Oi! Hands off...
A healthy fivesome this week, and Tony's relatively prompt arrival wasn't quick enough to beat our opening game of Buccaneer - a tidy little Stephan Dorra creation which is becoming more enjoyable and swift every time we play it. Initially, it all looks a bit silly, but there is some subtle manipulation in the pirate-grabbing which isn't at all obvious at first. I think I lost this by a considerable margin to John, but it was so much fun, that didn't seem to matter at all.
Tony had brought Snowdonia (which, in direct contrast to the excellent 2P game we experienced last week, is too flabby and slow with 5), and Medieval Mastery, which - after he had sat there pointedly reading the rules for 10 minutes - we suggested he break out.
On the surface of things, even under Boddle's tortuous rules explanation, it seemed like a happy enough premise - a distillation of all those medieval exploration and combat games like Warrior Knights down into a swift 60 minute shell. My opening deal gave me two Special Ability cards that were clearly oriented to defence, but my board position wasn't great with adjacent tiles that were easy for others to attack. Consequently I lost the first battle of the game.
And then I took stock.
There was nothing I could have done at this point to put myself back into a potentially winning position. Effectively I was eliminated from the game after two turns. My third Special Ability card was then shut down repeatedly by JP meaning I couldn't even Kingmake effectively. So I had to sit there for the best part of 30 minutes doing nothing. Literally. All I did for the final 28 minutes of the game was put a number-3 die on an empty tile.
I'm sure there's probably something more to Medieval Mastery, but I doubt it will surprise anyone if I now describe it as a tedious mash-up of well-worn mechanics with a theme that actually makes little sense.
OK, moaning done. We moved onto Chinatown, a game which is really only a small step up from Pit, and has the beloved 'anything goes' negotiation mechanic which allows us to get REALLY creative ("I'll trade you this Tropical Fish shop and space 75 for a pint of lemonade, $20,000 and first refusal on any future numbers between 13 and 16 that I draw in rounds 4 and 5"). Bill's regular complaint is that he's rubbish at valuation games, but he managed alright here, coming in second to a rampant Tony, who got a 6-chain of buildings out suspiciously early. My one big complaint with Chinatown is that a lucky draw will allow a player to run away with things, but the blessing in disguise was that we were all so wrapped up with our own little empires that we didn't even notice. I think the big danger with this game is that one day we might overplay it and become too analytical. It's happened elsewhere.
Medieval Masturbation had taken up more of the evening than it deserved, and we only had time for a quick card-game closer. We picked a game that's seen plenty of table-time recently, the delightful Too Many Cooks (more accurately, my version is Veel Soeps, which I'm sure is some terribly witty Dutch pun).
A secondary aim of any evening is trying to get Tony to say something complementary about Reiner Knizia, and 'The Soup Game' is certainly good enough for that. Bill managed to knock himself out of the running early with a disastrous No Soup round, and JP looked like he was running away with it until I scored a big 8-point Onion round (which is pretty massive in a 5P game). Unfortunately, doing that meant I had left No Soup until last, which is always a gamble (as John has found to his cost more than once). Thankfully I was dealt a handful of zeroes, so it was no big challenge to win the full five points. A bit of a tainted win, because I was - after all - relying on a lucky draw in the final round. But at least it didn't involve being virtually redundant for the best part of half an hour.