Newcastle Gamers – 14th January 2011

First meeting of the year, and the first in the club’s brand new venue – Christchurch, Shieldfield… just over the road from the Northumbria University design school (or, as most people know it: “That funny-looking building where the Warners cinema used to be”).

I arrived a bit late (got a couple of miles from home, realised I’d forgot my sandwiches, and pulled a U-Turn on the A69… oops!), but was surprised to see the place was already very full, with lots of faces I didn’t recognise.

First game of the evening: Dungeon Run.

I’m not usually a huge fan of dice-based dungeon-crawlers… but, most of the people at the club were already tied up in fairly long games, this one *seemed* like it would be a pretty light way to fill up an hour, and Michael (the game’s owner) hadn’t had chance to play it before and was keen to break it in… so…. why not? 🙂

Well, to be honest… it was a bit of a struggle. Nobody at the table had played the game before, the rule book isn’t particularly speed-reader-friendly, and we were pretty much winging it for the first half of the game. Since playing the game I’ve read the rulebook online, as a few things about the the game seemed a bit “off”, and I was curious to see if we were doing things right… but, surprisingly — by the end of the game — we weren’t too far off the mark with anything. We messed up with some of the subtleties of laying the tiles (so the photo above shows a slightly-invalid dungeon layout) and small things like that, but we got the important bits right… I just think the game has a bit of an odd feel to it even when played the right way.

I’ve since read the Shut up and Sit Down review of the game, and I think they’ve pretty much nailed it; while some aspects of the game are really neat, you get this nagging sense that other elements just haven’t been thought through properly at all.

If you like your games to be thematic… well, this one oozes theme. I controlled some kind of chaos-warped acolyte, who helped defeat the big evil dragon via my dark-magic powers of control over highly-infectious malignant tumours (ugh!)… only to be crushed (and killed!) by a wobbly portcullis while making my escape. Oops.

But… behind the story… it’s all just blind luck and dice throws; typical ameritrash dungeon crawl fayre… which I can take — in moderation — but this one just seemed to drag on for at least an hour longer than it should have. So, not a big hit for me (though I’m sure I would’ve been raving about it in my Talisman-loving, Warhammer-playing teenage years!)

Next up: Red November

Red November is a co-operative game, set on a disaster-prone Nuclear Submarine crewed by grog-swilling…. Gnomes?

Gnomes?!! Why Gnomes? … I have no idea. Maybe they just had a bunch of Gnome figures lying around at the game factory, and desperately needed to use them up on something.

Anyway… basically, you’re all crew members on this (Gnomic!) submarine… fires break out, compartments flood, nuclear missiles go haywire, important life-support thingies break down… and you’ve got to run around with fire extinguishers, booze, reactor instruction manuals and stuff like that to fix things. If you manage to stay alive for 60 (game) minutes, rescuers arrive and you win.

We came frustratingly close to success, but were defeated by a flip of a card in the closing minutes of the game, which caused the reactor temperature to go critical, and everybody to suffer some kind of terrible heat-related death.

The ending seemed a bit anti-climatic and random – the game doesn’t have any of the tension that Pandemic/Forbidden Island has, where you have a vague idea of how the top of the deck is stacked, and which cards are about to hit… It was more a case of: flip the card — “oh bugger, +2 heat!” — and game over.

So… Red November isn’t something I’d necessarily rush back to play again, but it was fun for what it was, and made a nice little filler.

Finally: Ingenious

By this point in proceedings, I was looking for something a bit more thinky and competitive. Olly pulled out a copy of Ingenious – another game that I’d never played before. While I tend to shy away from dry-looking abstracts (and Ingenious looks about as hard-core dry-looking abstract as you can get), Reiner Knizia’s games are usually worth a punt … and Olly seems to have pretty good taste in games, so I figured it was worth a shot.

Verdict: Really nice game! Basically, you take turns slotting tiles into a hex grid. Each tile contains two symbols, and – after placing your tile – you count the number of identical symbols radiating out from it in straight lines, and your score is based on that. It’s a simple – but neat – concept, and the game runs for a very acceptable 40 minutes or so. I would definitely play this one again. (Actually, while writing this, I’ve just remembered that there’s an iOS version… so I guess that’s the rest of my morning wasted…)

* * * * * * *

We finished Ingenious just after 10pm … which was probably a bit too late to start a different game and get home at a reasonable hour, so I decided to call it a night. The evening had flown past… (and I felt a bit sad that it was over already!) …I’m really enjoying these Newcastle Gamer nights. Now, if only I could find a club a bit closer to home for the alternate weeks…

Other thoughts on the night’s gaming:

  1. The new venue seems good… (if a little cold!), and the car parking is far, far easier than the last place. = WIN!
  2. I need to make a new years resolution about not getting into games where nobody has read the rules 😉
  3. I was hoping to get a 4-player Ora & Labora session going… but the amount of table space we had (the game EATS table space) and number of available bodies (it’s not nice to turn away a 5th player when there’s no other games kicking off) made it impractical. Maybe next time…

CREDITS: Session pics gratuitously stolen from the Newcastle Gamers web site. Newcastle Gamers meets on the second and last Saturday of the month… usual cost is £3, but your first visit is free. More details here.

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