December, when frosts chill us to the bone, ghost stories become rampant and the excesses of food and drink are to the fore. Out on the damp street a lone Frenchman is making his way to the Apprentice, a car pulls over, ‘excuse-moi monsieur!’, and he’s in the warmth of the vehicle, but not for long. He climbs out by the Thames and looks up into the first floor windows. It is then he is struck dumb. His eyes widen in fear and uncontrollable shivering envelopes him. He has seen ‘the strangers’, they are led by a mysterious German, Stefan Seagal who is ruled by the Mayan Calendar. From the ground floor up the realm is doomed, like the fantastical dominion of Discworld, full of characters like the hideous hunchback from his home country capital. He will stay here for several hours, and eventually, maybe, they will let him go…
The Frenchman; Michel
The lumberjack; Woody
The outbacker; Paul A
The tartan army; Scott
The easy rider; Keith
The hunchback, with some slippage round the front; Neil
The wicker man; James
The historical monolith; Philip
The mad doctor; Noel
The mad doctor’s madder associate; Leon
The one they call the architect; Gareth
The latecomer; Mary
The hound of the latecomer; Chris
We started with a quick round of this trick taking card game. My hand contained 1 trump (Red), a long blue suit with some high blue cards, and short suits elsewhere. Following my usual inclination and given my blue winners could easily be trumped, I picked the Saboteur. The bidding was fairly conservative, with several seals left in the middle of the table and nobody taking a white or a blue seal.
This made my job fairly easy as people quickly found themselves taking tricks they hadn’t bid for and thus black seals. I ruffed a purple early, led a low blue, and watched it go round. Later I won a trick in yellow and repeated the process. Keith had the best trumps and handily won the red tricks he had bid for, while others struggled. At the end of the day there were four or five black seals out, fairly evenly distributed, making me ahead on points. We stopped playing then as other players had turned up. Unfortunately I don’t have the exact scores- nor do I remember exactly who was playing!
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (Collector's Edition, with poster no less!)
THE game of the month – even if it’s only a two-week month – attracted a strong three of Gareth, Philip and Neil. Strong in that we’d all played it before, not much granted, but enough.
With our hidden characteristics looking pretty similar from my early viewing of three of the unused four characters it was eyes down for five areas of domination. Gareth picked up an early building costing a ‘wapping’ seventeen dollars, only for Philip to destroy it almost immediately. With them two concentrating on revenge I thought I’d build away to victory. But, as ever, gaining control of four areas is a piece of cake, a fluffy Victoria sponge one at that, but – can you have two ‘buts’ in one sentence? – gaining the fifth, and the holy grail of victory, is nigh on impossible. Round after round I could set myself up with five, never six though, areas, only for it all to fall apart due to some ridiculous twist of fate.
It was only later we found out that Philip had been stopped in his tracks by a true freak of play, well done Gareth! Philip had swapped his character for the fellow who needed a presence in ten areas… and he sat there comfortably but for a last second gamble from Gareth who, to be fair, was still on the revenge track.
So, all the characters came and went, spilling their evil throughout us, and Vimes had won… but no, Vimes was the fourth man I hadn’t seen earlier… so, time to count the points up. Bugger, fifteen point penalty for me on the back of an earlier loan left unpaid. Despite having four buildings, pretty much for the majority of the game, they were all cheap brothely ones and so victory went to Gareth. A good close game, as ever, and all keen to play again next week.
(And no I haven’t read any of the books, and nor am I likely to.)
Joined by the pallindromedary twins, Noel & Leon it was then off to Paris to see if we could keep the rats at bay. Philip had somehow missed this game, and Leon was completely new to the geek-world of games. Basically a worker placement game with your actions determined by yourself and one other player each round. I’m sorry Gareth, really I am, if I could have passed you anything better I would have done…
Noel was in pretty determined mode and picked up additional workers to help him through. Gareth followed suit while Philip and I started taking a shine to Victory Points. Early on the rats were dozing somewhere and so several forgot just what sort of impact they can have.
Some hefty carriage movement from Noel and I saw VPs heading their way. Gareth profiteered at the Cathedral – see, not every card I gave you was useless! Philip and Leon were picking their way into the game by now. Just in time for the rats to come bounding out. Leon and I got savaged by the little devils, all those precious VPs being nibbled away. Philip also struggled for a couple of rounds and thus the race for the line was handed over to Gareth and Noel.
It was tight, it was close, it was Noel! How apt for this time of year I hear you say.
Scores; Noel 55, Gareth 54, Neil 38, Philip 28, Leon 16