The Ross-on-Wye Boardgamers

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

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Friday 3rd May - Left Hand Down a Bit

Ben Bateson
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Early exchanges on Facebook Messenger revealed it was going to be 'one of those weeks'. He reeled off a list of games for 4P that I didn't like the look of, and then I responded with my own list of 4P games that met with glum silence. Fortunately, I then got a response from Dave which put us up to 5P and made our programme for the evening laughably easy to select.

After the fiasco that accompanied my teaching of Imperial last Christmas, I prepped Navegador very carefully. Everyone listened in such patient silence, it was hard to tell whether they were rapt with my every word, or completely baffled and lost. Thankfully, it appeared to be the former, although Gerv made some 'comedy' errors for increasing effect, and I only made one slight rules error. Like true beginners, we went all-out for exploration rather than stay home and build up our workforce, and consequently found ourselves slowing down a little at the climax. Gerv tanked all his ships in a last-ditch attempt to win, but Tony took full advantage, piecing together a late-game engine, and stretching to a win of a few points over John (who wouldn't have been allowed to win anyway after some early-game accidental rule-breaking was discovered).

We all very much enjoyed Navegador, and I can see it becoming a regular part of the rotation. The parallels with other Mac Gerdts games are very apparent - not just the rondel, but an economy drawn out of Hamburgum and an endgame scoreboard that preceded Transatlantic. It has a pleasing engine-building feel that is not so typical of a Gerdts game, though, and gives you even more control over your route to victory than Concordia. This one jumps straight into the 'favourites' list.

Having seen a decently-priced copy of Witch's Brew appear on the BGG marketplace shortly before Easter, I had endeavoured not to bit the seller's hand off, but I had willingly forked over £35 and was now in possession of a well-handled and much-loved copy of this terrific game, a direct predecessor to Broom Service but even more devilish. It was terrific stuff, of course - a minefield of double-guessing and silly voices (yes, even Tony acquiesced to do the silly voices. I'm guessing we might get more of this now that the days of bedtime to reading to his children are behind him). I spent one round virtually unopposed and zoomed into a lead which I didn't see fit to relinquish.

Tony suggested we play an H-Index game to finish. I'll say one thing for this self-imposed challenge: it is certainly reducing the time spent dithering between games. Citadels was straight onto the table and up-and-running before Dave knew what had hit him (his first game!). King John had a good go at hogging the critical cards, until he realised this was only going to get him repeatedly assassinated. Tony and Gerv briefly built mini-metropolises, but it was Dave who quietly schemed in the corner and came out of things for what I believe might be his maiden Ross-on-Wye victory. Nicely played.
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Sun May 5, 2019 7:31 pm
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Friday 26th April - Greeks Bearing Gits

Ben Bateson
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Our annual tradition of Good Friday games was put on hold this year, as Becky and I were sunning ourselves in the Isles Of Scilly. We returned to a visitor who presumably knows a little bit about sun himself: Aussie games designer and all-round decent chap, Matt Dunstan. I had thrown caution to the wind with a 'don't bother RSVPing this week and we'll take pot luck on the games' email, so it was fortuitous that Tony and I had both brought enough to equip the chunky 6P sessions that topped-and-tailed our evening's gaming.

We started, as we often do at 6P, with Peloponnes, and - as we hardly ever do - managed to deal the correct number of disaster tiles to boot. I managed to equip myself with a range of disaster immunity tiles, but suffered for the final feeding and kept only 7 population. This looked like a tie with Tony for the win, until he remembered that money also scores points, and managed to pip me with 22.

I was baffled to see the box for Dadaocheng in Tony's bag, and assumed he'd re-purposed it for a playtest of something or other. But, no! Matt had actually requested a play of this. John - typically - couldn't remember the first thing about our last play, so volunteered to make up a table of three. Which left me with Becky and Gerv, and they were ALREADY unpacking Terraforming Mars, in yet another blow to originality and common sense.

Becky went off on a heat-production streak (which was a somewhat odd choice, given that I had the energy-generating corporation), and Gerv lobbed asteroids around for fun, making full use of his 'pay three money for another point' special action. I forsook all this nonsense, saved up a whole bunch of various discounts, and then Terraformed REALLY heavily in 4-5 consecutive rounds. Oxygen was maxed out before the others could get a forest on the board, and I finished things off a round or two before anyone expected with a double Ocean special project (discounted of course). The final results weren't even close, to be brutally honest, and we even managed to sneak in a crafty For Sale before the Dadaocheng table finished.

With a goodly hour left on the clock (yes, we really can play Terraforming Mars that quickly), we had plenty of time to wrap up matters with 6P games of Northern Pacific and Braggart. Matt won both while claiming (in true RoW self-effacing ironic style) that the former was all luck and the latter was all skill. Braggart seemed considerably more lively than in previous weeks (still five plays remaining!), so perhaps it hasn't quite lost all its charm after all. Or maybe that was the beer.


On a different note...

It seems to be very much the done thing this week for BGG's various bloggers to list their Top Ten Knizia games, so here are the Top Ten for the Ross-on-Wye group:

d10-1 Modern Art is our undisputed champion. It was one of our 'founder' games some nine years ago and continues to tantalise and intrigue us even now. We have graduated from playing with a set of Masters Gallery, to the dirt-cheap Mayfair edition, and lately to the pleasingly-compact Oink edition.

d10-2 Too Many Cooks is a very close runner-up, and probably our most-played 'pure' card game. A little cribbage card game where you bid to win cards of a certain suit, the genius lies in the No Soup (I'm aiming to take NO cards) which immediately puts a big red flashing sign reading 'target' on your head, much to the delight of everyone else. Tony has been so paralysed with fear by this game that he almost refused to play it for a while.

d10-3 Botswana is widely regarded as genius, although we have recently been under the tutelage of Botswana International Master, Matt Green, who has been careful to educate us on the follies of early Rhino gambits and the dreaded Delayed Elephant. We hope to host an international qualifier soon.

d10-4 Ra is a late discovery and a sleeper hit. Aside from the fact that John is comically bad at it, it has all the ingredients to be perfectly pleasing to our regulars.

d10-5 High Society isn't much liked by Becky, but everyone else is well up for it. I love the semi-random game-end trigger in this, and of course the infamous 'spend most money and lose' rule.

d10-6 Through The Desert definitely deserves more table time than it has had. It's a superb exercise in area control, and almost unbelievable that something so geometric can accommodate up to five players.

d10-7 Samurai has only had a few plays so far (we seem to struggle to get tables of 4P for some reason), but everyone has recognised its genius.

d10-8 Indigo went down surprisingly well, although I suspect Tony was on strong painkillers at the time.

d10-9 Keltis: der Weg der Steine Mitbringspiel is a delicious filler in the vein of Coloretto.

d10-1d10-0 Blue Moon City is much liked by Becky and John, although not by me. All these 'movement on a grid' games tend to leave me very cold.
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Sun Apr 28, 2019 4:58 pm
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Friday 12th April - More Trains and Automobiles. Different Games (mostly).

Ben Bateson
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In contrast to last week's four-hander, we were a distinctly chunky seven this week, as Gary swung over to celebrate his birthday weekend. Gary coming over is great, because it means - by custom and habit - that we get to start at 7 o'clock, for an extra half-hour of juicy gaming goodness.

Dave was truly a sucker for punishment, aiming to be back - albeit a few minutes late - for his third straight week of gaming. Being a bit lacking on 6-7P starter fillers, I combed the house looking for Incan Gold, failed to find it, went out without it, and then somehow found it at the bottom of my games bag anyway. Needless to say, it was a hoot with 7P; Gerv's new-found courage blagged him a prime relic and a fistful of treasure in Round 3, and that was enough for the win.

Not wanting a whole evening of 7 Wonders (and I hadn't packed it anyway), we split to two tables. Gary delighted Becky by requesting The Voyages of Marco Polo; conversely, I couldn't run away quickly enough. The 'refuge' table saw John, Gerv and myself trying out Trains & Stations, and quickly wishing we hadn't bothered. As seems to be well-documented here, it's just not statistically valid to try to play a 'Goods' strategy, and this needs some serious house-ruling to become a viable game. What a pity.

John was particularly disparaging (not least because he'd lost, I suspect), and the default game-choosing rule of "let he who complains most about the previous game pick the next one" kicked in. To be fair, John plumped for Kraftwagen, which drew no complaints from me. This is one of those games that I inexplicably ENJOY teaching, my teaching script being somewhat internalised and even being good enough to set up an interesting market's-worth of cars at the same time. My efforts were clearly wasted on Gerv, who lit an uncharacteristic Jeremy Clarkson fire in his eyes and spent much of the game zooming around the racetrack for increasingly profitable points. John had got a big kickstart on research, so I steered clear of the high-tech shenanigans, preferring good mass-market stock. But I couldn't catch John, who snagged the top two price-points in rounds 2 and 3, albeit with a little bit of unwitting help from Gerv when it came to buyer selection.

Marco Polo drew to a close just as we were totting up the final round, and - as per Tony's blog suggestion last week - I proffered the idea of teaching Glass Road to Dave. Simultaneously, Becky offered up Wingspan to other table, and Gerv practically EXPLODED at the prospect. I mean, if you've seen a labrador retriever when you wave a bit of cheese at him, that's the sort of reaction I'm talking.

Teaching Glass Road to Dave was an excellent idea (one of only a handful I can remember Tony having). Firstly, I have another pristine internal script for this game, and secondly: he bloody loved it! With scarcely a mis-step, he ploughed his way to 19.5 points, based largely off an intricate goods-conversion engine, probably the best first-time score I have seen a beginner clock up. Coincidentally, 19.5 - according to my stats app - is also Tony's all-time best ever score, something he failed to live up to. But he did come up with the most excellent excuse-in-defeat that he thought we were only on round 3 of 4 when the game ended.

Wingspan had also wrapped up (Gerv and John tied and happy enough not to look up the tiebreaker). We had half an idea that Gary would turn in early (he often does) and, rather cruelly, had packed Northern Pacific for exactly that eventuality. It was too claustrophobic with 4P so we were interested to see the full-blown 6P experience. As it turned out, it was sheer lunacy - albeit very clever lunacy. Somehow, I finished a single point ahead of a trio of runners-up. Becky pronounced herself utterly baffled; seating order was admittedly something of a factor.
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Sun Apr 14, 2019 10:19 pm
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Friday 5th April - Trains, Paints and Automobile

Ben Bateson
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Becky was ill this week, and Gerv - for what I believe was the first time - was in non-attendance. But Dave was up for more games, clearly not cowed by his Terraforming Mars experiences, and joined the ubiquitous trio of myself, Tony and John.

It had been one of those weeks where Tony and I had carried out some meticulous planning by email, and so we had a perfect menu of games lined up. Even more remarkably, the chef de hotel was up to speed with our wishes and things went exactly according to plan...

Starter: Northern Pacific. This one had caught our imaginations a fortnight previously, and was simplicity itself to introduce. But, in contrast to our fairly loose and open 5P game, Northern Pacific with four was a frightening tense affair. I put myself out of contention straight away with a first round full of blunders, and it went down to the tie-break to put Tony (playing a 'build trains and don't worry about the investment too much' strategy) a smidgen ahead of John.

Main Course: Automobile. For whatever reason, we dumped my 'nice-looking Lookout edition' back in the bag to play Tony's 'horrific-looking original edition'. With a sum total of exactly two plays between the four of us, there was a lot of looking up of various rules and exceptions, and we got at least one important rule wrong in true tradition. I doubt it would have made a lot of difference to the final tally, though - I went much more aggressive with my car building than the others and some $600 ahead of John. My previous single play of Automobile had left me rigidly "not too sure about this one" and, to be honest, tonight's play did very little to change this opinion. It might be good to get another play in soon just to reinforce the rules, but I can't see it on the radar.

Pudding: Modern Art. This most delightful of confections is frequently munched, scrumpfed and scoffed at Ross, and there would be no better time to introduce Dave to it: with four it's still good enough to be competitive while not being able to drown a player like a five-hander. Sure, Dave made a mis-step or two, but he finished well in credit for the game (something which he didn't do in Automobile), and certainly put a run on me for third place. No-one could get the better of John in this one, though, certainly not after he put a complete monopoly on round 2 sales.

Liqueur Coffees: Braggart Tony rescued Simon The Lonely Ogre from being made into a hat, and Dave slept with the King, much to the disgust of three of the King's wizards, who were asked to leave the room. Obviously. I think Braggart will get a bit tired as we nudge it towards 40 plays, but there are only six left.
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Sun Apr 14, 2019 8:52 pm
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Friday 29th March - Stars in his Eyes

Ben Bateson
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The New Member alarm sounded this week, with the arrival of Dave, a delightfully modest and unassuming gent who is trying to break out of the cycle of 'games with the wife'. What better place to visit?

He was given quite the warm-up, too, with a very silly session of SpaceTeam (highlight is still the frictionless cards and watching John spray them liberally across the table in the manner of some comedy sketch where a novice pretends to know how to play poker), followed by Tony's 'Dobble With Train Lines' prototype of Off The Rails. It was a lot of shouting and running around, and I'm not sure I can report with any accuracy who won (if, indeed, that was anyone).

Time to get Dave playing some proper games, so Becky, John and I initiated him in classic Puerto Rico, while Tony continued playtesting his Attention All Shipping confection with Dan and Gerv. The new quests that Matt and I had suggested the previous weekend sounded like they might require a bit of balancing.

We are fairly generous with beginners' advice at PR (to the extent where Gerv won a little too comfortably when we taught him), so Dave was liberally coached to an excellent Factory-driven mid-50s score. I went early coffee which was a mistake, but the engine grew well and I managed to Trade efficiently in order to pick up a second big building, cracking 60 for the win. We finished concurrently with the playtest table, so a shuffle was on the cards.

When Dan is in Ross, thoughts of Agricola are never far away. Dave wisely decided that he didn't want to jump into a veritable sharkpit with Tony and I, and opted for the other table, who were hungrily setting up a Terraforming Mars - quite the adventure for a new player!

To the background of John bellowing Terraforming rules, we quietly drafted Dan's 'big deck o'cards' (trademark pending), paused for the obligatory complaining about what rubbish cards we had, and got on smartly with the process of losing to Tony. Dan put himself out of contention early on and I committed a couple of dreadful inefficiencies in Season 2, so it was all a bit of a dreary, combo-free procession in the end, not really helped by Tony using 'Man With Shed' (of ALL the possible insults) to nab my Village Elder bonus. Hmmmppph.

With Mars still being thoroughly Terraformed (I think John won...eventually), we closed matters with a quick For Sale (Dan won) and wiled away the wee hours waiting for the last oceans to go down.
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Sat Apr 13, 2019 5:35 pm
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Friday 22nd March - The Big Blue

Ben Bateson
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Schedules were rearranged and plans shuffled this weekend, as Matt Green strode into town, with the aim of playtesting a bunch of games to death on the subsequent Saturday (although I fear the metaphor may literally have been true in one case). As he bravely made his way from somewhere faintly ghastly in the Home Counties, we luxuriated in our traditional Herefordshire pub with a copy of For Sale. This is a game that has caught Gerv's enthusiasm of late, and he demonstrated it too, handing out £71,000 worth of beatings.

Matt arrived just as we were totting up, sneered vaguely at For Sale (the fool!), and while he was at the bar, we withdrew a game guaranteed not to make him turn his nose up: the outstanding Botswana. The key to Botswana, of course, is to talk as good a game as you play; Tony and Matt started off reminiscing at length about the now obsolete double-Elephant opening, while both playing fairly straightforward Rhino variations. Gerv did his best to keep up with the intense commentary, while I rightly earned scorn for a failure to identify a Leopard. Matt's status as current FIDB UK number-one saw him take an unsurprising win, although Gerv did well to press him towards the end. John's score remains best unreported.

Northern Pacific was new to all of us, but it came with Matt's endorsement, which was enough to give it a shot. It's a remarkably simple luck-free network-and-invest game, and I think we caught it at its absolute peak with 5 players. Matt took the usual 'teacher' role of coming in dead last, and Tony won with a score that - as it turned out - was something of a canter. In the weeks that have passed since, Northern Pacific has turned out to be quite the flavour of the month at The Plough.

For something a little weightier, Tony proposed Calimala. I have enjoyed our previous plays of this, but always felt the whole thing was a little bit out of control, particularly at higher counts. Tonight did little to dispel this opinion: John leapt out to an early lead, and no-one could overhaul him (although I had a bloody good run at it during final scoring). Lots of people took advantage at abusing the same action space with multiple counters, which kinda took the gloss off the game, and Tony forgot the tie-break rules. Would still play it again, though.

We went for Chinatown next to relieve the tension, although oddly everyone chose to play it with a very close and tactical mindset. It was one of the odder Chinatown games I've played with deals not readily available, and pretty much nothing of interest in the last round (although the latter isn't strictly unusual, it does take some pace out of the game). But it was all very much worth it - all five of us finishing within $150 of each other, Tony just edging ahead of the pile. The shenanigans weren't over yet as we concluded matters with an uproarious trio of Dobble (strictly 'Hot Potato' variant), and Becky belatedly joined us for the finale.
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Sat Apr 13, 2019 2:50 pm
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Friday 15th March - Espana poor Flavor

Ben Bateson
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Go on, give me a thumb for that blog title. I've earned it.

As has been extensively discussed in the past, we always celebrate the absence of a group member by playing at least one game that they can't stand. Tony had, this week, jetted off at great expense (£29 on RyanAir) to LieieieieiraCon in Portugal. He has an inexplicable dislike for several excellent games, including Kingdom Builder, Small World, and Airlines Europe. As Dan was boosting our numbers back up to a relatively-stable 5P, they all got packed.

For the first time, an attendee was obstinate enough to claim the comfy armchair in lieu of the melange of dining chairs, and remarkably it wasn't me. Dan propped himself up with his pint and vape-machine and watched John and I shuffle dozens of shares and tiny aeroplanes. He then proceeded to buy up nearly the entirety of the yellow airline at the cost of everything else. John went for Abacus early, Gerv followed him, and I rashly decided to also do so: this was almost certainly to my detriment but very little is certain in this game. But, like Lancaster, Becky is near-invincible at Airlines Europe, and it proved so again. Frankly, it wasn't even close as she hauled down nearly a century of points, patiently constructed from two dominant airlines, and leaving the rest of us in the mediocre 70s. Dan professed himself bamboozled by the whole experience.

A trawl through the games bag for a follow-up mostly drew complaints that I hadn't packed Princes of Florence. C'mon peeps - we can't play it EVERY week! But I did have a most excellent alternative in the shape of El Grande. It was wonderfully snipey stuff from the start when John played out his 13 immediately (FAR too early) to pinch a quick dozen points, and the middle third got deliciously cagey with the Castillo packed full of a couple of dozen cubes. Despite getting all my cubes onto the board, I was never really in contention, and John suffered from a lack of cube mobility, which allowed Gerv to overhaul him in a superb final scoring phase. A brilliant, and hard-won, victory indeed.

El Grande is over 20 years old now, and I'm yet to discover a better area-control game.

To finish, five hands of the club favourite, Too Many Cooks. At least, I hope it will remain club favourite long enough for me to clock up another nine plays. I'd better stop winning, then, because this one all went rather processionally in my direction, despite a late charge from John. It might have helped that Becky (to my left) and Dan (to my right) mirrored each other Menu-card for Menu-card in all five rounds. Even more anticlimactically, no-one had a really disastrous 'No Soup' round, although Gerv ran things close. I haven't quite figured out what Tony thinks of Too Many Cooks, although he seemed to spend a sizeable chunk of LieieieieieiraCon playing card games, so maybe his ways are changing.
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Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:18 pm
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Friday 8th March - In Which Tony Wines (redux)

Ben Bateson
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Becky and Gerv are on a obsessive Wingspan addiction spree at the minute, so when a last-minute cancellation from Bill reduced us to 5P, there wasn't much doubt about what would hit the table first. I am a little concerned that the 'becoming overplayed tipping-point' will come sooner rather than later with this one.

Becky charged away with the opening game here, building up a working owlery, while John hatched eggs aplenty and Tony went on a deep dive for bonus cards. A deep dive, moreover, that ended a bit like the ones in Deep Sea Adventure, in abject failure. As I foresaw last week, the best and earliest combo stands a pretty good chance of winning the whole thing, and such was Becky's role.

There was an almighty dither about what to play next. I had half-prepared to teach Navegador, but our predilections do tend to swing towards the comfortable and familiar at this time in the evening. Eventually we rocked towards Viticulture, and it turned out that I had to teach anyway because no-one other than Becky could remember the slightest thing about the rules. There was a brief light moment when Tony was dealt two Papa cards, but that was about the last of the smiles as everyone furrowed their brows in concentration, not least Tony who emitted a perpetual grumble throughout about his starting cards.

Gerv went into a smart line of blended wines, backed up with some killer endgame point-earning visitors. I went pretty orthodox, making lots of wine and relying on the game to age it into valuable material. John did the same, but going for the cheap and rustic end of the wine market - the bonus VP space on the 'fill wine contract' earning him very nicely thank you very much. My waiting strategy ultimately proved to be the wrong move as John - with his very last action - squeezed out one final wine contract to end the game when I needed to roll around one more year for some massive points.

One of our many unofficial house rules is 'it's better to let the most complaining person pick the next game than have them storm off home in a huff', so Tony was given free run of the games bag for our closer. He is much in love currently with the classic Citadels, and so we set up for a half-hour of Assassination and intrigue. We also finally got around to playing the popular 'expansions substitute cards' house-rule, which did indeed freshen the game for all concerned. And with everyone up to speed, any notion of runaway leader was brought smartly into check. We all finished over 20 points (the only time to my recollection that has happened), Tony's bonus points just allowing him to edge past John for the win. And everyone goes home contented, not least me, having crossed another 'difficult' game of Citadels off my H-list target.
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Sat Mar 9, 2019 9:18 pm
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Friday 1st March - Cock Soup

Ben Bateson
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Getting the first drinks in, Tony and I were regaled by John and Mark, a couple of lads (I say 'lads'; they are in fact crowding 60) who had popped their heads around the door a few months ago, shown an interest in what we were doing and promised to 'get around to turning up and learning some games one day'. This is a promise I've heard a few times, and have a corresponding number of dead email addresses on my mailing list, so it was great to see them come good on a promise and dip a toe into modern gaming.

The twins (for they are indeed) had brought with them a Waddingtons classic, Exploration, a legacy of a misspent youth. Tony is always up for a museum job and gamely dived in while Becky and Gerv - inevitably - set up Wingspan for Table 2. We were also expecting the return of Lydia, and she turned up just in time for the opening cards to make a table of four. John built up quite an engine, driven mostly by eggs, to take an easy win.

So, the whole world has been making noises about this game for months now. What's it really like? It's OK. But it's not brilliant. It became obvious this week that lucking into the right combos is a big part of the game, and the card turnover is nowhere aggressive enough to build those combos for yourself. The interaction is fairly minimal. The card art and production is magnificent and engaging, but the plastic card box is quite possibly one of the ugliest components I have encountered in any game. The publishers compare it to Terraforming Mars, which is accurate, and the fact it plays in less than half the time of TM is no doubt a boon. And, like Terraforming Mars - and, indeed, a great deal of the Stonemaier output - it is curiously engaging while make it difficult to put your finger on exactly what is so compulsive. tl;dr: interesting, pleasant theme, good length, mechanically wanting, Will play again, 7/10.

Exploration finished amid a lengthy lecture from Tony on how modern designs have improved on tired old roll'n'move. Thankfully this didn't scare off John and Mark and they agreed to expand their horizons. John joined Tony and a terminally-addicted Gerv for another round of Wingspan, while the rest of us treated Mark to something a little more unusual, in the form of Cuba. He picked things up extremely quickly (John had hinted that Mark might be the true geek at heart!) and battled hard for a most competent second place. Cuba is not the most engaging game, so this gives me heart that he might be up for more. But, giving me even more heart, upon hearing a typically off-colour comment from John, Lydia blurted out mid-game "I've really missed being here". Nice to know we're not scaring her off. Or maybe it's the bacon-flavour bar snacks.

John, having enjoyed a couple of rounds of For Sale, and Mark had to retire before final closing games, so we compacted into a table of five for Too Many Cooks. A few of my recent games of this club favourite have fallen somewhat flat, but this was a flat-out classic that saw everyone have a good round. Lydia succumbed to her No Soup card and things looked to be between John and Tony for a long time, but I stormed through with nine points on my final Onion round and pipped them by a single point. One of the closest finishes I can ever remember.
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Sat Mar 9, 2019 8:46 pm
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Friday 22nd February - Wren Boys

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Back to our semi-regular player count of six this week, thanks to a visit from Michael, who is looking set to become one of our rota of occasional poppers-in. It seemed a shame to split to two threes straight away, so we opened with Peloponnes, one of our few 6P mainstays. After being left straggling last time around, Gerv was determined to keep up with the pace, and invested heavily on some premium buildings. It was enough to keep Tony into last place, which is always cause for humour in itself. I was feeling quite pleased with breaking into the twenties in a population-heavy Arkadia, but was beaten out of second by Michael (24), who in turn lost out to Becky by a single point. Becky has not really taken to Peloponnes in the past, so I hope this will prove to be the turning point.

Wingspan was very much shaping up to be the new-game experience of the week, but I also had the competing attraction of Ulm, which Michael had brought along prepared to teach. Promised a 'game of earning victory points in another themeless European city' (Michael's slightly dispiriting sales pitch), John came along to have a go.

Despite it not really offering anything original, I quite enjoyed Ulm: a game that turns over swiftly and packs lots of decisions into a short playing time (just 12 turns each) is always likely to be a big tick in my book. Michael, with his game's worth of prior experience, won by a dozen points or so, but later confessed to earning a few points on a rules misinterpretation, not that it would have made any difference. Will be playing again.

Wingspan had clearly gone well, with Becky pronouncing it 'excellent' and Gerv stating it was the 'best game he'd played at Ross' (oh, the naivete...). Becky was certainly excited enough to try and teach it to John and I. And she NEVER teaches games.

Once we'd ironed out a few omissions and clarifications with Tony, he retreated to finish the evening with Symphony Number 9, a game which threatened to distract me with a variety of 'Chopin Liszt'-type dreadful composer puns, plus the entertaining noises of Tony having to sell his furniture in order to pay his orchestra. But Wingspan is enchanting, if lightweight stuff, and we played out a thriller with just five points separating the three of us. More detailed thoughts on the game next week.

The orchestral impresarios were still battling away as we yawned our goodbyes - evenings can sometimes disappear surprisingly swiftly.
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Sat Mar 9, 2019 6:57 pm
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