Ali Baba (7th)
El Caballero (28th)
Hat Trick (28th)
How to be a Complete Idiot (21st)
Maloney's Inheritance (7th)
Settlers of Catan (21st)
Spread Bet (14th)
Stimmt So! (28th)
Zirkus Flohcati (14th)
First session of the new year, and six of us arrived to play games that we hadn't been given as Christmas presents. I was pretty wiped out myself - I think the illness before Christmas and the holiday I had taken for new year were finally catching up with me.
Anyway, we started with Ali Baba. My first go at this game about buying and selling thieves, tricksters, burglars, and other assorted bad guys in the streets of Baghdad. And hoping not to get caught with them. This theme is a little thin and hard to imagine. The game was originally published as Calamity and was about underwriting insurance policies, and that theme still shows through in the mechanics. The current edition, though, is more attractive, and insurance doesn't sound as exciting as thievery (even though they are often the same thing in practice...). I think we generally felt it was okay but not great. Result: SO, SG, GL, TC, MH, KB.
The next game generally went down much better with everyone except me. The game was Maloney's Inheritance, which I had picked up on my holiday, and was new to me but familiar to some of the others. Everyone else was in a much more active mood than I was and, despite the rules, decided to hold high-speed auctions for who was to drive on each day. I wasn't particularly up to this and couldn't seem to find a place to drive to at any stage that would get me more than two or three points (out of seven) for the trip. I usually figured I would let someone else choose, as it couldn't turn out any worse. It did. It's difficult to say how the game went for everybody else as I was too far out of it. I think they all had a good time though. I'd like to try the game again when I'm more alert and the others are less hyperactive. Result: SO, SG, MH, GL, KB, TC.
At this point I had to get going as I had agreed to try and get home early and, in any case, I was falling asleep. Karl also had to go. The rest stayed on and played Njet. Yet again, this is another that I have not played so I can't say anything other than it involved cards. They at least remembered the result for the following week. Result: MH, SG, GL, SO.
Six again, is this to be the style for 1999. I was a bit more with it than last week however, so that ought to help.
It certainly didn't help much in the first game, Spread Bet. This involves one player at a time guessing the (numeric) answer to a question, and the others staking a bet of one to three on whether the real answer is higher or lower. Any who get it right win the difference between the correct answer and the guess, multiplied by the stake, in points from the guesser. Any who get it wrong, pay the guesser a similar number of points. This can be a huge amount as the answers are often years or other high numbers such as the number of feet in length that Titanic was - to quote just one that I got amazingly wrong. Trivia of this kind is something I am just no good at and my guesses were truly that - often with the word random attached- whilst some of the other players actually managed to estimate things! Actually, in order to get good scores, you need to get the answer as wrong as possible - you just need everyone else to be even more wrong. The results here hide the fact that, at the end of the game, I was 9,490 points behind the leader - although only 942 points behind my closest rival! Result: KB, SG, MH, GL, SO, TC.
Next up was Politika, a game I had picked up at Stabcon because it was going cheap. The game is Italian, but the publishers had also included English translations in the rules and on the cards. I had carefully read the rules before turning up, so I explained them to everyone and we got started. It wasn't long, though, before the it became apparent that the translations on the cards, which I hadn't checked, were different in some very fundamental ways from those in the rules. This led to a lot of confusion and disagreement in play and this will have to be sorted out before we can try it again. As a result the audience was a bit split, with some of us thinking it had potential and some of us thinking it would make a good firelighter. In contrast with the previous game, which I lost by a huge margin, I won this one by a tiny margin - only two of us managed to score at all: Garry got 1 and I got 2! Result: TC, GL, KB+SG+MH+SO.
By then, I had forgotten how many players we had, and took out Zirkus Flohcati for a quick game to end the evening, even though it is meant to be for a maximum of five players. Despite this, I think it made a good, simple filler that allowed your concentration to relax after the previous games. The high number of player meant that no-one could end the game with a Gala Performance, but we all took this into account in our playing. Result: SO, TC, MH, GL+KB, SG.
That's it for this week, except to say that Garry provided me with write ups of the two nights I had missed in December, and these now appear under the relevant dates below (3rd & 17th). Thanks Garry.
Third night of the new year and the third night with six players - although Jake stayed for only part of it.
A bit of manual dexterity to start with as Garry had brought in Carabande, the accurate formula one simulation where you flick round pieces of wood along a track in the style of Michael Schumacher. I hope that doesn't give you the wrong impression of the game, actually it was the first time I had ever tried it and I was surprised at how much fun it was. I was even more surprised when an errant flick of mine sent my car flying off the track from last place, to bounce off the table and land on the other side of the track in second place, only to be told that it was a legal move! I don't think it's the kind of thing I'd want to do a lot, but it's good once in a while. I may even buy it. Result: GL, TC, SG, SO, MH
We split into two groups at this point. I introduced my group to Tycoon, which they loved and promptly beat me. I'm still having trouble adapting when the other players don't do what I expect. There is a lot of depth to this game. Result: MH, GL, TC.
The others, meanwhile had a game of Settlers of Catan (without expansions). Surprisingly enough, the first game since stats have been kept. Result: SO, JT+SG.
We ended up with a game (if not the concept) that was totally new to me: How To Be a Complete Idiot. Each player starts with 40 (cardboard) marbles and must lose these by playing the highest or lowest cards at certain locations around the board, although identical cards to other players cancel each other out. There are also bonus marbles that can be lost for playing certain cards at the right time. Whoever plays the worst card each turn gets to be the psychiatrist and gains marbles! We didn't actually get time to finish, and so had to base the result on lowest current total of marbles. I got the impression that it could go on for a long time, as every time I lost a few marbles, I would get them back again soon after, and seemed to have around 40 until quite late. Luckily I was into my best streak of losing them when the game ended. Mike assures me that it is a game of skill - and I trust that that isn't just based on his earning the title of biggest idiot... All told, I did enjoy the game and would like another go now that I have a better idea of what to do. Result: MH, SG, TC, SO, GL.
Guess how many players turned up... Yes, six! It was also Karl's last night for a while as he is about to start working away for at least six months.
There were just four of us for a while, though, so I quickly talked them into playing El Caballero. We got as far as getting everything out of the box before the fifth player turned up. Doh!
Garry had brought in a copy of Stimmt So! a number of times recently and we finally got to play it. This is apparently a reworking of an older game called Al Capone - but I'm not sure how the mechanism fits in with that theme because it works quite well with the current one. The idea is that you are buying shares in a number of companies on four stock markets, with four currencies and, at various points, the largest one to three stockholders in each company get points. Currency cards come in various amounts, as do the shares, and each turn you can pick up a new currency card or buy a share. If you can pay for the share exactly, you get another go. The game is quite simple and nicely balanced and play moves along fairly quickly. I enjoyed it. Result: MH, GL+TC, SG, SO, KB.
Mick had brought in a copy of Airlines, another game I had never played before. But, having been very impressed with Elfenland, I was keen to try this famous Alan Moon game. The others were all familiar with the game, which I think put me at something of a disadvantage, particularly in terms of knowing which airlines were worth putting how much effort into, etc. The markings on the board aren't the easiest to follow either - destinations are connected by various dotted, dashed, wavy, etc lines and various airlines can travel on various line types - it is a bit hard to picture. I think it would have been better if each airline had a particular line type and there were lines of all relevant airlines between each destination. I don't know enough yet to say whether or not I like the game - I'll have to try it again, or wait for the updated edition: Union Pacific. Result: GL, SG, MH, TC, SO.
We ended with three hands of the card game Hat Trick. This is a trick taking game with three suits (colours) and each player scores based on the number of cards they win of their majority colour, subtracting cards of other colours. During the pasting I got in the first hand, I vaguely recalled playing this before. I got my act together and won the second hand, meaning that my medium performance in the third hand gave my a medium aggregate result. Garry's storming finish, on the other hand, saw him take the game. Result: GL, MH, TC, SG, SO.
The only other thing of note is that I finally finished my personal report on StabCon. I've got a feeling it might be a bit long though, so I may cut it down a bit yet. Let me know what you think.