Thing of the Week: The Olympic Flame goes by…

So, urm. Yeah. That happened.

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Corbridge Gamers – 9th June

I couldn’t get to the Newcastle Gamers meeting this week, as we had a house full of guests. Fortunately, some of those guests are quite happy to have their arm twisted into playing the odd board game or two. Or three. Or four. Or…

So, in lieu of a Newcastle Gamers report, I thought I’d present an entry in a new, occasional series: Corbridge Gamers.

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Games played this time…

Pandemic (On the Brink: Mutation Challenge)

Pandemic has always been popular with these particular guests. We haven’t had a proper boardgaming sesh together since I got the “On The Brink” expansion earlier this year, so this seemed like the ideal opportunity to give it an airing. We had a 5-player game, using the Mutant disease variation (this adds a 5th disease to the game, which appears and spreads in a slightly different way to the 4 conventional diseases)… but — alas — we lost by a whisker (the yellow disease remained stubbornly un-cured when we ran out of time). Good fun had by all though! πŸ™‚


I picked up a dirt-cheap German import of Zooloretto a few weeks ago, specifically because it seemed like a good way to flesh out my collection of family/kid-friendly games. Since we had (a) Family, and (b) at least one “kid” (my 12-year-old nephew) present, this seemed like the ideal opportunity to break it out.


Zooloretto is a simple set-collection game — heavily based on the gameplay mechanics of the card game “Coloretto” — but re-themed into a board game which involves loading animals onto delivery trucks, and then claiming the contents of a truck to add to your own zoo. The strategy lies in loading trucks in a way that makes them unattractive to your opponents, but useful for your own zoo-expansion purposes. When the supply of animals and attractions eventually runs out, the best zoo wins.

While fairly light, it’s a *slightly* deeper game than I expected, and the adults seemed to enjoy it as much as the aforementioned 12-year old did. It’s not something I’d want to play over and over again, but it seems like a really nice “occasional” game, and was perfect for the situation… so, on initial impressions, I’m glad to have it in my collection. (The fact that it cost me less than a tenner courtesy of is a pretty good bonus…)

Pandemic (On the Brink: Virulent Strain)

After a break for tea, we were back onto Pandemic – this time playing the Virulent Strain version. I think this is my favourite of the “On the Brink” variations… it’s close to the regular version of Pandemic, with the exception that once the first epidemic card is drawn, the most widespread disease is declared the “Virulent Strain”, and from that point forward a bunch of random events happen which apply specifically to the Virulent Strain and make it harder to cure.

This time we managed to beat the game… but only by the skin of our teeth. We were pretty convinced we were set to lose by just a single move, when an airlift card came out of the deck and gave us the tiny bit of wriggle-room required to secure victory. Crushing despair instantly gave way to triumphant jubilation, resulting in a really good ending for the game. Fun experience – probably the best game of the weekend.

Zooloretto (with Polar Bear Expansion)

Polar Bear

People enjoyed the first game of Zooloretto enough to want to play it again… so that one got a second outing too. This time I threw in the Polar Bear mini-expansion, which I’d picked up in May’s “worldwide promos and expansions math trade” on BoardGameGeek. (Yes, as predicted, I’m now addicted to Math Trades!)

The Polar Bear introduces a fairly minor rules tweak; Whoever manages to fill the highest-scoring enclosure in their zoo first gets to claim the (solitary) polar bear enclosure, which gives them a slight scoring tweak at the end of the game. On paper it doesn’t seem like a particularly game-changing expansion… but it did — surprisingly — make the beginning of the game play out very differently to the standard version of Zooloretto, as most players raced to claim the polar bear. Interesting variation… I might have to try chasing down the other mini-promos now.


We rounded off the evening with a game of Eketorp… again, not a particularly complex game, but I was trying to keep things light for this particular audience, and this game plays pretty briskly even with 6 players. I’ve written about Eketorp previously, so won’t go into much detail here… it went down really well though, and — pleasingly — final victory went to my 12-year-old nephew (I don’t think anybody had been giving him a particularly easy ride either, so it was an entirely justified win!).



The next morning, a few people were up early, and there was a small window of opportunity to fit in another game. Folks fancied something a bit deeper than the night before, but we only had around an hour of time, so I suggested Mykerinos (another game that I’ve mentioned previously), which seemed to fulfil requirements. It’s a shame that all my favourite “deeper” games take at least 90+ minutes to play – I would’ve loved to be able to break out something like Agricola, Le Havre, Troyes… but, sadly, Sunday lunch was looming, after which our guests were heading off for a long drive down the country πŸ™

However, Mykerinos finished *slightly* earlier than anticipated, so we had a quick hand of..



…Just using the base set as we were in a rush, and 10 cards generated via the randomiser deck. I hardly ever use the randomiser deck, but — this time at least — it gave us a really good mix: regular standbys like the Cellar, Smithy and Festival alongside cards that I don’t remember using for quite a long time, like the Council Room and Spy. Good game, with a very tight finish (equal amounts of province cards all-round, with the winner determined by a solitary duchy)… I only wish I’d had more time to enjoy it, but unfortunately the Sunday Roast was reaching a critical stage, and I was chief chef for the day… so my mind was elsewhere towards the end.

And so the gaming came to an end. A most excellent weekend though! πŸ™‚

CREDITS: Amazingly, I managed to take some of my own pictures this time, with the exception of: Zooloretto (stolen from Board Game Geek / Nathan Rutz), Mykerinos (from a Newcastle Gamers session – that *is* my copy of the game though!), and the obvious manufacturer package shots. Corbridge Gamers meets whenever I manage to dupe enough friends/relatives into playing “those strange foreign board games of yours” with me. Your first visit is free. Actually, all your other visits are free too. And we don’t have a web site.

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Thing of the week: Cheese Rolling

We travelled to Gloucester for the bank Holiday, to watch the (notorious!) cheese rolling event. Apparently there also was some kind of monarchy-related thing going on at the weekend too, but I wasn’t so fussed about seeing that.

It was a bit of a struggle to get this clip approved by YouTube for monetization. In the good old days (by which I mean – about a fortnight ago), they used to allow you to supply supporting documentation for usage rights/ownership at the point where you upload the video. This arrangement seems to have changed to a system where they review the footage first, and only ask for supporting documentation afterwards – which seems a bit of a back-to-front approach to me, but I’m sure they have their reasons. As a consequence, the adsense approval process seems to take days now, rather than hours. Obviously, event-related clips get a surge of hits in the immediate aftermath of the event that they’re showing… and it’s annoying to miss out on the potential revenue for those.

Anyway, mini-rant over. Previous videos for this event have amassed 7-digit viewer figures, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this one πŸ˜‰

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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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Thing of the week: Agricola, All Creatures Big And Small

This week, I got a copy of the new Uwe Rosenberg game, “Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small”. It’s a new 2-player spin-off from “Agricola”, which is pretty much my favourite board game of all time. It’s a neat game, and I’m fairly impressed by it. So much so, that I was inspired to make a short video for the Board Game Geek site…

I much prefer being behind a camera, rather than in front of it… so — fortunately — you’re spared any footage of me gurning out of your screen. I do talk a fair bit though. I’m always a bit surprised by the sound of my own voice… so far, the video has resulted in 3 different e-mails from people fascinated by my accent(!)

It’s maybe a bit dry for anybody who isn’t obsessively interested in the minutia of new board games, but it seems to be generating lots of positive feedback on its BGG page. Which is nice πŸ™‚

Amazingly, this upload was the first time that I’ve run afoul of YouTube’s copyright moderation team. In the past, I’ve uploaded umpteen gig / promo videos (while acting on the behalf of the artists involved, but YouTube had no way of knowing this), and a lot of the stuff I upload for Averil’s site has morris dancing etc going on in the background which — lets face it — it’s highly unlikely I went and secured the mechanical rights for. Yet, for some reason, this ends up being the one video that YouTube’s people won’t let me monetize with adsense. Weird.

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