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.