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 21st December - Capybara beats Badger beats Shrew

Ben Bateson
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The blog title arose from some bizarre furry-animal-masturbation in-joke. I guess you had to be there. If this isn't making much sense, I'd stop reading now.

Gerv has the reputation as Charity Shop Champion, and he surpassed himself this week, picking up a copy of Beasts Of Balance for a mere £2.50. Unfortunately, he had neglected to pick up any batteries or install the app, so he had to hasten over to the Co-op and tap around with his iPhone before we could get started. I took the opportunity to get the puntastic evening started, and took a photo of....



...the Plinth of Whales


We had a 25 minute tinker with The Beasts before John arrived, and that's about all it merits. It's pretty, but probably a bit TOO 21st Century for us.

When the Ross gamers are gathered and in party mood, then Absolute Balderdash is always top of the agenda. Neither Gerv nor Lydia have any experience with the game, but proved to be outstanding Dashers, Gerv in particular coming up with some excellent Initials clues. John gradually grew more and more suggestive, starting with leather chaps and devolving into widow-knocking (this was a mis-hearing of 'window', to be fair), furry-animal stroking, and eventually just dissolving in his own inexplicable fit of the giggles. It was quite sweet.

At halfway, I had stretched out a massive lead and was looking favourite for my first Balderdash club win, but Tony is always apt to make a competition of it and was only a single space behind when I crossed the line. He did have the generosity to award me 'clue of the evening', though. Everyone giggled (quite a lot) when Lydia read out 'FLART', but only I had the gall to define it as 'a South African apartment'.

I also picked up 'clue of the evening' in the much faster-paced Taboo, when 'badger' made a happy reappearance, and I was able to clue it without using any of the words on the card, but with passing reference to Tony's penis. Becky grasped it with worrying speed.

Having thoroughly exhausted Gerv's chuckle muscles, and even having raised a titter from a normally-serious Lydia, we went for something all the more serious in the shape of Codenames. Tony clued in typically accurate style against Gerv for the first round, and we went two down when Becky - much to her delighted - out-manoeuvred me. But Lydia came good in her first ever clue-master round, up against a John so lethargic that Tony and I took the opportunity to play a quick round of 'films with cheese' (A Few Gouda Men, The Hunt for Red Leicester, The Babybels of St Trinians, Fromage to Eternity etc). This is really MUCH more effective than that silly hourglass!
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Sat Dec 22, 2018 9:08 pm
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Friday 14th December - Binary Planets

Ben Bateson
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Becky wasn't very willing to leave the warmth of the log fire this week, and I had to lure her out the house with a carefully-waved Terraforming Mars. It seemed that Tony had had the same idea, and so we - not without a little irony - carefully set up back-to-back Mars boards and prepared for two 3P games.

Gerv and John were first through the door. Gerv elected to join Becky and I and we set to immediately, pausing only briefly to chuckle at a beswaddled Dan when he turned up (he has an electric car which might not make it to Ross if he turns the heating up).

Becky went straight at the milestones, but I was happy to play a slower game, abusing my 'pay 3 money for an extra point' corporation, and giving Gerv an occasionaly leg or two up by playing Jovian tags on my way to a blowout final round where I pinched a key reward from under Becky's nose, much to her aggrievement. Gerv was quietly building a little engine that landed no less than 30 endgame points, which blew him back into contention, but I had enough to hold on for the win. Tony was my 'oppo' on the other board, also playing red, and also won.

Last week had taught the three of us that we might not play well, but by heck we do play fast. We had time for no fewer than THREE fillers before the Tardigrades (a recurring note of humour tonight) on the other board had finished. An initial For Sale went my way by a ludicrously high margin - Becky's 'always pass' strategy unsurprisingly not being optimum - but the second was a lot more tense, all of us finishing within $9,000 of each other. We also ploughed our way through the excellent Ticket To Ride: New York in 15 minutes flat: trust me, this is exactly the right game length for one of the TtR series.

When the smoke had cleared from our high-speed play, we re-jigged the tables. Dan had an urge to revisit Too Many Cooks (aka 'Soup!'), and I am never one to disparage such an excellent card game. Gerv joined us for this one, determined not to hit negative points again (he failed to do this, but creditably pulled himself with a big couple of last rounds). It was a little uncompetitive with three, although the No Soup rounds were an interesting exercise in tactics: I deliberately took a 2-card hit at one point to improve my hand, which was definitely a good move in retrospect, given that Dan and Gerv both scored minus A LOT on their No Soup rounds.

Tony had clearly had his jealousies roused by not getting to play Nusfjord the week before, so celebrated by whupping John and Becky before we all joined together for a deliciously silly Braggart. I hadn't even realised that it could play 6P, otherwise it would have come out a few times before. I scored an heroically low 11 points, about a quarter of John's winning score. And Gerv was involved in some sort of filthy threesome in the royal court. Of course.
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Sat Dec 22, 2018 8:50 pm
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Friday 7th December - The Number of the Beast

Ben Bateson
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Tony hates it with five. Becky gets uncomfortably claustrophobic when it's three. But for me, the worst number for games night is always six. And yet, for the December weeks leading up to Christmas, it's all we got: six, six six...

To exacerbate matters, I had the ugly shadow of a 6am start the next day hanging over me, so was desirous of curtailing matters at a reasonable hour. On the compensating side, we were blessed with an all-too-rare visit from Dave (who, like Tony, is looking positively slimline these days). Not that I got to play games with him mind - he, Tony and John were already setting up AuZtralia when I walked in. Neither Becky nor I are fans of whimsical Chthulu themes, so we were happy enough to play Nusfjord with Gerv. He had definitely gotten his 'eye in' for combos after a first couple of tentative plays, and picked up a working forests-and-Elders selection, which only really lacked a high-scoring C card to complement it. Becky went Route 1 - buying shares and saving up for the biggest-scoring buildings, whereas I shot for a risky-but-profitable Reserve combo which picked me up free gold and wood in the last four rounds. I fell lucky on the C buildings and got two good ones out of hand, which was plenty enough for a mid-30s win.

Given that Tony's rules explanation had not long finished, we were pretty confident we'd have time for a second game, and broke out Concordia. Having had a lot of joy with the Egypt map earlier in the year, we flipped it over to find another outstanding map in the form of Crete. Seriously, if you mostly play Concordia 3-4 players, this should be the expansion you buy first. Both maps have rules 'tweaks' that are fascinating without overpowering the basic mechanics (I still generally deprecate the Salsa expansion rules, although the maps are nice). I went determinedly 'Big Colonist' on this map, not doing much Architecting until very late on, and it paid off very nicely with a massive 146 points, nearly a third of which was through maxed-out orange cards. Becky had tried hard to build the game to an early close, but ran out of money and was a good 20 points back.

With that early finish still at the back of my mind, we joined the two tables back up for a brief, rousing, and very silly Citadels. Despite getting my favourite Ballroom card out, I never managed to pick up the King, and Becky looked like she was cruising in for a win until John egregiously sacrificed his Armory. Oh boy, was she cross at this! But no-one minded too much, for Dave had snuck in under the radar for a win, which was definitely preferable to handing it to Tony.
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Sat Dec 22, 2018 8:24 pm
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Friday 30th November - The Boy who put the Dike Under his Thumb

Ben Bateson
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I had loaded the bag with some potential St Andrews' Day temptations, and indeed we kicked off with a merry Isle of Skye, boosted to a full player count of five when Tony arrived. It wasn't the most varied of scoring sets, leaning heavily on connecting roads and closing areas, and indeed we were left wishing that Tony had arrived a little later, as he fair zoomed away with things, almost-but-not-quite lapping Gary on his second circuit of the board. Not that Becky and I did much better, finishing joint fourth and only two points ahead of Gazzer after he scored up a bevy of endgame scrolls.

Gerv and Dan both rolled in during the closing machinations, and both expressed a pressing desire to play Caylus. This left Becky in her usual quandary - should she learn something new from Tony, or would she get to play her favourite game BUT have to teach it? Eventually, the passive route won over and she went with John to learn Lowlands (a game I had quite fancied myself). Feedback was positive, so I imagine this is one that we'll be investigating further in 2019.

Caylus went merrily frolicking along in the manner that many Caylus games do (although the Church went unusually unbuilt). Gary, in particular, made a big thing out of saving up for the lucrative blue buildings, and he was only an action or two short of building his second one, which would have resorted in an outright win. Meanwhile, with Gerv pottering away in last place, Dan and I played opportunist at the castle; annoyingly, he always seemed to be that critical batch ahead and even a final-turn charge couldn't stop him winning by a few points. Gary finished an excellent debut game with just enough gold to tie me for second.

Lowlands had finished a few minutes ago, and - despite my best imprecations - I couldn't persuade Becky and Tony to set up 7 Wonders (this is a long-standing point of jibing and annoyance). So, I packed away Caylus MYSELF and managed to set up 7 Wonders MYSELF, eventually persuading Becky to give me some very begrudging help in terms of Wonder-randomisation.

The first two games both saw Tony score 49 and John score 50, but neither way good enough for a victory - the first one losing out to my full-o'-resource Giza and the second to Becky's opportunistic Halikarnassos. Becky had plenty of time during the second game to select cards from the discard pile for Dan slowed down to an analytical mess, at one point completely unable to select between the three cards in his hand. His final score of 38 suggests that whatever complex analysis was going on almost certainly wasn't worth it.

We finished with a round of the delightful '7 Blunders' variant, which Tony rather enjoyed despite having previously poured scorn upon, and Dan scored exactly 38 again, much to his general disgust and the outright hilarity of the rest of us. John won this one with an outstandingly good 17 - this is much harder than trying to score 60 at normal 7 Wonders, take it from me.
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Sat Dec 22, 2018 8:02 pm
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Friday 23rd November - The Ancient Ones....play a game about Chthulu

Ben Bateson
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We are slowly returning to normality in that little gap between Midcon, Tony's birthday bash and - it creeps up so quickly - our Christmas merry-make. And so it was that six of us congregated to, as predicted, listen to John's hyperbole- and expletive-studded review of last week's comedy act. Walking in somewhat late, I missed even the name of the comedian, so satisfied myself with loitering passively-aggressively at one end of the table until the others actually hitched up and made room for me.

Tony and I had been attempting to learn the rules to Futuropia. In true 2F style, they are disarmingly straightforward, but matters are complexified by a poor level of intuition, fiddly setup, and tenuous theme. Once we overcame these humps, though, matters flowed smoothly enough. I was pipped for a win by John by that frustrating single point, after deliberately ending the game early to stop the others snaffling the nicer-looking rooms.

The jury's out at the minute. The whole thing felt rather procedural. Tony suggested it was reminiscent of Factory Floors, but it felt more reminiscent of Power Grid to me: a game that I have always found a little disappointing in its linearity. I suspect we need to play with the variable-setup B-side buildings to get the most out of it. Chalk up another 'unconvinced' to my Essen crop.

Becky, Dan and Gerv were meanwhile charging through the club staple of Agricola, and I was most disconcerted to hear 'Harrow!' jokes being made without my direct contribution, although probably not as disconcerted as Dan was during a lengthy exposition by Becky of possible ways to block him (the second time a Bateson has done this in two plays ). The two games finished concurrently, which made for a heartening opportunity to switch everything around. Tony was most excited by AuZtralia, to the extent where he name-dropped the game some twenty times or so over the five minute break. I am less enthused about the theme, so I switched places with Dan so we could teach Goa to Gerv.

AuZtralia sounded entertaining enough ("...so John loses one sanity"/"Are you sure he can spare it?" and "What happens when you lose all your sanity?"/"Get a copy of Scandaroon"), but I doubt Becky would have gone a bundle on the silly sub-Lovecraftian theme either, so we were happy enough farming spices. Gerv picked things up admirably quickly (it's never been my favourite game to teach), and soon had a decent money engine rolling along, which allowed him to bid on a huge fistful of expedition cards towards the end. It was an excellent tactical move and deserved to get him a better score than the 28 he managed. The single-point victor was back in force, though, and I pipped Becky 38-37, despite having blundered early on by chucking the wrong expedition card.

We had plenty of time left over, so broke out Capital. BGG seemingly only recognised this game by its title of Warsaw: City of Ruins now, presumably because one of the database curators once ended up with a mediocre thriller novel rather than the cunning tile-drafting game they were expecting. This was a difficult sell to Becky, because she LOATHES Between Two Cities. But, based purely on the premise that Capital was better, she gave it a game try and decided it wasn't all that bad. It was hardly a close-run game, though; I stretched a Round 3 lead to breaking point, and nearly lapped Gerv, who couldn't even come close to replicating his 100+ score of a couple of months before. I don't mind games being this swingy if they're suitably short, but if it happens too often, the game is unlikely to become a club favourite.

Tony and I closed out the evening with a review of the imminent publication of Snowdonia:Foothills. All the playtesting for this seems to have drifted out to LeiriaCon and Lookout Games - I haven't even played a game in anger for months.
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Sat Nov 24, 2018 5:16 pm
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Friday November 16th - The Troubled Life of...Ian Paisley, apparently

Ben Bateson
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After last week's excesses it was back down to ground with just a small foursome this week. Jobbers was away, perhaps enthusing over some comedian (I'm sure we'll get the full benefit of a review next week) but Gerv kept up his string of attendances, and Tony suggested that perhaps the table might be sympathetic to something 'a bit different for us'. I already had half an eye on Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr, Gerv is a sympathetic character, and Becky might be the only one among us that actually LIKES co-operative games. With no Jobbers, it seemed like a sterling way to start the evening.

So we dealt out the cards, punched the tokens and played the first round more or less from the rulebook. Tony reached the bit about 'reading out Billy's memory from the back of the card' and - as is his wont - attempted some sort of gruff old voice. When I pointed out that Billy was from Australia, Tony pointed out that actually he is from Belfast and promptly BELLOWED poor Billy's tender reminiscences in a caustic Norn Iron accent more than a little reminiscent of the late Loyalist firebrand.

Ten minutes later, when we'd finished howling with laughter and Gerv had wiped his eyes, we decided that this was probably inappropriate for a game that was trying to deal with serious themes and played the rest of the game in a slightly more sober manner. Thematically, Holding On is extremely fascinating - dealing with the memories was much more affecting that had anticipated, and I don't think it's giving too much away to say that Billy's (and both designers') origins in Belfast are going to be significant. The co-operative mechanics are a bit clunky, but there should be enough to explore for most groups. We lost, by the way; Billy passed away with lots of 'Stable' cards still in the deck.

Our post-Essen explorations this year have not been very extensive (I'll be honest, there's very little that has excited me), but Reykholt seems to be popular enough. I postulated the possibility of opening the Story Mode deck (no-one I know has done this yet), but Becky wanted to play vanilla 4P and it was Gerv's first game, so Story Mode was put aside for another day. I made a deliberate slow start, declining to table any vegetables where I could get away with it, and latched onto a great combo of Service Cards which got me six teeming greenhouses. Storming up from behind saw me a table in front of everyone else at the end of Round 7, which as Tony sagely observed, is probably a much bigger margin of victory than it appears at first sight.

My 40-on-my-40th challenge continues, and there has had to be a little patient negotiation to make sure we can boost the plays of several old favourites. And they are old favourites for a reason. We played an excellent Too Many Cooks, in which Tony STILL hasn't learned not to save his 'No Soup' card until last, and a couple of rounds of For Sale - the game which ALWAYS leaves people thinking 'this is a very clever game - why don't we play this more often?'
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Sat Nov 17, 2018 11:55 am
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Friday November 9th - A Whopping Gathering

Ben Bateson
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It's OK. I've not died, or gone inexplicably missing, or been indefinitely suspended. Friday 2nd was celebrated in my absence (or perhaps because of my absence) at Midcon, and the 9th was the prelude to what seems to be rapidly becoming our local convention in its own right, Tony's 'Gathering of Chums'. I was resolute, and quite rightly so, that the 'Chums' all come down to Ross and so it was that nigh-on 20 assorted gamers packed the rear room of The Plough, much to landlady Kate's astonishment.

I can't possibly enumerate all the games that were played, but I was passing witness to, at a minimum, two games of Nusfjord, Reykholt, Voodoo Prince, Nations: The Dice Game, Terraforming Mars, Fwweeeep aka Waaaank, and That Game Richard Clyne Always Brings That No-one Can Remember the Name Of (trademark pending). Myself, I kicked off with a semi-filler game of Kingdom Builder in the company of Aaron, Phil, Gerv and Becky. It went terminally badly for me, but perhaps not as badly as it did for Phil, who finished with the grand total of 17 points. Aaron looked like he was running away with it, but Becky ran him very close.

Becky had a very distinct agenda for the weekend, which was mostly to get people to lose to her at Terraforming Mars and Lancaster at all costs, so I wandered off and turned Keef and Claire's incipient 2P Glass Road into a 3P. A very peculiar game it was, too, with the opening board liberally sprinkled with Grove-manipulation tiles. Keef made a noble sacrifice to stop Claire pinching them all and I chased her to that narrowest of half-point victories.

Everyone else was enthusiastically mid-game at this point, but in walked Matt Green and we elbowed the noisy Reykholt foursome next to us in order to set up a lavish Goa. This was new to Keef and Claire, but Matt had played "Once, a long time ago" as he remembered some vague importance attached to the Expedition card track. Indeed, he and I raced up it while Claire was busy banking and Keef reaping a huge number of spices (I ended up doing all my growing 'Colony only' after being starved of plantations all game). The final scores reflected an outstanding game, finishing 39-36-36-36 in Claire's favour.

And that was about all I had time for on the Friday. But it was only a prelude to an excellent weekend that featured three of my Top 5 games played back-to-back AND being taught Miremarsh by Arthur Boydell while he simultaneously ate chips-and-gravy. Where else could you get that sort of experience?
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Sat Nov 17, 2018 11:20 am
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Friday 26th October - A Piece of the Pi

Ben Bateson
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Tony was off on his Essen jaunt (of course) this week, so I was anticipating having to scout around for gamers. But not in the slightest: Dan made one of his intermittent appearances; Gerv was present and correct as has become his wont; and I received a Geekmail out of the blue from Michael, who wanted to come along. But of course!

When we are six, we generally try to find a sociable opener for everyone, before splitting into two tables. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to get Libertalia out on the table. Michael proved to be a scarily fast learner with a 30-something 2nd round taking him well into the lead, whereas Dan - allegedly an old hand - suffered the gamut of amusing misfortune when he got triple-Beggared and then Brutalised himself off the ship (maaarrvellous!). Becky saw Michael as a serious challenger, and surpassed him comfortably in the final reckoning.

The two subsequent tables will probably surprise no-one who follows this blog, although the fact that they took us up to closing time might raise a few eyebrows. Becky, John and Gerv have all expressed a love for Terraforming Mars, and for someone who complains about his sheep so much, Dan is inordinately attached to Agricola. Michael was happy enough to learn the functionings of medieval farming and confessed the game was well overdue to join his repertoire.

He did pretty well to start, too, throwing up a wooden room in short order and setting up some functional combos. Indeed his play of the (not-terribly-strong) Frame Builder threw me for a burton twice as I completely failed to recognise his ability to renovate. I soundly mocked Dan for building five rooms, but he came within a gnat's todger of pulling it off (quiet at the back please), renovating them all to stone with the Conservator and getting a comfortable food supply from his Slaughterman.

My own killer-combo was one that I wouldn't have dreamed up in a dozen years, which is why I like the damn game so much. The Clay Supports is always worthy of investigation, and I had the Clay Mixer to help matters along. I picked up the Maid for a trickle of food. Then I cast my eye over the fourth-round draft and found the Pi-deck minor, Angry Duck. My Round 6 promptly went Renovate-place 8 food for Maid-play Angry Duck-remove all 8 food onto Angry Duck for a 7-point turn. It was a lead that I wasn't about to give up, despite Dan's best efforts (and protestations when I pointed out an excellent theoretical way for Michael and I to collaborate in screwing him over), and it went 44-42-24. 24 doesn't sound great in a first game, but I would remind Michael that there are people who have played it with us half a dozen times and still struggle to crack the teens.

Over on Mars, it would appear that John squeaked a single-point victory from Becky, with Gerv putting in a very credible 'only five points behind' in his 2nd game. But all this weighty gaming meant we were bang out of time. It's a rare night when we only get time for two.
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Wed Oct 31, 2018 11:40 pm
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Friday 19th October - The One that Got Away

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A slightly left-of-centre 5-hander this week, with no John and both Lydia and Gerv continuing their efforts to become regulars.

After a hard-earned Nusfjord honeymoon, I had realised that I needed to get quite a few games in to meet my pending '40 in 40' target. Not that this met with any objection from Tony, of course. Lydia, turning up a few minutes late, cringed at the boards being already laid out in front of her, but experience definitely told and she picked out a few decent combos and NEARLY almost came close to breaking 20 points. Gerv, in his first game, enthusiastically stripped back all his forests, which lost him too many points, and Becky - as usual - declared that everything had gone all wrong in Round 6. This left me free to clock up 43 points (thanks to an opportune Theatre coming out the deck) for a comfortable win.

"Again?" asked Tony.

"NO!!" said Lydia, through gritted teeth. In the interests of avoiding a scene, we thought it was best to let her choose the next game, and - unsurprisingly - she plumped for her favourite of the many new games she has been taught over the past few weeks. 7 Wonders, of course, always gets played more than once, and effectively turned itself into our main event for the night; the best of the three games was the second, which Becky won by a single point over both Tony and Gerv.

The evening was tripping away and no mistake. We only had time for a filler before closing time, and Tony and I had already set our eyes on another '40' game on my target list: it had been too long since our last plays of Braggart, and I had never played with the 2nd edition. My lying skills weren't up to scratch tonight, and I finished a distant third, although I was marginally ahead of Lydia's distinctly average boast about finding a cat on her bed.
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Wed Oct 31, 2018 11:19 pm
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Friday 12th October - Let's Go Round Noggin

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Don't you just hate it when somebody turns up early and sets out the game they want to play JUST because they want to play it so much that they can't countenance anything else? We set new highs in this endeavour this week when Tony messaged me on Tuesday with 'Getting Tales of the Northlands: The Sagas of Noggin the Nog this week. We will be playing it. Starting early.'

Well, to be fair, I had no objections to playing it myself, so we just had to hope that it wasn't a five-gamer turnout which would scupper the nominal 1-4 player count. We were six, as it turned out, both Gerv and Gary staking claims to be part of our regular gaming crowd. Given the choice between learning Noggin and teaching something herself, Becky had no problems with the former, and John had apparently already claimed a third seat, so I would have to wait for another time.

No problems, though, for I had a bagful of 3P goodies, including some old favourites, a couple less-often played, and some more which are needing some more table time in pursuit of my '40 before 40' project. In the time it took to teach and play Noggin, we managed one from each of those categories.

London first - a game I hadn't played in a veritable age. A scan through the 2nd edition rules hasn't diminished my affection for my original copy: the board isn't exactly over-used, but there is a quaint charm and perhaps more feeling of location. Time hadn't been kind to my memory of the rules, though, and I critically missed out the 'mandatory draw a card at the beginning of your turn' bit, which meant we spent the last few rounds marking time while trying to get rid of the deck AND had no resource to pay off our loans. Gary and Gerv both failed to break 30 as a consequence, which made my fifty-something points look quite embarrassing. We must pop this back out again with the proper rules sometime.

Thurn and Taxis second, a game with which we all had familiarity. It looked for a long-time like Gerv was going to force a speedy finish by closing routes little-and-often, but he made some unspecified mistake, and I closed out the game with a whopping final turn which saw me pick up red and white bonus tiles, as well as the game-end tile AND my number-7 carriage. We were interrupted a few times by Tony making 'Noggin Tech Support' calls to Nick Case; the lack of a return call asking about Scandaroon was something of a disappointment

And Keyflower third, a request from Gary which didn't really account for the numerous dead-ends he managed to dig himself into, starting with a novel Spring season which saw us pass out the round with two-thirds of the meeples behind the screens. When I outbid him for pretty much everything in winter, it prompted much swearing and I thought we were going to crack his implacably calm facade. But it was all in good humour - just. Gerv, in his first game, put an excellent engine together, largely based around green meeples and metal hoarding and scored a hugely respectable 45 points, only a half-dozen or so behind me.

I had vaguely anticipated that Gary's finish to the evening would coincide with the end of Noggin, and so it proved. We had time for an excellent game of Botswana to finish, in which the Double Lion opening got repeatedly abused (may have to ban this), and a spurious Dobble into the bargain.
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Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:55 pm
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