But NOT Tony's shed, in this instance.
In a dalliance with dipping our toes back into normality, John invited some carefully-selected* gamers to play games in his shed-cum-studio** of a Friday evening. Carefully sidling around the house so as not to disturb his B&B residents, we found a very nicely-furnished outbuilding with all manner of drapes, photos of his old job (wedding dresses) and - in true John style - a bizarre and unique table.
There was much back-and-forth with what we actually wanted to play to celebrate seeing John for the first time in 15 months. Tony wanted to honor tradition with a club favourite and - rather typically - John wanted to play something new. Becky, rather bizarrely, wanted mostly to play games that we had spent the last year playing electronically on BGA.
Eventually, we reached some sort of compromise, with the result that John pulled On The Origin of Species out of the game bag to start with. I find this a very pleasant, pretty and undemanding take on the Splendor genre and I think John agreed - he won, after all. Tony, however, found himself in the position of 'not being able to do exactly what he wanted' and winded on and on about how terrible a game it was. Never mind the fact that a few turns later he was able to do what he wanted, on and on and on it went - a full hour of meaningless bemoaning verbiage. It's good to be back, isn't it?
With the sun dipping below the horizon, Becky started tucking herself below the assorted throws and blankets, and John turned on his shed heater. This proved to be completely useless, ineffectually blowing hot air up its own sensor hole and disengaging with proceedings altogether. Remind you of anyone?
Anyway, we moved onto Goa, a game that Tony was more or less guaranteed to engage with, even despite a lapse in his understanding of the Expedition Card rule - a rule which I patiently explained to him and he went on to contravene twice again immediately afterwards. Other than this, it was a relatively friction-free game, everyone pursuing different routes in their quest for points. Tony went straight for the Expedition track, John went Big Money, Becky colonised, and I built ships (totally under-rated). I came out comfortably in front, even with my underwhelming final Expedition hand of five different symbols.
With all the chit-chat of catching up, we had frittered much of the evening away, and we only had time for a test-drive of Tony's sheep-racing 'Steering Wool' prototype, purportedly a matchbox game exclusive for visitors to the nascent gaming museum.
plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, eh?
* Actually, not very carefully selected, but the shed was strictly occupancy of 4.
** Whatever joke you were going to make, stop NOW.
Beer and Boardgames at The Plough Inn (formerly the Prince Of Wales, formerly the White Lion). "It's not F-ing Monopoly, alright?!"
07 Jun 2021
- [+] Dice rolls
17 Mar 2021
I'd just like to reassure all Ross-on-Wye subscribers that we are still present and that normal service will be resumed when life is back to normal. But frankly, I've run out of ways to write 'Dave and Becky and I had a Skype call, played a bit of Innovation and Fleet and then Dave's laptop crashed' every single week. Ian is recovering from Covid, Gerv has had bereavements and other family issues, and there's plenty wrong with Tony even notwithstanding what you all see from him on a day-to-day basis, so things have been a bit slow.
So, for a change of pace, and because it seems to be the activity du jour on BGG blogs at the minute, I will give you my (completely correct, obviously) rundown on the games that deserve to progress to Round 2 of Geek Madness.
Gloomhaven/Le Havre This is a no-brainer for me: dungeon crawling is not my business and I have no intention of making it my business. Le Havre is far from my favourite Rosenberg; I find it stilted, awkward and anticlimatic, but it's not a dungeon-crawler. Everdell/Power Grid I've always found the economy in Power Grid to be depressingly linear, but at least it's not some over-produced piece of hyped cutesie nonsense.
ConcordiaA very tough call. I've never seen a 2P economic game done better than Patchwork, and Concordia has been a group favourite ever since it was published. Perhaps we've over-played Concordia a little bit, especially on the smooth boiteajeux implementation during lockdown. Patchwork squeaks it. Wingspan/Alhambra Before lockdown, I might have voted the other way, but I've been playing a fair bit of the online implementations of Alhambra lately and reminding myself of the game's charm. Wingspan is lovely in many ways, but it is determinedly random - a problem you exacerbate with more expansions. Star Wars Rebellion/Lost Cities All Star Wars licensed material is ultimately disappointing.
Ticket To RideI've never actually played Root, which is a big gap in my gaming CV, but I'm well aware of it and what it does, and I've always had a sneaking admiration for asymmetric powers. I'm also well aware that I'm allergic to Ticket To Ride.
Just OneI have always had problems with the way some decisions get trivialised in Twilight Struggle - I much prefer 13 Days: the Cuban Missile Crisis which does a similar sort of thing without the dice. But, despite all the hilarious antics that other people seem to get up to, Just One isn't a game.
ObsessionChrist on a bike! Have you tried to BUY a copy of Obsession lately? I'm sure it's a perfectly nice game, but I doubt it will displace one of my all-time Top 10 games. Easy decision, this one: anything that can stay in the public domain for this long and not be 'solved' further than about the second round is a design classic. Terraforming Mars/El Grande Terraforming Mars is a passable 40-minute filler that inexplicably takes two and a half hours to play. El Grande is one of the best area-control games ever designed, a perfect balance of control and tactics that hasn't been bettered for 25 years. No contest. The 7th Continent/The Crew I didn't find The Crew challenging as a game. But it did provide us with decent entertainment for a couple of evenings. The chances of 7th Continent ever doing that are zero. Scythe/The Quest For El Dorado Both games have flaws: over-production and over-elaborateness in the former, and mis-appropriation of deckbuilding mechanics in the latter (no more ghastly purchase displays, please). I'd take El Dorado on the basis that it'll be over quicker and we could move onto something better.
Lords of WaterdeepI've never been a fan of 'cash in your goals' mechanics, but these are two of the better ones. Viticulture just about wins out on the basis of theme and the Tuscany expansion. Twilight Imperium/Architects of the West Kingdom I kinda admire what Twilight Imperium has done, but the practicality of playing a 6-hour space-based 4X game is too much of a challenge in this day and age. I tend to find Shem Phillips' games procedural and dry but they are dolled up nicely, he has a good customer-service model, and there enough fans around these parts that I will acquiesce to playing once in a while.
Race for the GalaxyAnyone who follows the blog will know that this is a no-contest. Spirit Island/Ra Co-operative games don't get a look-in, especially not against one of the cleverest auction games ever designed.
Lord of the Rings:tCGOdd bracket for me, this one. I've not played Nemesis (although other parts of the club have, and enjoyed it), but - despite deprecations against co-ops, I have played LotR, and quite enjoyed it too. Nemesis wins it, just because I'd rather watch the film. Pandemic/Roborally Last thing I need in the current climate is to be pretending to fight global disease. Blood Rage/Azul Blood Rage was no fun at all: a card-drafting mechanic where a card-drafting mechanic had no right to be, and plenty of overblown miniatures which I'm sure appeal to someone else. Azul is cute, and charming, and simple enough to teach the family, and downright nasty if you play it properly. What's not to like? 7 Wonders Duel/Stone Age This might raise a few eyebrows, but I've rather warmed to Stone Age of late (getting the knack of winning occasionally has helped!). Lockdown online plays have done enough to earn it a vote over what might be the single most over-rated game on BGG. A Feast For Odin/King of Tokyo AFFO is one of Uwe's least appetising titles: a sprawling model of excess and a dying fart of yet another thing to do with polyominoes. Being a Rosenberg, it's not all that bad compared to some games on this list, but sometimes I'd rather mount up Cyber Bunny and lob some neon dice around.
Gaia Project & Terra Mystica/
SplendorI much prefer Terra Mystica to the ropey and jargon-laden Gaia Project. It not as interesting as it was a couple of dozen plays ago, but it still beats out the utter blandness of Splendor. Food Chain Magnate/Dominion FCM went down reasonably well with the group but there haven't been any repeat plays since. Dominion is still the best deckbuilder ever created. Great Western Trail/Love Letter My preferred gaming environment is the pub. You can't break out 150-minute yawners about cowboys in the pub (I think Pfister should have stuck to small-box games, myself), but you can play an awful lot of clever micro-deduction in the same time. Mage Knight/The Quacks of Quedlinburg Two designers whose rise to the top baffled me. Chvatil was overladen with fiddly rules and unintuitive gameplay (at least for a long time, until he came up with Codenames); Warsch is just a bit too twee. But Quacks is perhaps the best Warsch game, whereas Mage Knight is Chvatil at the most incoherent. Brass/Roll for the Galaxy Oooh...tough call. I rather enjoyed my couple of plays of Brass, as long as its in the hands of fast players. The club went wild for Roll for a while, but it seems to pale rather quickly after you've seen everything. On the basis of future plays and the fact that Race for the Galaxy had a no-win bracket, Roll would just about edge it. Mansions of Madness/7 Wonders I've no idea what Mansions of Madness is about, and to be frank I don't really care. I'm sure I wouldn't enjoy it more than 7 Wonders.
Castles of Burgundy/
KingdominoCastles of Burgundy has really suffered in comparison with the smooth online implementations: who wants to dig out all the flimsy boards and horrible-colour tiles any more? There's still a decent game engine underneath, which is more than can be said for the wafer-thin conceit of Kingdomino. Arkham Horror Card Game/Castles of Mad King Ludwig I don't really care about either of these, to tell you the truth: there are much better options for us in both cases. On the basis that we played Mad King Ludwig wrong, then it gets a second chance.
Through The Ages/
Battlestar GalacticaBG does traitor mechanic about as well as I've ever seen it done. TtA is an immersive and surprisingly thematic experience. Both outstay their welcome enormously, so aren't exactly top-tier material. But I'd rather take something competitive over something semi-cooperative. Caverna/Carcassonne Caverna is horribly bloated and took out a lot of what made Agricola great. Carcassonne, with the right mixture of expansions (or even better, one of the later stand-alone games) can still be a treat in the right hands. War of the Ring/Catan With exactly four gamers who aren't looking for anything too heavy, Catan is still a treat and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. War of the Ring has impressive ambition, but I don't really identify with the source material. Orleans/Tzolk'in Two models of Euro excess that pretend to be a lot cleverer than, in fact, they are. I'd be happy for them both to drop off the list, but if forced I'd just about come down on the side of Tzolk'in.
- [+] Dice rolls
As you might have gathered, it's been a tough job getting people to turn out for online-gaming without the appeal of the pub, the log fire, the copious supply of booze, and the apparently boundless anecdotes which aren't quite the same over a Skype connection. But, we do still get turn-out from time to time. Dave has become quite the regular as a break from home-working, and Tony is sometimes persuadable too...
Tony fancied a crack at The Crew tonight, a suggestion which resulted in cynically raised eyebrows from Becky, sitting - as usual - off-camera to my left. As per last time, it was something of a tricky affair, and we struggled up to about Round 9 or so before giving up in an assortment of various frustrations.
We moved onto much safer ground in St Petersburg. Tony admitted he hadn't played this in ages, and he proved it too by letting me pick up a second worker AND the Observatory in the first round. I tried very hard not to gloat, and I'm pleased I did, too, because a run of dismal Observatory draws (two Judges AND the Mistress? I can't afford that!) combined with Dave completely mis-reading the endgame to hand Becky the win.
Tony sulked off after a comprehensive loss and left the three of us to tidy up the evening with some all-purpose wacky Innovation. We might be starting to get the measure of Dave, though: Becky won this time and she's on something of a streak on Friday nights. I neglect to mention the countless 'after-hours' sessions of Ulm, 7 Wonders Duel and Guildhall at which she beats me...
- [+] Dice rolls
07 Nov 2020
Have you ever wanted to play games with the most-blogged games club in the world?
Do you have a Skype ID?
Do you have user accounts for Yucata, BGA and boiteajeux?
Are you OK with sarcasm, weird humour and the occasional friendly jibe?
If so, then we're looking for you!
The Ross-on-Wye boardgamers are all ill, tired, taking 'time out', unstimulated by online gaming, or working on Friday evenings, and we've had to cancel two weeks on the trot now. I will need to check the archives, but I think this is an unprecedented situation.
So, I am opening the call for Friday night gamers, between 7:30 and 11pm GMT. If you get in touch with me before - say - 6pm on the Friday, I will dial you into the Skype call and you can join in the merriment.
- [+] Dice rolls
Gerv was doing a bit of a late show this week, so we opened up by teaching Dave the fundamentals of that very fine game, St Petersburg. The BGA adaptation is resplendent in its old-school artwork, making it look more and more like Yucata by the day, but it plays absolutely fine. After heeding Dave several times during the teaching not to run out of money, he made quite a decent job of things, turning to blues maybe a tad early but racking up a respectable mid-40s score and not getting himself into real trouble. It was a nail-biter outfront, and I think I should have lost bit, but somehow I psyched Becky into buying one noble too many. The five-point deduction when she couldn't get everything out of her hand was enough to tip things my way. Did I mention that I also beat her Round 1 Observatory? I might have done, six or seven times.
With Gerv now on board, I suggested we tackle The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. Four-players is usually optimum for most trick-taking games (exceptions: Fox in the Forest with 2, Bottle Imp and Bargain Hunter need 3, Sticheln needs about 6), and it certainly seemed to be recommended that we attack our first game with four players.
The principle of The Crew seems quite appealing, other than the fact it's a co-op: certain players have to win certain pre-nominated cards, sometimes in a fixed order. The 'short trump suit' of rockets is also a clever concept. However, I had reckoned without the card-techniques of my co-players. Dave is a pretty competent whist-player, but it turns out Becky's past successes at Wizard have mostly consisted of bidding zero and trying to lose everything, which is not a valid technique here. And Gerv - well, the less said about the round which he immediately lost after his opening lead, the better. I think we played about seventeen rounds and were still on Level 8, which is more or less a beginners' stage, before we called it.
From the point of view of an experienced bridge player, actually The Crew doesn't have that much to offer. Four seasoned players could easily count out the hand after an opening trick and a well-planned communication or two. Until then, there is just the mystery to solve of why Becky ALWAYS leads the number-4 rocket every time she is captain...
Frazzled by all the thinking that The Crew induced, we finished with the light shenanigans of Guildhall, which Becky won at something of a canter with the rest of us still in single figures and left me trying to work out whether it was a more futile 45 minutes than the hour or so spent playing The Crew.
- [+] Dice rolls
17 Oct 2020
A quiet and short affair this week, with just Dave showing up, and his sleepy-trigger going off at about 9:30 (as it often does).
But we still had time for three first-class games. We started with a couple of Innovations: Dave built up a whopping score pile in the first before realising he had no top-card higher than a six, and his efforts to retro-fit his board gave me opportunity to snap up a couple of achievements. But eventually he got there and took the last one from under my nose.
The second game promised to go the full distance, as the early achievements were shared around quite neatly. As the game reached a heady climax, though, I pulled Fission out of the bag. Dave co-operated by setting off the nuclear apocalypse (perhaps we shouldn't tell his employers this...) and we were facing a reset board and about a half-dozen cards remaining to get the biggest score. Dave won this scramble by a short-neck, making him two-from-two for the evening. The days of him gifting Becky the win seem all too long ago.
We moved onto to the piece de jouer (or do I mean 'piss de jouer'?), Snowdonia. Based purely on my opportunistic opening grabs, I plumped for a 'steal all the coal and run away with it up the mountain' approach (add Dick Dastardly moustache and cackle if you like), and it would have worked if I hadn't fallen prey to the old Snowdonia incompetence of 'forgetting about train maintenance'. This set me back some 20 points by my calculations and allowed Becky to romp to an easy win. Dave seemed somewhat surprised that he too managed to overhaul me at the last. That's what a career path of coal-thievery will do for you.
With Dave retiring, Becky thrashed me at a quick Ulm (it was clearly going to be that sort of night) before we investigated Imhotep: the Duel. We played without rules nor introduction and had pretty much worked out what was going on by the end: it would appear to be worthy of further investigation, I should think.
- [+] Dice rolls
17 Oct 2020
It looked like it was just going to be three this week: Becky, myself and Dan making a repeat appearance from the shed. I fired Tony an optimistic 'joining in?' message, but got not reply, so we fired up Troyes to start matters.
For the first time in ages, I didn't get dealt 'the bloke who gives you cathedral points' (real name pending a visit to the cheat-sheet), but it didn't stop me rolling a procession of miserable numbers. I one point I spaffed away eight influence rolling the following delicious succession of numbers on a single yellow die: 1,1,1,2,2,1,2,2,3. This was especially profligate given that I had been dealt the influence-guy in lieu of the cathedral-guy.
Anyway, the events got on top of us big-time in this game and it was a low-scorer, Becky eventually settling things due to a 'big tradesmen' strategy with a satisfyingly close 36-33-32 scoreline. And Tony had mystically turned up out of the blue and sat making satisfied 'cor' noises from the spectator's chair during the last half.
With Tony and Dan on board, it seemed only right to play some Agricola. Because...why not? So we trotted over to boiteajeux and set about mis-drafting some cards. I don't know how Market Woman got round to me on Round 6 of the draft; nor do I know how I mis-clicked and picked the Stonecarver instead. In fact, the Stonecarver's a pretty good card, too. I didn't know WHAT was going on.
Tony shot out of the gates, hogging the start player, and building what turned out to be a solid early-vegetable combo that saw him out of food trouble for the rest of the game. Becky telegraphed an obvious baking strategy, and Dan built the well before apparently running out of ideas. I played a frankly MEAN (and very error-free, given my opening draft) game of Agricola, using the Farm Steward to steal the crucial first family growth from Becky, taking the expansion space from Tony not once but twice (second time might have been slightly his fault given he'd seen me do it once), and then gratuitously taking the start player in order to beat Dan to the Pottery. He was so flustered with this that apparently he tried to use his remaining clay to build fences. Anyway, this sort of no-goodery inevitably leads to a score in the 40s, and so it proved with Becky, Dan and Tony trailing me in that order. Perhaps worthy of note is that I didn't take or spend an entire unit of reed in the whole game.
Tony waved his goodbyes, and - though it was getting kinda late - we stayed up to introduce Dan to the joys of Macao. I'd figured it was his sort of game, and of course he proved me right, giving us (both relative Macao veterans) a run to the finish line with a strongly office-based strategy. Becky's crucial stealing of a city quarter made the difference and she pipped me by just three points, with Dan only half a dozen behind.
- [+] Dice rolls
17 Oct 2020
It's not getting any easier to write blogs about talking to people on Skype, believe me.
Anyway, the last games night in September was a no-show (although I did get a couple of cracking games of Scrabble in with my Mum and stepdad on the Saturday), but this week compensated by way of bringing five gamers to my screen. Indeed, I had to spend a fair few minutes shuffling their little portraits around because Dave is always a bit off-centre, and Gerv gets lower and lower as the evening progresses. In more ways than one.
Dan joined us too, from his bijou new shed (the wife and kids were watching High School Musical), featuring a variety of junk, a large mushroom-identification poster, and a robot that would have been torched within seconds of its life had it ever qualified for Robot Wars.
When five are present, my thoughts invariably stray towards El Grande. Indeed, I am so fond of this masterpiece of gaming that I have been stretching my skills against a multitude of antipodean gamers early on Sunday mornings, all in the name of Defence Research and a £12 Amazon gift voucher. But that's another story....
It was a much more tense opening than usual, a fact which probably owed something to the absence of John, whose habit of plonking down his 13 card in the very first round has become a tad predictable. Dave opened an early lead, but was overhauled by Dan and - very briefly - by Gerv. That was to be Gerv's last significant movement of the game, as it happened, as he failed to score very much at all in the second and third scorings. In fact, I'm sure he'll be pleased to know that he now has another 'all-time low score' to add to his Hall Of Fame.
I struggled to get into things at all, and Becky - somehow - always is defeated by the premise of this game, so it turned into a straight shoot-out between Dan and Dave. It was too close to call, going into the final scoring, but Dave won - again! - by a mere handful of points.
Libertalia was being warmed up as our second game from at least Round 7 of El Grande onwards, so we roistered over to BGA for piratey fun. BGA implementations are generally great, but this is one of the weaker interfaces for me - everything just looks so damn small, and people generally have difficulty working out who their direct neighbours are supposed to be. Not that any of this stopped Dave, who showed a mercy-free streak in waltzing away to his second win. Dan couldn't challenge his this time, being somewhat Beggared into penury at the start, so the main opposition was left to me, but even I finished 25 points short. Massacre.
We finished with a couple of rounds of 7 Wonders, which gave us chance to roll out the traditional fun-poking at Gerv's 'grand unified theory of how to win at 7 Wonders'. I think the theory needs some more polishing: he finished dead last twice. Becky won both, the first beating Dave (playing Halicarnassus and his 'I don't know what I'm doing, honest' guise) with a pile of science cards, and the second ahead of my (always underwhelming) Olympia with lots of blue.
- [+] Dice rolls
23 Sep 2020
Lockdown is doing some odd things to the Ross gamers. Dave and Becky are both getting cabin fever; Tony has developed what can only be described as tat-kleptomania; Gerv has bought a gun and alienated his neighbours, and Ian has dyed his beard blue. John is just acting a bit weird, so at least someone hasn't changed. Tonight, the neighbour-shooter joined me and the two cooped up gamers and we got through fully six plays in our allotted time.
I had tried teaching Gerv Innovation once before, and it wasn't really a success. So, when he rocked up and suggested a game of Carl Chudyk's finest to start, it was something of a surprise. Until, it turned out, he had been secretly practising with Dave. Not that practice makes any difference in a four-player game, for they are usually utter chaos. Indeed, utter chaos it was: Dave and I won a game each, but I'd struggle to tell you how or what tactical manoeuvres were responsible.
Gerv is becoming quite the BGA addict these days, and he sold us on a couple of games of 7 Wonders purely on the basis that the online implementation now included the re-issued Wonders. I'm always keen to see new twists in one of my favourite games, but I can't really claim they made any change for the better. Or perhaps I just had my green-tinted goggles on, going too science-strong in a loss to Gerv and Becky respectively.
'Let's play a proper game now' said Gerv, apparently content to do all the show-running for the evening. Dave suggested Puerto Rico, which got broadly accepted (I seemed to remember Gerv wasn't keen) and we dived in. Turns out I'd remembered rightly about Gerv - he was certainly baffled and a bit nonplussed by the whole experience. It's obviously bad form to blame your inexperienced opponents in Puerto Rico, but I was seated to his immediate right, and it didn't go well. It would have gone a lot worse if the others hadn't let me staff my big-building on the last round. Dave and Becky traded tobacco and coffee trades and snapped up two big buildings each, but Becky had the edge on Captains for a reasonably comfortable win.
'Ooh - we should play Imhotep!' Gerv interjected towards the end, in an unprecendented display of decision-making. We did exactly that, taught Dave the rules in a trice and ultimately landed him in a nasty kingmaking position. Becky beat me on the tie-break instead of what we suspected would have been the other way around. But, for all that, it was still a fun game: I leaned heavily on the obelisks and tried to stop Becky scoring a mass in the Burial Chamber. Gerv went for statues and Dave for bonus cards (which he forgot to use), so everything felt quite balanced. I think we need to start investigating some of the many expansions and promos that yucata has implemented...
- [+] Dice rolls
23 Sep 2020
That joke would have killed in a very localised part of South-West Herefordshire...
A more staid birthday games for me, with just Dave turning up for Skype games. However, we played an awesome game of Snowdonia, a miserable foggy game yielding to late sunshine and a runaway game engine. I had just enough time to climb all the way up the mountain AND snap up the juicy 9-point train (oddly ignored by the others, given the weather). Dave missed out on a big contract by a cube or two for a below-par finish.
Becky and I had toyed with the idea of teaching Dave Innovation and I was just trying to work out how to sell the idea to him after we'd refreshed our beers, when he piped up with 'I really fancy having a go at Innovation, you know...'. Ignoring the wide grins from Becky's direction, I fired up Board Game Arena for the invites.
It was all pretty much chaos as Dave got the hang of the basics. I won the first one fairly comfortably, Becky got the better of a to-and-fro second game before being handed the third game on a plate by some slightly erratic mis-clicks from Dave. It's not a forgiving game, this one, especially with no take-back function on BGA.
Bonus Week-after Report
No-one turned up on the 11th, so Becky and I took to exploring some new games on a proper table, with proper cards. Trambahn was a surprisingly subtle game of manipulating cards and triggering scorings at the right time (and in the right quantities). The first game seemed prosaic, but the second was far more tense and interesting as we experimented with how to shift the second mechanic.
But the game that made us say 'why haven't we played THIS before?' was Pantheon: a delight from the (semi-fictional) author of St Petersburg and Stone Age, where you have to establish a perfectly-tuned balance between control on the map, drawing cards, and cashing in your currencies for gods. It starts slowly and builds to a breathless 5th and 6th round.
- [+] Dice rolls