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The Ross-on-Wye Boardgamers

Beer and Boardgames at the Prince Of Wales (formerly at the White Lion). "It's not F-ing Monopoly, alright?!"

Archive for Ben Bateson

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Friday December 2nd - Blease Blease Me

Ben Bateson
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Tony went one better than last week by suggesting a host of things we ought to play and then not arriving at all. But there was another great British designer (sorry. '...another, great, British designer') who was - more or less accidentally - at the forefront of our gaming this week. This was veritably the week of Sebastian Bleasdale...

Unfortunately, my Essen acquisition of Key To The City: London had failed to cut the mustard, and had left us in the uncomfortable position of 'wishing we were playing Keyflower' every time it hit the table. It wasn't a complete dud by any means, but it was tasty trade fodder and I promptly got two games in return: Imhotep and Black Fleet, the latter being another Seb-designed game, highly-recommended to me by an acquaintance or three. Two of these were to hit the table tonight.

Imhotep first, a shortish starter for the three of us regulars while we waited for the Boydell appearance that never materialised. This design feels very like a Schacht game at times with its granulated actions, strong timing aspects and the way it propagates deep choices without obscuring the strategy. There are still aspects of 'being backed into a corner' that worry me, although it was clear at times that this is an offshoot of the 3P game. Nevertheless, this is short but deep, accessible and tactile and - in short - just the sort of thing I'm happy to play twice. Indeed, we did play twice and I lost miserably both times. John took the first on his Obelisk, but Becky put a huge Burial Chamber combo together in the second to overhaul him.

A jaunty pair of musicians, playing modern hits in an acceptable style, talent-level and volume, accompanied our setting up of Prosperity (Bleasdale/Knizia). My experiences of 3P games of this in the past are that it has been wildly swingy, but that may be coincidence as it was tense and close tonight. I broke away with a strong economy early on (even at quite worrying cost to my pollution track), and spent it on vital point-scoring buildings, but Becky was raking in huge amounts of cash late-on, and John's impressive 11 research points saw a huge bound up each track in final scoring. I had just enough left over to see me into first place, but it was a very (and thankfully) close run thing in the end. All things told, this was one of our best Prosperity sessions, but I still find my thoughts drifting back to how the game might be better customised to create asymmetric nationalities and/or board layouts.

It was almost a party atmosphere in the Prince Of Wales by the time we'd finished: a crowd of 20 or so turning out to tappity-foot to the music. So we broke out Black Fleet: a sort of Piratey-Machi Koro type game, if you will.

My reviews of Bleasdale games often drift towards the dreaded buzzwords of 'sterile' or 'bland', but there's no levelling this sort of criticism at Black Fleet. It was an absolute hoot from start to - barely 30 minutes later - finish. it feels a lot like another lesser-known favourite, Caribbean, in the plundering of other ships for cargo, but the occasional lottery of blind-action-selection is replaced with a smothering of special abilities: some granted by cards and others by your 'achievement line', which is randomly dealt and a bit different every time. I'm not sure what John and Becky thought, but I absolutely loved it: light, frothy, backstabby and intensely tactical. And it couldn't fail to be even better with 4P

Thanks, Seb, for a great night. I enjoyed everything we played, whether it was yours or traded for yours!
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Sun Dec 4, 2016 5:58 pm
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Friday 25th November - A Rosenberg for my Rose

Ben Bateson
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It had been over a month since I had seen Tony, and I was rather looking forward to his cheeky smile and rapier wit once more. Instead, I face the following - verbatim - Facebook Messenger exchange

Tony: How many tonight?
Me: Five
Tony: Arse

Which I - correctly - interpreted that the huge shortlist of two games that he wanted to play (presumably Round House and Tasty Laurence) wouldn't accommodate that many. Still I loaded up the games bag with plenty of outstanding five-player fare: Concordia, Keyflower, Princes of Florence and El Grande.

Tony didn't want to play any of them.

Instead he preferred to play a 2P Le Havre with Becky, while leaving John, Bill and I to Cuba. Another game, incidentally, that would have been more than acceptable with all five of us playing.

Assuming - incorrectly - that Bill had recovered from his chronic 'how NOT to place your buildings on your plantation board' syndrome, I opted to throw the El Presidente expansion in: a first for any of us. There has been a lot of guff talked here about how the expansion 'completes' Cuba. Well...it's a good expansion, and I enjoyed it a lot, it fixes a bad Start Player rule, and I'll almost certainly include it every time now because it doesn't add any complexity. But it would be stretching a point to say that the base game is unplayable without it.

Remarkably, John used to badmouth Cuba, but he's been recently transformed to one of its biggest proponents. Truth is, he had the lead from the opening round and - pausing only briefly for a classic John-ism* - managed to keep it throughout, despite a late charge from myself. I still need to win over Becky (and Dan), but Cuba is belatedly becoming part of a favourite rotation for the rest of us.

I suppose the one bright side of the anti-social Le Havre table was that it finished concurrently with our rum'n'baccy exploits, so we had time to all congregate for a game of Friese's excellent double-guessing game, Unexpected Treasures. It might be a mite crowded with 5P (God knows how it plays with 6), but it didn't stop Becky proceeding to a huge win.

Tony had been untimely called away for family duties, so we had about an hour to fill. Various permutations were proffered, but only Buccaneer managed to meet with everyone's favour (it really was one of those nights). This is one of those uniquely Stefan Dorra games which really seems to simple to work but is actually hugely fun once you get stuck in. It also seems to be a particular favourite of John and he managed to win once again.

So, the practical upshot was a night when no-one seemed to want play anything that anyone else wanted to play. Roll on Christmas!


* Hearing the jukebox's Random function spin up Peter, Bjorn and John's seminal 'Young Folks', apropos of nothing, John looks up, spits out: 'I fucking HATE whistling' and returns quite merrily to planning his turn.
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Mon Nov 28, 2016 10:05 pm
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Friday November 18th - Civ You Later, Alligator

Ben Bateson
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There was no blog last week because of my annual sojourn to Midcon. Learning what was played from Becky (Round House, Vikings, Kingdom Builder), I was tempted to write a purely fictional 'this is what happens when I'm away' essay, that finished with John and Tony having a fist-fight in the car park and Becky, Rob and Joey engaging in a lusty threesome on the picnic tables. But we don't know Rob and Joey all that well, so I thought it prudent to be quiet.

As usual, I had attended Midcon at the same time as Bill without actually troubling to talk to him much or play any games with him, so Friday was a chance to rectify this. As recommended by Mr Burnham (and sold to me by Mr Dewsbury), I had a brand new copy of The Golden Ages just dying to be christened. There was an unfathomable amount of iconography to be learned, but actually it's all relatively straightforward once you get started, and the whole thing plays out a little like a streamlined version of Sid Meier's Civ. John, as The Romans, abused a lot of 'free' building through all four ages, while I settled down as the French and did a lot of invasions. Phoenician Bill gathered obscene amounts of cash, taking no less than 46 bonus points in two scoring phases at the end of the game. Becky's Arabians also latched onto the 'free building' and went to a squeaker of a finish where John won by a single point.

I've spent a lot of time looking for a good Civ-lite game to my tastes, and The Golden Ages is as good as any I've found so far. I like the unique Alexandre Roche art, and the general lack of anything too spreadsheety. I'm not overly convinced that the whole thing is well balanced (Becky and John's leaders seemed very strong), but that could well be down to inexperience. It's a disappointment that Stronghold have made such an arse of getting the expansion to market (especially given that I have the Quined edition), otherwise I'd be first in the queue. I think the thrilling finish helped sway everyone else's opinions too, and next time should be a lot lighter on the Player Aids.

For our follow-up, Becky chose Albion, that curiously obtuse game of how to invade Britain from the bottom upwards. I've got a lot of time for it and we've got well into double-figures without coming close on how the game potentially could be 'solved'. Ultimately, I suspect it's a very clever design that inexplicably doesn't get the recognition.

Separate from the others, I chose to build my first Settlement early, and that proved useful in getting legionaries into an extraordinarily hostile East Midlands region, which knocked down a building level for both Becky and an incredulous John. This put me in a driving seat early on (perhaps a flaw of the game is that an early error is almost unrecoverable), and I slotted my winning village into place at least a round before Bill, and with the bar staff starting to cash up (it's OK folks: they're not going to throw us out. We're not at the White Lion any more).

A little bit away from the norm for the group tonight, and two games that don't get enough credit. Now I've just got to work out how to 'homebrew' the Golden Ages expansion...
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Sun Nov 20, 2016 11:20 am
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Friday November 4th - Low-calorie Die Arts

Ben Bateson
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This week we welcomed back not just Rob (of Rob and Jo), but also new protege gamers Mischa and James. Anticipating sharing the Prince Of Wales with a bunch of speed-daters, we had planned some ironic 2P-gaming, but as it turned out the dating evening had rather smaller turnout than we did, so it was back to original plans.

Original plans, in this case, consisted of John teaching Mischa and James Manhattan, while Becky and I guided Rob through Cubist by way of some easy starters. Tony (absent again, through no fault of his own) always eulogises about Cubist, but the more we play it the more cracks are beginning to show. Mostly, in this case, a difficult case of runaway leader which became apparent early on as I cruised away with things. Still, I don't often win at Cubist.

James had apparently picked up Manhattan like an old stager, despite John's rather erratic teaching method (mostly enacted by holding the manual right in front of his face and reading it word by word), and was cruising his way to victory in his inaugural game by the time we had finished.Casting about for something of filler length, Becky rather optimistically suggested Innovation from my '3 Player' miscellany case. This met with approval from Rob, and it wasn't difficult to see why as he picked up the first two achievements in quick succession. Rather irritatingly, he then started attacking my rapidly burgeoning civilisation with medieval Oars and Construction. Becky was nowhere, and despite the best interference I could muster, Rob cruised it in the end.

John - inspired this time perhaps by a poster for an upcoming Psychic Supper - had embarked on teaching Divinare (a much easier job; only three main rules, really), and for his hastiness got himself thoroughly thrashed by James. Again. Fearing we might never align the tables, we opted to keep things relatively simple and cracked open Isle Of Skye. This was a first play for Rob and he didn't get the friendliest draw of scoring tiles, with two nearly unscorable boards on A and B. This didn't stop him hustling into a narrow early lead. But I had my eye on a bigger prize than the scant pickings from A/B. Frame D had 5 points per set of buildings, and I used it to tie down a whopping 15 points in the last round as Rob's lack of scrolls cost him. Becky, again, was miles off form. Rob pronounced himself distinctly more impressed with this than with Cubist, which is a good reflection of the two games' respective merits.

Finally, we got the two tables coincided, and when Mischa leaned over and said 'can we play Codenames?', I assumed she had some prior experience. No, as it turned out, just very good taste and could clearly spot a fellow Czech a mile away! It might seem somewhat unfair to team myself (randomly, it has to be said) with John and Becky, but I haven't exactly had a stable history in the game with either of them (I confess my preferred team-mate is usually Tony). Mischa, though, was too cautious in game one, preferring single-answer clues, and we cleared up nicely with clues such as 'Dressing:2' (OIL+LEMON) and 'Wagner:2' (RING+PIANO).

Game 2 was much tighter. James was cluing against John, with the latter in his usual 'flight of fantasy' mode, and they went down to the final spy. Unfortunately, it had been unclued by James, and a wild stab went in the wrong direction.

Game 3 put the newcomers in a strong position, with Becky's unreliable cluing ('Nimbus 2000' for WITCH+LIMOUSINE being wrong in nearly every single way imaginable). But it gave birth to the best guess of the night, with Rob's clue of 'Beta:3'. I believe he was associating ROOT with some sort of techno-geekspeak, but Mischa saw straight through that and to the obvious: Beta + Root = Beetroot! This goes down as one of the best examples of deduction I have seen in Codenames.

There had been talk of some Citadels to finish, but it's not one of John's favourites (he was even plugging for more Codenames in order to delay it!) and the clock was creeping past 10:30, so we opted for something lighter to finish. My proposition of Mondrian: The Dice Game met with enthusiasm from all but John ("Dexterity? Hmmmppph"), so Becky nobly made up a 2-hander to finish with the delightful and relatively unknown Metallurgy. She even let John win. My second lot of cubism for the night saw some frankly alarming dice antics, and James finishing with only three cards left us all with very small paintings ("what if someone only finished with one?" was rightly queried at this point). I think I won by dint of a couple of multicoloured treats.

James and Mischa had plenty of positive things to say about the games they had played, and promised to return in the New Year after various family commitments had been fulfilled. Shame - that's two fewer for the Christmas party.
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Sun Nov 6, 2016 9:39 pm
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Friday October 28th - Pair-o-Dice Found

Ben Bateson
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Fear not, those who feared we were homeless! The Ross-on-Wye gamers had up-and-shifted wholesale and at 7:20 this week there were three cars pulling into the spacious car park at the Prince Of Wales. Another four attendees were to join us, although all of them managed to miss the great big car park and put their automobiles elsewhere.

Rob and Jo were with us again during their extended stay in the region, and we also had an intermittent visit from Darren and Sian. Well, just Darren as it turned out; Sian needing a quiet night in. Perhaps the best visit of the evening was that of two complementary baskets of chips as a welcome gift from our new pub!

With everyone in such a fresh mood, I took the opportunity to introduce some new games that I had picked up pre-Essen. We started with Metropolys while Becky set up Stone Age on the other table. Bill turned up just as the boxes were opened and made a determined move away from Stone Age. Darren, being last in, made up the fourth Stone Age place by default.

Metropolys is an interesting break with form for Ystari: normally, their games are full of fiddly balancing rules and a hefty accompanying manual. But Metropolys is remarkably streamlined, with only a handful of rules. Essentially an auction and area control, you outbid your opponents by putting a larger building in an adjacent territory. There are a number of ongoing and end-game goals to facilitate it all, but nothing that can't be explained by an A5 summary card.

Although John and Bill seemed to have some difficulty with the uptake of these very simple rules (John's, indeed, lasting until the very end of the game and getting his goal cards incorrect due to his failure to read the crib sheet, for which he entertainingly tried to blame me), Rob was on board quickly and he was vying for the lead come the end, only to lose out to me by a single point.

Stone Age was taking a little longer because Jo hadn't played before and Gary had only played once, so Becky had embarked on a joint-teaching effort with Darren before - unsurprisingly - thrashing them by half a score-track. We played a little Love Letter to catch up, only to find that Rob was some sort of incredible Love Letter prescient genius (or just very, very lucky). Out of seven rounds played, he won five, and we were only too glad to abandon proceedings before we all embarrassed our selves.

Gary had shown interest in my copy of Above And Below, which was absolutely fine by me. Rob deferred in favour of letting Jo played this one: it looked like he and Darren were going to opt for a bit of Keythedral, but Becky bottled the teaching of it and they ended up with something a bit simpler in the form of Kingdoms. Poor choice, I feel: it's not at its best with 4P, and the difficulties of doing all the maths in the pub made it cumbersome. But they seemed to enjoy themselves anyway, and Rob edged it before Darren turned in for the night. Bill followed up by comfortably outplaying Becky and Rob at Too Many Cooks.

Above and Below, then? This was one that I was looking forward to; its simple blend of action selection and storytelling ticking two huge boxes for Becky and I. We managed to get a couple of rules impressively wrong early on, but corrected for this by making the game a round longer. Some of the storytelling had Bill merrily guffawing over his cards as he overheard various innuendo-laden phrases from the next table, but it was all thematic and pleasant enough, even though I ran away with it somewhat.

The negative reviews of Above and Below point to its weak storytelling, and it's not exactly the best feature. I would worry for the replayability with only 210 or so unique paragraphs. I also found too many stories too prosaic, and I really wanted to be making interesting 'do I swap a rope for 2 reputation?' type decisions which just aren't there. I'd dearly love this to be fixed with an expansion. However, and it's a big however, Above and Below is a big winner in terms of fun and sociability, and throwing in the negotiation element was a brilliant touch to tie the whole thing together. I enjoyed it very much, whatever it might lack in serious game-design terms.

A terrific first night at the Prince, then, and two excellent new discoveries for me. I hope it's the first of many!
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Sun Oct 30, 2016 10:14 pm
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Friday October 21st - Shitty Cities

Ben Bateson
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Tonight was to prove a pivotal moment in the six-year history of our group. Regular readers will know that our relationships with the new ownership at the White Lion was somewhat fractured (through, as far as I could tell, no fault of our own), and we walked in tonight only to be told that the upstairs room had a prior booking. This seemed a little odd given that there was no-one up there and all the lights were off.

We were offered a table in the main bar, as long as we left by 10pm. Apparently, staying until the 'normal' closing time of 11pm is frowned upon these days. I respect the landlord's decision to close when he chooses (one of my favourite boozers is only open 5-9pm), but it was difficult to accept him telling me that they were closing at 10 o'clock when he was standing directly underneath a board advertising their Friday opening hours as 'Noon to 11pm'. He further rubbed in that he didn't really give a shit about us by inviting us to 'find somewhere else' and promptly sitting a table of three diners at the table for six he had just offered us.

This was particularly anti-social, as we were expecting two visitors tonight, in the shape of the lovely Rob and Jo (pronounced 'Joey', but it looks like a man's name when I spell it like that). It seemed a little anti-social asking them to drive out to the sticks and play at John's house, but they proved well up for it.

So, no less than seven gamers gathered around John's dining table and merrily deprived the White Lion of £50 or so of turnover. Tony had returned with an Essen haul and - most rarely for me - I was willing to play nearly all of it. It seemed only right to have a go at Key For The City - London, more entertainingly described by Tony as 'what happened when Sebastian Bleasdale dropped a copy of On The Underground and a copy of Keyflower, looked all the bits and had a brainflash' with Becky. Jo and Rob came along for the ride, despite having no experience with Keyflower. There was a highly optimistic 'quick-start for Keyflower players' in the rule-book, which was precisely no use whatsoever, so we started at the beginning and hashed out most of the rules anyway.

Meanwhile, Tony had taken Colony (it looks OK, but meh - dice) up with John and Gentleman Dave (who was already halfway home from the White Lion!) and there was much rolling, taunting and some rather disturbing stage-laughter.

So - Key To The City? It's sort of like Keyflower, but you build the roads rather than use them to move other stuff around. I'm not quite sure it's won me over yet - the initial tile choice is somewhat overwhelming, and the fiddliness of the rails is annoying (Richard Breese told me it's not at all difficult to flip over tiles that are covered in rails and - well - he wasn't right). It also seems rather cynically set up to flog lots of identikit international versions. However, Key To The City does iron out some of the more awkward Keyflower rules (maximum tile occupancy, transporting goods, bidding on boats). My net reaction on this first play is pretty much as I expected - it's just too similar to really stand out.

It's one of my maxims that if Game X makes me think 'I wish I was playing Game Y', then Game X won't last in my collection. It's a little early-days yet, but I'll invite trade offers!

Colony was a little swifter than Key, so the others had time for Kamozza, a little Japanese ship-loading thing. My experience of small Japanese games that Tony brings back from Essen suggests that about 25% of them are good and the rest are just mediocre. I suspect this one was in the latter category.

Much to Tony and John's immature giggling delight, we just HAD to try a game of Who Soiled The Toilet? This is essentially The Resistance in all but theme ("not quite as po-faced, b'dum-tsh" - Tony), with a bizarre dexterity element (get the turds in the pan) thrown in for - well - no good reason. It was OK; probably more amusing to play in horrified public.

Tony was on teenager-ferrying duties tonight, so bade an early departure, leaving my Essen haul with Becky for her to cherry-pick my Christmas presents. Waiting for my Essen goodies this week has been something like eating at a posh restaurant - Becky was allowed to see the full menu, but apparently I only got the prices (and the bill). We polished off with a couple of six-handed rounds of No Thanks (works surprisingly well at that player count), and - of course - the inevitable Dobble.

We are not returning to the White Lion - our search for a new home begins this week!
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Sat Oct 22, 2016 4:54 pm
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Friday October 14th - Mother's Pride (...of the Yankees)

Ben Bateson
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A double dose of punnage, this week, as we welcome my mother on one of her semi-frequent visits to the club. On one hand, this meant it was best to stick to relatively simple fare (although Mum is no mean gamer, and has repeatedly thrashed me at Dominion and Qwirkle), but on the plus side it meant John was on his best behaviour.

Tony was off hob-nobbing with the Essen hoi-polloi, so Becky took the opportunity to suggest a game that he (inexplicably) hates, Airlines Europe. Mum was quickly up to speed with the rules (more so that John, it appeared at some points), but probably erred by over-buying some shares in companies where she already had a comfortable lead. However, there was only ever going to be one winner: Becky emerged with a huge lead - I've still not quite worked out how she does it - and left us all in her wake.

After a protracted search, I had finally secured myself a copy of Dream Factory (actually the Hollywood Blockbuster edition, which I find a bit less thematic, but beggars can't be choosers), and had optimistically plopped it into the bag. Pleased I was, then, to return up the creaky stairs from the bar and find it being set up. After a miserable false start where we completely misinterpreted the rules about the economy distribution and left me impoverished, we rebooted and went about things again. John's early blockbuster was soon trumped by one of Mum's, while Becky went into the shell and played for miserable budget films. I began to suspect that this would be one that would shortly be on her blacklist. At the closing awards ceremony, Mum pretty much swept the board, and won quite comfortably.

The false-start had eaten up half an hour of precious gaming time, so we were into end-of-night-filler territory already, to which John proffered 6 Nimmt, much to the suspicion of the rest of us. I managed to hold myself to moderate scores, but John was just too good.

I felt like I'd been hustled three times!
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Sat Oct 22, 2016 4:17 pm
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Friday October 7th - Mob'n'Art

Ben Bateson
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There was an undercurrent of a bust-up at least a day before we started this week. John, having free choice because of his birthday, promised his annual reprisal of Cosmic Encounter, which met with threats to walk out from Becky. John backed down - he's not such a bad chap really - and proffered some of his more universally-favoured games.

But it was a box on top of my bag that caught his eye first. Casting around for a quick opener before Dan's arrival, he picked up Greed and chucked it nonchalantly on the table. Tony's initial enthusiasm lasted about as long as it took to deal the cards, and he took up his 'obtuse learner' mode, necessitating me having to actually explain the concept of 'a hand of cards' and convincing himself that he was going to put himself out of the running with his first drafted card (his complaints that there were no cards that earned him money were a little odd, given that he passed me at least two that did). At last he got himself up to speed with a reasonable gang of thugs, but John was streets ahead by then.

Anticipating Dan any minute, we painstakingly counted out colonists and chits for Puerto Rico. John has a history of winning at this, so we put him in fifth seat. But he piggy-backed my Corn shipping too easily, and picked up an early Tobacco sideline. Settling for a small warehouse that saw an obscene amount of action, I plumped for one or two huge Captain rounds, but was pipped by a single point. Becky, getting a workable Factory combo on the go, was chasing hard in third and could have won it given another round.

Tony, by now, had decided that he was actually willing to give Greed another chance, so we spieled the rules again for Dan's benefit. Oddly, he didn't seem to have any confusion whatsoever, and certainly raked in enough cash to break up John's winning streak, temporarily at least.

Positively buoyant with enthusiasm, JP's next choice was Modern Art, amid general agreement that it had been far too long since we had played this club favourite. Dan, sadly, declined to adopt a silly accent, but he certainly navigated his way around the auction elements quickly enough, instigating a short-running 'no loose change' gag with Tony, and coming up with some inventive and authentic painting titles. I had reserved a key Double auction for the last round, but couldn't rake in enough to overtake John. Finishing places were more or less identical to those in Puerto Rico.

And to finish? What else but Dobble? Reducing me to near hysterics proved a winning formula for Becky and Dan who more or less split the honours between them.

Happy birthday John - definitely the recipient of all the gifts this evening.
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Sun Oct 9, 2016 8:52 pm
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Friday September 30th - Puns, Troyes, Thebes Times a Lady

Ben Bateson
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A mourny-eyed John met me outside the White Lion on our return this week:

'Back room's shut', he muttered.

I steeled myself to storm into the pub for a showdown with the owners, only to find they had dolled up the restaurant instead into a more-than-acceptable games room. There was no hint that it was done with us in mind, but it's certainly a premises we'll be happy to accept for now.

Tony had - as usual - brought his collection of 'never mind everyone else, THIS is what I want to play' (I mean, really? Does he really think any of us want to sit through The Networks again?), while I had obliged Gary who had nicely requested Troyes. We settled to it quickly with Bill while Tony began inducting John into Scythe, determinedly ignoring my snortings every time he mentioned a 'bottom action'. Scythe was also playing host to occasional-visitor Phil (from Aberystwtyth), turning up at a very opportune time to convince the landlords that we were a diverse and welcoming group. I wasn't really paying enough attention to find out who won.

The city of Troyes was giving us an easy ride this week, with no big deals in the Events deck, and no more than three black dice in play at any time. Nevertheless, Bill was accursed with dire throws all the way through (REALLY bad. Really can't-mitigate-THIS bad) and pottered around doing what he could, while Gary played a strong Cathedral-and-Events game, very impressively for his first time. I saved up for a couple of megaturns, but I had piles of cash and no influence (like Prince Philip, say) and faltered to two points shy of Gary.

I'm a score of games into Troyes, and the richness just continues to grow with every game. The card combinations alone produce extremely harsh games, powerfully rich games and diverse populous games, and every experience is subtly but genuinely different to the last. I can see it lasting another score without trouble, but I'm not sure I can say the same of Thebes. If anything, tonight's game sent it in the other direction.

The rules quickly dispatched, we were quickly underway (apart from Gary, who had about a year's worth of problems with the time track), only for Bill to pull out a MASSIVE first excavation in Mesopotamia and suck all the fun out of it straight away. I don't mind a bit of luck from time to time, but - combined with my Egyptian monopoly - the whole thing was just over about half a year before the appointed finish and we just ended up meandering about without enthusiasm until Bill's inevitable victory. There are some aspects I like in Thebes (not least some silly storytelling-lite about giving lecture tours, disastrous digs, and buying Russian cars), but another game like this could well kill it for good.

Tony's group had opted for some gentle 6 Nimmt in the Scythe afterglow. After John had unsurprisingly won a couple of games, we all got to join together for Codenames. John randomly dealt teams ("none of this bloody drafting business again") and I wound up with Tony receiving his usual aimless cluing. After three clues we had identified precisely one spy and had identified John's clue of 'Death' as being relevant to about 16 of the remaining cards, when - completely undeservedly - we were gifted the game by Gary unexpectedly fingering the assassin. This was a win of such barefaced cheek, I felt I ought to show you a representative gif:



No? Made me laugh.

The second game saw me cluing alongside a highly reluctant Bill ("I always claim I don't want to clue, and look what happens...") and I could see a few nice combos waiting. But Bill suddenly hit his stride with several inspired guesses (to his credit, Phil made an excellently perspicacious team-mate), and was just two away from victory when he dropped 'Thorin: 1'. About three seconds later, it dawned on Tony that neither of the opposition guessers had a blinding clue what this meant, and the giggles started. All I had to do was negotiate John's random-association ("Tube? Yes, that's an organ"), and wrap up a second win, thankful that Tony was reliably on my wavelength as always.

So, does a new era beckon at the White Lion? We're not sure yet, but I'm cautiously hopeful.
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Sat Oct 1, 2016 9:55 pm
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Friday September 23rd - Occasionally, I get the urge to blog like Tony

Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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The bravest gamers in the land
Are Captain Billikins and his band.
That's Boozy Ben and Beardy Tone,
Desperate Dan and Cheesy John.
Not overlooking the librarian specs
Of female trouper, Sneezy Bex

One Friday night, Beardy Tone said
"Now Evil Art is put to bed,
My kitchen table, quite charming
Shall play host to a bout of farming!"
Sneezy Bex was even whizzier
She was up for a bit of Knizia

John made the rules sound gritty
As he laboured through Blue Moon City.
After many torturous dispatchings
He opened the bag of spicy scratchings.
Boozy Ben was winning 'Gric
A generous draft gave him quite a pick
While Tone wasted cards aplenty
His tableau remarkably empty
Desperate Dan tried a combo;
Forgot to develop, what a dumbo!

Billikins said "Well, I'll be blowed!
I fancy a game of Glass Road."
While he perused the rules docket
Cheesy John opened Stephenson's Rocket.
Beardy Tone said "I remember this!"
But his memories were somewhat remiss
For greater grew his perturbation
During John's rules explanation.
"It's complexing, bemusing, what a pain"
Tone was heard to complain.
Boozy Ben was not appalled:
That was just the game HE recalled!

Much accursed was the fool
Who designed Tony's bottle-opening tool
But eventually the real ale flowed
And Boozy Ben won at Glass Road.
Bex had plenty of time to box and bag it
AND deal a quick game of Braggart!

Ben went to the library seeking games
And returned with the box of Codenames
"Don't draft teams!" said John, fast,
"It saddens the one who is picked last"
Nevertheless, Ben and Tone plowed on,
Picking Bex, Dan, Bill and...John.
The first round went the way of Boddle -
His words were a relative doddle.

Two big thinkers took up the role of spies
And furrowed their brows and crinkled their eyes
It took Dan and Bill so long to say
That we found quite another game to play
"Films with Fish!" went up the cry
Eel Cid, and Prawn On The 4th of July
Shouting and laughing so uproarious
It made Codenames somewhat laborious
I haven't got a clue who won
Amid the celebration of fish pun.

The bravest gamers in the land
Are Captain Billikins and his band
That's Boozy Ben and Beardy Tone
Desperate Dan and Cheesy John
And into the night shot many flecks
From the nose of sneezy Bex.




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Mon Sep 26, 2016 8:00 pm
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