Category: Board Games


Year of the…Blank

Tag, 

Although January was a fairly active month – in terms of social activity, there has not been much worth of pen and ink (or its 21st century equivalent). So that’s why the lack of blog posts. There’s been the usual gaming sessions, pub quizzes, work stuff (plus trips to Swansea and Bristol) and random activities that comprise of 21st century living. But other than going to Bristol (city centre rather than one of the suburbs), there has actually been nothing “new” to enjoy. Is that the theme for 2017? Take comfort in the familiar?

Something I did manage to do in both Bristol and Swansea was to visit the board game shops. I know, other folk in new places will make a beeline for the cultural sights, others the pubs, me – the board game shops. My lack of general life aside, I enjoyed my trip to both stores: The Gamers Emporium (High Street Swansea) and Excelsior Games (Bond Street Bristol). Both stores had play areas, bigger than those in Leisure Games but that’s not exactly difficult – no offence guys. And the stores were tastefully arranged showing the stock (sealed and opened). I felt compelled to make purchases in both of them (Eldritch Horror expansion Signs of Carcosa and Boss Monster 2 + some card sleeves) cos you have to support these businesses otherwise they’ll become something pointless like nail bars or tanning salons.

So looking ahead to February and beyond, there isn’t much more to note at present other than the usual run of birthdays and weekly activities. There’s the possibility of heading off to Dublin later in the month with work, might even be the day before my birthday. I’ve been trying to think of stuff to do either on the momentous day or that weekend but so far, I’ve drawn a complete blank. Well, that’s not true, there have been many ideas but all of them rejected for…well, pretty good reasons actually. If I don’t get something in diaries soon, it’ll be a re-run of last year’s couch fest. 

I think the vague plans I was formulating to head to Boston in late March are postponed – cash flow is an issue at the moment. The collapse in the pound has hit my finances too. I hadn’t noticed until January just how much more money I was haemorrhaging from my monthly stipend. I think these things are going to bear much closer scrutiny for the time being. It’s incredible how the newspapers aren’t screaming about this phenomenon but considering the political affinities of said papers, it’s not all that surprising. Put it this way, any dreams of home-ownership have receded even further away. Unless I can get a mortgage on a cardboard box around the back of Waterloo station.

Lastly, if you [happen to] read back through the reams and reams of material appended to this blog, you’ll see that I have a tendency to name years, sometimes after things that have happened to me, occasionally in response to other events. I’ve narrowed down 2016 to several possibilities before I settle on one: is the Year of Death – in response to the celebrity bloodbath? The Year of the Achilles – after my damn ankle issues for most of the year? The Year of the Sole Survivor – after enjoying Fallout 4 so much? The Year of Mitteleuropa – after my trips to Berlin, Austria and Slovakia? Or perhaps the Year of Stupid Decisions? I don’t think the latter requires any explanation. Comments on the back of a postcard please.

 

Picking up the January pace

Intended for publication on 12 January. 

Salut,

The gentle beginning to 2017 continues unabated, eleven days into this new calendar. Only one person has complained of being broke but that’s because they cannot leave the sales alone rather than having overspent at Xmas or anything like that. Some of us can do restraint, it seems.
It was a pretty busy weekend at Casa Beaufoy. Friday night though was “lie prostrate on the couch”, particularly after the spicy chilli I cooked for myself. The week had by no means been busy – though exercise has been upped now leg is feeling better – but I felt drained and needed an evening of nothing/very little. Saturday morning, I pottered around the flat, finished off the chilli for lunch and then went out for much of the day. First stop was the board game shop in Finchley. Bought myself an expansion pack to Resistance (Hostile Intent), picked up one for Joey for Coup Resistance and 100 card protectors which will fit Talisman cards and Eldritch Horror cards. But if I were to protect all those games’ cards, I suspect well over 1500 will be needed. I don’t want to price that up…

Unlike most trips to Finchley, there was no time for coffee and pastries, it was on to the huge Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road for stickers (the mundane sort for identification mark purposes) and birthday cards. If like me and Adrian Mole, you find stationery buying vaguely erotic, then stay away because the sale will tempt you will all sorts of items. Exercise books, jotters, diaries, pens, pencils, weird and wonderful items…all designed to test the maxim “a fool and his money are soon parted”. Why Paperchase hasn’t supplanted WH Smiths as a good supplier I just don’t know as their merchandise is far superior. Distribution networks, I suppose. Why mention the stickers? Board games. My plan in the next month whilst things are still relatively quiet, is to begin to amalgamate/merge board games and their expansion packs together, particularly given the small space in the flat. If you remove the cardboard inlays, the boxes are far bigger than are needed but will hold more items. The problem is separating out multiple expansion items (characters, cards of various types, tokens etc). So different coloured stickers are my way around this. I don’t think _much_ space will be saved but it really needs to happen.

Back to the story-telling: post Paperchase, Orc’s Nest in Covent garden and the other board game shop where I felt suckered into buying the Eldritch Horror Expansion, Under the Pyramids. I just wanted to check to see if the price of Labryinth (the War on Terror Game, not the Ravensburger maze game) was cheaper. Somewhat poorer, I threw caution to the wind and had a late afternoon tea at Patisserie Valerie, chiefly killing time before going to Mr Butterley’s drink in the Welly. Vile place. I lasted an hour before my general antipathy drove me out of Soho. Certainly will not be trying that again without some fortifying Valium or similar. Way, way too busy, loud, obnoxious and full of nasty people. And no, not the people I was with, the general Soho-going masses.

Sunday was the board games day at the pub and it was utterly, utterly rammed. Tube strike didn’t deter _that_ many people. I was the principle target in Ca$h & Gun$ but my demonic leer made people drop out a lot (I don’t like using my powers for evil). Avalon – evil won three back to back games (idiot good types). One of the “children” in attendance had a mini-meltdown which served to put me in a ratty mood. Real childish stuff over losing games – if you can’t hack losing, don’t play.

This week, thus far, is your standard January week. We’re all doing our best to get through it even though there’s not much to get excited about. Routine hasn’t varied though last night we played a game of Shadows Over Camelot and the armies of good once again let Camelot fall to the armies of Mordred by siege engine victory. Did well on Spaceteam – level 12! 

Back hurts today. Was walking out the front door when I felt the stabbing pain of a trapped muscle/nerve. No painkillers yet…

Goth-HAM

Hullo, 

Normal service can be resumed readers, the Xmas/New Year/Winterval (whatever) period is over and we’re now in the unofficial month of starvation where many resolve to stop eating unhealthily, drinking too much/at all, exercise greater financial restraint and typically have less fun. 

Quitters.

Mind you, I’ve been more austere in day-to-day living the last couple of weeks. In fact, I somehow ended up with more money at the end of December than I did at the end of November, despite having my week in Germany. What’s the secret? NO LIFE! Cutting right back on the alcohol, no pub quiz, no work (no work lunches in the canteen) and a steadfast refusal to engage in the usual end of year activities with family and friends. And when I listen to the stories of friends and colleagues about what they got up to and how bored they were by it all – unless they’re telling me what I want to hear – I have to ask “why do you put yourselves through it every year”?

Right, I’ll get off my moral high-ground now and launch into the few activities that did take place in the last couple of weeks. Steam’s Xmas sale was participated in, the Xbox sale was not. Nothing untoward and also ironic considering how little I’ve bothered with my PC this year. But I did see that several older games had made it to Steam, notably Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds and Star Wars Rebellion (aka Supremacy for the UK owners of the game). So I snapped up those as well as the latest expansion for Age of Mythology HD (the Chinese expansion). Grand total – about £7. Galactic Battlegrounds does NOT like MacAfee however and any time I want to play the game, I have to go through a convoluted start up process. Basically, it confuses the intro video with a Trojan and autodeletes the file so the game won’t initialise.

I did find myself playing my PC a fair bit over the break as it happens. Not just the new games but also a couple Age of Empires 3 campaign games, a return to Beyond Earth and finally made some progress in Cubicle Quest once I figured out what the hell I was doing and how the game is played. Usual games on the Xbone, no new purchases to enjoy.

The Blue Oyster Cult would have us not fear the Reaper. They’re correct, you should fear the Werewolf instead. Yeah, in Berlin there was a bit of time to kill so I may have played more than a few games of Talisman on the iPad. Have to say that even though I’ve been a fiend for buying the various expansion packs, I’ve seldom made time to play, not least as a typical game – even on top speed – will take at least two hours to get through (with six players). But man cannot live by sightseeing, re-reading novels and Glüwein alone so I indulged in a few games. And I have to say that the Werewolf, introduced by the Blood Moon expansion pack, is perhaps one of the most challenging characters you face in the game. Why?

First of all, the Werewolf character moves around the board like the Reaper which doubles the chance of being landed on. But not only that, when the night card is in play (i.e. every other event card will trigger night), the Werewolf doesn’t need to land on a character. If his movement catches up to a player, they automatically encounter the Werewolf. The Werewolf doesn’t kill the player outright (like a roll of one on the Reaper chart) but he has three opportunities to rob players of life points and can turn other players into werewolves. Oh, and they add +1 to the dice on the Werewolf chart (allowing for greater chance of reward). What does this mean? At night, werewolves get +2 to combat rolls and must attack characters on the same space which sucks if the other player has better stats. And they can’t steal items except with spells or killing a player outright. But with more expansions in play, especially those adding to the board’s play area, it’s easier to dodge.

It’s the fact that the Werewolf can go flying around the board, aided by a number of adventure cards which interact with him unlike the Reaper who only moves after a player rolls a one for movement. But you can’t play with the expansion without the Werewolf because it’s a pain to separate all of those cards. Playing on the iPad, the AI is particularly vicious in sending the werewolf after any/all human players. So it’s harder to play the game successfully, as evidenced by my three losses which is a shameful blot on my win/loss record.

Outside of gaming, I watched the first and second seasons of Gotham – less “Batman, the teenage years” and more “what if everyone else took a level in badass in a world without a Batman?” Some episodes were very well put together and had lots of Easter eggs for the die-hard fans. Others struggled to advance the plot which did make you wonder if the series really needs 20+ parts per season. There is a fair amount of hammy acting: Jada Pinkett Smith’s smug snake (aka Fish Mooney) was getting more and more Eartha Kitt, especially towards the end of the second season. James Frain as Theo Galavan just reminded me of a young Lloyd Grossman sans the spectacles. I kept thinking he’d come out with “who lives in a house like this”? Even Ben McKenzie’s James Gordon isn’t immune to it when he’s in shouty mode. Whilst an entertaining watch, it makes you think what is this world’s Batman going to do when he comes of age? Many of his foes and villains are already established, unless we go back to the 1960s and resurrect characters like Egghead and King Tut.

C’est tout…pour maintenant.

Chilli, Pie & Ice-Cream

Czesc, 

Wednesday night was our second play through of Star Wars Risk: Original Trilogy Edition. Paul was the Hutts, Matt K and I were the Empire and Brendan played both Rebel factions because I could not find a fifth person to join us for chilli, apple pie and ice-cream. Ingrates. Rebels won – I tried to be subtle in placing the Imperial base at a pinch point which the Rebels managed to take after tough battle. This is what comes of banking on a wing and a prayer, though I did succeed in duping everyone as to its actual placement (small consolation). They thought I was being C Rather than play a second game, we broke out 7 Wonders with all expansions except Babel. Paul won by two points, scores as always on BGG.

Turning to Thursday’s big news story, the decision of the High Court in determining that Article 50 may only be decided by a vote in Parliament rather than by the Royal Prerogative. Don’t want to be a political moaner but this story I felt, kinda needed a paragraph or two. I actually read the text of the decision and it was indeed spot on. In a nutshell, the decision states that triggering Article 50 will affect fundamental rights of people in the UK as well as causing the 1972 Communities Act to disapply. As these things are determined by Parliament rather than by the Head of State (i.e. Brenda), it is not appropriate to use the Royal Prerogative in this regard.

The press reaction was typically furious, at least from those elements who campaigned for a “No” result in the Referendum. Leaving aside the hypocrisy for a moment, it’s really been a damning moment exposing “yellow journalism” at its worst. One newspaper feels like its saying to its readers “here are three traitors, go out and liquidate them”, another is following on one MPs comments about the unelected judiciary (because elected judges work soooo well in the USA) and how that needs to be overhauled; usual rent-a-quote crap. And of course, there was a less-than-subtle jibe that the plaintiff in this case was born in Guyana (which used to be a British colony, lest we forget) and “foreigners are subverting our law”. The left wing papers aren’t gloating (obviously) but speculating on the likelihood of an early election. That’d be interesting to see as all parties were divided between Yes and Nos (I think the Yes’ outnumbered the Nos by 4 or 5-1). If an early election comes to pass, how would it affect MPs wishing to stand?

Buried away in the margins was a poll which said that if the referendum were to be repeated tomorrow, the “Yes” camp would win. All in all, I’m reminded of that ancient Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times.

Not much happening over the weekend. Thinking of a wander over to Borough Market, maybe Games Quest or Orc’s Nest – y’know, the usual fleshpots. This week’s music spree has continued, several more tunes bought. For me, this is a very unusual occurrence given a lot of my music tends to come from Kwed and Overclocked & Amiga Remix. No one-fixed genre or anything, just celebrating November. Or something.

As you can tell, this blog post was intended for Friday. I’m terrible.  

Last night we broke out Star Wars Risk for a game between myself, Paul Palpatine and Brendan the Hutt. It’s the version released last year which the East London mafia and myself played but I cannot recall if I logged or not. So here’s the game again: 


Right – it’s set around the original trilogy but pre A New Hope as Alderaan is yet to be an asteroid field. There are two ways of playing the game; the regular way and the campaign mode. Regular mode only supports five players (I guess six player games are too frustratingly tight so they dropped a mode). And in the campaign, there are three factions, Rebel Alliance, Empire, Hutts and all three have different missions: Rebels need to capture/kill Palpatine, Empire need to wipe out the Rebels and the Hutts need to capture ten of the thirteen resource planets on the map. If played with 3/5 players then one or two respectively will control the factions whilst the Hutts are a third team. In a 2/4 player game, the Hutts are neutral.

So a little more about the campaign. Players need to work together and work against each other in order to further their goals. Both the Rebels and the Hutts start at a numerical disadvantage in terms of starting systems and troops so need to chip away at the Empire. But the Empire and the Rebels want to ensure that the Hutts don’t claim too many resource planets. And the Empire and the Hutts might find themselves disadvantaged by the Rebel’s special cards. Also in the game is the “Force Meter”. As the campaign progresses, the Force will favour the light or the dark side which will affect how many cards Rebel and Empire players can draw (Hutts are immune to this). This also affects the ability when attacking the Death Star.

Yes, I said Death Star. Everyone’s favourite grey orb makes an appearance in the game. Its principle use is to act as a deterrent; the system where the Death Star is placed cannot be attacked and that doesn’t even have to be a system owned/occupied by the Empire. And of course with the right card, the Death Star can obliterate a system, making it totally impassable and impossibly to occupy. Both the Rebels and the Hutts can destroy the Death Star but it’s quite difficult as they need a roll of 18 (typically) with 3 D8s. Depending on the balance of the Force, this could be reduced to 15 or increased to 21.

Also in the mix are ships: at the start of each turn, one reinforcement may be exchanged for a support ship. There are fighters, bombers and Capital ships, three of each (so a maximum of nine can be floating about the game. Up to three can be used by each side in battle (depending on whether the player is attacking or defending): each fighter means that one dice cannot be a 1, each bomber adds one to the highest dice (then the second highest dice, then the third) whilst each Capital Ships allow the player to swap D6s for D8s. Ships can be reinforced separate to ground troops which allow more versatility in the game.

What’s this about capturing Palpatine? Empire player(s) have up to six Imperial bases they must play at the start of their turn(s). Five of the bases are manned by decoys, the six is manned by Palpatine. When attacked, the Empire player will always use D8s to defend. So if all troops protecting the base are wiped out, the base falls. Rebels “keep” the base, Hutts can choose to show the base to the Rebel player(s) but the tokens are returned to the Empire pool for redeployment. Destroyed bases by the Rebels affect movement of the Force Meter.

And finally, the principle amendment for the campaign are the cards. There are three decks, one for the Imperials, one for the Rebels and one for the Hutts. When planets are conquered in the normal way, cards are drawn (with possible bonuses depending on the Force Meter, or the number of Resource Planets owned in the case of the Hutts). Cards can be traded in for sets as per usual or the ability described on the card which might be “add one to all dice after a roll” or “when attacked, roll a dice and add that many extra troops to the planet where you are being invaded”. All interesting stuff and prevents the game from being stale.

The map broadly corresponds to the classical Risk Map although the connecting lines between planets and sectors are balanced a little differently. Both “Australia” and “South America” have two links to other continents (rather than the single line for Australia). But Risk veterans will feel more or less at home in the game even though there are weird and wonderful planets and sector names. The pieces are typical of the newer Risk pieces: units representing one troop and three troops (which are needed as the map feels a little small and can get very crowded.

As you can tell from the first paragraph, Paul was the Empire, Brendan was the Hutts whilst I was the Rebel Alliance. I [would have] won but we ran out of time. I managed to clean the Hutts from the board and was poised to go all out on the Empire. I got lucky breaking the back of the Empire in one attack thanks to cards which allowed me to add 1 to all dice and simultaneously have 2 D8s when I was faced with a tonne of Imperial reinforcements challenging occupation of a sector. The Empire never recovered from this loss, I had unquestioned control of “South America”, “Australia” and “Africa” so kept stockpiling the reinforcements until armies could be unleashed in a massive blitzkrieg.

Dinner was a combo of leftovers from the Raclette session together with some Bulgar wheat and a spare Tortilla that was doing nothing in the Freezer. Was kinda going for a “Southern Breakfast” feel with the Bulgar Wheat subbing in for Grits. Kinda. I know calling something else grits is a blasphemy but allow me a little creative licence. Following dinner, there were Belgian waffles & ice cream for after. That’s good eating.

Beige Skies?

A dull-looking October Wednesday where there is zero sky, just cloud. A bunch of really dull autumnal fashions on display (this season is beige, apparently) as well as pavements covered in leaves. At least in Lambeth – Westminster is a little more organised though most of the brown and gold little buggers are remaining steadfastly stuck to their progenitors. 

How was your weekend? Mine blessedly began on Thursday this week as I felt the need to take an extra day off. Given the activities and tasks required for Saturday and Sunday, having more time to deal with shopping, cleaning, cooking and stress reduction. Played a bit of Fallout, progressing my latest game. Although I hadn’t noticed that the final three expansion packs had failed to install, instead were awaiting manual intervention. So once I did that, began to update my settlements with the latest items, current favourite being the Nuka Cola mixer which makes all those crappy bottles suddenly worth their weight in caps.

Disappointment of board games Wednesday – played a game of King of Tokyo and NOBODY DIED! How can you play a game when nobody is clawing anyone else to death in an attempt to take control of the Japanese capital. Such a passive game – ugh. I was the only one really trying to do damage to other players. Damn wussy types. I’m not going to let the others forget that either. We also had a game of (American) Ticket to Ride, Paul won – I would have had I ended the game earlier but I was trying to farm tickets and not having a great deal of luck getting good routes to score the most points. In the three turns Paul snuck in with a cheap victory, he played two-fifteen points which enabled him to win the game by eight points. You can see my folly; hubris being the precursor to nemesis.

And we were also playing a game of Spaceteam which is a mobile game which Marcin introduced me to. Although the damn game is unstable with four players (at least on my home router), we did ultimately manage to get several sessions in. If you don’t know it, it’s a co-op game for between 2-8 players where the premise is that we are on a spaceship trying to outrun what looks like a supernova and in the fine tradition of Star Trek technobabble, have to work together to control the space ship out of danger. Buttons, switchers, levers and sliders need to be pushed but the instructions will pop up not only on your phone but on those of other people. So the game quickly dissolves into a shouty, brawling mess as people holler commands and those who cannot differentiate between two sets of verbal instructions flounder. Great fun.

Just to mention a thank-you to Star Trek Timelines for not hosting an event last weekend by listening to feedback from us fans. They’ve been event heavy recently with something going on every weekend for the past couple of months. Some of the events are really time intensive and for a light-touch game, is something you just don’t want to keep committing to.

So Friday, met a friend for lunch (tapas), went shopping for Raclette cheese and other odds and sods, cleaned the house, more F4. I heartily recommend Selfridge’s Ratatouille chutney. I had a grim feeling that it was going to be another of my bad-choice impulse purchases but actually it was really, really good. Especially on the Raclette. Oxford Street wasn’t too bad in terms of crowds. Only one surge of anger walking down Regent’s Street towards the bus stop. Usual issue – family of five all walking side by side on a narrow pavement at pall-bearer pace.

Saturday was Raclette day – went very well though was totally drained by the end of it. And most of Sunday was quiet, some low-level activities until time for the Steak House quiz prize. I enjoyed the soup, the fishcake and the Tiramisu for dessert. Food was good, liquor was excellent and the restaurant ambience was better than the first time – no squabbling middle aged couples. Two of the table had a strop and refused to pay the full share of the tip (one of the “free” bowls of fries worth £3.75 was delivered late which meant a £15 shortfall). So I made that up myself. I declined to join the others in a pub afterwards; not because of the strop but my ankle was on fire (really need to see a doctor) and I went home to lie on my bed for three hours. Then I shuffled under the duvet.

Final thought for the day. I never saw the appeal of the band/group Yes. I don’t hate them, I don’t have anything against them but their appeal is something that I struggle with. Still, Rick Wakeman was always good on the various TV shows that he appeared on in the 80s and 90s. Why I chose to say/type that, I just don’t know. Call it brain-fart of the day, number one. Not a bad start to a Wednesday.

It’s been at least one year, perhaps two (I’m sure the exact answer could be delved into by backtracking through earlier blog posts) but I have finally “completed” AdVenture Capitali$t. Days, weeks, months of watching adverts to double gold, playing all the events, using gold to get upgrades etc just to buy all Earth Upgrades (Angels and Cash alike) are now over. I “completed” the Moon and Mars events ages ago but Earth proved a much tougher nut to crack. That said, I think I was close to finishing the game a while ago before their massive update which drew out the game. The periodic events will still be played, I’m sure but with no more main game, I’m going to be clichéd and say that this to me, is the end of an era. 

That said, I’ve still got the iPad version to finish…

In other gaming news, I’ve now played several games of Twilight Struggle on the PC, enough to have formed an opinion about it. It’s a good reproduction of the original, a clear map that you can zoom in and out of, just like the hand of cards you’re playing with. There are also some helpful extra features allowing you to track what cards have been played, what has been permanently removed from the deck a Defcon warning should the unwary player be about to make a colossal mistake. The beginning of age features one of the leaders of the time speaking and occasionally random patriotic music will play adding to the experience. Or just seem bizarre.

There are no difficulty levels, the only way to balance/unbalance the game is to re-weigh the influence one side might have at the start of the game. I’ve resisted that so far as the intelligence of the AI is pretty challenging as it is. My main negative-type comments are that dice rolls still seem a little weighted in favour of the AI (I’ve yet to play against a human player) but that could just be my lousy perception. And the AI always chooses the same start-up in each game (as USA, +4 W Germany, +3 Italy and as USSR, +1 E Germany, +4 Poland, +1 Yugoslavia). Strong positioning to be certain but you’d like them to do something a little different. Just for fun. Or the sheer challenge of it. Not tried the multiplayer version, simply as I am not confident enough to jump beyond the “novice” stage.

Overall, a worthwhile purchase on the PC. I might get the iPad version for my trip to Vienna/Bratislava.

We’re all struggling with the humidity this week. Summer is having something of a last hurrah with temperatures in the high 20s/early 30s but air is being sucked directly off of the Atlantic making it utterly stifling. It’s predicted that temperatures will begin to fall a little but will remain coat-free weather for some time yet. Most of us Londoners are fervently waiting for the thunderstorms which are alleged to arrive this afternoon which I think will herald the official end. Tomorrow will see temperatures drop by ten degrees and the first of the autumnal rain. Naturally, the forecast isn’t good for the weekend…typical.

Other odds and sods: I sent off some unsolicited suggestions to Rockstar for potential updates/tweaks to GTA Online. One suggestion was to include a diving-type mission for CEOs, retrieving cargo from a sunken boat/plane wreck. After finishing the Humane Labs Heist, the player has access to rebreather but it’s never really used except in the lobby and even then, only ever sparingly (whilst running from a griefer). Also advocated more CEO missions outside the city of LS, simply as there’s so much landscape being ignored.

With Dr Do(o)m away doing unmentionable things in Berlin (it’s Folsom…), I’ve had the flat to myself. Nothing particularly raucous has been going on this week however, Zeitgeist on Tuesday aside. Though that was nice and we got in a couple of games of Avalon.

Euro Domination

Ah, yet another delayed post… 

Hopefully the back of the heat wave has been broken after yesterday’s indoor sweat-fest and we’re moving into cooler times. Ostensibly, today will reach 26 degrees but that’s only around late afternoon when it should cool off again. The humidity has been around 80%, simply not pleasant for all concerned. Rain pretty much all day tomorrow, standard fare for the Bank Holiday weekend.

Weather aside, it has been a rum old week. I’m vaguely pleased to say that my workload has increased for the first time since end June with some actual quality pieces coming in rather than tat and pity-work. It’s been nice to have something to mull and chew over. Yesterday there was a bomb threat and we were all evacuated. Imagine my sincere disappointment when it was announced that it was only a drill, not the real thing. Not that I’m advocating people to die in a blast but the image of the office collapsing into a pile of rubble is somewhat evocative and definite wish-fulfilment. Except with web-mail, we won’t be put on gardening leave…damn technology.

Griffin Quiz just saw me and Alex turn up. I tried and failed to lure people over to the dark side. We were winning after the first half of the quiz but had a collapse in the second half. Too much guess-work needed, too many answers of “it’s either a or b so let’s choose a” when the answer was b. And I succumbed to a Brie and Bacon Burger. After the day I had on Tuesday, I needed something stronger than Halloumi cheese. Damn good burger, almost as good as one from Zsa Zsa.

I snapped up a copy of Twilight Struggle on Steam (then I realised that it’s also available on the iPad but I’m not going to be double-buying – yet) the other day. Played three games, abandoned the first (rage-quit), lost the second to a Defcon 1 thing which I didn’t see coming and won the third, astoundingly by having complete control of Europe. The win was definitely down to more luck than skill – I feel. The AI had all the score cards (bar one) but he was forced to play them in continents where I had dominance keeping my score as the USSR around +10. Whilst he poured resources first into Asia (we tussled over Thailand and Vietnam), then the Middle East (several fights over Egypt), I kept trying to keep him off balance whilst taking every opportunity to clear his troops from key European targets. Finally, I nabbed back Poland (thank-you John Paul II…grrr), played the card and won a shock victory by turn 6. And this is with no rebalancing of the game either in my favour or his.
Bank Holiday weekend: should be a pretty quiet one. In the flat solo.

CW2

Had an epic game of Twilight Struggle Monday night (thank-you Dr Do(o)m). I won via victory points, probably owing to a combination of dice luck and some good planning with regard the cards. I was only a Poland away from having control of Europe. My strategy, more driven by the cards that came out, was to first dominate Asia, then Europe and just did enough to keep the USSR off balance in the other regions of the game through ensuring DEFCON rarely rose above 3 to keep those two regions safe(ish) and focus on the other places. Once I made moves in Central America, Dom felt compelled to do the same.  

Key highlights include playing Arab-Israeli War and Camp David Accords simultaneously on a Headline Round (my card nullified Dom’s card) so he was left with nothing – or so we chose to interpret that rule and it totally redrew the balance of power in the Middle East. Dom playing an Ops 4 card for realignment rolls and losing/drawing all four rolls. Me lobbing the dice across the room after burning two really good cards on the Space Race (I was chasing three precious victory points for a lunar landing and rolled two fives), Dom doubling influence in Argentina to 8 and Chile to 10 thanks to a card pretty much putting South America out of reach (never seen a 10 before). Dom burning the Asia scorecard and me getting it immediately the next turn thanks to being forced to reshuffle the deck (I had domination so he junked it). Me losing all three instances of the Olympic games quite spectacularly (Dom threw three sixes with a + 2 modifier, I got 1, 1, 2 – damn steroid cheats). 

In major revisions to history, the Berlin Wall came down around 1975, the Koreas were reunited around 1983 (by that I mean the USSR lost all influence in NK by that time), Charles De Gaulle and Willy Brandt never came to power, Algeria never received independence, the USSR held three Olympic games (I’d say 1952, 1960 and 1984 given when the cards were played), Israel lost the first Arab-Israeli war, Allende came to power in Chile in the early 1960s and Vietnam went Communist from the early 1950s and stayed that way.

Again I feel the need to bitch about the poor state of the rules. It took twenty minutes (pre-game) to ascertain an answer to the question: if a neutral card is played as an operations card, does the event still happen. The answer was no; it’s one or the other. But the interweb just couldn’t spit the answer out immediately until I used exactly the right phrasing and the manual was less than useless. I’m half tempted to write my own version of the rules or a crib sheet just to make these things explicit. There were a couple of other questions which we needed the answers to but fortunately they were much more quickly found.

Was stood up by Herr Solomon earlier that evening for the second time in as many days; something of a major irritation. So gaming was a welcome distraction. 

It was a forlorn hope that the temperatures had peaked last week and were going to return to more “manageable” levels in the run up to September but I read with trepidation that by the middle of the week, they’re going to spike in the 30s (that’s “hot” to those who refuse to join the 21st century and continue to use Fahrenheit). The water in the flat has started to act up; shower plumbing is somewhat temperamental with about five minutes of water before it dies off completely. TFF the swimming pool. 

Weekend; quite a productive one as it happens, or at least as productive as can be had when you’re committed to leisure time. Friday night was a GTA evening but felt tired which definitely meant my game was off. Was making a lot of mistakes that could have otherwise been avoided (repeated car crashing, just not taking cover when the bullets were flying etc). Also made time to clean up my captures on my Xbox Live profile, deleting the poorer quality content and captioning the better ones. It’s like a scrapbook, it has to look presentable rather than be a random collection of rubbish.

Saturday: a four-part excursion from home to Borough Market (Utobeer & German Deli), to Covent Garden (Orc’s Nest), to Waterloo (Real Food Market) and then to Clapham for board gaming. I’d never been into the German Deli shop but it was quite good, a lot of recognisable products on the shelves including some favourites which could lure me back on a regular basis. The only missing detail was a lack of Riesen Pieces, particularly the jumbo-bags. Though that’s a blessing in disguise, I’m sure. The market itself was a frustrating experience. Too many people walking at pall-bearer pace, too many people conveniently ignoring my “excuse me please” as they were slack-jaw gawking at people slicing cheese or measuring out olives whilst blocking the thoroughfares. Or walking around with Selfie sticks…it’s not a goddam museum, it’s a frigging market.

It took all of three seconds to decide to buy Archer: Once You Go Blackmail in Orc’s Nest and whilst there, I snapped up a booster pack for Boss Monster. The Archer Game is a Love Letter derivative which tweaks the rules by making more use of the hidden card: being able to see it, subbing it out, mixing it up etc. It plays a lot faster than other versions of Love Letter that I’m familiar with and it easier to remember. A worthy addition to my collection, I think. As for the Boss Monster booster pack, it gives you a little of everything: bosses, heroes, rooms and spells. The overarching theme – well, there isn’t really one but many of the cards give a +1 (so you’re required to find some tokens to play with as the +1 is a one-time use bonus). It’ll be interesting to see how it plays with the imminent expansion pack which throws space aliens into the mix.

Real Food Market was a bit more civilised than Borough Market and I picked up some cakes for the board gaming at J & S’s. The Cookie Dough cake was by far the most popular as everyone descended upon it like wolves on a carcass. We played a couple round of Bang (I was on the side of the lawful in both games where we won), Some Quiplash & Bidiots, Room 25, Archer and Martian Dice. It was a great afternoon – crawled off home around 10.30, got in and was all but ready to pass out but as Star Trek Insurrection was on TV, thought I’d watch that, an episode of Sherlock and then surrendered to oblivion. Damn compulsive telly.

Twas Griffin Games on Sunday, headed over and pre-determined that I wasn’t in the mood to play anything new. Having learned three new games this week, I wasn’t up for adding a fourth to my repertoire. So it was a familiar pattern of Avalon, Archer, 7 Wonders, King of Tokyo, and Hex Hex. Lunch was good, dinner was absent (IKR). Met a few new people but pleased that I could remember the names of many of the now familiar faces. Felt drained by the end of the day so was lucky to have been able to snatch a shower before the water went off-line again. Though I enjoyed Games at the Griffin, the room was kinda noisy, particularly when a round of Dobble started (I’m not a fan of the game) which really made it difficult to play a couple of the more verbal-type games such as Avalon and Hex Hex. Might have to make more use of the space downstairs – possibly. Though I’m not going to be there next month, I’m going to take the Bratislava trip. First things first – I want to plan how I’m going to make maximum use of the time both there and in Vienna.