The Ross-on-Wye Boardgamers

Beer and Boardgames at The Plough Inn (formerly the Prince Of Wales, formerly the White Lion). "It's not F-ing Monopoly, alright?!"
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Friday 9th November (and the rest of the weekend) - CiderCon II

Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Oi! Hands off...
Not quite the big gathering of minds that was CiderCon I, due to various unavoidable absences, but there was plenty of time over this extended weekend to partake of some very fine games.

Becky and I started early, on the Thursday, with a record breaking game of Snowdonia (172-170 to yours truly, thanks to the 40-point track-laying bonus and nearly limitless iron smelting). Don't believe what Tony might tell you: it really is best with two. We also played the interesting Farmerama, a game which has wisely converted the browser space-waster into a simultaneous action selection exercise, but unwisely assumed the art would convert well onto cards and meeples. It doesn't, but the pink pig meeples are pretty cute nevertheless. I can't claim it will be a world-beater, but with a full complement of 4 there are a few interesting decisions to be made, and it plays quickly because you can carry out the bulk of your actions simultaneously.

Fast-forward to Friday night; John, Ali and I started early before dinner, with a couple of games of High Society. Ali rightly stated herself intrigued by this masterpiece of auction-game design, although it does play best with four. Becky having arrived, we settled down to twice-lasagne, fishcakes and sticky ribs, and Boydell unexpectedly rolled up during the pudding course (which, note, only Becky was partaking of). We had time for a quick filler, so broke out Gargon, only to delay the start because of Dave's arrival. When Gordon turned up shortly afterwards, we decided to abandon the fillers and actually play some proper games.

Games for seven being in notoriously short supply, we split into a threesome and a foursome. The latter was necessary for Tinners' Trail, a recent trade acquisition of mine (this and 20th Century for Galaxy Trucker? I should say...).

Like all Wallaces, the linear economy isn't as obvious as it should be, but everyone was up and running by round 2, as we worked out the value of selling the occasional pasty and that a mine's value was dictated by how much water was in it, not by the ore. Ali scored a massive blow in Round 3 by emptying out a couple of mines altogether, and the last round was just for procession (I did something really, REALLY stupid by winning one auction too many and running out of time). But all declared themselves very impressed: we shall certainly be playing again. Must laminate the player aids, though.

Suburbia was the call on the other table: I didn't catch much about the game itself, but there was a lot of intense brow-furrowing and discussion. From a distance, it looked a little bit like Glen More-meets-Walnut Grove, but I'm sure someone will be happy to step in and improve that analogy.

Fortuitously (for this sort of thing NEVER usually happens), both tables finished at near-as-dammit the same time, and we merged for the only game which would feasibly support seven players: 7 Wonders. Thankfully, the log fire had by this time cooled from the approximate temperature of the heart of the sun and stopped threatening to actually set fire to gamers' shirts, the games bag next to the hearth, and Bailey the dog, who is apparently made of asbestos. So we could all get around the traditional "gamers' table" quite comfortably.

I drew Halicarnassus first off and clocked up an unfeasible number of science points thanks to the newbies being more than happy to chuck the green cards in the discards and Tony and Becky being unusually happy to pass me the rest. John scored a legendarily low 23 points, which we all promised not to tell other people about.


Onto game two, I drew the Colossus, and found Tony once again to my left. Having espied Dave clocking up double-paper early on, I proceeded a quite vicious strategy of denial, later adding some high scoring blue and purple cards for an embarrassingly-large 64 points. But I had my Colossus handed to me in game 3. Playing the uninspiring Ephesus, I came in dead last, while - most unexpectedly - John managed to clock up 57 points for his first 7 Wonders victory in living memory. The new players - Ali and Gordon - managed to round off the podium, which is an encouraging sign all round.

Onwards, onwards, onwards to Saturday.

Having completed my charitable act for the weekend by performing a medley of Tom Lehrer songs to a dumbfounded auditorium in the name of Children In Need (I'm sure any children listening, had they not previously been in need, certainly were afterwards), we set sail for Much Marcle to round off the weekend's gaming.

Jut the four of us today, but the gaming was certainly not of inferior quality. Ali had requested Goa, and the rest of us were more than happy to oblige. As usual, it led us a merry dance: Ali hit the first two progression tracks hard, JP tried drawing expedition cards, and I was just left floundering about amid the worst ship shortage since eight Viking chiefs all died in the same week. The final scores were as close as you like: 36-35-35-34 to Ali, with only my residual smarts keeping me in contention at the back end. Highly impressive, and new rules? I think not...

After an extended dinner break during which Ledbury's foremost Chinese restaurant managed to muck about with our order without doing anything so obvious as cook it and serve it to us, we took to Blokus. Tactical incompetence was the order of the day at first as none of us really knew what we were doing (John had played once before and promptly won), but things hotted up in the re-match where I held John to a noble tie.

Inspired by our ability to make abstract patterns, we also had a bash at Blokus Trigon (I'd picked up the pair as a perfect duo in the recent UK Maths Trade): this resulted in much more head-scratching, and in some cases a basic inability to line up triangles to the pattern on the board. Becky declared herself disgusted well before the end, Ali slightly later so, and I managed to swarm all over the board to level things out on the male half of the table.

"Absolute Balderdash!" was the cry, a game which it is widely known I am NEVER averse to playing, and things started hotly, with Ali and John racing out to early leads. But my Dashing boots always take a few round to heat up, and even without my arch-nemesis Boddle stroking his white pussy opposite in order to put me off, I managed to chain together a few perfect scores and leg it away down the closing straight. Being able to persuade my wife that nearly everything I say is true is a very valuable skill (no comments please!)...

Ali declared herself dead for the night, but John, Becky and I still had time for one more, and we selected yet another of my recent trade acquisitions (seven games this week!) in Fresco. Even in its most basic incarnation, without any of the four expansions, it proved to be good fare, and the Queen rules were as ever a joy to read (take note Ystari and Richard Breese!), leading to hardly a wrong foot in our opening session. Becky raced clear at the last in this one, proving that having a good mood all the time is definitely the right answer. Food for thought indeed, which is more than the Chinese takeaway offered...
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