Alan was defending an unbeaten run (apart from fillers) during his time in London, so it was certainly noted and attempts were made to knock him off his perch.
Rattus has been played quite a bit recently, but not sufficiently to have tried out all possible strategies. Jon's tactic of taking the Merchant role to spread cubes into small numbers in many regions was vetoed as the rule book was interpreted as moving all three cubes from one region to another region, but not being able to split them up.
Woody went for as many in one region as possible, migrating his European population to the east in Bulgaria. Tom seemed to be moving rats around so that he could free a space to move his people into the protection of the castle. Alan seemed to be spreading his in as many different regions as possible. Paul built up large reserves using the peasant in southern Europe, although when the plague ravaged Italy and Iberia he was left with very few.
Woody survived a few attacks on Bulgaria as he kept his roles to a minimum and therefore minimised losses to almost zero. The witch again didn't get used. Paul faced a choice with his last turn and opted to ensure Tom didn't go without any plague rats in Gaul, home to quite a few for him.
The last round of ravaging seemed to cut into Woody and Tom the most, with Alan and Paul riding their luck somewhat. Those two ended up with the same number of people left on the board, but the tie break gave the match to Alan, who thereby extended his run despite the attempts to bring him down.
Alan: 10 (won due to turn order), Paul: 10, Tom: 8, Woody 6
Andy, Gareth and I returned to this old favourite with Rufus joining us for his first game. I explained things to Rufus as the others set up and then Andy started with the Field Warden occupation, which he seems to be dealt quite often. Gareth picked up the 3 Wood and since Major/Minor Improvement had been turned up I took the clay and built a fireplace, which proved very useful until later in the game when I could have done with a cooking hearth!
The game gradually took shape. Andy played a Clay Mixer and a Bricklayer, renovated to a Clay Hut and added some Clay Supports and a Straw-Thatched Roof, which meant he was building rooms for one Wood. What to do with all the Clay from the Clay Mixer? Andy had the answer in the form of a Clay Seller...
Meanwhile I laid down a Ladder for my own reduction on Room costs, a Plow-related Occcupation that gave me plowed fields in later turns and a Cattle Whisperer that gave me cattle in later turns. Followed by a Stone Carrier which allowed me enough Stone for a 5-room Stone House, a Well, and a Basketmaker’s Workshop- more on that later.
I can’t remember what Gareth had laid down, he built a pretty good farm but was unable to build any fences, partly due to ferocious wood competition, which cost him in the final scoring.
Rufus had a Patron but didn’t exploit that to play the rest of his occupations, concentrated on sowing Grain for his Windmill and finished the game with a respectable first time score.
Meanwhile the wood competition inspired me to play Guildmaster and build the Joinery- a net gain of two wood. Once I had the Guildmaster the other craft workshops looked attractive and I had some surplus Reed thanks to Ladder, hence the Basketmaker’s Workshop, which was worth 5 VPs to me. Too little, alas, for it was Andy’s game.
Andy 43 Philip 42 Gareth 32 (?) Rufus 12
Rufus, Gareth and I rounded off this evening with this curious game, which features one of the smallest boards known to man, with a dinky little map of Italy. Players fight out successive battles in one Italian province after another, the winner gaining control of the province. First to six provinces or four adjacent provinces wins.
The battles themselves are fought with cards depicting mercenaries, courtesans, seasons, heroines, scarecrows, and so on. If you run out of cards in one battle you won’t get them back until everyone has run out (or is down to just one or two cards), so you have to be careful. There’s a certain amount of bluff and counterbuff and a lot of adding up...
I picked the first province as Turin and ducked out after my first card play, leaving Gareth and Rufus to fight for it- Gareth won but Rufus had played most Courtesans so he chose the next province and won that battle. I won the third battle and then we all replenished our hands. The second round went much the same way with everyone picking up another province, and then a third. Rufus was threatening to complete a set of four but I had an outstanding card deal with high value cards and three drummers (double the value of your army) and was able to win three battles in a row for the final victory.
Philip 6 Rufus 3 Gareth 3
P.S “But a Bruised Reed” is a quotation from Princess Ida by Gilbert and Sullivan