Bohnanza (11th & 18th)
El Caballero (4th)
El Grande (18th)
Hey, Culligan Man (25th)
High Society (25th)
Igel Ärgern (11th & 25th)
Settlers of Catan (18th)
Sherlock Holmes Card Game (4th)
Vendetta (Hexagames) (11th)
Zirkus Flohcati (25th)
For the first time this year, we had less than six players - only four. And one of them was very late.
I had just been to the courier's office to pick up a parcel of games I was having delivered. One of those was the Sherlock Holmes Card Game, and Steve, on finding me reading the rules, reckoned we should kick off with a few hands. Why is it that I do best at these light games when I've never played them before. Actually, it's such an easy game to play that I can't see how much experience can help you to win. If you're holding a villain, you vulnerable... Result: TC, SO, GL.
We followed this up by starting a three-player game of El Caballero. I think I had just got off to a good start (although, as it's so new to us it's difficult to be sure), when Steve G came in and we had to restart as four player. To be honest Steve did offer to sit it out, but we already had the idea that it would take a while. So, having restarted, I did much worse - especially after Garry forced me out of the only island I had that was worth anything. Steve, showing typical ingratitude at us having restarted for him, stormed away to victory. The only consolation was that Garry got his just desserts for scuppering me, by doing even worse. Actually, the results were closer than I would have guessed from the action in the game - 65, 59, 48, 44. It was the first time I had got to play it applying the correct rules and the most noticeable thing is that it took ages - over two hours I think - and before the end we were under extreme pressure from the caretaker of the community centre to clear off. It would have taken even longer without that. I think we did spend a bit long thinking about moves, but it is the kind of game that affects you like that as there are so many possibilities of what might happen before your next turn comes round again. We'll have to be a bit more disciplined next time - and experience may make us quicker anyway. Result: SG, SO, TC, GL.
Five this time, and we kicked off with my first encounter with Tutanchamun. This is a rather interesting game where the players move along a track, picking up artefacts belonging to sets. The size of the sets varies from 1 to 8 and they are worth a corresponding amount of points. However the points are not awarded until the last member of the set has been picked up or passed - i.e. when no one can add to their holding in that set - and then points are awarded to the majority and second-place holders. This was what caused my appalling result - I was holding the majority in a number of sets, but they weren't 'scored' before Steve went and won the game. I'll be more careful next time - and I suspect this may be a common beginner's mistake. Result: SO, MH, SG, JO, TC.
Mick had brought in his copy of Vendetta, so we gave that a go next. Now, there are at least two different games with this name (I have one myself): this was the version written by Doris and Frank and produced by Hexagames. There are 13 districts on the board and each player has a certain number of 'family' members operating in most of the areas. Each round, 11 of the districts are chosen at random for a bit of a shootout - during which the player with least gangsters there, loses them. The survivors who were present in the district so impress the young men of the town that they gain a new recruit each. At the end of the round, the remaining two districts are raided by the police and all gangsters there are lost. Then protection money (points) is paid out for each district to the players who have the most power there. I have to say that I don't really like this game because the odds always favour strengthening the player(s) in the lead and weakening those trying to catch up. The less gangsters you have, the harder it is for you to muscle-in on new districts, and the less districts you are present in, the less new gangsters you get. This is very different from the Doris and Frank games that I have, where it is always possible to come back from a weak position. I also had some rather bad luck in the game when the two districts that I had any gangsters left in were the ones that were raided, putting me out of the game - but I had decided I didn't like it before that stage. Result: MH, SG, SO+JO, TC.
And so onto a Doris and Frank game that is never over until 'the fat hedgehog sings' - Igel Ärgern. This one I do like - it has that ideal balance for a light game of making you feel that you win it through good play and lose it through bad luck. Result: SO, JO, TC, SG, MH.
We still had a little time left, so we fitted in a bit of a game of Bohnanza. As we had been late leaving the premises last week, we had to finish about half-way through the game, but I didn't mind as I was leading at the time. Result: TC, MH+SG, SO+JO.
We had a new player turn up today: welcome to Dave Nicholson. Half-term holidays at school meant we also had two children present, bringing us up to eight players.
All eight of us began with a game called Razzia. There are six gambling dens and, each turn, a certain amount of cash is available at each. Each player has a few gamblers and/or police and sends one in secret to one of the gambling dens. If more than one gambler turns up at a den, they dispute over the cash. However, if any police turn up, all the gamblers are arrested and the police confiscate the cash, unless there are more than one - in which case they dispute again. If police turn up when there are no gamblers, they get nothing. It's one of those games then, like Adel Verpflichtet or Basari (or Scissors, Paper, Stone) , where you do well by correctly predicting what the other players will do. It also worked well with the large number of players. Result: SO, DN, TC, BH, MH, SG, GL, JO.
We split into two groups at this stage and I went with the group playing El Grande to get my first taste of this game. Like Vendetta from last week, the idea is to gain control of areas by having a majority of your pieces in that area when the scoring occurs. Unlike that game, the number of pieces you have for placement is not dependent on how well you are doing already - instead it depends on you taking less attractive options now and again to replenish your supplies. This led to a much more balanced game where we were all fairly even until towards the end. I would like to try it again a few times to get a proper feel for the play. It does play with considerably less thinking time than El Caballero - although we still had to play under a lot of time pressure towards the end. Result: TC, BH, GL, DN, JO.
As an indication of how long that took, the others managed to get in three games while we were playing it. First up was Settlers of Catan (unexpanded). Result: SO, SG+MH. They followed this with Bohnanza. Result: SO, SG, MH. (It had been a very good night for Steve O up to this point - and a bad one for Mick). Finally they ended with 99, which saw Mick and Steve's fortunes reversed at last. Result: MH, SG, SO.
Back down to five again this week, although Dave did come back. Geoff also decided to show his face for the first time this year.
Quite a curiosity to begin with. Garry had brought in a copy he had made of Hey, Culligan Man. Apparently, the game was created in the 60's as a promotional game for Culligan Water Softeners - not an easy thing to guess! Anyway, the game seems pretty straightforward at first, you roll two dice and move along the track in either direction as far as that allows, occasionally landing on 'miss a go' or 'have another go' squares, until you reach the home space. The twist occurs because the board is made up from 36 tiles, each with a grid reference from 1-1 to 6-6. Each time you move, you can then move a tile with the reference you rolled to anywhere else as long as the track joins up - so if you rolled a 2 and a 5, you could move tile 2-5 or tile 5-2. So it doesn't matter how close you are to the home space if you're not actually on it, because by next go, that tile could be at the opposite end of the board! Actually, if I remember correctly, some of those elements are included in the Cheapass game, Safari Jack. If you land on someone else, you can also move them onto any other vacant space - even on a tile that is no longer connected to the network. This all ends up in quite a hectic game that can obviously become very drawn out with everyone trying to ensure that everyone else is isolated on a small island away from the home space. Everyone has a roughly equal chance of winning at any stage of the game - but then the emphasis is on fun rather than skill and best suits large groups as a warm up or finisher. Result: GC, SO+TC+GL+DN (it's not possible to determine placings).
A couple of goes at High Society next, an auction game where the main twist is that whoever has the least money left at the end is automatically the loser. This certainly caught me out in the second game. The other interesting aspect is that a few of the cards to be auctioned are negative ones. For these, the players are bidding to avoid taking the card and the first to back out has to take the card, BUT they keep the money they have bid whilst everyone else loses the money they have bid. It was a quick fun game that I enjoyed. My main problem with it was that it was a bit short for the way I was playing and I kept getting caught out by the sudden end before my plans had come to fruition (a bit like Tutanchamun a couple of weeks ago). Result 1: GC, SO, GL, TC, DN. Result 2: GC, SO+GC, GL, TC.
Next onto Igel Ärgern, where Steve manages to continue his winning streak at this game that looks as though the results should even out over multiple games. As for myself, I took a gamble that failed and saw me stuck until the end. Considering how the evening had been going up to then, you'd think I would have been able to predict that! Result: SO, GC, DN, GL, TC.
There was still a bit of time left, so we finished off with a couple of hands of Zirkus Flohcati, both of which Geoff won, much as he seemed to be doing all night. Perhaps we should be glad when he doesn't turn up for ages... Combined result : GC, GL, SO, TC, DN.