It Beats Watching The TV

A daily blog about games, family and occasionally random other things. Well, it gives me something to do, and you something to read doesn't it!?

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Exercise in Futility

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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A long drive home Friday evening and I'm back with my lovely family (and the dog), whom I've missed quite a lot this past week. It's nice to reconnect them and maybe we can play some games this weekend. When I got home Charlie excitedly told me all about some support slots his band have got now being all "official" and "on the posters"; amongst catching up on other bits and pieces he was also pleased that the Manic Street Preachers have announced a new album today;



Which got me thinking about other album titles that could also be games. Perhaps there is already a geeklist but I'm too tired and, half a bottle of wine down, too happily inebriated to care to search so here's my little effort.
I'll see you tomorrow with something a little more thought through...!

Its good to be home.



(A sentiment that I'm sure some people, not me though, would share)
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Today 6:25 am
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That's The Spirit!

Stuart Burnham
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Abingdon
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After explaining to my somewhat incredulous work colleagues what I was going to be doing instead of propping up the hotel bar with them; "yes, really, boardgames," and "no, not like that, nor that, and no, certainly not like that" (honestly, it would've been easier to say I was going dogging or something) I had a little twenty minute drive through some dark roads over to Burton on Trent on Wednesday evening and I found myself parked just over the road from the lovely Spirit Games store.



Run by the very friendly Phil and Sally, I had been in touch with them after someone had told me that they held an open gaming night once a week in the store. After saying hello and chatting to a few people I sat down with Sally and Peter to play his copy of Clans of Caledonia. He hadn't even punched it out yet! Lucky him that I should be in the vicinity this week and available for some game teaching!

My inclination after trying it out with Mrs B a few days ago was that it would play better with more and this hunch was duly proved correct. The game took a little while with punching and rules explaining but it did once again prove to be very smooth and satisfying. A few more things revealed themselves to me and I made a lot more use of the market. Some of the port bonuses and 'draw 3 contracts' rewards (for getting out all of one type of your factories) also proved to be a very useful and efficient way to go about things. The scores were all within about 10-12 points at the end and it seemed to go down well at the table. A much better night than the previous attempt I'd had then! (see yesterday)



I also spent a good 45 minutes or so rummaging around the many creaking and stuffed to the gills shelves, uncovering all manner of delights, old and new. There are also a few back rooms where games (and gamers!) were secreted away and I had quite a lot of fun looking through bits and pieces in the wargames room right at the back (safest place for this deviant activity!)



Of course one can find all this and more on the interwebs but there's something glorious about poking around and holding something, spinning the box in hand and then putting it back having spotted something even more interesting just over there...and of course there's always the chance (and in Spirit it seems a very good one) that you'll find something hidden away that you couldn't get hold of currently online.
I wanted to buy about a dozen things but couldn't really allow that to happen, although I did have to give a home to a copy of Maria for my own future delectation, and chuck in a Boss Monster: Paper & Pixels promo/ expansion pack for young Bill as a gift when I get home.



So, if you're ever in the area do go and check out Spirit Games. They're great. https://www.spiritgames.co.uk
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Fri Nov 17, 2017 6:17 am
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Current Affairs

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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I'm away on an 'exciting' course this week with work. Although it's obviously not that interesting at all it does come with the fringe benefits of only being 7 hours work a day, plus free breakfast, lunch and dinner, a quiet hotel room and no need to do any type of chores whatsoever.
Although if you happen to be Mrs B reading this then that is obviously a false statement and it's incredibly hard work and I'm very tired and will need all weekend to relax when I return...

I've actually located a suitable gaming night to attend this evening (I attempted one last night but it was a bit too Warhammery and MTGey, I say a bit - I mean exclusively, and I was made to feel a bit awkward so I upped and left) so I've just got time to pen a quick thought for this blog post.

This actually flows from a conversation in Tony's library/ hideyhole at the weekend where he was being mildly redbuked by a guest for not having his BGG collection up to date. Although I tend to agree that life's too short to fastidiously catalogue every game owned and played at the earliest opportunity I do actually use that part of this site. My collection is probably a good few months out of date (although I have added a few games as owned, I haven't done them all and I certainly haven't updated what has left in sales and trades) and I haven't updated any played games since the end of September.

I do log all my plays in a little book and then update them at a time when I'm bored and need something to do. Actually that's not strictly true, I tend to do it when I have something that I need to do but I'm not looking forward to it and use doing something like this as an excuse to put it off for a little while longer...



So, of those of you that do, how often do you log these things?
How much detail do you go into (players, results, etc) and why is that important to you?
Do you keep your collection up to date online for pride, for showing off, for insurance purposes?
Does it bother you if other people don't care, or are half-arsed with it?
And if you do keep highly accurate records, is this typical of your behaviour in other areas - organised bookshelves? Paperwork? Everything having a place and everything in its place? I hear people describe themselves as 'perfectionists' when it comes to keeping their cardboard in tippety top condition but they don't seem to carry that ethos through to other parts of their lives...
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Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:25 am
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In Soviet Russia Games Play You

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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It's been along time since I played Russian Railroads. It's not the most exciting thing to look at and not a 'hot' game when I look at my shelves. But do you know what, it is an exceedingly well designed game with lots of agonising decisions and a very satisfying exponential growth of victory point gathering. I pulled it out and showed it to Mrs B at the weekend. And after she told me to put it away and stop being silly we played Russian Railroads.



Although I think that the game is far better with three or four players I still like it at two. This was Mrs B's first time playing it and to be honest I didn't think it would be her thing. However I was wrong and she really enjoyed it. The game is an optimisation 'engine' and whilst you can't do everything you can put together some very satisfying combos.
We probably could've put together a few more but until the end of the second round I forgot that coins could be used to replace a worker at any time. Oops. So we missed out on a few actions each, meaning our final scores were in the high 200's to mid 300's rather than another 100 plus that is more common. There is undeniably a buzz gained from scoring such huge numbers of points - a first round might yield a dozen or so but later on it will be 150 or even more.



I never normally know quite what to focus on and do a bit on all of the tracks but this time I concentrated on the Trans-Siberian with a little bit on the St Petersburg track and didn't move my industry marker once. Maybe one day I'll find what is most optimal, as the base game is pretty static, apart from player choices.
Although that said, with Mrs B enjoying it, perhaps I can finally get my Russian Railroads: German Railroads and Russian Railroads: American Railroads expansions out of their boxes and seeing the light of day. The variety that they bring looks like it could be great fun.

And speaking of fun, and the whole "in Soviet Russia" meme...

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Wed Nov 15, 2017 6:20 am
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You Gotta Fight. For Your Right. To Olympus.

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Fight for Olympus is a fairly new 2 player only game that seems to have been and gone with little fanfare. It has something of a Battle Line feel to it, although it has something more akin to the card powers of Feld's Bruges rather than Knizia's colours and numbers.

Players seek to either obtain 7 points, end up with all spaces on their side of the board occupied at the start of their turn or to have the point marker on their side when the deck runs out. Players put any number of cards into play on their turn, but each card will (usually) have a cost in other cards, of varying colours. Cards are soldiers (basic attacak and defence cards, cheap), Heroes (powerful abilities but expensive, often are multicoloured so can act as wilds as well) or equipment (attack and defence boosts for cards in play. Once they have done so they will attack whatever is facing them; putting damage on/ defeating their opposing card or gaining a bonus if that side of the board is empty, gaming VP's, extra cards or tokens that can be used to pay for putting cards into play in the future.



There is a fair amount of back and forth in the game, ebb and flow and it feels very tight like a good two player should. Cards that initially seem very powerful also have very counterable weaknesses (a multicoloured hero, being all four colours, is easily halted from attacking by any card that blocks a particular colour for example). There are a nice range of powers on the cards that interact and combine. There is also good replay variety as you remove a portion of the deck before starting and the game is highly tactical.

Billy and I both enjoyed the game quite a bit and thought it seemed well balanced and worth further investigating. I also really like the art work, and the use of the Greek Mythology. It's nothing spectacular but it is a highly competent and competitive quick little game. Worth a few pounds from your pocket and minutes of your time if you can I'd say.

You were, naturally, expecting this to finish. Enjoy.

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Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:25 am
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Boydell's Brilliant Big Birthday Bash part 2

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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To the games then!


Or, wot I woz playing all day Saturday.




First up was Calimala, a game that I was very interested in pre-Essen, then not at all once I knew it was a minimum three player game (something that might only be able to get played at games night every now and then is exactly the type of game that I'm trying to avoid buying these days) but upon arriving at around the same time as Russell and Alex (waves to both) she immediately dug out a copy and asked if Bill and I were up for it.
Oh, go on then...
You're not going to get a long description from me but suffice to say it's chuffing excellent. A first play that Bill seemed to have utterly grokked gave plenty to mull over at the game's conclusion. Instead of packing it away and moving swiftly on to something knew like all hardcore gamers are supposed to, Alex suggested we play it again straight away.
Oh, go on then...
This time we were joined by Ian (waves) and I think I enjoyed it even more with five players. I also felt somewhat like Neo in the Matrix as the (randomised) game board revealed itself to me as something just clicked in my brain's understanding of what it was saying (that's an almost twenty year old pop culture reference now. Sheeeiiit!)
In a nutshell; put a disc between two actions and do them both. When someone later puts a disc on that same space you get to do it again. And the next time some does it as well. On the fourth time that disc (at the bottom) is going to move to the scoring board and then it's an area majority totting up of whatever is being assessed. After 15 scoring the game is over.
It's pretty quick, it's very sharp, it's absolutely brilliant. If you don't like the high potential for dickishness then stay away. If you want a high degree of control over your game then this isn't for you. But if you like sharp, tactical and well designed games then check it out as soon as you can.

"She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid"



Next up was my annual play of Ora et Labora which, somewhat surprisingly, I didn't manage to AP into oblivion (something about this game just makes my head hurt) and Ben was pleased to see us wrap up in just over an hour. Of course I came last, but I was pleased that I didn't cock it up (much), nor hold it up. I'm not sad that I traded it away and I'll happily play it again next year. Once.



Something else from Ben's bulging sack was to come next (sorry for that image) and it was to be another Essen debutant - Montana. Which is a straightforward "gather resources and fill the recipes on the board spaces race to get all your settlements down" game. Oh, and you use a spinner to get your meeples. Yes, really. There isn't much more to it than that rules wise, you can gather all the info from looking at the boards and play knowing just that (asumming you've played a fair few modern games in your time). What there is more to though is the set up, with oodles of pieces which you need to count out as they are limited in game rules and different at each player count and takes about half the time that it does to actually play the game.



It's "fine", but nothing special. And my opinion of it there is markedly higher than the game's owner who was immediately offering it to the room for £25. Nominally and metaphorically appropriate picture resembling Ben's mood upon the game's conclusion below.



Glass Road was next to cheer Ben up, and we were joined by the gentlemanly Phil (waves) as we all to a greater or lesser (and some, *coughs* to a considerably greater) extent cocked our games up. "Someone" even managed to build a building that effectively lost them 3 points as it cost 2 clay and a glass and "they" scored 0 end game bonus points from it. Bloody amateurs!



It was during this that all manner of batshitcrazyness was going on at the adjoining table, with (the other) Ben (waves) stroking my teenage son's face whilst talking from a hand puppet on top of his head (the game told me to do it! Your honour...) I've no idea what Mountains of Madness is, but I think I'd like to play it!



Phil was feeling a little brain burnt after a packed afternoon of gaming and offered up "rock paper scissors area majority" as the next title. Revolution! is a little (but only a little) more than that and probably plays better with 4 than 3 but I quite liked the game. That was certainly enhanced by some huge end game scoring and a rather large dollop of screwing over of my opponents to satisfying effect (sorry Phil, but, you know...) and the next time I see young Luke at our monthly cafe morning sessions I'll suggest a play of it (I know he has a copy). Silly, but fun.



Whilst others were having a whale of a time with Meeple Circus (yes, I know I've been harsh on it; it probably needs "the right crowd" and is better at a packed gathering or a convention and served with alcohol) especially with Bill amusing clumsiness and Ian's relieved exhalation at completing his solo performance resulting in him blowing his construction over in the manner of the big bad wolf, I was playing D-Day Dice: 2nd Edition with Craig (waves).
Essentially a co-op /solo game this is something that I'd been aware of but never found when I was getting into gaming. Apparently it's being republished in a new edition and, as he's running the KS pledge manager, Craig had a demo copy.
It seems really bloody hard (in a good way) and does all the sort of things that you expect in this type of game. In hindsight it reminded me of Hostage Negotiator with its constant pressure on you and the need to purchase cards and gain/ avoid specific symbols on the dice. I like the sound of a campaign book with many missions for you to play through. Something I'll certainly be looking into!



The last game of the day before knocking off to the birthday boy's pad for curry and then a drive home was the highly tactical and tactile Azul. I loved it. It's easier to play than it is to explain and I'd urge you to do so as soon as you can. There might well be a copy of it turning up at the Burnham boy's pad this Christmas I feel...



A brilliant day of gaming (I genuinely enjoyed every one I played) and some excellent company (waves to everyone else). Next time (there will be a next time I hope) it'll be a stay over to accommodate even more gaming and some proper beer drinking with it.
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Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:20 am
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Boydell's Brilliant Big Birthday Bash (part 1)

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Everyone's favourite game designer/ blog writer/ sweary uncle has been (is currently still if you're reading this on Sunday) having a big cardboard celebration for his birthday.
This is just a brief recap this morning as I got home late last night and with little will to write but later on today I'll be tucked up in a hotel room (away for a week on a course) and will need something to keep me occupied so I'll cover all the games then. And I have to say that if Tony does decide to make something of an annual event then this is the place to go if you want to try out anything just released at Essen - multiple copies of every game you've heard of but can't get for love nor money at the moment! If you could think of it then there's a good chance someone had it with them.

There were lots of people, lots of people who like boardgames and lots of people who like Tony (or who at least find themselves related/ geographically local to him), ergo lots of people who are warm and funny and well worth chatting with as well as playing games. It was lovely to meet everyone, several of whom are found reading this blog (thank you for your kind words) and I wish we were able to stay all weekend.

As you can see in the above picture a fantastic cake had been made for this special occasion - nice one Alex - and it must be said was truly the only time that Scandaroon has been wholeheartedly enjoyed by a room full of gamers.



Billy had thought it a little excessive that I had taken a bag with about eight games in but it was quickly apparent to him that this crowd operates on a rather different level when it comes to cardboard. One entire end of the skittle alley (for American readers; that's like a 10 pin bowling alley, but much more twee) was a cardboard mountain and bags lined almost the entire length as well. I don't know if that means his Dad needs to up his game in his eyes or if I now seem a little more 'normal' to him!

A brief summary of some of the highlights of the day;
The cake
The constant questioning the bar staff if "Tony's beer is on yet?" and the resultant cheer when it finally was
Putting many faces to names
Mr Ben Maddox (who else!) needing to stroke Bill's face in a not at all troubling manner
Ben also talking in a stupid voice with a hand puppet in the same game (honestly, playing Glass Road on a adjoining table has never been so entertaining)
People actually having fun playing Meeple Circus
Bill's spectacular ineptitude at Meeple Circus
Tony's kitchen being full of curry
Tony's lovely wife running around the garden in red boots asking us all to find anything that'll burn and chuck it on the fire (yes there was a Scandaroon in there)
A trip into The Shed
Billy educating me about his love for New/ Alternative Metal on the journey home (resulting in me taking a wrong turn and getting lost in Gloucester)
Actually, scratch that last one.

a "these stains are never coming out of that tablecloth" face being pulled there I think


Happy Birthday Tony
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Sun Nov 12, 2017 8:25 am
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Well Tickle My Sporran

Stuart Burnham
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Abingdon
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Look! Hexes! And lots of different little wooden bits!
This is the stuff that Euro-dreams are made of!
Something about this game caught me from the moment I first saw someone posting a picture on t'internet ahead of the Kickstarter campaign and I backed it as soon is it went live (note, I do not usually back anything but as well as looking like "my" kind of game it was the very agreeable price and reasonable shipping costs that swung it. Take heed!)

Clans of Caledonia is either a deceptively simple complex game or a deceptively complex simple game, and I'm not sure which. Each of the five rounds is broken down into bite sized micro turns for players and that helps it to zip along. But the need to plan and optimise means that you need to think carefully about each little step that you're going to take towards your goal. It might be a little frustrating in a four player game for someone who knows exactly what they want to do with their next three moves to have to wait whilst other players um and ah over what to place out on the board and buy at the market. At two however that isn't really an issue.

Mrs B and I played this Friday evening and whilst it ran a little long (it was a learning game for us both) it was very enjoyable. There were lots of ways to get points, and a reasonable amount of indirect interaction between us. I imagine that the board will seem very crowded (and that can be a beneficial thing in some aspects) at higher player counts and the goods market will be much more dynamic. But essentially this is a game where you don't interfere with your opponents but what they do can be very important to you, if that makes sense?



Players pay money to put out buildings and workers, trade goods at a market, acquire and fulfill contracts and upgrade their little 'tech tree' boards. At the end of each round players get money, simple goods and can convert those goods into processed goods (mmmm, whisky...) based on the buildings they have put out. There will also be a different point scoring opportunity assessed at this time. At the end of the game players will total up their in game points, points for goods on the completed contracts (and there's a neat scoring system where the good that was traded the least is worth the most end game points and vice-versa), points for leftover goods and cash plus a points award for the player(s) with the most completed contracts and the most linked settlements (to do with different groups, separated by water but still reachable with your travel tech).

It's, like I said, straightforward but also quite in depth. A sign of excellence or superficial fluff? I don't know yet but I the sense that this will ring a lot of gamer's bells.

obvious error there - but it wouldn't have changed the result, I'd only have been 3 points closer.


Mrs B won, and it was surprisingly close overall. A slight error here, a missed opportunity there, who knows how the outcome could've been altered if only I done that, or not done that. The fact that I cared enough at the end is perhaps a good sign for the game.
First impressions then are mildly positive from us both, not amazing but certainly "good" and will most assuredly be played more.

Now, I know you'd like to know how this compares to one of its most obvious 'inspirations' (the designer has been very open about how he has loving borrowed from other games) - Terra Mystica; but, the thing is, I've never played it you see!
*gasps*
I might need to correct that soon.
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Sat Nov 11, 2017 6:25 am
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Game, Teacher! Leave the Rulebook Alone

Stuart Burnham
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Abingdon
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We don't need no verbatim dictation
We don't need no nasally drone
No dour 'splanation at the table
Teachers leave them rulebooks alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them rulebooks alone
All in all it's just another game that we'll play
All in all you're just another gamer that'll complain

We don't need no verbatim dictation
We don't need no nasally drone
No dour 'splanation at the table
Teachers leave them rulebooks alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them rulebooks alone
All in all it's just another game that we'll play
All in all you're just another gamer that'll complain

"Wrong?, never mind, it was only a learning game!"
"If you don't bother to listen, you can't expect to win;
How can you expect to win if you don't bother to listen?"
"You! Yes, you on your iPhone, pay attention laddy!"






It's a simple contract of sorts, yes?
Teacher agrees not to bore you to death by reading all rules and sub-clauses, exceptions and edge cases, instead giving a brief overview of game and how to score points and then you get playing. You agree to pay attention and take on board the broad sweep of the game and not moan when you didn't win because that rule wasn't explained in explicit detail.
We're all here to play games and have fun, not to demonstrate our superior prowess over our fellow (wo)man, agreed?
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Fri Nov 10, 2017 6:25 am
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Painters and Decorators - Games for a Laugh 7th November

Stuart Burnham
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The past couple of week's write ups about GfaL nights have seen me grumbling about Halloween and the decorations that the pub had draped all over. You might have thought me a grumpy old bugger, and you might well be right.
But this week I think I have unquestionably justified contempt for this travesty pictured below...



It was the 7th of November....!

As far as I recall there are 12 days of Christmas and not one of them is in fucking November! I can only presume (for this is not an entirely unique occurrence) that the general outlook in Britain at present is so downbeat that people are, somewhat manically, saying "yes, but, look; Christmas! It's Christmas soon. Everything's going to be alright; everyone loves Christmas, don't they? Don't you? What do you mean? You're ruining everything now, can't you just go along with it? It's Christmas! Ho ho, ha ha, ho ho, ha sob, sniffle, sob, ..., ..., oh God, it's all shit isn't it..."

Perhaps others had gotten word of this forced festivity for there were only five of us this week, by far our lowest count for absolutely ages. A quick scans of games offered only a few that weren't party or filler fare and we chose Modern Art. It was to be a leisurely and amusing play, with John seemingly under the impression that the idea of the game was to either a) collect the most artwork and/ or b) earn a prize for overpaying by the most exorbitant amount for a single painting. There was one moment late on when Kostas was nearly in tears; "but how can you pay 85 for that? It can only possibly be worth 70 at absolute maximum!" (obviously you can be trying to ensure an artist is highly valued in one round and then sell your 3 cards of that artist in a later round for big gains, but when you're in the final round....?!)

We were interrupted part way through by a travelling salesman (longtime missing GfaLer Paul and new Dad - those two things not entirely unconnected...) who'd correctly thought that offering up the games he no longer has time to play at a games meetup was probably the quickest and easiest way to shift them on. And with them all being priced *ahem* "competitively" at £10 each Mysterium, Small World, Memoir '44, Suburbia, Space Cadets: Dice Duel and Chinatown had all found new owners pretty damn quickly. Leaving a few lbs lighter and a few £s richer and with a promise that we'd sort out a weekend games session at the pub over the holidays so that parents of very young children can make it, he was on his way and we were back to the game.



Much mirth around the table was had with offering up a card for auction on the manner of Dixit with a silly titling of said painting (apologies to the very talented artists whose beautiful work blesses this edition)
Clockwise from top left;
Man with marmalade beard; A tile in my kitchen (detail); I like to keep them in boxes; Psycho girlfriend wants a cuddle.
Unsurprisingly John was nowhere near in the final money count, Gareth was pleased not to have come last and then Kostas, Helen and I were all close in the low 400's with Helen having bought quite a lot (and quite astutely) whereas I don't think I bought more than 3, maybe 4, paintings during the entire game - double auctions on valuable artists for the win! Or failing that, sell something to John!



I was pleased that with 5 of us present we wouldn't be able to play the 4 player game Magic Maze but unfortunately I was mistaken and the game can actually handle up to 8 players. Bugger. Despite my deep seated dislike of the game and Gareth taking a call from his wife and trying despairingly to get her to ask him to come and pick her up from wherever she was ("are you sure you don't want a lift, I can stop playing, it's no bother...oh, ok, are you really sure, it's getting late...oh...yeah, thanks, yes I am glad I can stay and play, thank you dear...") Kostas really wanted to pay his game and he's a nice guy and so we acquiesced.

And, well, my assessment of it is still that I really don't like it and find it an annoying and frustrating time. Banging your big red angry dobber on the table and (silently) demanding someone do something about it isn't usually the way to a pleasurable time in my experience.
And nor is playing this.
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Thu Nov 9, 2017 6:20 am
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