A Grand Start

Azriel, Laurie, Rosalynn, and Sheer joined me in our last session.

We started with El Grande, a classic area control game. Everyone had played it before, but wanted a rules refresher. Then, off we went.

In the very first round, Sheer took advantage of an excellent opportunity by grabbing the first place action, and scoring 20+ points. The rest of us struggled to get to close to double figures…

From then on, we were all playing catch up. Slowly, but surely, we did catch up. (Well, some of us…) It appeared that one of the side effects of Sheer getting such an early, obvious and large lead, was that the other players – not just me! – were happy to use every reasonable opportunity to do him damage and cut away at his score. Azriel and Laurie were doing OK, but seemed to miss out on decent scoring chances. There is an element of luck in the game, and here it did appear as if they suffered from a dose or two of bad luck. Meantime, Rosalynn and I were the closest contenders, and a right thrilling finish it was. With the last score of the last area in the last round, I found myself as the winner by a point or two from Rosalnn and Sheer. An epic struggle. Based on that, if I ever get the chance to grab a big early lead, I won’t!

We then moved on to R-Eco, a card management game that I either do brilliantly well in, or badly. That night it was my turn to do badly. Laurie wasn’t doing too badly, but Azreil, Rosalynn, and I were definitely struggling. It was no surprise that Sheer won. The rest of us were pretty close to one another in our low scores.

After the others had departed claiming a need to go to bed, Sheer and I played 7 Wonders: Duel. That streak of luck that can seemingly turn a game came my way, as I collected lots of resources and lots of victory points. I was crushing Sheer. Of course, the inevitable happened, and with about half a dozen more cards to go to the end of the game, Sheer picked up enough science cards to claim a scientific victory. I was robbed! Great play by Sheer.

Thanks to all who came for making another great night.

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The points in Spain

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Last week’s session saw me joined by Azriel, Nechamiah, Rosalynn, and Sheer. We decided to opt for a longer, meatier game, and eventually chose the classic El Grande. Both Sheer and I had played the game before, so I explained the rules as best I could, and Sheer filled in the bits I left out. Certainly after the first round – as usual – everyone had a good idea of what was going on. Also after the first round – certainly not as usual – I was in the lead.

The game officially has nine rounds broken up by three scoring rounds. I have always found that to be way too long, so play six rounds instead of nine. Even still, it took us over 2 hours, primarily because one or two of our number suffered an episode or two of the dreaded ‘analysis paralysis’. I was glad we were not doing the whole nine turns.

One of the challenges of this type of game – with open scoring – is that there can be a tendency to gang up on the leader. So, there was some of that, but not as much as there could have been. (I certainly saw ways the other players could have done me more harm! Perhaps the analysis paralysis came to my rescue?) Anyway, while there was a bloody battle going on behind me, I managed to keep on scoring and in the lead all the way to the end. Regrettably, I cannot remember who was after me, though I believe Azriel really slumped in the last round, and Sheer and Nechamiah were rapidly gaining on me. Rosalynn probably had the best of the last scoring rounds, but wasn’t in a position to threaten my win.

I hope we will get to try it again with players having that experience under their belts, as that should be even more fun, and hopefully a wee bit faster!

Thanks to all who came and once again made for a great night’s gaming.

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A timely win

For this week’s session, I was initially joined by Amiram, John, and Roy.

We began with El Grande, an old and venerable classic game of area control.

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I ran through a quick rules explanation – Amiram had not played it before – and off we went. After a couple of rounds, John went into the lead and never looked back. He would have to look long and hard over his shoulder, as he was in front by quite a margin. For most of the game, Roy was something of a challenger, and Amiram and I were fighting it out to avoid last place! Great fun, and it fairly moves along. Well done on the win, John.

Laurie joined us late and we switched to Metro.

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This is a nifty tile laying game where you get points for connecting your stations to destinations. The longer the track, the more points. I explained the rules to all the other players, and play got underway.

Early scoring was bitty and conservative, as people took their time to get to grips with the game play. However, by the time we reached the mid game, everyone was keen to offer advice on tile placement so as to stab people in the back – mostly me! – and crush their spirit keep their score down.

Scoring was relatively close, with the lead switching between several of the players. However, Roy’s last connection was the top score and shot him into the winning position. Well done, Roy!

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A grande session

This week, I welcomed John, Peleg, and Sheer to the regular games session.

John was running slightly behind schedule, so Peleg, Sheer, and I played R-Eco. This short, filler game of card management, has hidden depths, and is a great example of simple and effective game design. It’s also easy, fun, and engaging. Although I was the only one who had played it before to any real extent, neither Peleg nor Sheer had any problems. Thirty minutes later, the game was over, Sheer winning by a small margin.

John joined us for a classic encounter of El Grande. I say classic, but I was the only one who had played it before, and that advantage was too big to prevent me winning. However, Peleg gave it a good go, and was pretty damn close.

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El Grande is a game of area control – you get VPs for controlling areas by having the most pieces there – with several great add-ons. For example, you each have a set of cards numbered 1-13 to determine turn order. But you lose each card after you play it, and no player can play the same card as another player in the same round. Getting the right turn order also affects how many pieces you can bring into your starting area. As for taking pieces from your starting area on to the board, that depends on the action card you choose. There are five of these, each with a special action and an allowance of 1-5 pieces to go from your starting area to the board.

There’s also the king piece that determines where you can play pieces, and where you cannot. (Moving the king – done by an action card – is one of the key skills in the game.) And finally, the castille, a wooden tower that scores as an area, and then allows you to send your pieces to one area on the board. Great fun.

Both Sheer and John were soaking up the atmosphere, and getting to grips with the nuances of the system. (Or, to put it another way, they were not always choosing the best scoring moves!) I expect we will play this again, as everyone enjoyed it, and seemed keen to try out a different approach next time around.

After that, we played Dominion. This was a random setup selection that included Militia, Spy, Moat, Market, Village, Library, Council Room, Chapel, and Chancellor (I think) and set up a good, even game.

Sheer got a great Village and Market deck. John and Peleg never seemed to settle on their strategy, and both suffered because some bastard – ie me – played  a lot of Militia.  In the end, my Militia and money strategy paid off, and I was the winner.

With Peleg’s departure, we finished with a three handed game of Take it Easy. Both Sheer and I thought we had done OK, and John was disappointed. Of course, John won… This is another neat filler game. It does not have the depth of others, but is a really fast game, and keeps you involved with every turn.

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Thanks to all who came for making another great games night.

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A grand desert

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This week’s regular gaming session saw Susan and I hosting Amir, Laurie and Yehuda.

First up was El Grande which only Amir hadn’t played before. Susan was a bit out of practice, but caught on as the game progressed. We played a shortened seven turn game (instead of the full 9) as the full version drags a bit, and is probably the game’s only serious weak point. The early special action cards cleared out a lot of the pieces from the board, so scores were lower than usual, and the play quite focused on a couple of key areas.

Laurie was the early leader, pursued by Yehuda and I. However, Yehuda did an excellent job of hauling Laurie back, and going in to the final couple of turns, it was quite close up front. Behind us, Amir was hanging in there with Susan, but neither looked a threat. How wrong I was.

In the final scoring, Yehuda managed to overtake Laurie. I fell behind, with Amir getting close to me. And Susan achieved a quite remarkable win, coming – apparently – out of nowhere to first place by a decent margin. Well done Susan!

We had time left to move on to the Reiner Knizia game Through the Desert. This is a game that looks more complex than it is, and also looks to take longer than it actually does. And as with many of these games, timing is crucial. If you can time your placements with good regard to when the game ends, you maximize your score. For reasons that I cannot fully explain, in this game I got it right and was the winner ahead of a reasonably close pack. It was fast, fun, and challenging. Good stuff.

Thanks to all who came, for a good night of gaming.

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