Sunday, 21 July 2013

"Et in Arcadia Ego"

Strangely, not a player elimination game...
Arkadia (thanks Jon)
The copy of this game is Jon’s slightly dubious claim-to-fame – namely because he picked it up brand new for £1, and also that it turns out to be a complementary copy sent to none other than Reina Knizia himself. Jon did moan that Dr K could have bothered to stick the tiles to the top of the castle pieces – there’s no pleasing some people….
Paul and Tom joined Jon, and everyone needed a rules explanation (as Paul & Jon’s only other experiences of the game had been in the dim and distant past…). It’s remarkably simple – either place a building tile, or place workers. If a building is surrounded, the castle can be built, and 4 times during the game, each player can trigger a scoring for themselves, which also provides them with 2 new workers for their supply.
The game trots along at a nice pace, and it was Tom who was first to achieve a nice juicy score, trading in a number of red seals at a high value. He then proceeded to cover the silver castle tiles, to limit Jon’s scoring opportunities. Paul also traded in a couple of nice sets of seals, which made it difficult to tell who was winning.
Paul made a very nice move late on, placing a building which completed 3 separate buildings, allowing him to manipulate the seals’ values to his own advantage, whereas a second move landed him a hatful of seals. Jon was the only player to have used his 4 scoring tokens before the last round, which meant that he had 2 more workers to play with. This enabled him to liberate some late seals, but it was a question of how valuable they would be.
The end of the game came suddenly, with Jon triggering the final round. Paul and Tom both had 1 scoring token left, and therefore lost the use of the 2 extra workers. Jon was last to play and increased the value of the red seals by 1. In the final scoring Paul gleefully revealed a single red seal, and even more gleefully revealed that he had beaten Jon by a single point. (Actually, Jon had 2 red seals himself, so the move was still worth doing, but it was a nice end to the game!)
There was genuine surprise that Tom was 25 points behind, as he had been trading in some high value seals during the game. Whatever the reason, this game was met with positive approval, being sub 60-mins in length, with some nice mechanisms, plenty of choices and a fair bit of interaction. RK’s loss is our gain….
Paul 101; Jon 100; Tom 76
Less of the aquatic wildlife and more of the undestimated playing time...
Eight-Minute Empire (Jon)
Carolina brought out this new game, which promises an area control game in 8 minutes flat. With a few minutes to kill whilst the Kingsburg boys finished, it seemed the perfect choice. She was joined by Jon, Tom, Paul and Magnus (who we thought came from Swindon, but it turned out to be Sweden….)
The game has a small board, made up of several continents, divided into regions and separated by water. Players purchase cards that have a set-collection element, as well as a one-off special ability (place cubes / move cubes / move across water / build cities). Control of regions / continents and sets of cards are scored at the end of the game. That’s it. Players have a very limited amount of money, so purchasing cards provides some interesting decisions. Do you try to collect all of one type of commodity (Paul & Jon), or do you focus more on the special abilities, moving your cubes around the map?
Whatever happened, the scores were incredibly close, with only 2 points separating all the players. Paul came out on top, but a stewards enquiry revealed that he couldn’t score 2 sets of the same commodity, so he shared the victory with Tom & Magnus.
Opinion? Well, 8 minutes it certainly isn’t (more like 20), but it’s still a very enjoyable little ‘super-filler’. It’s one of those rare beasts that leaves you feeling that you’ve played a ‘proper’ game in a short time frame – which are a winner in my book. It has echoes of Rattus about it (move cubes around a small board using special abilities), but is actually quite different. Definitely worth another outing…
Paul 11 (or 10!); Magnus 10; Tom 10; Carolina 9; Jon 9
If you’re looking for brevity, Woody is on hand with these two “eight-minute session reports”
Kingsburg (thanks Woody)
Played over five years [game time not real time!-Ed], each made up of resource acquisition, building, rewards for the leading player, assistance for the weakest player and a battle against the common enemy.

Roll dice .. get a low score = get first pick, roll a high score = wait your turn but potentially get better stuff ! Use the stuff to build buildings or expand your army for the impending fights.

A nice mechanism to balance out the luck of the dice, not too heavy .. worth another game !
Woody 43 Gareth II 42 Phil 41 Andy 37
Kingdom Builder (thanks Woody)

A nice light finish ... Jon showed us all how it was done and that understanding all the tiles will help formulate a plan .. something the rest of us clearly didn't have ! Nice work Jon ....
Jon 80 Woody 58 Magnus 57 Gareth 24
When in Rome...
Trajan – ‘If not first to the forum…’ (thanks Neill)
It was off to Rome for Barry, Dan II, Amanda and me under the expert tutelage of Emperor Barry himself. He’d discovered the delights of this game through our sister club in Richmond and it was yet another Feld I own and had yet to experience. Dan’s final quote on the game, above, rang true, but we didn’t know that at the start!
So, what did we get up to? Well the set up was pretty long, the rules explanation also had to be, there is much on offer here; an interesting action selection mechanism based around a rondel; the opportunity to maximise each turn with many add-ons available; and an excellent time track that can throw the best laid plans out of kilter.
Once you’ve gotten your head around all these different bits and bobs it’s then trying to create some sort of strategy; to concentrate on one or two of the six different action areas, or to try and cover each in at least a little way? Barry clearly had favoured routes for the journey and he showed us how to pick up on the better options as they revealed themselves. This is certainly a Dan-type game – as if there isn’t one! – and he also frequently doubled up his actions racing off into a significant lead about a third of the way through.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, Amanda and I took a little longer to get to grips with all the options, concentrating a bit in specific areas but not really making inroads into them! As with all Feld’s I have played so far, once you have a couple of rounds played through you know what you’re doing. Yes, there’s plenty to consider but it is pretty straight-forward to learn and play. You realise soon enough where you’ve gone wrong!
Endgame scoring was interesting too. Dan’s lead was already large but he picked up another good Senate bonus tile that pushed him out of sight. Barry’s forum tiles provided him with a nifty lift to take second place despite my card collection through shipping – something I always avoid in Castles of Burgundy funnily enough – getting me close to him. Overall, another very impressive game, I love the number of options open and the battle to try and meld them into the highest possible score it one I’m very keen to try again… if only there weren’t so many good games around at the moment!
Dan II – 166, Barry – 138, Neil – 129, Amanda – 117.
And now for the famous Roman general...
Agricola – All Creatures Big & Small (thanks Neil)
With Amanda and Barry riding off into the sun set I spotted Jon’s copy of this, perfect to teach to Dan in the half hour we had remaining. We opted for some special building and were blessed with the Fence Manufacturer that went unused. The others were much more interesting with me picking up the Boar Pen, and Dan going for the Pig Pen and something to do with using his land.
I went for expanding the farm bit time, picking up three expansions and filling each comfortably. Dan went for a compact farm but filled it to the brim and picked up the half-timbered house in the last round.
We were pretty close on animals with me having just one more. Dan scored well through sheeps and pigs but losing out on horses, mainly because I maxed out on there gaining another three points on Dan in the animal bonuses. We had the same points on the bonuses and thus I sneaked a win, quite a rarity with Dan II as the opposition. Okay, so he’d never played it before and it must have been my twelfth game I guess…
Neil – 48, Dan II – 44.
More Latin for our final report.
Rattus Cartus (thanks Paul)
After the 20 minute game of Eight Minute Empire, Tom and Paul eyed up another version of a favourite of theirs, Rattus Cartus, to take them through until the end of the evening. Philip and Karolina were the other two medieval plague battlers.

The game is essentially a card game with a scoring track, rat tokens and victory point chips. The theme and flavour is the same as vanilla Rattus, but the game play very different. The plague is still spreading, and the cast of characters to defend their populations are exactly the same - the merchant, the knight, the king, the peasant, the witch and the priest. The pictures and iconography are identical. But there is no map, each person is assigned a set number of rats, and to avoid instant loss of the game, each player must ensure that they keep the number of rats to less that the total of points on a blind selection of cards. The witch, proving more popular in this game than the board game, allows sneak peeks at the blind cards, although Philip was the only one to use this extensively.

In addition to class cards, there are jokers (yes, they are wild) and swords (don't ask Tom about these, as they involve cards being given from the player at the point of the blade to the sword wielder - it happened several times to him).

Points are largely awarded for placing sets of characters cards that match a nominated class, but this is balanced by having to take rats for trying to go too quickly.

Paul was lagging behind for much of the game, having fun with the cutlass. Philip was indulging in some witchery, calculating at the number of rat tokens we'd all need to surpass. Karolina seemed to be pushing her scoring markers out in front. Tom was bravely liking his wounds while forging up the board.

Towards the end Philip (the only person that knew) told us that we need not bother about the rats as they wouldn't be a bother, so we all promptly guarded for an endgame vermin onslaught. He was telling the truth though and we were all a very long way from harm's door, so Tom, Karolina and Paul wasted some of their last turn.

Paul managed to pip Karolina by one point at the end, which he'd done in each of the games he'd played during the evening - no point in wasting any effort in a whitewash is there?
Paul 33, Karolina 32, Philip 29, Tom 19

P.S “Et in Arcadia Ego” is a Latin proverb meaning roughly “There is also Death in Paradise.”

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Independence day- down with Kings (and Things!)

One man’s ... is another man’s ...
Poison (Thanks Jon)
A chance for some early Knizia card action, with this clever little “don’t make the cauldron go over 13” game. Philip, James II and Barry were forced to pick up cards early on, and subsequently decided to ‘shoot the moon’ with those particular colours (with varying degrees of success!) Alex was only required to pick up cards right near the end, but Jon managed to entirely avoid picking anything up, so scored the magic ‘0’. Ideally, this game should be played over several rounds, but other sparkly things were attracting people’s attention, so one round it was!

Jon 0; Barry 2; Alex 4; James 5; Philip 10
Into the poisonous world of show business...
Show Manager (thanks Jon)
This game has been played several weeks in a row now, and it’s certainly proving to be a fun little set collection game. Barry and Jon joined owner-Dan, and James II also expressed an interest and took the 4th seat.

Jon put on a shockingly bad show to start with, and immediately showcased it in Stockholm. This would minimise the points loss as well as allow him to take out some capital when required.

James started as he meant to go on by staging some excellent performances - he was managing to attract some valuable actors and was obviously going to be the one to catch. Barry and Jon found themselves competing to hire the same actors towards the end of the game, and Dan was taking pleasure in flushing the cards to prevent them having anything too nice to choose from!

In the end, James had produced enough fine shows to romp home at the head of the red carpet. Jon played best supporting actor, whilst Dan & Barry will have to wait for another time to claim any awards…
James 61; Jon 48; Dan 40; Barry 20
From there to Ronald Reagan?

Founding Fathers (thanks Jon)

In honour of tomorrow being Independence Day for our transatlantic cousins, Barry, James and Jon decided to re-write the American constitution – or something…..

After a quick rules refresh for some very rusty memories of playing many moons ago, the game was underway.

Jon picked up the first 2 influence tokens for the Federalist faction, which had already attracted a few Articles to score at the end of the game. Unfortunately Jon misunderstood the scoring for this, and thought that each token would be multiplied by the number of Articles – instead of it actually being a simple 5 points for the faction with the highest number of Articles passed, 4 for the next etc. He blamed John Bandettini, who had taught it this way the first time they had played!

Barry and James were fighting it out for majorities in the Assembly room, and James had also been picking up odd points here and there by using the special abilities on the cards.

Jon ended the third round early using George Washington, which probably advantaged Barry, but as James was miles ahead, helped both Barry and Jon to close the gap a bit.

The last round drew to a close with James still as way ahead as you can be on a score track that only goes up to 30 (always nice to pick up the card that gives you 2 points if it happens to be the last round!), but with the Article scoring, Jon crept within a whisker – but not quite close enough.

With the relative low scoring in this game, there is definitely something to be said for using the special abilities to pick up odd points here and there, which gradually accumulate over the 4 rounds of play. However, there is certainly a large luck element as to which cards you pick up (“get 3 points if you’re in last place” is a great card to pick up if you’re in last place at the time…) and this can swing things a bit. 3 players was also a bit weird, in that voting in the Assembly room was not really contested, as 2 players would usually vote on a particular side, making it pretty much a given that that result would happen. Maybe 4 players is an ideal number?
James 26; Jon 25; Barry19
From politics to tournaments

Ivanhoe (thanks Tom)
A run-through of the Knizia super-filler to begin the evening.
 Essentially, a climbing game with take that action cards thrown into the mix, the winner is the first to win tournaments in four of the five suits (one of which, Purple, also acts as a wild card).

The action cards add a real fizz to the gameplay (probably more so once everyone has a general idea of what these cards can accomplish). There is also strategy in terms of when to commit and when to pull out of tournaments as hand size is key. It also includes somewhat of a catch the leader mechanism as the leader will have naturally committed to more tournaments and will therefore have less cards than the others, limiting his or her available options.

The game was won by Tom with an all or nothing five card gambit in the first round of a Yellow tournament to which Gareth II (the only remaining opponent) had no reply.

Tom - Won; Neil, Gareth II and Paul - Lost
Into the commercial battle
Nieuw Amsterdam (Thanks Tom)

After Ivanhoe, Gareth II left to play his copy of Kings n' Things with Phil and Alex, leaving the three Ivanhoe veterans to crack out Neil's copy of Nieuw Amsterdam - Tom having heard very good things about the game.

In short, it's a system of three separate mini games: an area control game set on Manhattan (with presence in the available sectors allowing the players to undertake mini actions without charge); land development (which provides wood and grain to construct the buildings and feed workers, whilst at the same time providing an escalating scale of VPs for each parcel cleared by a player); and fur trading (essentially a case of acquiring a large number of matching pelts and then selling them for VPs plus cash & goods).

Each players ability to involve themselves in these mini games is based on an initial auction each round, based on a random allotment of tokens which are then bid upon. Between two to three tokens (plus an additional cash incentive) are available in each auction lot. The auctions also determine player order as the player starting the bidding on a particular lot will thrown in their player marker for good order.

It's one of those games which seems complicated at the outset but plays very fluently. It is also assisted by the fact that it is strictly limited to six rounds so there is no need to continuously monitor how quickly it is progressing towards game end.

In terms of the three mini games, you cannot simply commit to one. Well, you can but I imagine that it would be a bad idea. There needs to be a balance between at least two (if not all three) although having some presence in the buildings appears to be key as they provide a steady income, can provide large VPs (if a player decides to hold an election - the instigator receives VPs for each area in which it holds a majority), and allows mini actions to be carried out free of charge. However, over exposure in the buildings without some form of grain income (supplied by land development) will likely see a large amount of money being invested in purchasing grain, weakening the player's bargaining power in the auctions and sometimes skirting the edge of a VP penalty and loss of key buildings.

The importance of fur trade should not be overlooked either as it is a self contained market (providing a good degree of certainty) which provides a large amount of VPs, particularly towards the end of proceedings. The constant goods income can also be used a makeweight in auction bids if cash poor. Indeed, Neil's hedging his bets with the fur trade was probably the key to his victory.

In the game itself, Tom and Paul concentrated early on in establishing a number of majorities in Manhattan whilst Neil (having acquired three land actions) cleared land. Neil having a very early grain income (together with a couple of wood windfalls) was then able to move aggressively into the buildings and was soon fighting his corner against Paul with Tom a somewhat distant third.

Tom realising this made a token attempt to gain some joint majorities but looked to focus on clearing as much land as possible with a view to some big end game VP bonuses. Tom also conducted a few fur trades providing him much needed cash which he could then use to pay for grain.

The game was in the balance for a good while with Paul seeming the favourite, having a good presence in Manhattan and being resource rich. However, Neil had been stockpiling his cat and beaver pelts and in the final round pulled off two trades which netted him 30+ points giving him the win. Paul having significantly more cash and resources than Tom took a remarkable 19 extra points which pushed him into second, despite Tom's 36 VP bonus for his country estate.

An excellent under the radar game. The bidding for three players works well and it is a relaxing way to spend 90 minutes. A game with more players will likely be a lot more tense and constrictive but it will be interesting to see just how much the dynamic changes.
Neil - 1st; Paul - 2nd; Tom - 3rd

Ending with the worst...
Kings and Things
Missed the eurogame rush and Gareth II produces this motley looking game- roping in me and Alex. We played his copy of Titan a few months ago and I said this looked like a cheaper version- he did point out it was published earlier.

Ok, so Gareth explained the game, at least the basics, the rest we kind of worked out as we went along by looking at the rules. We all had only two types of Terrain in our three starting hexes- with me specialising in Frozen Tundra. I had a couple of Frozen tundra critters and three jungle critters who I decided to bluff with...also a 20 Gp treasure chest and a Silver Mine, which was lucky because my third hex was Mountain.

Then we were off- Gareth deciding to recruit the Marksman, but failing- Alex spent gold trying to recruit Sir Lance a Lot but also failed. I however rolled an 8 for the Jungle Lord, therefore gaining the ability to use Jungle creatures for real, albeit only in the same hex as JL. I spend my 20 gold treasure on extra draws during Thing Recruitment- getting mostly rubbish but I decided to add a couple more bluffing creatures onto the board.

I'm not quite sure whether the following happened in one turn or two:

Over the first one or two turns Gareth explored cautiously with a single stack, finding some monsters, running away, and then gaining a single hex. Alex explored more boldly with several stacks, picked up a couple of hexes and decided to find out what this fighting lark involved, getting into a couple of combats. I also explored boldly, with single creatures which were often bluff, and I was lucky enough to gain 2 hexes straight off the bat and another on turn 2. Noticing that one of Alex's combats was near enough to reach with my Jungle Lord stack, I charged in.

Alex had drawn combat magic chits- but he wasted them on the other combat and was killed anyway (he had only had one creature in that). Then he was crushed in the three-way combat. I bribed one of the monsters to go away and soon had that hex too.

Things just went from bad to worse for Alex after that. I was able to wallk over his practically undefended hexes with my super stack-to which I added the Grand Duke in turn 2 or 3. By turn 3 or 4 I'd stormed his intial tower hex (which had been built up a level and had a village and he had almost nothing left. Around this time the 20 gold treasure chest again appeared in my hand and I was able to build 6 towers that turn. This gave me enough income for the Citadel. Keeping a small force under the Grand Duke to complete my conquest of Alex (who was holding on by expanding away from me) I began to bring my Jungle Lord Stack home.

Meanwhile Gareth had a respectable position and was clearing out the last of the monsters between his troops and my troops. Once I had built the Citadel Gareth was able to launch a powerful attack on it with a stack of 10 units (=the stacking limit) including an Archmage. In reserve he had a stack of 6 units. He'd also attained enough income to buy a Citadel that turn.

However I had the 20 gold Treasure Chest again. I recruited Sir Lance a Lot and plenty more things, so that I also had a stack of 10 in the hex with my Citadel. But that was little more than a smokescreen, because I had been holding Defensive magic for several turns. Defensive magic forces attackers to retreat one hex. Because Gareth had attacked across a narrow front, he was now faced with having to eliminate six units- at which point he resigned (Coincidentally I had finally eliminated Alex's last troops in an earlier battle on the same turn).

However, Gareth could have chosen to play on- he had the money for a Citadel and then the rules say you need two Citadels to win. Fortunately we were spared the horror of another hour or more of the game by Gareth's common sense.

The game is incredibly random but I suppose that is what it says on the tin. More seriously it has a strong snowball effect- once Alex lost those two initial battle he was pretty much dead: and my rise to power was almost effortless (although 60 gold in treasure chests probably had something to do with it) I think we probably played the pinning rules inconsistently and I guess an experienced player wouldn't have done what Alex did. Nevertheless, I don't intend to experiment further...

Friday, 5 July 2013

“This is Sparta!”

We’ll start with some Monsters.
King of Tokyo
All of us had played before. I won the roll for first player as “Cyberbunny” and promptly rolled 5 3s, gaining 5 VPs for an almost perfect start. Dominic, who was “The King”, entered Tokyo and was promptly mauled by Alex’s “Kraken”. Alex also refreshed the card display, getting rid of “Evacuation Orders” (everyone loses 5 Vps” which might have stopped me later. I picked up “Regeneration” and this superior healing ability combined with my continuing good fortune on rolling 3 of the same number gave me a strong position. Dominic later acquired “Mimic”, mimicking Regeneration. Alex picked up “Solar-Powered”- the image of a solar-powered kraken briefly diverted me- and “Herd Culler”. Alex, without any healing powers, was killed off quickly, while I munched my way through an Apartment (3 Vps). In the final round Dominic, on very low health, made a desperate attempt to earn enough energy for “It Has a Child”- coming one short. It didn’t matter, because I was able to reach 21 VPs with a final purchase of “Tanks”.
Cyberbunny-21, Kong 10, Kraken-dead.
Now for something a little drier...
Forbidden Desert
None of us had played before so we set the Storm level to Novice. I was the Climber, Alex the Archaeologist (“Indiana Jones”) and Dominic the Metereologist (“Michael Fish”). We started off well, easily clearing and excavating tiles, but then the Sun Beat Down upon us and soon were out of water. Alex had a secret water reserve- which he drank alone. We found both wells, but failed to get everyone on the tile before excavating: and then that was it, we didn’t have any way to obtain water. We tried hiding in tunnels and underneath Solar Shields, but one by one we died of thirst and left our bleached bodies on the sands. Actually game should have ended with the first death, but we missed that bit of the rules and played on until all had perished.
Alex, Philip, Dominic-lost
There are deserts in China- but possibly not if you’re using the map in...

China (Thanks Jon)
Another outing for this simple but engaging area-control game. It was new to everyone apart from Jon and Barry (who had played the previous incarnation – Web of Power).

Noel and Tom were plonking down houses to concentrate on majorities, and Noel scored a handy bonus with his fortification, which scored well for both a majority and a road. Amanda was creating a super-highway out of the purple zone, but unfortunately failed to add a fortification which would have capitalised on its value.

Jon and Barry were fighting it out for majority with the emissaries, with Barry coming out on top in that particular duel. Jon had also failed to construct a road, and his fortification had added a measly 3 points, leaving him well off the pace.

During the end-game scoring, Noel scored no points for emissaries, but his successful area-majorities and road-building had left him far enough ahead to retain his lead for the victory.

This game has a lot of weight for its length (<=45 mins), although your options are limited depending on which cards you take, so turns tend to go quickly. Nice. 
Noel 47; Barry 42; Tom 41; Jon 33; Amanda
And now for something completely different.
Show Manager (thanks Jon)
After a successful first outing last week, Jon volunteered to explain the rules to Barry, Noel and Tom. He appeared to have managed this without too many hitches, but realised too late that he had got the rule wrong about borrowing money from a show – you can only do it once at the start of the turn, and not multiple times during the turn. This had the effect of having the cards flushed a few more times than would probably otherwise have happened, but at least it was the same for everybody.

Jon picked up some juicy ‘9’s near the beginning and put on a fine show at the prestigious New York theatre. Noel also put on some good performances, and as the game drew to a close, there was a lot of borrowing going on, as players desperately tried to hire decent actors for their last show.

It was very close between Jon and Noel, and it was all down to the quality of their last show. Jon put on a relatively poor performance of ‘Lipstick’, but Noel had had even less success for recruiting for his New York extravaganza, which enabled Jon to sneak the victory.  

 Barry and Tom though that they hadn’t done very well, but were slightly heartened when told of Dan’s incredible last-place score from last week!
Jon 54; Noel 44; Tom 37; Barry 35
It’s all Greek to me...

Peloponnes (thanks Tom)
Barry, Jon and Tom sat down to play Peloponnes, a new purchase for Tom but an old favourite of Jon’s. This motley crew was joined by Dan but upon the siren call of Sentinels of the Multiverse, he was gone in a puff of smoke. Dan was replaced by Noel, shirking his parental responsibilities to play games with us. A true man for the ages.

After a rules run-through by Tom and Jon in tandem, the games was quickly afoot. Tom had landed Sparta with its initial wood income; this led to him spending the rest of the game resisting standing up and yelling “This is Sparta!” at the top of his lungs, thereby effecting his ability to follow the game too closely. Naturally, Tom has been chosen to put together this report so you’ll have to bear with us. In terms of the other civilisations, Dominic West, I mean Noel, had the Arkadians and their rather spiffing one person income (always helpful for cash income and recovering from supply rounds & plagues). Jon may have been Argos and Barry perhaps its contemporary Tesco. Not to self: this is calling out for a supermarket retheme.

Due to his wood income, Tom decided to put together a wood focused strategy, gaining plenty of luxury goods which he would try to protect as best he could from inevitable decline. A first pick-up of the 3 wood land tile certainly benefited him. Noel managed to acquire the Port from the Conquest tile, an excellent move with its flexible income and protection from decline (putting the boot into Tom’s own strategy somewhat). Barry picked up the three stone tile at first blush, which was a bit of a rookie error as any attempts to deviate from stone thereafter (in particular to try to start producing wheat) are very difficult without acquiring the barracks soon after. If this reporter recalls correctly – he was concentrating at certain points despite Gerard Butler running around in his subconscious like a hamster in a wheel – Barry did pick up the barracks but his already low population meant that his income for the next couple of rounds was so low that he really got pushed around in the auctions. In spite of this, Barry’s spirits were lifted a good deal by being appointed the Master of Disasters: flipper of the disaster chits. At one point, there was even a gleeful exclamation of “Yay, a tempest!” Tom gazing down at his four land tiles and depleted stack of cash did not feel likewise; every cloud has a silver lining however and this did lead to Jon reminding Tom of the rule of luxury goods as being able to replace coins saving his blushes on two occasions later in the game.

Back to the matter in hand, after buying more wood focused tiles, Tom soon started to bring in heavy wheat income hitting the maximum for both wood and wheat and eventually almost exceeding 20 luxury goods. The small stack of 20+ chips sat there positively glowing with anticipation. Unfortunately, in a tragic turn, Barry, the harbinger of doom, deemed that all civilisations were to enter into a decline, except Noel with his stupid port. Soon thereafter, there was a quick-fire rounds of supply rounds with a quick depletion of luxury goods fuelled by the complete absence of any stone and suddenly Tom’s luxury goods stood at a big fat zero just when it was crunch time. Damn, this magnificent game! Sparta had been brought to its knees. Thermopylae II: Maybe You Should Have Built That Quarry After All.

It least it could have been worse: earlier in the game, Tom had scraped his mortgage costs together with his last remaining two luxury goods without which he would have had to bin his new tile. Lessons learned for all of two turns as he did the same thing again but was luckily helped out by his Agora and Market providing him with a much needed additional coin in the final bidding round which both Barry and Jon were priced out of. Jon (and Noel again, damn his eyes and his clean, efficient pox-free well!) could take some succour from his aqueduct which protected him from a very late plague which killed four Spartans and one Tescans. Yes, Barry only had four people in his civilisation and the Master was well and truly out of the running.

In the end, both Tom and Noel had very balanced civilisations. So balanced in fact that they both ended up with 24 population and 26 prestige which saw them in a dead heat for the win with a first time player. Jon mortified at his own poor showing has refused to release his own score but it was pretty embarrassing all told. Barry’s population woes meant that he ended dead last but certainly seemed to enjoy himself, even suggesting a rematch after the gruesome bloodbath of China. It was not to be however. The boys were going to put on a show instead!

PS Jon did send me the scores in the end which were:

Tom – Pop 24; Prestige 26
Noel – Pop 24; Prestige 26
Jon – Pop 27; Prestige 21
Barrie – Pop 9; Prestige 21

Editor's Note: The  following games were unaccountably omitted from the original report. They are all written up by Neil. Thanks Neil! 
11 Nimmt!
So, the evening began with a seven-handed attack at the cow fest of 11 Nimmt! Each player has 10 cards to shed, and you can play onto any pile as long as your card is no more than 10 higher than the previous card… otherwise ’11 takes it!’, it being a pile of cards. Tom began by picking up and Amanda then stole into the lead. Jon thought long and hard and also picked up a pile, not a good start. Dan II laid as did Jeroen and Gareth II and me… and we were off. Cards got played, hands started reducing and then Gareth had to move his car and while he was doing so we discussed eating his steak as well as playing 4 cards at once for him with his ‘cowhead joker’, probably his best move all night. Rounds came and went and the piles increased in number as every time a player cannot place he takes one stack and draws 2 new cards to set up 2 new piles for possible play. Jeroen and I had managed to play a card each round, 2 left each… he managed to play a card, I had to pick up, and he placed the next round too for an incredibly hard fought victory. Congratulations!
Der Speicherstadt
The only Feldian action of the night was James new copy of Hamburg’s finest game about its warehouses by the docks. New to Amanda and Dan II, I was hoping that my thrashing earlier in the week at Noel’s house, together with Jeroen being high on his 11 Nimmt! victory, would increase my chances of victory. Wrong again! Despite picking up a good contract early on it was Dan who managed to cheaply acquire several firemen and a couple of good contracts too. James took an early Office building although I blocked a couple of later acquisitions. Amanda won some good sellers as well as the warehouse, always a good card to hold. Jeroen and James both picked up some nice contracts although neither completed both, myself also failing to fulfil more than one. Dan, Amanda and James seemed to monopolise the ships although the harbour card ended up being discarded. I lost on consecutive fires, 1 less than Monday but still enough to take me out of the running. Before we knew it the final round was upon us, by taking the last fireman I ruined James’s chances and Dan collected the perfect ship to complete his contracts and sail into the most comfortable victory in the history of comfortable victories.
 Dan II – 27, Jeroen – 13, James – 10, Neil – 9, Amanda – 8.
The infamous cry of ’10 minutes’ left to play rang out from the group on the table next to us so one of the two copies of Coup hit the table for Amanda, Dan II, Jeroen, James and me. Jeroen blew his cards early on whilst James and Dan duelled unsuccessfully with each other. As I lost on my characters Amanda’s whiter-than-white honesty put her into an enviable position. James was next out leaving Dan and me to lose any common sense completely in trying to attack Amanda. No chance, she won at a canter!
Thurn & Taxis
Despite James trying to put everyone off by telling us how dull the theme is only Amanda moved on from the group so Jeroen, who had played before, and Dan II and I took ourselves into the fine world of the German postal system’s early days.
A good set collection/route building game it was soon evident that timing your routes was crucial in the picking up of some of the various bonuses available. We all put in place an early route before I decided to go mega. Dan was studiously going through the carriages and James and Jeroen were showing us how to work your way around the different regions successfully… until;
Jeroen had to ‘burn’ a route he had been working on for a few rounds. During set up he’d told that doing this completely wrecked your chances of victory. Very good of him to prove the point! James and Dan were both spreading their networks well and I was patiently waiting for a Zurich card, or a Basel card, or a Freiborg card to become available… and at the very last minute one of them did… and I was able to use my final four houses, picking up three useful bonuses in the process. Final scoring was tight, Dan and I had been well-tutored but victory was mine. An impressive game, an excellent gateway to match Ticket to Ride, and I for one quite liked the theme for its quaintness and the old map of Germany. But then again one of the writing groups I belong to is known as ‘HDMC’; Horse Drawn Mail Coaches!!
Neil – 25, Dan II – 22, Jeroen – 16, James – 11.

Paris Connection
Down to three, James, Dan II and I headed off to Paris for a bit of train route building and share holding fun. Early forays with Yellow, Red and Brown trains meant some good values accruing for those with us all buying more shares in those. I tried to develop Black as well but my long-term strategy was scuppered with Dan deciding he off to Marseille and an early bath for all, wow! This is always a short game but never that short, boo hiss!
James – 112, Dan II – 106, Neil – 91.

Hey, That’s My Fish! (thanks Neil)
New to Dan and me, James taught and lead us through this mega-fast game in less than 5 minutes, and that included the rules! A good set collection fest with penguins chasing around each other for, yes you guessed it, fish. What an evening, plenty of great games and two new to me, well-chuffed!

James – 35, Neil – 34, Dan II - 30