Newcastle Gamers – 26th May

This was my first visit for 4 weeks (I skipped the last one due to the previously-mentioned wicker man burning trip!). It was an unusually-quiet meeting… the good weather probably wasn’t on our side, and quite a few regulars had disappeared to the UK Games Expo for the weekend. Attendance peaked at about 15-16 people … 3 of which were (I think?) first-timers.

The short numbers made things a little awkward. Usually, there’s a steady progression of games starting and stopping all evening, meaning it’s easy to drop into a game, and you never have to wait *too* long for something that might appeal to you… but, due to the short numbers, that wasn’t really the case this time.

Stuff I played:

Power Grid

Due to the aforementioned bodycount issues, we somehow ended up with 7 players gathered around this one… with (new) Emily and (different) John playing together as a team. It was an enjoyable game, but I made a really bad purchase at around the half-way mark, which stalled my expansion at a critical point, and I never really managed to recover. This meant that the game was pretty much a three-horse race from stage 2 onwards… with Les being the metaphorical horse who ran marginally faster than the other metaphorical horses.

Amun Re

I’ve never played this before. Given that Amun Re is a game that’s (a) Set in ancient Egypt, and (b) has a quirky auction mechanic at the heart of it, you might guess that it’s a Reiner Knizia title. And you’d be right… One of his better ones, as it turns out.

Before we started, Les pitched it as a “fairly simple” game that didn’t take too long to play. Well… technically, it *is* simple — or, at least, the mechanisms are simple when you take them individually — but there are a lot of different bits to it, and the game explanation took quite some time to get through. A group on a different table managed to learn, play, and finish a complete game of Ingenious before we’d even got through our rules explanation(!)

In essence, it’s a game where you use a slightly odd (but fun!) bidding mechanism to claim chunks of land. Each plot of land has various perks – e.g. plots near the nile can support farms, some plots give you special action cards, some are better for building pyramids, etc etc. You claim land, build farms and pyramids, sacrifice some of your wealth to the temple, and score victory points accordingly.

As with most Knizia games (especially the Egypt-themed ones), It all seemed a bit dry and un-engaging at first… but after a while things started to click with respect to the strategies and subtleties involved, and the game became really enjoyable. It was a close game – I think that all five players thought they were in with a chance when the final scoring round arrived… but James was the ultimate victor.

HOWEVER… the game seemed to go on FOREVER!… we clocked up something like three and a half hours by the time we finished. I enjoyed the game, but I’m not sure that the length justified the pay-off. (I mean… we could’ve played Le Havre in that length of time. Now *THAT’S* a game that’s worth devoting 3+ hours of your life to!).

Plus, maybe following a long-ish, auction-driven, mathy game (Power Grid) with an even longer auction-driven, mathy game (Amun Re) isn’t particularly conducive to a balanced gaming diet πŸ˜‰

Archaeology – The Card Game

I’d brought along my new copy of Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, in case I got the opportunity to fit in a half-hour filler for two. Unfortunately — while I did find myself in need of a half-hour filler to round off the evening — we had one person too many, so out came the old standby of Archaeology. A nice, simple wind-down after the furious brain-activity of the earlier games.

And so another session drew to a close. Not sure that I’ll make the next one – looks like we have house guests on the 9th (boooo!).

Other games I spotted being played on the night: Nexus Ops, Agricola, Carcassonne, Alien Frontiers, Discworld Ankh Morpork, and — of course — Battlestar Galactica. There’s always a game of Battlestar Galactica (ugh!)

CREDITS: The usual photographer had disappeared to the UK expo this week, so this time I stole pics from Olly’s Google+ stream (Power Grid), a random Board Game Geek gallery page (Amun Re), and a previous Newcastle Gamers session (Archaeology). Newcastle Gamers meets on the second and last Saturday of the month… usual cost is Β£3, but your first visit is free. More details here.

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7 Responses to Newcastle Gamers – 26th May

  1. (Different) John says:

    Ooh, a mention!

    Yes, it was rather a quiet evening compared to usual. I’d finally persuaded Emily to attend and it had to be that night. Oh dear. And her first exposure to modern-day boardgames being Power Grid? At the start, I was thinking “This is going to end badly, perhaps only 10 minutes in and she’ll be demanding I take her back home” but to my surprise she seemed to take to it quite well, and even talked about it in positive terms afterwards for several days afterwards.

    And as for BSG… I gave Robert a lift home later on, and he said that this was probably the last time he’ll bring BSG. Not sure if it was just a disappointing game he had coupled with a few of us vociferously saying how much we didn’t like BSG or… something. I somehow don’t think it WILL be the last time, though!

  2. Shep says:

    ‘phew! … I’m glad Emily had a positive experience with Power Grid; I was a bit worried that – under the circumstances – it might have been a bit of a less-than-ideal introduction to the club. Great to hear that she was still mulling the game over days afterwards though – that’s always a good sign! If you and/or Emily fancies another try one week – with the benefit of experience – give me a shout and I’ll try to bring it along.

    I hope Robert wasn’t too dis-spirited by the Battlestar refuseniks. Were we particularly vociferous?? … oops! (BSG *does* seem to be almost ubiquitously-popular at Newcastle Gamers, so I always find it a bit of a remark-worthy novelty when I find somebody else who isn’t very keen on it!)

    That said, I suspect that even the keener BSG players are getting a little bit fatigued by how frequently it hits the table now, and are possibly having their heads turned by newer delights (Nexus Ops, in particular, seems to be gaining a lot of momentum amongst that crowd). With that in mind, BSG might actually benefit from the occasional week off. But yeah… I’m sure it’ll be back sooner rather than later πŸ˜‰

  3. (Different) John says:

    Thanks! Emily seems to be quite keen to give Power Grid another go, and I’ll play (almost) anything so I’ll keep your offer in mind. Emily can’t attend this week (the 9th, that is) because of nursing exams and assessments this week and next, but one of her friends is currently being persuaded to come along to find out what all the excitement is about. Not sure if Power Grid will be the first game this time for this new person, though.

    Well, I now know of three people in the group who aren’t BSG fans, and not only in the “Meh, it’s okay but I wouldn’t play it given the choice of something else” way but rather the “No! Get it away! Burn it!” manner. Our numbers are growing!
    I think the two games of Discworld: AM (another of Robert’s favourites) helped smooth things over with him, so he wasn’t too upset overall.

    • Shep says:

      I won’t be there this week either (we’ve got family visiting) though I should be back to regular attendance from the late June meeting onwards.

      And yes… Power Grid is a pretty awful choice for an introductory game. Agricola was the title that converted Mrs Shep into boardgaming… a touch on the complex side perhaps, but the allure of building a little wooden farm is hard to beat! πŸ˜‰

      • (Different) John says:

        Heh! I thought Power Grid was a bad intro game. Well… that was nothing compared to Hansa Teutonica explained by someone who didn’t tell us all the rules (we were all new players of the game except for him), or at least didn’t tell us bits of rules until he wanted to use them for his own turn. “Oh! You can do THAT?” we were all irritatedly thinking…. and expressing in oh-so-obviously-annoyed body language. It was painful. But Emily’s friend put on a very good mask of endurance, I have to say, and she made it through fairly okay.

        Rest of the night was brilliant, though, and made up for the excruciating beginning.
        Back up to normal levels of attendance, too. Hoorah!

        • Shep says:

          Owch! Sounds like a bit of an ordeal … I have to admit, I’ve encountered a very wide range of game-teaching abilities & attitudes at Newcastle Gamers. But we always seem to muddle through somehow.

          Glad it all worked out in the end though. Does that mean that — despite overwhelming odds — we have TWO new regulars now? πŸ˜‰

          • (Different) John says:

            I would say almost 100% yes, we’ve now got two new regulars. Emily’s willing to give it another try despite the low turnout experience of her first session (and she really enjoys the few two-player games that she and I play regularly), and once she sees the group at full strength, I’m confident she’ll be hooked.
            The fact they’re both women means that I have singlehandedly doubled the regular female membership. I’m going to get such a reputation…

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