Ashes of Empires (17th)
Ave Caesar (3rd)
Breaking Away (17th)
Formula Dé (17th)
Six-Day Race / Sechs-Tage Rennen (3rd)
Seven this week, with Chris and Geoff turning up late - Geoff having cleared much of his seasonal work and "up for it". After Pole Position last week, everyone seemed "up for" racing games.
First off was Six-Day Race (Sechs-Tage Rennen), a game of cycling in stages. This was the second time I had played it and it didn't take too long to remember why I wasn't very impressed the first time. You move round by play of cards, but can gain big boosts from landing on other players - representing slipstreaming. This is fine except that it often leaves you with little choice of what card to play from turn to turn and you are certainly at the mercy of more experienced players who know the way races tend to develop. And if you fall behind, you are totally lost because there is no way to catch up without being able to land on other players. I am always critical of games that punish you if you are already doing badly, do I certainly won't be queuing up to buy this one. To show the other side of the coin, it is certainly popular with the other players. Result: MH, GL, SO, SG, TC.
With the full complement in place, we used a set of cards and bicycle from the previous game to extend Ave Caesar for seven players. We only had time for two races of concentrated mayhem as we desperately blocked each other's way around the track. Now this is a great racing game. Result: CD, MH+SO+TC, SG+GL, GC.
Having started a new job last week (hurrah!), I managed to miss this evening - sorry. Haven't received any report from anyone who was there.
I turned up late tonight after a session of snowboarding at Tamworth - part of the team entertainment associated with my new job. When you see snowboarding on the TV, it all seems so exciting. Non-TV snowboarding is a different kettle of fish entirely! They use a variety that was banned by the Spanish Inquisition as being too cruel. What's involved is having your calves (and my damaged ankle) in severe agony as you attempt to stand on tiptoe with your feet nailed to a plank of wood and inches away from a limb-breaking fall down an icy slope. Occasionally, you actually start to slide downhill on the board, but as the speed picks up, the panic hits and you hurl yourself face-down on the snow to avoid the afore-mentioned fall. Other times you avoid much of that trouble by crawling down the slope - with your feet still nailed to the plank of course. I can't wait to go again - as soon as my legs have healed.
Anyway, on to business. For some reason we seem to be locked entirely into racing games at the moment. I walked in on six of them just starting a game of Breaking Away. This is another bicycle racing game that somehow captures all of the excitement of racing, chucks it away, and instead lets you move round at less than two laps an hour whilst writing little figures all over a sheet of paper. Crikey, who'd want to get on a real bike with simulations this good. At least there weren't any snowboards involved! Actually, I'm only basing that description on watching for five minutes, but Chris did take the opportunity to get out of the game so that we could try out something else. Soggy insisted that this should mean that Chris came last at Breaking Away - but then, he would. Result: SG, SO, GL, JO, GC.
I also found that, during the earlier part of the evening, they had played Formula Dé. This is also not a great favourite of mine, but I tend to think I would choose it over the other game. Result: SO, CD, GC, GL, JO, SG.
Chris and myself occupied the rest of the time working out the rules to, and having a go at, Ashes of Empires. This is a strange little card game that was obviously made by someone wondering how they could use up the lifetimes supply of six-sided dice they had just won in a raffle at Essen. Each player needs eighteen of them - ideally in his or her own colour to save confusion - and then you still need more for actually rolling. The game, I guess, is a little like "Risk in Space". You own a certain number of planets (cards), onto which you can distribute space ships (using dice to indicate the number on each planet). Each planet is numbered and can connect to certain others, which you can attack and attempt to take over if they are in play. Advanced rules allow you to make longer journeys to reach further planets. To attack, you send up to six (one die worth) spaceships to the neighbouring planet, when they arrive, you and the defender roll one die for each spaceship on your side, calculate losses and award the planet to the victor. Reinforcement spaceships are granted each round depending on how many planets you already control - so continuing that Risk problem of "help the leader". That's about all there is to it really, I'd give it another go, but I much prefer games that allow you to catch up if you're behind (my usual position). The other warning I would give is that the rules are not well translated and take quite a bit of deciphering. Having said that, Chris has asked a number of questions of the author via e-mail and got prompt, personal replies - including the offer of sending a map through the post at no charge. It didn't help him to win, though. Result: TC, CD.
I wasn't at the club tonight. I was at Ramsdencon instead. And no-one has told me what happened, so you'll just have to guess.
I shall be adding Ramsdencon report at some stage. In the meantime, feel free to read the MidCon 99 report that I have finally added.