alan 11.5, Woody 2, Dan lost.
Back to Jon, in plague-ridded Medieval Europe...

Rattus (thanks Jon)
New to Philip and Amanda, Jon tried a rules explanation based on his play last week, and hopefully didn’t make it sound too complicated…
Amanda made good use of the King throughout the game, and ended up as the only player with cubes in the castle, squirreling 5 away for the final scoring. She also dumped myriad cubes onto the board, which Philip and Jon then helped return to her supply.
Philip only took one character card all game (the Knight), and used it to good effect when ravaging (mostly Amanda’s) regions.
Jon used the Monk and Merchant to manipulate his cubes and rat tokens around the board, and as he had co-located with Philip in several regions, he did not fall prey to the Knight’s power too much.
Again, the Witch was not chosen all game (actually, Jon had left it in the box for the first 2 turns, which didn’t help…)
In the final scoring, Amanda failed to add to her castled cubes, whilst Jon had spread out enough to retain the most cubes on the board.
Jon 10; Philip 6; Amanda 5
Another filler...
6Nimmt (thanks Jon)
After much humming and hawing about how to accommodate 7 players at the end of the evening (with no Saboteur, Nanuk or Diamant available), Dan decided to leave (or did James push him…), so the remaining 6 played this 100% skill-based game.
The first round saw Rob lead with an impressive 2 points, whilst Amanda was hoovering up cards like there was no tomorrow.
In the second round, Jon hit the magic zero, and again, Amanda found the cards magnetically drawn to her.
Always good fun, with plenty of moans and groans thrown in for good measure!
Jon 4 (4+0); James 14 (12+2); Tom 16 (8+8); Rob 22 (2+20); Philip 32 (11+21); Amanda 65 (36+29)
A nice gambling game to round off the evening...

Lords of Vegas (thanks Paul)
As Woody had spent months in Vegas paying his way playing poker, and Alan had been to the gambling capital of the world many times, it was a home from home for the two of them. Paul is always more than happy to pretend he's there, so the three players were transported back to the 1951 Nevada desert plots of a city yet to be built.

Woody sprinted into the lead on the money stakes, gathering huge amounts of cash while Paul and Alan were spending everything they got. Alan started to build large from the start in the C block with a silver casino. Paul was spread out and had to concentrate on a small number of gambling dens, ignoring several of his plots.

Woody decided to invest his riches by sprawling, and as we saw, when Woody sprawls he really sprawls. He turned a two lot purple casino into a six lot by paying double for each of the additional four lots, which would surely pay him back handsomely when a purple casino card came up. And the odds were with him as only a handful of purple casinos had been turned thus far.

In the meantime, Alan's silver casino spread to the strip and the strip was turned, so it was his turn to rake in the winnings.

Paul build two medium sized enterprises which he eventually also managed to spread to the strip.

Meanwhile, the clock was ticking past eleven o'clock and it was looking unlikely for the game to be finished, but strip cards came, gold casinos came, Alan's silver casino came a few times, so surely the purple casinos would come soon for Woody so that he could clean up? At least one? Maybe?

But the bar staff came and called time on us at 11.30 with quite a few cards left to play, so the game was brought to an early end, with Alan claiming the most victory points and Woody curious to see just where those purple cards were.

So after we decided to finish, Alan turned over the next few cards for curiosity's sake, which would have all paid out to him, meaning that he'd have built on his lead and almost definitely won by a margin. Woody's curiosity also got the better of him, so he too then searched through the remaining cards and found that the bottom five or six were all purple and would have not have been drawn! What are the odds on that happening? And Woody had been responsible for shuffling the cards during setup!

So with the game unfinished, the probable scores would have seen Alan win, with Paul capitalising on Woody's unbelievably harsh luck coming in second, with Woody still waiting for the never-to-appear purple cards as the sun came up...

While we waited for the casinos to close, the rest of us were feeling a little thirsty...

Lemonade Stand
Jon had been keen to play this, and persuaded Tom to slip it in at the end of the evening. This is quite a simple ‘predict supply and demand’ card game, although Jon seemed incapable of understanding the straightforward ruleset until about halfway through (thanks to Tom for his patience!) Basically, players decide each round how much lemonade to produce, how much advertising to do, and what price they will sell at. A ‘weather’ card is then turned over, which affects how much demand there is for lemonade (no-one wants a refreshing cold drink if it’s raining). Supply and demand is then resolved, and players take the profits into their hands.
The end of the game was a bit rushed, as the pub was closing, but a final round hoorah saw Jon produce a vat of lemonade and sell it to the hordes of sun-drenched customers for a massive profit.
A little bit multi-player solitaire, but quite a lot of game in a small, quick package. Worth another outing…
Jon $3.25; Tom $2.80; Rob $0.95; Philip $0.30???

P.S “He should all means essay to put the plague away” is a quotation from in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard.