Newcastle Gamers – 29th September

A short-ish report this time, as I only managed to play two games (excellent though they were) at this meeting, and I’m pretty sure I’ve written about both of them previously. However, since I’ve managed to keep my Newcastle Gamers session reports going for almost a year now (a pretty major achievement when it comes to me and any form of regular blogging), it would be remiss of me not to write something about the night’s proceedings, so…

First up: Dungeon Lords

Dungeon Lords is one of my favourite games… it’s a (thinly-veiled) board-game re-imagining of the Dungeon Keeper computer game series, involving an oddball mix of dual-level worker placement, simultaneous action selection and logic puzzle. It’s also a surprisingly heavy-weight euro game, with far less randomness involved that you might expect given the ameritrashy look and feel. It’s quite a while since I last managed to play it (6 months, according to this blog!), so I was keen to give it a spin this week.

I got chatting to John F during the customary “everybody standing around deciding what to play at the start of the evening” phase, and did a pretty good job of selling Dungeon Lords to him and Emma (I was pretty confident it would be their kind of game, even though John seemed to have initial reservations)… and I had a pretty good idea that Olly would happily make up the 4th player when he arrived, so we were all sorted for Dungeon Lord session… yay!

Except… very shortly after the box hit the table, we were assailed by other people keen to play too! That’s good in a way; there’s been times (especially when the club was smaller) when I’ve been really keen to play a particular game, been unable to drum up any kind of interest, and the game in question has ended up going back into the bag for weeks on end. I guess a bigger membership means a broader set of gaming tastes (and more people looking to grab a seat at something at the start of the night!)… so nowadays it’s more the case that if you put a game — any game — onto a table at the start of a meeting, you WILL get players. (Or maybe I just have excellent taste in games… I’ll leave that for the reader to decide!). But… in another way, this also makes things a bit difficult, because it means you have to turn interested parties away 🙁

Emily got to the table just before the rest of the wave of prospective Dungeon Lords (/Dungeon Ladies?) hit. I wasn’t entirely sure when Olly would be arriving, or even how keen he was to play (I was mainly basing his interest on a casual comment on a Google+ thread) and in the face of so much interest, it seemed a bit “off” to turn people away, so the forth seat went to Emily.

(Sorry Olly!)

As for the game itself… unfortunately I didn’t play very well at all! Dungeon Lords is a pretty complex game, with quite a few obscure rules that only get used in odd cases, and I was in the teaching seat (as nobody else had played before) … this means I spent a great deal of time concentrating on keeping everybody else’s game on the rails and flipping through the rule book to sanity-check some of the things I was saying, and maybe not enough time thinking about what I was actually doing in my own game. Consequentially, I made a couple of blindingly-silly mistakes during the course of the game, and came a pretty convincing last(!). (But at least I still scored enough points to qualify for a Dungeon Lord license!)

The last time I taught Dungeon Lords, there was somebody else at the table with prior experience, who was able to catch the things I was missing, and help keep an eye what the first-timers were doing… it worked much better that way. I think I’ll bear that in mind next time I bring Dungeon Lords along for a session.

Nevertheless, the game went pretty smoothly. There was a slightly un-typical start to the second half of the game, in which all 6 of the high-power monsters had migrated to the top of the deck and the “pay day” event came out first too… this made the monsters spectacularly unattractive purchases (since most of them would carry an instant 4-point evil penalty), and I think only two of them ended up being recruited. (I took a dragon, and temporarily attracted the paladin as a consequence, but fortunately got out-eviled (and un-paladined) by Emma a round later … and Emily managed to scrape together enough traps to afford the Golem).

Emily had a spectacularly good final round (largely thanks to the Golem), and had amassed a vast collection of imps, giving her a pretty convincing win. Emma managed to defeat the Paladin and kill off the rest of her invading party (no mean feat …especially for a first timer!) and came second. John F came third – mainly penalised for failing to pay his taxes to the ministry of dungeons – and I came a very sorry last, with only a single un-purified room remaining in my dungeon. Oops.

Still, the game was enjoyed by everybody (including myself, despite my terrible performance) and I think I won it a few new fans… and I was rather surprised to discover that we’d been playing for around 3 and a half hours — it felt like only half that long at the time!

It was also good to discover a lot of love for Dungeon Lords in the room; aside from the interested bodies at the beginning of the session, a couple of “veterans” came and peered over our shoulders during the course of the evening and talked about how much they enjoyed the game. There’s an expansion for the game due out shortly — “Festival Season” — which I’d kind of been in two minds about buying, since I haven’t been convinced I’d get a lot of use out of it (and it’ll no doubt make the game even longer!)… but I’m a bit more tempted by it now 😉

Next: Ora & Labora

I hadn’t really intended to play this in the same evening as Dungeon Lords (one 3+ hour game in a night is usually enough for me!) … but, somehow, that’s what happened.

I guess I was partly swayed by the fact that circumstances dictated it would be a 3-player game against John F and Emma (Emily was facing a long drive, and had to disappear after our Dungeon Lords game). I’ve never played a 3-player version of Ora before, and I figured it would probably be a slightly more comfortable length than the 4 player version …but — more than that — any particular gaming session is (unsurprisingly) very much set by the tastes and expectations of the people playing it. You can play a great game with a mix of people that’s slightly wrong for that game, and it won’t be as quite as good an experience as it could be. You play the right game with the right people… and it’s brilliant. Gaming chemistry, I guess.

John and Emma are *big* fans of Uwe Rosenberg games. It was far too good an opportunity to pass up on 🙂

We played the French Variant, with the Loamy Landscape promo card added in. I think I’ve only used the Loamy Landscape once before, in a 2 player game, and it must’ve been largely ignored, as I can’t remember much about it … but this time it seemed like a spectacularly useful/powerful card — I must’ve visited it 4 or 5 times during the game, which is a pretty high utilisation rate for anything in O&L.

I started out with my usual strategy of playing for wonders … but kind of abandoned the rush for wonder-building resources at around the two-thirds point, and focussed on a settlement-based strategy instead. I’d managed to build a quarry (I don’t usually do this – I normally let somebody else take the hit for the quarry, then just pay for work contracts on it), and worker returns occurred in just the right way to give me a good stranglehold on stone supplies. With 2 moves left in the game I managed to construct the castle – though, disappointingly, I found myself 1 food short of using a friar move to utilise the castle action and build a hilltop village next door (which would be a dazzlingly brilliant play and pull a gazillion victory points out of nowhere). Instead, I built a shanty town on a convenient space further down the board, scraped together a pittance of food in my final game action, and dropped the hilltop village into position during the final settlement phase. Not quite as impressive a flourish as a castle + hilltop village combo would’ve been, but it still scored the same amount of points in the final reckoning.

Final scores were Me:193, Emma:172, John F:154. The game took around 3 hours… so it probably wasn’t really that different — length-wise — to a 4 player game. I did, however, think the set of buildings used in the 3 player variant was perhaps a bit of an improvement on the 4 player game; the options were a bit tighter — less extraneous fluff, and narrower supply chains on offer — and the downtime was just about right with 3 players. I really enjoyed it; this was easily one of my favourite games of Ora & Labora that I’ve played 🙂

(Hmm… typing this paragraph has just prompted me to go and look up the “recommended number of players” poll on Board Game Geek, and it looks like 3 players is an overwhelming majority!)

* * * * * * *

Alas, with a mere 2 games under my belt, it was already 11:30pm and time to go home. Great night though, despite the fact that the room’s heating seemed to be on the blink (I’m usually not too bothered by the cold — much to Mrs Shep’s annoyance — but quite a few people at the meeting seemed to be finding it unpleasant… Emma was on the verge of playing O&L in coat and gloves!). Hopefully that’ll be rectified for next time.

For a view from the OTHER side of the table, you can find John F’s write-up of the night’s events here.

The pictures were taken by Olly, and gratuitously stolen from the Newcastle Gamers Google+ Group. Newcastle Gamers meets on the second and last Saturday of the month. Usual cost is £3 (or £1 for concessions), but your first visit is free. Our next meeting is on the 29th September .. check the G+ group for more info.

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Corbridge Gamers, 22nd September

It’s a five-weekend month this month… which means there’s an unusually-long 3-week gap between Newcastle Gamers meetings. Fortunately we had family staying with us this weekend — and my niece and nephews are always keen to do a bit of late-night boardgaming — which means I now get to post report number 2 in the (highly) infrequent series: Corbridge Gamers.

First on the table: Ys

I bought Ys about a year ago, in the (now legendary) board game clear-out at UK branches of The Works. I played it a couple of times shortly after buying it — and really enjoyed it — but it’s sat on the shelf for a long time since then. My Nephews were keen to try something they haven’t played before, spotted Ys tucked away at the bottom of my “best games cupboard”, and we decided to give it a go.

Ys is a bidding and bluffing game. A fleet of gem-laden ships are sailing into the mythical city of Ys, and the game involves despatching a team of “brokers” to various parts of the city to make deals and collect the ship’s cargoes. Your brokers are represented by wooden cylinders, with a number painted on one end of the cylinder measuring that particular broker’s skill. This ranges from from 4 (the best) to zero (the worst). On each turn you deploy one broker face up (so its number is showing), and one broker face down (so only you know what “level” of broker you’ve placed) somewhere inside the city. This process repeats until each player has placed 4 sets of 2 brokers… the hidden numbers are revealed, and whoever has placed the highest values wins control of that area. It’s a very simple mechanism, but one which brings a significant level of bluffing and brinksmanship to the game. Fun!

Controlling the various sections of the city will grant you treasure (represented by neat little plastic gems), points, and/or various perks. There’s also a sub-game going on where you place your brokers into a marketplace area in order to manipulate the relative worth of the different types of treasure … so (for example) if a particular player is successfully collecting mountains of red gems, you can manipulate the market to make red gems worth fewer points than the other treasure types (while the red-collecting player does his or her level best to push the price in the opposite direction).

The game’s (awful!) iconography — used for the various “special power” cards that you can pick up as a reward for having the highest-numbered brokers in the palace section of the city — was a slight stumbling block and caused some slow-downs as various aspects needed re-explaining, and the (slightly unintuitive) final scoring threw a couple of people… but the session still went well, and it proved to be a popular game. I think it’s likely it’ll get another airing at future family gatherings 🙂

Next: Gloria Picktoria

Gloria Picktoria

I picked this one out partly because we needed something filler-ish to fit in before our evening meal, and partly to try to involve my younger nephew in a game (since he’d been sitting on the sidelines during Ys). Also — like Ys before it — this is another “The Works” bargain bin acquisition that probably hasn’t had the number of airings it deserves.

Beneath the cute cartoon chicken theming, Gloria Picktoria is a somewhat-devious set-collection game by Alan R. Moon (the Ticket to Ride guy). It’s also remarkable by having the worst rule book of any game in my collection. It’s badly-translated, doesn’t explain the scoring clearly, and fails to explain a couple of important player actions in context (which — unless you’ve actually played the game a couple of times — makes them seem like bamboozlingly-odd things to want to do). Fortunately Gloria Picktoria is a remake of an older game called “Reibach & Co” (and subsequently: “Get The Goods”) — a title which has been far better-documented — so a bit of research on BGG can set you off on the right track.

I think this is the third time I’ve played it. It’s not a bad game; it has some very neat push-your-luck and screw-your-opponents things going on by the end, but it does take a little while to pick up steam and get to that stage, and the opening rounds aren’t anywhere near as as engaging. It’s fine as an occasional/variation filler though (especially since my copy only cost me a couple of quid!)… and occupied our post-Ys, pre-dinner gap nicely.

After Dinner: Village


Having warmed up with Ys and Gloria Picktoria, it was time to break out an A-lister for the main game of the evening. We opted for Village… Matt and Robbie haven’t played it before, Mrs Shep has only tried it once but was eager to play again, and it seemed like a pretty safe bet for the night’s main entertainment.

I played a merchant/church/book-of-death tactic, and won by 8 points. Mrs Shep was placed second — she managed to visit all the stops on the world tour, and had some significant end-game presence in the church, but didn’t get involved in the merchant part of the game at all (apparently her single attempt to line up a trade had been sniped by Matt stealing her customer of choice) and I think that’s what lost her the game. I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that you *must* get involved in as many market days as possible in order to do well in Village — it’s safe to opt out / mix and match some of the other activities, but the winner *always* seems to be a player who made shrewd moves in the marketplace.

Finally: Strozzi


I hadn’t really intended this to be a day of (predominantly) bargain bin games… that’s just the way it turned out, with Strozzi being our third (and last) “The Works” title of the day.

I hadn’t played this one before… I purchased it fairly recently (I’d passed on it when it was first placed on the bargain shelf at £7.99 because it requires a minimum of 3 players … but when it hit £4.99 a few weeks ago, the temptation was way too much to bear!… I mean, it’s a Reiner Knizia title… how can you go wrong with a Knizia game for less than a fiver?)

The Premise: A number of merchant ships, laden with goods, are sailing towards Italy. The ships are depicted on a deck of cards, which are flipped one by one… and each ship has a different cruising speed and mixture of cargo objects.

Players represent powerful Italian merchant families, and each round you can “claim” up to three incoming ships, and steer them into the port of your choice. Each port plays money for a different type of cargo, and there are bonus points for the fastest 3 ships that dock in each port (because, thematically, those ships will arrive first..). For sake of brevity, I won’t go into the precise way that ships are claimed, but needless to say it’s a typical Reiner Knizia auction-style mechanism, which occasionally leaves you in moments of agony over whether you should be placing a bid or not … and ear-to-ear grins when stuff works out right.

It’s a neat game. Not something I’d choose to play as a “main” game of a session, but an extremely good (and easy-to-learn) “breather” title to follow something more complex or wind down with. I wouldn’t necessarily rush out to buy it at full price … but I’m happy with this acquisition; one game in and I already feel like I’ve got my fiver’s worth. Plus: Mrs Shep particularly enjoyed it — and wife approval is always a bonus! 🙂

Speaking of bonuses…

Pandemic / On The Brink


Technically, not quite part of the same gaming session… but I was up early the next morning to get the Sunday roast on the go (the problem with these big family get-togethers is the ungodly amount of time the dinner takes to cook!!) …and a couple of other early risers suggested a game of Pandemic. How could I refuse?

We played the basic variant at “standard” difficulty, with 3 players and roles and events from On the Brink. We started out with the Researcher, Scientist and Generalist in play, with the Generalist making a timely swap to a Medic mid game (via the re-assignment event) … which, I think, is about the strongest role combination you can possibly get in a 3-player game.

Unusually — and despite being 3 or 4 rounds in to the game — we managed to cure the red disease before a single cube of it hit the map … though we paid the price for this with a surfeit of yellow and black cubes landing at the game start, resulting in a chain of 3 or 4 outbreaks rippling through the central corridor when our first epidemic card was discovered about 2 moves into the game! Nevertheless, we rallied successfully, and managed to emerge victorious shortly after the 3rd epidemic. The world was safe again! 🙂

* * * * * * *

Best game of the session? Either Ys or Pandemic; it’s a hard one to call.

My nephew is now discussing the possibility of a Pandemic theme-party. Watch this space…

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The World Black Pudding Throwing Championship

We’ve visited quite a few odd events over recent weeks (most of which are still to be downloaded and documented!). This is one of the quirkiest — the World Black Pudding Throwing Championship at Ramsbottom…

We bought a couple of the (competition class?) black puddings while we were there, as supplied by the Bury Black Pudding Company. They were surprisingly herby, and tasted very different to the kind of black pudding that I normally buy. That might be because — in a rash moment of health-consiousness — I opted for the lean version instead of the regular version… or perhaps they just do things differently in Lancashire. They were nice enough, but I think I prefer my blutwurst a bit less herby. That said, the web site offers a chilli black pudding, which looks awfully tempting.

Posted in Bizarre, Calendar Customs, Food, Travels | Leave a comment

Newcastle Gamers – 8th September 2012

It was Newcastle Gamers’ second all-day session of the summer this weekend. (Or — if you define your seasons the same way as Mrs Shep does — possibly the first all-day session of the autumn). Due to an adverse early-morning encounter with a chopping knife (it’s a long story, and not entertaining enough to recount here), I arrived a little bit late, and pretty much everybody else was already ensconced in their first game of the day. Fortunately, John B. (our illustrious chairman) was also running a little bit behind schedule, and arrived at roughly the same time that I did – leaving two of us in search of a game. This seemed like an ideal opportunity to crack open my 2-player euro of choice: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small.

The game was unpacked, I’d explained pretty much all of the rules, and we were about to commence playing when… some more people arrived. It turned out to be 3 first-timers, and – obviously – it would be a bit rubbish of us to leave them to their own devices (especially since none of the other games in the room were likely to finish any time soon) … so ACBAS went back into the box, and we introduced ourselves to the new arrivals.

But what to play? Some gentle probing revealed that our new arrivals had a little bit of experience under their belt, mostly with gateway type stuff. John B. suggested that Hoity Toity might be a good choice — I’ve never played it before, but it’s one of the SDJ-winning “classics” that I’ve always thought I should get around to trying one day, and it seemed a good fit for the situation… so that’s the one that came out first 🙂

OK — technically — we played Adel Verpflichtet, since John has a German edition of the game … but it’s not particularly language dependant — and aside from my mixing up an Austellung with an Auktionshaus near the start — the text wasn’t a problem.

Hoity Toity is a game by Klaus Teuber (AKA “the Settlers of Catan guy”), in which members of English aristocracy compete to acquire various items of junk (sorry, antiques) from an auction house, burgle particularly old and precious items of junk (sorry, antiques) from each other, and ultimately stage exhibitions their assembled collections of junk (/antiques) at the castle for points. the dominant mechanisms are simultaneous action selection, set collection, and blind bidding. There are some (extremely euro-style) catch up tweaks to make sure nobody gets left too far behind, and — basically — whoever puts on the most/best exhibitions will get to the end of the scoring track first and be victorious.

I really enjoyed this game — I’ve heard the action-selection part of this game criticised as just being a souped up version of rock/paper/scissors … but I think it’s way more deductive than RPS; there are various reasons why a particular option will (or won’t) be attractive (or even available) to your opponents at particular points in the game, and you can use this information to help you choose your own actions.

I tended to stick to the statistically-prudent path on most of my turns — throwing in the odd dummy play when I thought I was becoming too predictable — and it seemed to work in my favour; I won with a pretty big lead. I guess that with repeat play, a group might learn to play more randomly / less predictably … but playing randomly *also* means playing sub-optimally, so there’s an interesting balance to strike there.

Overall, I was impressed; it’s got all the ingredients of a classic “vintage” euro, and its easy to see how it picked up the Spiele Des Jahres when it did. It was a *perfect* ice-breaker for the new members; John B. made a great call in picking this one out!

Hoity Toity wasn’t a particlarly long game, and other people at the meeting were still pretty much locked into their games when we finished, so we kept the same group for our second game of the day. We wanted something a touch deeper / less gateway-ish than Hoity Toity. Power Grid was suggested – I’d brought my copy with me, but only had the (slightly unconventional) Québec/Baden Württemburg map pack in the box, which I was slightly reluctant to bring out as it’s probably a bit of an intermediate power-gridding map rather than one you’d want to play on your first outing. In spite of that — and perhaps partly influenced by the fact that all three of our new members hailed from France and there was a bit of a nationalistic/language affinity thing going on for Québec — that’s what came out next 🙂

It’s a long time since I taught anybody how to play Power Grid … although I bring my copy to Newcastle Gamers reasonably regularly, and there’s pretty much always at least one power-grid novice at the table whenever we play, it always seems like somebody else is eager to leap in and explain how it works. Nevertheless, I think I did a pretty good job; the only thing I really messed up on was forgetting to mention that you can build through cities — so we were a couple of rounds in before I slipped in that minor (*ahem*) detail, but I don’t think anybodies game suffered for the omission, since we were still at the pre-congestion phase of the game at this point.

Despite the balance of 3 first-timers / 2 experienced players, this session played out like a very typical game of Power Grid, with everybody clustered together closely on the leaderboard during the mid-game, poising themselves to make a big sprint for the finish. Ultimately, I won – placing 4 cities in my last round, and powering 15 – but it was a *very* close thing; Paula (one of our newbies) came second with 14 cities built, and the capacity to power more if she’d managed to build them — she’d clearly taken to this game very quickly!

Interestingly, with 5 players the Québec map didn’t feel anywhere near as tricky as it did when I previously played it with 6; congestion didn’t seem to be a big problem, with phase 2 and 3 opening up at just the right times to keep things fluid. It’s maybe not quite as brutal a map as I’d first assumed.

Anyway, our new friends seemed to really enjoy the game. They confessed that they’d only really intended to pop in briefly to see what the club was all about (and we’d successfully waylaid them for *far* longer than they had planned) but they were now really keen to sign up and come back for more at a later date. Result! 🙂

It was early afternoon by now (it’s amazing how fast the day goes by when you’re absorbed in a good game), and a perfect point to break for lunch. Steve was kicking off a game of Small World, but I think I’m a bit burnt out on that one (some would accuse me of heresy for admitting this, but I think my burn-out is largely due to overplaying the iOS version – oops!)… so I passed on the opportunity, popped out to Sainsburies for some bait, and then nibbled it while having a nose around at what everybody else was playing … Alien Frontiers with the Factions expansion (which looks really interesting – I really need to try that out at some point), and Senji (which John F. has been writing about a lot recently) being the two that stick in my mind.

I’d barely finished my lunch, when the Durham regulars arrived at the meeting (perfect timing!). Vincent had brought a copy of Libertalia with him — a brand new release that’s been attracting a lot of interesting/complimentary comments and reviews on various forums over the last week or so. Seemed like a good option for my next game of the day…

Libertalia is another simultaneous role selection/blind auction game. I’m not entirely sure what the backstory for the game is (even after reading the instruction manual!), but, essentially, you’re a bunch of pirates, sharing out a pile of booty. Each player is dealt an identical hand of cards (from a set of 30 possible crew members). Each crew member has a rank, and a special ability. Players select which crew member they want to play in the current round, and place it face down on the table. All crew members are revealed simultaneously, and then arranged in order of rank. “Special abilities” are then executed in ascending order of rank — some of these abilities might (for example) kick somebody off the ship, or tinker with the way the loot will be shared out, or impose a penalty on the highest ranked crew member, or something like that. Then, in descending order of rank, each crew member takes something from the pile of available booty (so, highest ranking character will get the good stuff, and the lowest ranking character will probably end up with some kind of cursed, penalty-invoking booty).

Played characters are sent to a temporary holding area, known as the “den” (though they can be brought back into play via other character’s special abilities), killed characters are sent to a graveyard, and the process repeats itself for 6 turns … at the end of the 6-turn “campaign”, there’s another class of special power that’s triggered for every character that’s now sitting in your “den” … so, for example, somebody might have an end-of-campaign power that grants bonus points (as long as they’ve survived), or power that lets you tweak the treasure you collected in some beneficial way… or — worse — a particular character might have end-of-campaign penalty points associated with it (which gives you an incentive to kick them OUT of your den using somebody else’s special ability, before the round ends…)

It’s an interesting game, but the available options do seem a bit daunting at first — it took maybe half of the game to properly get a feel for how the interactions work. However, once things clicked, it was very enjoyable, and I can see the game having a fair bit of longevity due to the different card combos that could emerge from game to game. I do, however, have one slight reservation … although every player is given an identical deck, there’s a unique “tie breaking” value attached to every card. So, suppose the yellow player plays his ‘brute’ card, and the green player *also* plays his brute in a given turn … yellow will *always* outrank green in this situation, because the green brute has a hard-coded tie-break value of 1, and yellow has …urm, something higher. The tie breakers are spread around, so that certain decks will win certain character ties, and other decks will win certain other character ties… BUT… this does bring asymmetry into the game, and I have a nagging feeling that playing with certain combinations of colours (or even playing with certain colours in conjunction with certain seating orders) could introduce a mathematically significant tilt.

Or maybe my spidey sense is tingling for no reason — and it won’t be a problem until somebody with far too much time on their hands breaks down all the odds on a BGG forum posting 😉

Anyway, on to the next one…

John F. had asked me to take along my copy of Ora & Labora, as he and Emma were particularly keen to try it out (having been introduced to the joys of Le Havré on our previous all-dayer). John had been tied up with a game of Senji pretty much all afternoon, but it ended at around the same time as my game of Libertalia wrapped up. Unfortunately I now discovered that Emma couldn’t make the meeting, as she was delayed getting back from some family-type thing or other … so John roped in Gareth (no, not that Gareth) and Andrew to play instead.

We played the Irish variant. When I give new players the choice of which version to play, they always seem to pick the Irish version (in fact, I think I’ve only played the French variant once!). I guess the idea of malt, beer and whisky has a greater appeal to the typical brit board-gamer than baguettes, grapes and wine 😉

The game took around 3 hours… I suspect Gareth and Andrew didn’t really knew what they were letting themselves in for at the outset, and the mid-game was dragging for them a bit. Ora & Labora must feel like a bit of a marathon if you’re not particularly into Rosenberg’s style of resource collecting/goods production game. Fortunately, I do like this kind of thing (though O&L ranks some way behind Agricola and Le Havré in my personal preferences) … and John F. was clearly enjoying it too.

I played a decidedly average game … I managed to scrape together the materials to build a wonder (though not via a particularly stylish or efficient route), but got into a mess with my settlement layout (failing to clear a critical spot of landscape in time to build) and ended the game in second place, trailing Andrew — the winner — by about 50 points.

Oh… one other noteworthy aspect: this was the first time I’ve played O&L with “naked” cards. By which, I mean, I used to have my Ora & Labora cards sleeved… but it tended to make the cards skid around a bit once played on the landscape boards, and just didn’t make for a particularly pleasant tactile experience. As the cards in O&L aren’t really used as cards anyway, and are — in effect — just (really thin) tiles, it’s not like the odd mark or scuff is going to make any significant usability difference… so, earlier this week, all the sleeves came off. I think playing without them was a significant improvement.

(Of course, now that I’ve said this, I fully expect somebody to spill a can of coke over the game at its next outing…)

Finally… Troyes

My last game of the day was Troyes … which was also played against John F, Gareth, and Andrew.

It’s a long time since I’ve played Troyes, and I’d forgotten just what a pain it is to teach. It’s not that it’s a particularly complicated game… it just happens to have some particularly quirky mechanisms and counter-intuitive concepts. Once you’ve nailed those aspects, it’s a brilliant game (as evidenced by it’s placing in the top 30 strategy games at BGG) — but …yeah; it’s got a learning curve attached, and as I fumbled my way through an explanation, I could tell that I wasn’t really doing it justice. With the benefit of hindsight, it would probably have been a better to pull this one out earlier in the day while I was still fresh and more capable of explaining things.

Nevertheless — and despite a slow/confusing start — Gareth and Andrew seemed to get a good grasp of things within a couple of rounds (maybe too good a grasp of things, since they pretty much dominated the military side of the game from about half way in!) … but I don’t think things really came together for John F., and he didn’t emerge from the session as a particular fan of the game 🙁

Early in the game, I made a grab for the Archery activity — but Gareth and Andrew’s subsequent monopolisation of the military workers (red dice) pretty much denied me the resources to make effective use of it. The only real points machine that I managed to put together was a combo of the Priest (which allows you to use your white “religious” dice/workers to boost the output of your yellow “civilian” dice/workers), and the Goldsmith (which took my now-powered-up yellow workers and used them to produce gold and victory points). It was a decent combo … but not enough to compete with Gareth + Andrew’s skirmish-based points gathering; I should really have bought my way back into the palace the moment I got kicked out… a lesson very much re-inforced by the fact that I placed third in the final reckoning(!)

I enjoyed it though, despite being totally schooled by a pair of first-timers 😉

The game wrapped up a little after 10pm … I decided to call it a night, and headed off home for a beer, a burger, and to catch-up on the evening’s episode of Doctor Who before bed 🙂

Best game of the day? … That’s a really difficult thing pick this time, as I enjoyed everything I played. Power Grid maybe wins by a whisker; it was a pretty tight/exciting game, I didn’t mess up the teaching, and I’m sure our new members will be back for more!

Regrets: I never did get to play that game of ACBAS with John B… and the fact that it’s 3 weeks until the next meeting — due to the month having too many weekends — is a bit of a downer (boo!)

The Ora & Labora and Troyes pics were snapped by Olly, and gratuitously stolen from the Newcastle Gamers Google+ Group. Newcastle Gamers meets on the second and last Saturday of the month. Usual cost is £3 (or £1 for concessions), but your first visit is free. Our next meeting is on the 29th September .. check the G+ group for more info.

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Random Things of Recent Interest

(1) Microgravity Yo-Yo tricks.

This is excellent. And makes me want to dig out my old yo yo.

(2) Molerabilia

Adam mole, erstwhile keyboardist of Pop Will Eat Itself, auctions off a bunch of stuff in an attempt to pay for a vintage caravan. The anecdotes attached to each item are priceless. Especially if you’re a closet (or not-so-closet) PWEI fan.

(3) Spektrmodule Twelve

Season Two of Spektrmodule has arrived, courtesy of the mighty Warren Ellis. Perfect mood music for overcast, rainy days, when you’re trying to work.

Posted in Music, Random Things of Recent Interest | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments