Oi! Hands off...
As I arrive, the White Lion appeared some confusion; the bar staff tried to direct me in three different directions at once before I found JP sitting patiently in the back corner. He had already readied Junta (no, not THAT Junta), and we amused ourselves momentarily with this harmless abstract. I should have won, but left my defence glaringly exposed, which allowed John an all-too-easy turn-around. I suspect Junta may be slightly broken from the first-player point of view, so it won't be getting much more mileage around my table. Still, it was passable entertainment until Tony turned up promptly at 7:52.
Boydell had been under the impression it might have been a 2P night, for he had brought Kahuna, Balloon Cup and Odin's Ravens, all of which I find distinctly underwhelming, and therefore was heartily cheered of John's presence.
Tony suggested Walnut Grove, which met with little objection, and we dived in headfirst. As it turned out, I dived in a little bit TOO headfirst, and forgot the proper harvesting rules for the first six (of eight) rounds, which was a bit of a handicap. Even if Tony hadn't allowed me to dump five 'Neighbourly Help' tiles, I'd still have finished on +2 points, which I class as something of an achievement given I was only collecting one good per field, regardless of its size! Tony edged out John at the grown-up end of the leaderboard.
I won't pull the 'Elfenland strop' (for more on which see a few blog posts back, and indeed a couple of paragraphs down) - Tony DID explain the rules properly, but I thought it would have been decent of him in - say - round TWO when I was already struggling to pay for anything, to point out I was playing wrong, but never mind. Walnut Grove had enough charm even from a hopeless position, but original material? I'm afraid there was none.
Tony had espied Becky's copy of Pillars of the Earth, which had made an outing while she was drinking it up at a Wurzels gig, and the delightful board made the table its own for an hour while we fawned over the gorgeous artwork. Which, to be honest, is about the extent of the charms of this game. I find it irritatingly rote, and the claims of the other two that I 'only won because I picked up the bellmaker' in the last round were nonsense, given that I finished a good six points in the lead. In fact, my victory had much more to do with picking up the Carpenter who gives you gold for wood in Round 1.
It was light-filler time already for the dozy Boydell, who never can quite seem to keep his eyes open until 11pm. We opted for Turn The Tide, a game from the designer of the rightly-heralded For Sale, and one with which both JP and I had passing acquaintance.
It all opened amicably enough, but then Tony threw a Boddlestrop*, claiming the game was rubbish, and proceeded to play the last hand entirely at random, presumably in order to screw over the two players who actually wanted to win. As it happens, John won, and I will tentatively agree that perhaps there is a touch too much chaos with three.
As Tony drowned his miseryguts in pineapple-and-lemonade, JP and I had time for one last filler, and the totally awesome Battle Line. A word to the wise for the designers of the underwhelming Kosmos games above - THIS is how to make a 2-player game.
It was beefy stuff down to the finish, but I will spare absolutely no modesty in claiming to be a very good Battle Line player, and promptly hounded JP's decision not to go after Tactics cards in early-game. It might be simple, and it might be Knizia, but it is one of the very best head-to-head experiences out there.
* note to authors of the OED, or at least members of LoB and the Reading games group: I would like to register the use of the noun 'Boddlestrop' as meaning: 'a tantrum thrown midway through a game which the individual has no longer any chance of winning, which criticises at great length the game's mechanics, designer, playtesters and the owner who peremptorily suggested playing it tonight.'
I think it could have quite a lot of currency.