What better way to get back into IRL Ross-on-Wye board gaming spirit than with some good, old-fashioned, highly-interactive favourites? When I say 'highly-interactive' I do, of course, mean 'brutal and unforgiving' (wherever possible): it's so good to be back home again.
Boffo messaged, mid-Friday, informing me that we would be joined - at Jobbers' Garden Palace - by Xander (a VERY occasional attendee these last 10 years) and tentatively-suggesting The Princes of Florence. I replied: "Oh good Christ! Yes!!!" and we had the main course in our figurative Friday Night Dinner menu*. I slipped the excellent Senators in the bag (the ONLY thing in the bag, this week) relying, instead, on Boffo to fill in the rest of the 'Best with 5' blanks:
We opened with Northern Pacific: simplicity itself when it comes to the rules (place an investment cube OR advance the railway) but rich in turn-order importance, tiny alliances, follow-my-leader and opportunistic dickery. The first round was so nervous that three players placed just one cube and two none-at-all before the train steamed into Seattle (!) Round two, however, had more meat on its bone ('Meat' is the MVP word for this week's club), with a spread of cubes and some nicely-timed 'right turn's getting us all scoring and hustling into round 3. The last round was properly tense: who would break first in the blockade of the West Coast before the locomotive would come steaming home?! A high scorer for almost everyone, I managed to sneak just the one cube ahead for victory. The game, as a whole, was a potted example of the players' journey from 'New game, who dis?' to 'Ah! Now I get it!"
On to the star attraction, then, and The Princes of Florence: one of my 5Gs 4D and, if the Club were a person, one of its picks too**! Xander was new to the delights of this tetris-y, recipe fulfilment, 21 actions (7 of them auction purchases) leviathan of repute and perfection. Xander, I think, added an interesting spanner into our Works (literally!) as he hoovered bonus cards to help power some lucrative professions; we all followed and never have I seen the Bonus Card deck punished so hard! Boffo played a 'long game', quietly nurturing a couple of 'easy' Prestige cards and a trio of heavily-boosted Works: it wasn't enough to come from a distant last to a win..but it was more than sufficient to pip the usually-reliable Jobbers into third position for second. Smudge, as always, maintained a steady hand on the tiller: it'll be a cold day in Gamer Hell when she doesn't end in the top Two.
The sun had still not set over the Much Marcle church, so out came Senators: keeping 'on message' with the knife fight in a phone booth theme. Previous outings had been a little subdued with Senator movement a bit sluggish; this time, however, there was a LOT of to-ing and fro-ing! Free Senators, stolen senators, War and other Event card Senators, big 'cash-ins' - the whole lot! Senator markers danced up and down the track with a remarkable fervour! I, myself, managed three substantial 'cash-ins', buying the loyalty of at least two nobles each time (with money to spare); indeed, my final cash-in lured 5 money each from Xander and Jobbers (to 'join in my action'), giving me the funds for a third! It wasn't enough, though; Jobbers pipping Ben for the laurels in this superlative, chewy filler.
We closed the session with one last bastion of the unforgiving in the form of Knizia's amazing Too Many Cooks or, as we like to refer to it in RoW: "Soup!". Yes, indeed; a quick rules explanation from Boffo elicited repeated "Don't leave NO SOUP until the final round"s from Jobbers, myself and Smudge - it's good to be clear about potential pitfalls. Terrified of this trap myself, I opened the first round with my NO SOUP goal predicated entirely on surviving-without-taking the first trick...which I singularly failed to do: gah! Round one down and I went from plus 5 to minus 4 (the rules say you cannot go below zero but this is the RoW variant and all the better for being so). Boffo - half a bottle of red wine into the evening - almost suffered an embolism at my catastrophic ineptitude; his enthusiastic ribbing of my clumsiness would, unfortunately, come back to bite him in the ass (along with several carpet tacks that Jobbers had used to fix the fabric to Ben's chair! - Ouch!). Jobbers sailed away with the win - ably followed by Xander and Smudge, who both survived their own NO SOUP rounds with relative ease. I, pleasingly, clawed my way out of the minuses to end on nine points; Ben, not so gloatingly now, languishing below zero.
We could really get used to this open-to-the-elements gaming environment: the cooling Summer evening, the fresh air and bird song. Xander might be up for an Eclipse (Jobbers too) if I can a) rustle up Ian, Daffers and Dave Wood as fellow Hegemonics and b) set up a Gazebo in my garden to assuage Jobbers' lingering Covid transmission fears.
Gazebos are cheap compared to the priceless experiences we have as a Games Club.
*Paul Ritter R.I.P. Who, in the Club, is Jim?
**A 'Club' interviewed? That would be interesting!
Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Dad, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer.
- [+] Dice rolls