Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Boardgamers Ride Again

I didn’t make it last week for the second week in a row, which might have been penance for my heinous counting error on the last blog, but actually it was just that I could’t make it (my 17 month old can count up to eight with less mistakes). Bless the uncredited villager for attempting to allow me to fade into obscurity.

What happened on Wednesday night? Although I can't be perfectly sure of its accuracy, my understanding from afar, is as follows…

"Some locals were enjoying a quiet drink downstairs at The Apprentice, with a wind blowing down the river and the smell of rolled dice in the air.

At 7.00 on the dot, Tonio rode down Church Street on a grey burro, sporting a sombrero and handlebar moustache to make a reappearance having read about the cowboy heroics the previous week. Andy and Dan, uncharacteristically early, were settled in upstairs where the action would take place, chewing on cigar butts and competing at spitting over the balcony. Under his wide brim, Dan had the look in his eye of someone bursting for an outlet, somewhere to let out the words he’d been letting simmer inside him for the many, many months (since his last games report). He didn’t want to play games, but he needed to get the words out lest they fester for longer. He needed a fix, an escape; he needed to blog. The double doors burst open and in strode Neil, the imposing figure that quietened the locals chatter to a few scared whispers when he looked menacingly left, then right. The whisper went up ‘it’s him, the one from the board game. It’s really him’. And it was. John B challenged Gareth II to a ‘who’s got the most games’ duel (where was James when he was needed?) The bar staff smiled meekly when Philip asked for a salmon linguine and asked bravely if he was sitting upstairs for the 164th consecutive week. Then in walked Jon, aiming to round up this rabble, have them choose their games of choice before 9.45 and mercilessly get everyone to write a report. The scene was set, and no one quite knew what was going to happen next…"

Players: John B, Jon, Gareth II, Andy, Dan, Tonio, Neil, Philip (more than likely plus some uncredited villagers as I’ll almost certainly have missed some)

Qwixx - the card game (thanks Jon)

Trust John B to be able to bring out a neat little card game that takes only a few minutes to play but has enough decisions to make it interesting. This is the card game version of the SDJ 2013 nominee (more on that later) and involves playing cards in either ascending or descending order and marking them off on a natty little scoresheet. Once played, a player cannot use a card lower / higher in that colour (think Lost Cities) which gives a nice push your luck feeling to the game.

As usual, the game's owner misrepresented the likely winning scores (see Glass Road a few weeks ago...) by claiming that 90 was his highest ever score and a winning score was likely to be much less than that…

Suffice to say, John's experience shone through, and he succeeded in beating his previous highest score. Whilst Jon and Gareth were only 1 point apart (a long way back!)

Scores: John 92, Jon 70, Gareth 69

Qwixx (thanks Jon)

With the other table still attempting to use their skill and cunning to co-operatively beat a deck of cards, John brought out the original game, which is very similar to the card game, but uses dice. It's essentially Yahtzee for the modern generation - nothing to go crazy about, but simple and quick enough to be able to play with the whole family, which makes it a winner for those of us in a certain age bracket.

This game very much followed the patten of the first, with John steaming out ahead, and this time nothing between Jon and Gareth. Jon and John were up for another round, but Gareth was pleased to see that Hanabi had finished and hurriedly exited the table of fluffy little fillers!

Scores: John 82, Jon 65, Gareth 65

Hanabi (thanks Neil)

Over an extended weekend in Suffolk I'd played two games of this co-op and, unbelievably, we'd scored 25 both times, the first times ever. Better take it to the club I decided. Three newbies, Andy, Dan - watch out for some mentions of his amnesia - and Tonio. Must have had a good tutor as we got four of the five 1s out pretty quickly and moved through the blues and whites as well.

Despite his incredible intellect Dan managed to prove that his memory is made up of nine parts amnesia. 'This card is red, and this one's a 3. Or maybe the other way round.' As it was it was down to me to discard a rather useful red 2, thankfully we got away with it! 

Eventually the green 1s reared their heads and we picked our way through quit comfortably. That I had three of the 5s meant it was down to me to complete our incredible success. For a first game it was impressive. In fact if you ask Dan about it I'm sure he'll have it tattooed on his brain, just below the yellow stickie that reads 'dementia'. Respect.

Final Score: We got 25 out of 25, CLASS!

4 Monkeys (thanks Dan - feels good, huh?)

The monkey game was called 4 Monkeys, it's sort of like mixing Ligretto with filing a tax return. We were all completely terrible at it although John B seemed to do alright in the last round. We didn't keep scores but he must have won even though he finished the first round with the kind of negative score usually reserved for Alan Davies on QI.

Escape - Curse of the Temple (thanks Dan, that’s better, let them out)

We lost twice at Escape, the first was down to our complete inability to function as a working team. In the second game Gareth II "did a Tonio" by being the last man left behind in the collapsing temple, which was funny seeing as Tonio was the one who abandoned him to his fate. There may have been some inadvertent cheating going on too, but it's not the sort of game where anybody cares much.

Railways of North America (thanks Neil)

Always up for some train action, Jon, Philip and Andy helped Neil unpack not only his Canada map but his main box too. Philip's cube distribution was notable for the proliferation of yellow cubes on the Western side of the map. Apart from that everything seemed ok. The main differences with the map were 1. The introduction of the snow line, north of which each track build costs an additional $1,000 per hex, 2. Ferry hexes to connect a few towns offshore, plus 3. Mines which cost $10,000 each and you get to put between one and five different colour cubes on a grey town, quite a gamble but when money becomes no problem it's good value. The major routes are few and only of four or five point value.

The initial auction for first player was quite high, Jon taking it for $13,000. He picked up six points for it and it looked a reasonable return. Whereas he'd begun laying track in the north-west Andy started south-west. Whilst not inevitable that they would meet it did happen. Philip started somewhat differently picking up three cards in the first turn, unusual. I went for two hotels amongst the close-knit Ottawa, Montreal & area, and began building there too. It was pretty profitable keeping away from the others and I managed to only take three loans all game. I had a poor return on my first attempt at a mine but the second proved beneficial. One more turn would have been good for me as the others were running low on deliverable cubes.

Philip built some impressive stretches of five hexes utilising one of his magic cards. Andy went for the bonus for first to
build their four engine and ended up with a 'sizer' which he used twice to take him away from the rest of us. Jon had added points for delivering the first three cubes but his initial lead had been reined in half way through and despite his concentrated efforts he couldn't compete towards the end.

An intriguing map which looked quite small for four but performed brilliantly. It's certainly expensive to build above the snow line and there are a mass of grey cities needing expansion. Scores were close at the end but victory was Andy's, very good!

Final Scores: Andy 50, Neil 45, Philip 39, Jon 38

Damage Report (thanks Dan, same time next week?)

DR is set in a disintegrating spaceship but was more like a pick up and deliver game, moving bits around the ship as required by cards in each of the board sections. I think we sort of broke the game in the second outing as we just piled up a huge amount of stuff in one of the rooms and kept turning over the repair cards until we reached one of the victory conditions. 

There's a neat but annoying mechanism where you use sand timers to delay your next turn and the delay gets longer based on some shonky logic to do with life support systems. It's real-time so there is a pervading sense of calamity all the way through; each of the characters has a fairly specific role to play so I'm not sure how much real collaboration is going on and how much is led out by the game itself.

And so, the brave board gamers had put their lives on the line, survived, and will live to shuffle another day.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Magnificent Seven

Standing up for the greater good by laying lives on the line and sticking up for the defenceless masses against a disproportionate number of bad guys is a little inappropriate in 2014 Isleworth, so this magnificent band of seven had to compromise and play out their adventures in a settings that relied more on cardboard, cubes, strategy in the mind, calculated risks (sorry… die rolls) instead. Looks like they still had fun though, and although a few people did fall by the wayside in their respective table top settings, there was the added bonus that they managed to all get up and go home at the end of the evening. 

I wasn’t there to join in, but it did sure sound like a lot of fun was had by all (even Neil when press ganged into a game that he's learnt to love). Enterprises were built in Japan, gems traded in Arabia, whole European Kingdoms were constructed, ancient temples were raided, German rail networks forged and (ahem) some kiwi Granny’s bashed each other into submission. Not a bad night’s work.

The brave souls who fought their way through the evening and came out the other side were: James, Lucas, Donald, Neil, Jon, Dominic, Andy and Philip

Machi Koro (thanks Neil)

Good to see James and his colleagues Donald and Luca as I arrived. James was trying to sell them on another, yes another, Japanese mini game that I’d never heard of. As keen as I was it wasn’t to be. Instead we played a different Japanese mini game, the wonderful Machi Koro which I must admit to thinking about during the last week, it’s been a while since its last outing.

Anyway, things started out quite sanely with each of us picking up fairly identical cards. Eventually something had to give and it was down to Donald to start picking up Corner Stores. Luca tried pinching two TV Stations but we all put him right on that one, although somehow, every time it was his turn he had ten money to spend; way too close to the bank for my liking!!

For absolutely no reason whatsoever I bought a Cheese Factory. People have won with this frequently. The fact that I hadn’t picked up a single Ranch, or anything else that might have been useful hadn’t occurred to me… anyway, on to the winning strategy, pick up loads of Corner Stores, and then continuously roll fours and the game is all yours. Donald managed this at least three times on the trot and it was game over. Fast ending. Well played Sir!

Sultan (thanks Neil)

Jon had introduced this to us some time ago and funnily enough I almost brought it along too. As it was there was Jon, Dominic and me setting up as Philip and Andy arrived so it was a full player version of this one. Everyone has a hand of fifteen cards (1-15 oddly enough), which are used to place one per round against the gem of your choosing. There’s only three gems available each round, so it’s tight, to say the least. Andy and I went pretty low early on and so after the first two rounds we’d collected nothing.

The different gems; diamonds, rubies, emeralds, lapis lazuli and frozen urine, are worth different values each come end game scoring. Bonuses for multiples of gems are available. Andy and I started going mad for the most valuable Lapis Lazuli (blue) and Emeralds, sharing them equally, not a good investment. John was picking up some rubies, a lot of rubies I thought, and Dom was simply making sure he got something every round. Philip, in true Philip style, was unpredictable but did seem to be collecting several gems.

The final scoring actually determined who was doing what. Or not doing what in the case and Andy and I. Philip and Jon were tied on 49 but way out in front was Dom with a massive 62, wow!

Kingdom Builder (thanks Jon)

3 players – new to Dom; and Neil has learned to tolerate the game too, which is nice. Jon had all the expansions available, and chose 1 tile from the Nomads expansion, and a mission card from that expansion too, which as it happens, really mixed the game up nicely. It did take Neil about 3 hours to find the baggies containing the appropriate tokens, but he got there eventually…..
The scoring cards for this game were Workers (1 pt for settlements around locations), Farmers (3 pts for each settlement in the sector with your fewest number of settlements) and Shepherds (2 pts if you have no empty spaces of the same terrain type next to a settlement just placed). The Shepherds score during the game rather than at the end, which is a nice change. The Nomads tiles (of which there were 3) award minor bonuses to the player that picks them up, but the new location (Quarry) was very interesting, adding the ability to place walls on the board, effectively blocking off areas.

The Shepherds scoring is very interesting, as it now matters in which order you place your settlements. Get it right, and you could score 4 or 6 points on a turn, which can be big difference in a game that is often decided by small margins. As it turned out, Jon made the most of this scoring, ending with 37 points from this card alone, as opposed to 24 to Neil and 22 to Dom.

Neil was doing a good job of spreading his settlements out between the sectors, to maximise his scores for the Farmers, whereas Jon had trapped himself on a small island in one sector, limiting himself to a mere 5 settlements there until the penultimate turn. By that point, he had picked up the second Quarry tile (Neil had picked up the first one early doors and was making good use of it) and used it to effectively block his access to a terrain type, allowing himself to spread out into the 4th sector. Dom was struggling to maximise his Farmer points, and only managed 6 settlements in his ‘fewest’ sector, although he did use up all his settlements first, bringing the game to a close.

With all the points totted up, Jon’s advantage in the Shepherd scoring proved to be the deciding factor, giving him a healthy lead at the end, from Neil and newbie Dom, who had picked up the strategies really well for a first game.

The Quarry tile, and the Shepherds scoring gave this game a very fresh feel, adding new subtleties and scoring opportunities, and I think that the 2 expansions have now made this a complete game, increasing its replayability and longevity. Perfect!

Score: Jon 89, Neil 68, Dom 54

The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac (thanks Jon)

It’s been far too long since this game saw the light of day at IBG. It’s one of those games that you wouldn’t want to play every week, but every once in a while is perfect. And it’s not really about mechanics and strategies, it’s all about the story…

And so it was, that 6 brave adventurers found themselves ensconced within the depths of the treasure-laden Temple of Chac, desperately racing to get out before being squished by the giant boulder of doom. The first room promised many treasures for those willing to linger, as well as clues detailing how to safely cross the lake of molten lava. However, the walls of this room were moving ominously (if somewhat slowly) inwards, hastening the adventurers exit into the corridor outside. Jon was the only adventurer to dwell long enough to examine all 4 clues, although his tiny brain struggled to fully understand their true meaning. Luka was the first out of this room, and then decided to take his life in his hands and start to cross the molten lava on the carved stones of disintegration. One step – all was well, and treasure was his reward. Second step – oh dear – his luck ran out and he plunged to his death. Fortunately, Luka had another team-mate who was willing to join the fray, albeit from a slightly perilous position once the boulder had passed. 

All the other adventurers raced for the alcoves of Yahtzee, to try to extract the treasures hidden within. Dom’s abilities to roll dice in a pre-determined fashion were strangely limited, whereas they simply tumbled out of Neil’s hands in perfect order, giving him the opportunity to greedily gather up the treasures within. James paused as he passed the molten lava – he had examined at least 2 of the clues, dare he take a risk and cross anyway? The answer was a resounding ‘no’, at least not until Jon had blazed a trail first. Jon used his carefully acquired knowledge to skip gracefully across the molten lava, picking up treasures as he went, which started to weigh him down and slowed his progress. Luka’s new recruit followed closely in his footsteps, not risking a second untimely death.

Adventurer Donald was feeling a little warm from his exertions, and decided to take a dip in the underground river, stopping every now again to scoop up some soggy treasure.
Neil (whose character was certainly no stranger to the dessert trolley), decided that the rickety bridge was his best method of escape, and just managed to stumble across, dislodging all but one of the planks (no – not the other players….) in the process. His reward was a valuable treasure hidden in a secret alcove – now all he had to do was puff and pant his way out of the temple.

Jon had let the boulder sweep past him (by now it had picked up speed and was bearing down on James, Dom and Luka) and also plunged into the icy river. Donald was making a good fist of scrambling out, and sprinting for the open door, and Jon hoped to follow in his soggy footsteps. The boulder had turned the corner and was approaching faster than a Norwich City relegation. The sound of squishing indicated that Dom, Luka and James had indeed perished, and as Jon popped his head above water, he was nearly trodden on by the size 12 loafer of Neil’s character lumbering towards the exit – dropping the odd trinket on the way to ensure his safe departure.

Jon dropped all but his most valuable treasures in the river in a last desperate effort to scramble out. All he had to do was roll 2 dice and as James helpfully remarked – “Don’t roll 2 ones.” And so what happened? Yes, you guessed it sports fans, he rolled 2 ones and plunged head-first into the bottomless waterfall, never to be seen again.

And so, Donald and Neil were the only lucky escapees. When they opened their swag bags it was discovered that Donald had collected the princely sum of 3 groats and a bag of humbugs, whereas Neil had the entire contents of Nigella Lawson’s expenses account upon his person, and was declared the winner. 

The moral of the tale? If you want to survive the terrible horrors of a dastardly, trap-infested underground temple, then learn to throw dice properly…

Ticket to Ride: Marklin edition (thanks Lucas)

After James and his accomplices robbed half of Germany stations, victory seemed all his.
Anyway, in the end honesty and hard work finally paid out as the French rail company Lucas Trains & Co strong connection between Bayern and North-West Germany finally got him the victory, by 7 points!
Scores: Lucas 172, James 165, Donald 125
(Ed - love the brevity and subtlety of Lucas’ writeup, if only I could do that on my scrawls - it typically takes me many paragraphs to do James down. Respect.)

Granny Wars (thanks Neil)

With five of us left at the end of the night it was time to a trip to New Zealand for this game of ‘tit for tat’. Six grannies are set up, and we each get to sponsor one of them. With a hand of ten cards you place one at a time against a granny. There are pluses and minuses, play the opposite but of the same value and you can bounce the previous card on. Then the ‘golden grannies’ come in with their specialities.

Feeling confident, having played this several times before, I played some pretty nonchalant cards against a wide variety of grannies. Donald and Luca nailed their flags to their grannies early on and were outdoing each other for several rounds. Jon and James were also playing the cards close to their chests but on the whole the grannies weren’t attracting many points. 

Saving a set of four golden grannies for the end I thought I was in with a great chance, until Luca’s golden granny allowed him to steal my best card. Damn! Jon and James finally showed who they were supporting but it looked too late for Jon. And that was it. To be honest, I was so shocked at my poor performance; minus three, that I didn’t pay attention to who’d won. I know Jon’s granny beat mine with a huge minus one. The others were all around plus eight or so. Good fun.

Rumour has it that 2 games of Splendor (that’s games called Splendor, not games entreated in Splendor, although they might have been, we’ll never know; read on) and Agricola were played. The truth will be consigned to the big cardboard box in the sky.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Eight Legged Freaks

An interesting start to the evening - Philip was offered the long since departed Salmon Linguine (Phil's petition to Taylor Walker for its reinstatement is still awaiting a second signatory). This was despite his having ordered the Vegetable Tagliatelle - which was what the dish actually was!  Much merriment was had at this mix-up - as it was when Phil decided to recount the story in detail to each and every IBG'er who arrived at the pub thereafter.  

This was then followed by the amazing sight of Phil deciding to eat his food by sucking it from the plate whilst standing up. Ever seen the bit in Oldboy, when he eats the live octopus?  It was like that... but worse.  

Neil moved quickly to wipe the veggie juices from the green felt and to expunge the burning liquid out of Jon's eyes so everyone could move on to the games and to repressing the memory of Phil's eating habits.

Glass Road

With Tom keen to play his second game in a matter of days (Ed:  And why the heck not?  It's a thing of loveliness), he risked life and limb and was eventually granted permission to attend from his lovely wife, Louise. We were joined by similar one game veterans Amanda and Philip although with two weeks having passed since their first play you could be forgiven for thinking they'd never heard of board games at all, never mind Glass Road.

Tom won first player (Ed:  if only all games were that easy to win) and began weighing up suitable opportunities. Philip had spotted something and started collecting resources and Amanda and I went off to the Feudal Lord to give ourselves more building options. As it turned out, Amanda picked up the Mason’s Guild, giving her three points per brick at game end, something Philip had done very successfully first time out. Philip was still collecting resources and Tom was still oohing and aahing over the available buildings -  nothing too obvious was available.

As for me, with my vast experience, I picked up the Slipway and the Bath house which scored me nicely on wood and ponds built adjacent to it.  That both Philip and Tom were planning for the latter was particularly useful (Ed:  it was somewhat lucky for me as I mixed up the meaning of adjacent and congruent - goodness, the things us board gamers have to put up with!). Tom took recompense by picking up two buildings, each of which were worth four victory points at the end, and Amanda decided to use up all her bricks.

Once again I used my hard learned knowledge to play the Builder as my first card in the penultimate round. Genius, loads of resources with to build - all I needed was one food to pay my builder, and boy oh boy was he furious when none was forthcoming. You know what builders are like at the best of times.  To add insult to injury, Tom built the building I had been planning on! Live and learn, I managed to build the Coal Storage soon enough which gained me one more point. Philip then did his amazing final turn, converting no end of stuff into more stuff times lots, and looking pretty good as a result. Amanda had forgotten everything she learned first game, and more (Ed:  she didn't even have any bricks for the Mason's Guild - the magnificent fool!). A close game with no obvious building combinations.  The scoring was very close and despite my gaff I just held off Philip.

Editor's Note:  I love this game - can't wait to try it again.  Neil's nefarious stealing of my dream buildings did affect me but the real issue was planning a perfect final round and not taking into account the real problems that would happen if other players played matching role cards.  A strategy solely based on scoring for buildings without taking into account the scoring for glass, bricks and sand is just not going to win you the game when playing against experienced opponents, especially the mighty Horabin.

Final Scores; Neil - 23, Philip - 22, Tom - 17, Amanda - 12 1/2.


Not having given this an outing for some time, Jon fondly remembered playing this on the ferry back from Essen, and we were joined by Philip, who, it is safe to say, got so excited during the second game on the ferry that he threw up! Happy days.

From the off we all followed different life paths: Philip was going heavily into health, relationships and science; I opted for academia, going to uni, getting a PhD, becoming a Professor all the while picking up the yellow money/materialism cards - my life goal; Jon was busy early on rolling the worst dice combinations he possibly could. Took him ages to pick up anything - must have been formatting his CV rather than writing the bloody thing.

Neither Jon or I spotted that Philip had collected the three cards that allowed him to pick any health, relationship and science cards for one symbol less every time. No wonder he won by a mile.

Quite early on I opted for early retirement and although this gave me a free card each round when combined with my sole relationship card, I had peaked too early and obviously was festering in some old folks' home. Jon nipped in picking up a few good professions to gain twelve bonus points through one of the communal life goals, thus pipping me to second place.

So, what did I learn? Don't go chasing money. Get a career to make retirement bearable. And most important of all: get a life!

Final Scores; Philip - 78, Jon - 48, Neil - 46.


Three players. 45-60 minutes to kill – perfect for the much underrated area majority game, Mykerinos. This was new to both Andy and Sean, and Jon had forgotten Sean’s aversion to rules explanations. Hence, two minutes into the introduction, Sean was requesting “Let’s just start playing!” A nice idea – but not very practical if you don’t know what those little cubes do – or those tiles – or that map of a museum – or how to win the game. So Sean had to put up with Jon blethering on for the next five minutes about how to actually play the game...

Anyway, once started, things went fairly smoothly. Andy majored on Lady Violet tiles, which gave him extra cubes each turn. Jon also picked up a couple of these, whereas Sean didn’t get any early on, giving him a numerical cube disadvantage.

Jon and Sean were both placing into the museum to maximise their end scores, whereas Andy was choosing to neglect this element of the game in favour of collecting sets of patrons.  The game moves along at a fair pace, and it was soon time to tot up the scores. Andy had completed 2 full sets of patrons for 10 points, whereas Jon and Sean only had one set each.

However, Sean and Jon had both achieved the maximum room bonus for two of their patrons, pulling them ahead of Andy, with Jon having the right collection of patrons to pull off the victory.

Jon 62; Sean 54; Andy 41

Finally, Splendor, the wonderful new engine building game was also played by Andy, Tom, Dan and Sean.  Little is remembered other than that Sean managed to sit through the rules explanation without being distracted.  Dan won at a canter thanks to his aggressive acquisition of Stage II and III cards, with Tom and Andy trailing just behind.  Sean, however, was nowhere in sight.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

There's a Rat In Mi Cloister

Players: Paul, Jon, Natasha, Mark, John, Philip, Andy

Many thanks to Jon for providing no less than four session reports - more than making up for your intrepid editor's absence.

A very select band of IBG’ers turned up tonight, with a number of old classics being wheeled out (if you can call Agricola an old classic…)

Battle Line

Paul and Jon were the early implementers this week and, with minds nice and fresh, Battle Line was the chosen option.

As usual, there were the constant hard decisions about which cards to lay down (Ed:  not as hard as if you played with the tactics cards, you heathen!) and with subsequent groans as the next card drawn would have been perfect two turns previously.

The game went down to the last few cards again, with Paul running out of options first, and Jon having the necessary cards to close the game out.  The tactics cards weren’t used, as both players prefer the ‘purity’ of the base game (Ed: BOOOOOOO!  Go play and Schotten-Totten then, you puritans).  Might be fun to try them sometime though (Ed: I was hasty. Let's never fight again xo).

Jon 6; Paul 3

For Sale

With a few more IBG’ers starting to turn up, the opening filler of choice was the perennial favourite: For Sale. New to Mark and John but, as usual, the rules are easily explained in two minutes flat (looking at the scores, maybe Paul should have listened more closely as well…)

Paul somehow managed to acquire both zero cheques, which effectively put him out of the running, whilst the other 3 players ended with incredibly close scores – with Mark just ending up top of the pile.

Mark 67; Jon 65; John 64; Paul 48

TTR: Nederlands

A second outing for this game at IBG, with the For Sale crew staying together to play. It was actually Mark’s first experience of TTR, and although the Nederlands map adds the bridge tolls to the game, it is still easily explained even for a first game. The trick with this game is to try to be the first to claim popular routes, so that other are paying their bridge tolls back to you. However, knowing which routes will be ‘popular’ is not always easy.

Mark, John and Jon all started out placing routes in the middle of the map, radiating out from Amsterdam, whereas Paul chose to keep himself to himself and headed up north.  Jon built east to west along the bottom of the map, and as he got to the south-western corner he was joined by Mark. This resulted in much sighing and head-holding from John, which indicated that he may have been blocked out of a needed route.

The game was heading towards a conclusion, and twice running, Mark chose to pick new tickets. Eyebrows were slightly raised from the TTR experienced players, as this is a difficult map to lay extra routes late on in the game, but they gave Mark the benefit of the doubt as he has demonstrated his ‘gaming intelligence’ on more than one occasion in the past.

Paul spent his last few turns laying trains on longer cheap (toll-wise) routes, and Jon, after careful consideration, decided to pay Paul one token to also dump trains on one of those routes. Jon then paid one more token to lay enough trains to trigger the last round. Curiously, as no-one wanted to use any more toll tokens, for fear of losing the end-game bonus, nobody did anything in the last round. Jon considered the lottery of the final turn ticket-dive, but being cautious by nature, he decided against it.

And so to the final scores. John revealed that he had indeed been blocked out by Mark and Jon, and failed to complete a massive 34-point ticket, leaving him on an unfortunate 45 points. Jon only had his starting three tickets (which were not especially high in value), as did Paul, whereas Mark revealed that his two ticket-collection turns had proved fruitful, and had enabled him to complete seven tickets, putting him way out in the lead.

And so it was all down to the bonuses for the most toll tokens – and Paul had pipped Jon for the 55 bonus points by a measly two tokens, which was enough for him to just sneak past Mark for the narrowest of victories. Had Jon not paid Paul that 1 token and laid another down, there would have been a 40 point swing between the two of them, and a different winner (probably Mark). But how many games could we say that for??!!! (Ed:  Answer on a postcard to the usual address)

The toll tokens definitely give this game a different feel, although there was a feeling that the size of the bonuses may be a little much (nearly a third of the winner's score). Good fun though.

Paul 180; Mark 177; Jon 157; John 48

Notre Dame

Just 3 IBG’ers stayed until the bitter end, and Andy was happy to pick another of his games to finish the evening off. It was new to Natasha, but he refuses to have a rules explanation last longer than four minutes, so any misunderstandings on his part were his own fault.

Newbie Natasha came straight out of the blocks, hitting the sector that gives straight points as often as possible. This is an unusual strategy, but he was fed by Andy and Jon both passing these cards on in the first round. Jon made the mistake of passing on the Notre Dame card in the first round, which allowed Andy to go in by himself, as Dan had trashed his copy of that card.

The rats were proving to be less problematic than usual, with the doctor coming out at an opportune moment, which helped Dan to focus on his points accumulation.  Jon was trying to steadily amass cubes and money, whilst Andy had a good presence in the hospital, and also had a stack of cash.

As often happens with this game, the end seems to suddenly approach at a rate of knots, and Jon realised that he had waited too long to start collecting points, and was never going to catch up. Natasha'ss engine (or lack of) had started to stall slightly, with rats becoming more problematic, whilst Andy appeared to be storming onwards.

The last round saw Andy placing two cubes in Notre Dame to Jon’s one, and had used his vast wealth to max out on points each time. Natasha had never had enough coins to bother with Notre Dame, and used his actions elsewhere.

With the points counted, Jon was miles behind, but Natasha had just managed to hold on for a very impressive newbie single-point victory. Good to see a slightly different strategy win this game, which is always a fulfilling experience, especially with three players.

Dan 70; Andy 69; Jon 55

It would appear that Agricola was also played by Natasha, Phil and Andy but the results have been lost to the mists of time.