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 28th August - We may have actually met up (on pretty much the only weekend we were allowed to)

Ben Bateson
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It wouldn't have been right to fritter away Becky's 'big birthday' weekend on Skype. And, given that she enjoyed playing games at MY birthday last year almost as much as I had, gaming was part of our weekend plans. Somewhat restricted weekend plans, admittedly, but we did the best we could. We bent the Covid rules as much as possible and invited Dave and Tony over, as well as Becky's friends Lucy and Kiri. Lucy has a particular flair for games, as we were to find out.

We started with Mysterium and I volunteered myself as the ghost, forgetting the golden rule that Tony and I - while we have a lot in common - are utterly disparate at 'interpretation of pictures' games. While he struggled to interpret 'frying pan' out of lots of dreamy images of food, iron and circular things, everyone else was generally leaping up the scale of guesses, with Dave making inspired progess in the first three rounds and nailing his suspect with time to spare. Sadly, we couldn't get everyone finished, and the combined team fell a bit short of guessing the final suspect, despite the fact that Tony's neurons had suddenly sprung to life and interpreted everything else in my final bundle of clues correctly.

Moving onto something slightly more serious, we broke out Libertalia. Lucy and Kiri were understandably a little bemused at first, but warmed to their task nicely, with Kiri putting together quite the bijou little night-time combo in the first week. Dave was also baffled, which is odd because he's played it several times before, but sometimes his neurons are on a go-slow as well. Lucy put together a massive Week 2 and we couldn't catch her in the last round. Especially not me, given that I finished dead last with weekly scores of 23-0-25.

Becky is a bit suspicious of any games that involve words, but we coerced her into a game of Just One anyway. It was...er...not a great success. We were utterly hopeless at it, a matter exacerbated by Tony reading the wrong clue off one card and writing NUN as a clue for 'blue' while the rest of us were trying to provide clues for 'squib'. The others wrote off the final round in favour of writing a rude message to me while I had my eyes shut.

Standard birthday silliness to finish, in the form of Cockroach Salad (wherein Kiri beat me with just one card left and Dave demonstrate Ian-like ineptness) and several rounds of Dobble (I vaguely remember Dave, Becky and Kiri winning a round each but I'd had a lot of wine by then).

It was good to see the chaps briefly, just before we get thrust back into lockdown and another few months of Skype games.
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Wed Sep 23, 2020 7:11 pm
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Friday 21st August - Jollies with Gerv

Ben Bateson
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We thought we were going to be a four-hander this week, but Ian called in with a sickly internet connection, so it was the Gloucester Connection for all of tonight's games. And didn't we get through a few?

During the initial period of uncertainty when we were anticipating Ian's presence, I suggest a swift starting game of Imhotep. We've been ignoring this one - too much, it would seem, given that we all finished the game saying 'we should play this more often'. It's an easy teach, even online, which was a boon for getting started, and Gerv tapped straight into the potential evilness of the game when Becky picked up an opportunistic two Statues and we spent much time sending her in opposite directions. As it turned out, the two Statues were JUST enough and she stole a thrilling 37-36-36 game.

After a finish like that, how can you not play a second time? We did, but this was a bit more lopsided towards Becky. The scores were higher though: 50-45-40.

Gerv had expressed enthusiasm for BGA's implementation of that well-trodden classic, Saint Petersburg, so we parked Yucata for a while and trotted over to the land of glorious automation. Gerv, in his novice state, made a couple of critical errors early on which led to a terminal money shortage (as critical errors so often do in this game). Becky had a step up on nobles, so I opted to start piling on Libraries a turn earlier than normal in order to open up a lead (plus Becky the Librarian really hates it when anyone other than her builds all the libraries). It worked a treat, especially when the final round put out an array of Nobles that were no use to anyone but me, and I had the opportunity to pick them up at my leisure in the last two phases. Most unusual, forcing an opponent to deprive you of an Author in the very last turn of the game.

Becky and I had been playing an unhealthy amount of Ulm of late. It's one of those canny 45-minute Euros where you can do a lot with combo-ing actions, although increasingly it does seem like there is one stronger path to victory. Gerv picked this one up very well, and seemed like he could win it at one point, but he was laid low by a lack of money in the endgame. I went strongly-alternative, picking up two descendants and pressing my luck for two sets of scoring cards, but it did me little good as Becky won on a tried-and-tested city-based strategy.

We insisted Gerv choose our closing game, and so it was that we ended up around the Thurn & Taxis board. The first two rounds saw both Gerv and Becky in trouble which was music to my ears. I pushed quickly for a carriage-triggered victory, but was lucky to beat Gerv after picking up the critical Bayern bonus on the final turn (although, to be fair, I did also have an option on the Outside Bayern bonus too). It was also a secret pleasure to put Becky into dead-last place, although Gerv and I would be far too chivalrous to mention it, of course...
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Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:36 pm
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Friday August 14th - ...play the same games?

Ben Bateson
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The blog this week might look somewhat familiar, as the officially logged plays were exactly the same as last week: two Innovations and a Snowdonia. But there was one very important difference...

We had a visitor! This is major cause for excitement in this day and age, especially when our guest was the revered Phil Dennis. Do I mean 'revered'? What's that word that means 'amiably baffled'?

Anyway, Phil joined us for our opening game of Snowdonia. Despite apparently not being able to run Skype and Yucata on the same device, he put up a sterling show in a game of such frenetic pace that his second turn came around before he'd finished post-morteming his first one. The game engine got in on the act as well: the weather was more Abu Dhabi than Betws-Y-Coed and stuff was being built at a frightening pace. At one point there were only 6 cubes in the bag, four of which were white, and we were in danger of finishing the game before the train-maintenance event, which certainly appealed to Phil as the sole train-operator. In the end, it was being able to score my fourth contract card that made the difference, a thrilling 74-71-69-64 victory the outcome. It was all the more delicious watching Phil pip Tony into third place. But, you have to give the man credit. Just when you think you've seen everything in Snowdonia, wacky games like this come along and mess about with your preconceptions.

Phil couldn't cope with all this excitement and bade us a good night, so we finished matters with our tradition round-up of Innovation. The first game was notable for Becky stripping Tony's display of nearly everything, only for him to repeatedly attack her with his...er...mighty Anatomy. The second went to a 10-pile finish, which Tony neatly foresaw and boosted his scorepile to just enough.

One week same as the next week? Not a bit of it.
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Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:18 pm
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Friday August 7th - Why do we always...

Ben Bateson
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Just a three-hander tonight, although Tony was in fine rambling form and our handful of games veritably flew by. A fine Snowdonia to open saw Becky leap out towards 40 points or so while Tony and I were still in single figures. This, of course, prompted one of those tense endings where we accumulated points at an exponential rate while she struggled to keep her head above. She did it though, finishing with 109 points to Tony's 90 and my unexpected 92 after filling three contract cards on the penultimate round. It's always a guilty pleasure to push Tony into last place at Snowdonia, ESPECIALLY after he takes joy in telling us he's in Yucata's Top 50 ranked players.

A couple of Innovations to follow, and both were absolute EPICS, going right down into the Age 10 pile. For once, Tony didn't win one of these either, and Becky's thrilling finish beat a more controlled, points-heavy victory for me.

Tony retired for the evening on the second loss, and Becky and I mainlined Ulm in a big way, playing the best part of half a dozen games, most of which she won.
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Sat Aug 22, 2020 9:48 pm
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Friday July 31st - Domin-Ian

Ben Bateson
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With Tony shortly expected, Ian suggested we kick off with a swift Kingdomino. A juicy little goldmine enclave and a long strip of wheatfield was enough to catapult me to a mid-40s score. Tony, arriving three rounds before the end, pooh-poohed the concept that this game could be won with a mid-40s score, but neither Ian nor Becky could break 30, so that was that.

"Do it again" cried Boydell, and comprehensively took us to town with a whopping 52 points. I tried to do something clever this time, and failed miserably, ultimately failing through a lack of crowns.

It was Troyes next, and a strenuous teach-via-Skype session for me. But Ian is quick on the uptake and didn't do anything desperately wrong. Indeed, he put in a good all-round effort and clocked plenty of points off the character cards. Tony went hell-bent on defeating ALL the events, but it didn't stop plenty of nastiness happening. For the umpteenth time, I had the 'cubes in the cathedral' dude, so my game was somewhat prosaic as I piled on the white dice and no-one really protested enough. It was enough to take me well clear of a thrilling three-way tie, but an 11-point victory was a bit embarrassing.

We finished with Macao, a game of perennially telling Tony to hit the Yucata 'Finish Turn' button, or so it seemed. Without a combination of Tony's memory loss and bizarre anecdotes then it might have finished in a comfortable 45 minutes or so, but it stretched into a second hour and got unexpectedly thinky. Regular blog readers might be tiring of me constantly winning at Macao and Keyflower, but I do have quite a knack for them both. It was a struggle tonight, though: Ian was quick off the mark in getting characters out, Tony was loading all the cheap goods, and we all took a punishment marker before halfway. Becky came through for an unexpected second place when Tony ran out of juice in Round 11 (it's his age). It was an exhausting exercise all round given that none of us had left our front room...
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Sat Aug 22, 2020 9:41 pm
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Friday July 24th - Alright, dudes?

Ben Bateson
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We had ENORMOUS fun this week (there was no gaming last week unless you count teaching my father Foothills and Riff Raff); a cracking game of El Grande and an astoundingly good game of Snowdonia. But everything else was overshadowed by Tony's inability to put the lights on and the fact he subsequently turned into Holly from Red Dwarf...


From gallery of ousgg

Spot the difference...


Jollities aside, it was a sterling bit of Ross-on-Wye gaming, full of great games, great endgame scenarios and generally aimless and filthy chatter.

El Grande was all Becky's after the first scoring, but I earned a whopper in the second with a carefully-chosen castillo destination. Despite Ian and Becky's earnest exhortations, the others couldn't drag me down and I split the century, well ahead of Becky who still claims she doesn't understand the game.

We filled a filler spot with a tradition pair of 7 Wonders plays. My Babylon took the first with a ma-HOOSIVE set of science cards (62 points out of 62 from green!), but the second was an intriguing three-way tie between me (now into war), Tony (bigging up the blue cards) and Gerv's wonder-ful Giza.

Our undoubted highlight of the night was a pretty epic Snowdonia. With the start player at my mercy, there was much debating over the merits of the 5 Rail For 40 Points contract, which I - probably foolishly - plumped for, given the prevailing sun. This is pretty optimistic in a 5P game as we all pointed out, and an off-on series of fog pretty much screwed it over, so I blew all the steel bars on station building. Becky had the stations all tied up, though, and was sailing into a decent lead by about halfway. Gerv slogged his way up the mountain in the despondent middle-third; Ian hogged the start player to fill his contract cards, and Tony snuck in for some late contracts on the final rounds and a rather unexpected second place. Unusually, it was the rubble backlog that held the game back. The broad banter tailed out into delicious brow-furrowing and concentration over the last two rounds, which is always the sign of quality gaming. Becky won, of course, but things went very close, and even the tussle between Gerv and I at the back took us both over 80 points. Terrific stuff.

One day, we'll be back at The Plough, but probably not for a month or so. But tonight rekindled some love for Skype-gaming, in many ways.
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Sun Jul 26, 2020 12:04 am
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Friday July 10th - Screw you, Kingy

Ben Bateson
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Gerv was our visitor this week and we kicked off matters with an absolutely SUPERB game of Caylus. 4P really brings out the best in this classic for me, especially when we all got subtly devolved down our own building route. Tony went for the classic 'free builds off the royal favour board', Becky went for overload-the-castle, Gerv did some things with goods conversion which actually impressed me by being a lot more effective than I thought they'd be. And I played a very bad 'builder' strategy, mostly by not abusing the church properly and generally building stuff in the wrong order. Oh, and running out of money all the time, and being pre-empted by Gerv. As you might have gathered, I finished stone last. Tony thought he had it won easily when he built the cathedral, but it all got a lot more squeaky when Becky garnered a bunch of points off a final castle build. Eventually the dust settled and it was Tony by a solitary point. Outstanding.

While Gerv was off making a mystery phone call, we treated ourselves to a quick 3P Innovation. Becky won this to add a bit of balance to last week's results.

Despite last week's sulkings, Tony suggested a bit of Port Royal before he turned in for the evening. Gerv obliged and promptly won by a not inconsiderable distance (final scores 12-8-5-5), being the only one to cash in for an admiral.

With Tony retiring (if only...), Gerv suggested a 3P Keyflower to finish. I find it hard to say no, and I find it even harder to lose. I was pleased to construct a very effective Workshop/Mercers Guild combo on an uninspiring transport-free board, because it's rare you can build a viable end-to-end strategy in this game. A 85-45-45 scoreline is a shade embarrassing, I fear.
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Sat Jul 25, 2020 10:08 pm
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Friday July 3rd - Don't throw your Troyes out the pram

Ben Bateson
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Dave joined us this week for the first time in yonks. Despite being a pretty optimum 4P, we cast around for quite some time trying to find a game that BOTH Tony and Becky wanted to play (and they call me the picky one!).

Eventually, we settled on a reprise of Troyes. Dave insisted that he didn't need any teaching, so we dived right in. Three rounds brought up a layout without any obvious dominant strategy, so I leaned heavily on my character card (cubes in the cathedral), while watching Tony use a peculiar worker-bouncing strategy that left him with very few dice. And very little money, which didn't bode well for his final score. Dave spent the final two rounds racking up money, which was a bit of a hint towards his character, and Becky just puffed around the board trying to keep up with everyone. The events were BRUTAL throughout, so no-one came even close to cracking 40 points. I consider it a game well won.

Port Royal next, and Tony got all enthusiastic about the traditional Pinasse jokes until, about two rounds in, he got all arsey about the Yucata interface, and reduced his witticisms to a mild sulk. Seems like the ships had been liaising with the bad guys in Troyes, because this took far longer than should be seemly for a frivolous filler. Eventually Tony crawled over the line, and my exercise in enormous luck-pushing to try and level was in vain.

Dave was all done after this, so the three of us rejoiced in our traditional crazy trio of Innovations. I actually won one of them this week, but it wasn't as satisfying as the last game where I threatened (but narrowly failed) to win by collecting all the special achievements. Tony, as he tends to, bookended my victory with two of his own.

Becky and I finished off the evening as a duo with a hearty Ulm (a robust 49-46 to me on the back of some ludicrous boat movement) and [=lost cities]Lost Cities[/] (Becky won a round, which doesn't happen often, but still lost out by 40 points or so).
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Sat Jul 25, 2020 9:49 pm
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Friday 26th June - Troyesieme des la Innovationne

Ben Bateson
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Another call from the Boydell household this week. We had fond memories of our last trio of Innovations so decided to do it all over again (possibly without Becky gifting me the game in unlikely circumstances). Again, Tony managed to discern the indiscernible and won two games, and this time Becky took the other one. To attempt a meaningful session report would - I'm afraid - be futile.

We ALMOST moved onto the no-brain choice of Agricola, but just as I was hitting 'start', Becky queried 'is Troyes available online anywhere?'. This came a bit out of the blue given that it's a game we had barely touched for several months. But this, of course, is no fault of the game: we fired up BGA again and took to our artisan French citizenships. We diverged neatly; Tony hitting the events at regular basis, Becky retreating the cathedral, and I bought up yellow dice to set up a lucrative combo (the Year III yellow cards are always awesome, aren't they?). Near the end I found myself rolling in cash and vocalised an optimistic hope that the 'money' character was out. Pleasingly, he was face-down in front of Tony to garner me a stress-free six points.

Again, BGA has come up trumps with the implementation of Troyes. It's replaced the much-needed but tiny-printed reference sheets with neat pop-ups, but maintained one of the best aspects of the game, the fact that you are genuinely never sure who has won until the final reveal. I certainly had no clue, so the final scores of 37-36-31 to Becky were satisfying even if I lost out by a point.

From France to Italy; from Troyes to Pompeii we went, and another dose of volcanic chaos. I found it terribly apt as we had discovered Netflix' cult gameshow 'Floor Is Lava' the evening before. It was hard to stop Tony piling on the victims today, and Becky in particular struggled to join two numbers together. Once the eruptions started, we couldn't draw the right lava spouts to stop him, and with a comfortable 10 escapees he won all too comfortably. We definitely need a full 4P experience next time.
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Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:27 pm
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Friday 19th June - Six-y Beasts

Ben Bateson
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Time to stop complaining about the low numbers. We had fully six gamers this week!

But only five to start: it would appear Gerv has re-started dog-walking duties. With Tony, Ian and Dave on board, it made sense to start with something that they all knew, and so it was that we found ourselves in the lap of Yucata's Snowdonia. I am still enjoying this very much (although not as much as Becky, who has been bookending sessions at Virtual GridCon this weekend), and am even thinking of tapping up Yucata to see if they can implement some of the expansions.

It was a great Snowdonia, relatively fog-free and with free-wheeling events which hoovered up rubble at inopportune times, as they do. I had pinned my hopes on a handful of 10- and 11-point contract cards, which seemed to be the right strategy in the conditions, but my lack of a train held me back this time, and Tony superseded me by filling the critical 4x Track contract to finish the game. Ian has got skillz at Snod and filled a worthy 3rd place, with Dave and Becky lagging some way behind.

Gerv had arrived to listen to the final round climax, and our options with 6P were limited. But luckily, our saviour on the horizon was BGA's Libertalia. Like many things on BGA, it plays ridiculously quickly and intuitively, so there was plenty of time for manipulative banter and pirate impressions around the edges. Gerv got off to a flier, not for the first time, and was under pressure to maintain his lead after having thrown his last game away. He was pushed occasionally by Tony, until the last round when a Monkey brainfart put paid to the challenge. I didn't even KNOW you could score negative points in a round...

So, yes, Gerv wins something. And there was much rejoicing. Tony and Dave rejoiced their way to bed, leaving us as a still-substantial foursome. Ian demanded an attempt to rectify his lowball Thurn & Taxis score and did manage to crack single figures, but all the action was up at the top end. Gerv piled up nearly every district bonus tile in the deck while I focussed on nailing Bayern and building some lengthy routes. Going into the last couple of turns, there was a brief pause to make sure we had the Game End procedure right, because it was that close, and I came out ahead in a heroic 29-27 finish.

It had been a while since we'd cut up our old favourite Las Vegas, so we stayed on Yucata to finish, throwing in the $100,000 notes for extra juiciness. A very-evenly paced first round left everyone in contention, but the second and third both went Gerv's way. No-one could come close to touching him in the third and he cruised to a victory: wins now apparently in 'effortless' territory.
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Sun Jun 28, 2020 5:43 pm
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