Saturday saw an all-day convening of Newcastle Gamers. We usually have a couple of these all-day sessions each summer (mostly because the Circus School goes on holiday and there are no weekend classes using the hall), but this was the first one that I’ve managed to attend this year. All-day sessions are usually a good excuse to bring out the games that take a little bit longer than average to play, and for this particular meeting I’d arranged to bring along my uber-pimped-out copy of Antiquity, to play with Olly, Camo & Michael.
Due to a last-minute crisis concerning some mislaid (/ tidied-up) car keys, I arrived 10 minutes after doors had opened … and Olly, Camo & Michael had already cracked open a copy of Kigi to play while waiting for me to arrive.
I missed the rules explanation, but it didn’t take much effort to pick up the basics: it’s a pretty-looking tile-laying (or, more-accurately: card-laying) game, where you add branches to a tree in an effort to create a contiguous row of flowers and/or insects with each card you place. Gameplay is almost entirely tactical — and there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of substance to it truth be told — but it does look nice 😉
Next up was the day’s big game… Antiquity. Just setting up (which involved at least 3 changes of table before we found an arrangement which would fit) and explaining the rules (Camo and Michael hadn’t played before) took until lunch time. Antiquity is THAT epic!
With all the preliminaries out of the way, and a brief trip to lay in supplies courtesy of Sainsbury’s next door, gaming finally commenced…
The last time I played Antiquity, I won the game with a San Christofori victory (collect 3 of each food & luxury commodity). This time, I was determined to explore a different aspect of the game, so went for San Nicolo instead (win by building 20 houses in your cities).
Everything went swimmingly at first; I got San Nicolo’s Cathedral up and running nice and early (which accelerates your house-building rate), and a Faculty of Philosophy (which lets you ignore pesky late-game building rules about needing different types of luxury items amongst your building materials), and spent a few rounds successfully churning out new houses … but then … something went a little bit wrong. I hadn’t really been keeping an eye on my food production, and territory expansion; famine hit me hard (not helped in the least by Michaels aggressive exploration of new and interesting foodstuffs driving up the world’s appetite for food!), and then the lack of anywhere to dump the pollution generated by my civilisation triggered a tidal wave of graves into my newly-built second city. From that point onwards, all I could do from round-to-round was wrestle with my wildly-out-of-control machine in a desperate attempt to stay in the game… and by the time I’d started to get some semblance of control again, it was far too late… Olly was creeping up with an imminent win for San Christofori.
This, therefore, was the final state of the game world, in all it’s filthy, polluted, high-resolution glory… (clockwise from bottom left: Me, Olly, Michael, Camo).
Once Antiquity was cleared away, everybody fancied something a bit lighter as a bit of a breather — and a 5th player (Owain) had joined our group, so we played a hand of Coloretto. I definitely felt a bit rusty playing this … and a subsequent check of my BGG stats reveals it’s (amazingly!) 18 months since I last played. Hmmm. That’ll be why then.
Then: Last Will. I bought the “Getting Sacked” expansion for this some time ago, but it’s been sitting on a shelf gathering dust while other — more exciting — acquisitions got played. Recent interest at Newcastle Gamers for an earlier Vladimír Suchý title – 20th Century – had piqued my interest in finally getting the expansion played, so I’ve had it in my bag for the last couple of trips… just in case 😉
I enjoyed this… it was probably my favourite game of the day. I’m not so sure that the modular actions board from the expansion is a particularly compelling addition (it doesn’t really improve the game nor make it any worse as far as I’m concerned), but the new cards and the getting-sacked-from-your-job mechanism make this feel like a much more “finished” game, IMHO. A good expansion!
Final scoring was very close… Camo beat me into second place by a single point, and Owain was only a few points behind me.
The rest of the evening was spent playing lighter fair. Ticket to Ride – Legendary Asia, Scream Machine, No Thanks and 6 Nimmt!. TTR Legendary Asia was new to me, though it’s a fairly straightforward variant — there’s just a slightly odd twist where you end up trashing an extra carriage marker on certain routes in exchange for 2 points a time. At first, I just interpreted this as a way to accelerate the game for strategic purposes — but it’s actually a pretty good way to ramp up your score. A subtlety which I missed out on. Entirely.
The other new-to-me game was a set-collecting card game, called Scream Machine. Thematically, this should’ve been right up my street (I *love* theme parks / roller-coasters / roller-coaster-tycoon-type games), but — even as a filler-type card game — it left me a bit cold. There was a lot about the game that just felt mechanically loose, and I came away with an overwhelming impression that your chances of winning are a direct product of how the cards are randomly drawn in the one specific round where you’re playing in last (and therefore most influential) position. Now, I _do_ try not to write off a game purely on the strength of my first encounter, and an online scan of the rule book this morning suggests we weren’t playing it entirely correctly … but it’s not a game that I’ll be rushing back to.
So… yeah… it was a bit of a so-so end to the day, with the evening dominated by fluff + fillers. Fluff + fillers certainly have their place, but I think I would’ve sooner preferred squeezing in one more triple-A euro title.
Nevertheless, it’s always a pleasure to get out for a full day of gaming and catch up with the regulars at Newcastle Gamers. It was also good to finally put a face to / have a chat with Madison Hanks … a user of Board Game Geek who has been causing a bit of a stir with his proposals to set up a new board gaming cafe in central Newcastle. His plans seem pretty good to me; it’ll be interesting to see how they pan out! 🙂
Newcastle Gamers (usually!) meets on the second and last Saturday of the month. Usual cost is £2 (or £1 for concessions), but your first visit is free. Check out http:///newcastlegamers.net/ for more info.