Match Report 7th June 2010

Sorry no photos this week.

We had so many people turn up this time that we had standing room only. However this might be to slightly misrepresent the facts. The house is still like a tip as we move more and more out of the areas being decorated into the dinning room  and so with 6 players (and one in reserve, more on this later) we were snugly gathered around the table. This week saw the return of Daniela, plus Pauline, Natalie, Crispin and Malcolm.

We need to watch Malcolm, he is showing signs of competing with Daniela for being the bandit of the group, this was only his second evening with us and he showed a grasp of the game from the very beginning that would ensure he would finish well placed when the points were counted in this weeks game, in spite of the fact that he was the only person not to have played it before. Hmmm very worrying!

With Ian having been working away on our decorating - what a star he is – his Diving home work needed some attention. So he very responsibly elected to leave us to play, whilst he went off to find some quite space in the chaos, with the idea that he would join us for the second game. Alex whilst in Crowborough elected to go and work out at the gym doing something called ‘body pump’ -  sounds either painful or rude and in either case not nearly as much fun as a games night with the group. So speaks the person who needs to do more exercise but is constantly finding reasons to avoid it, probably because I am spending too much time with Crispin.
Our game for the evening was Settlers of Catan with the expansion set allowing us to play 6 rather than the standard 4. This is a really cracking game and totally justifies being one of the top ‘gateway’ games (games used to introduce people to board games). Having set up the map Natalie won the dice throw and so had the opportunity to place the first settlement and road and so the rest of us followed in turn. Natalie I think has an aversion to the sea because as I recall both in the last game and this one she has placed both her settlements in the middle of the island of Catan, forgoing the opportunities presented by having a port or at least a chance of building a road to a port. 

A very quick overview of the game elements.
A number of pieces from the Settlers of Catan game
These images show 5 of the 6 different types of land tile (There are also 1 or 2 desert tiles used in the game, the starting point for the robber.) used to build up the island of Catan. The round numbered counters are examples of the counters placed on each land tile to indicate the dice throw necessary in order for that tile to produce its goods e.g. if a mountainous tile has a counter with an 8 on it, it will produce an iron ore card when an 8 is thrown with the two dice. The Building Cost card is crib sheet that indicates what types of cards are needed in order to acquire the roads, settlements etc that build up the necessary victory points (shown on the right hand side of the card) needed to win the game.

Seated next to Malcolm I sensed that he had played the game before (or maybe I just explained the game better than normal) being clear about the consideration in placing his settlements with both of us vying for similar areas of the island. His engineering background leading him no doubt to the iron ore mountains where he became the dominant player of this resource, Daniela and Natalie vied for the most Dollys (actually they are sheep but when we started playing this game years ago with Ben and family it was around the time of the first genetically modified sheep and some how the name has always stuck), Crispin struggled to get into the game, whilst Pauline took the interesting opportunity (?!) of placing two and later three of her settlements around two land areas that only produced on the relatively low probability of a 10. However using her feminine wiles she managed to influence the dice in a fashion that seemed to increase the probability and shouts of joy would be heard when yet another 10 was thrown.

On the other side of the island iron ore was being produced by the truck load and so would grain have been accept for the unwarranted attention of the thief on my grain fields, with an 8 (one of the highest probability scores). With repeated visits of the thief (thanks guys) even when he was moved elsewhere the farm workers were so traumatised that they needed counselling and 8’s were rarely thrown, accept obviously when the thief was sitting in my fields. In my efforts to rid myself of the robber I was forced into acquiring development cards which consist of 90% soldiers cards all of whom must have gone out for the day, because all I could find was cards allowing me to build 2 extra road sections, ensuring that I continued to suffer from the attentions of the robber but that I quickly over took Crispin with the longest road and held it for the game.
What is difficult to convey in words is the intonation with which Natalie during this game passed comment on people’s successes and problems. ‘Oh dear’ being a common one when something bad happened to someone else but said with a subtly of amused glee.

In the end it came down to a race between Malcolm and myself with everybody else chasing hard on our heels with eventually a narrow victory for me.  I think everybody agreed that it had been another cracking game with much humour and almost constant interaction between the players as they sought to trade their unwanted Dollys etc.

Natalie once again produced some excellent cakes, which she is rapidly becoming famous for and will soon be the main reason people come to the games nights (if it isn’t already). On this occasion they were wholemeal apricot muffins (I think) that where in the view of many of us her best cakes yet. So thanks from all of us for giving up your time on Sunday to bake such wonderful fare.

The emergence of the muffins was the incentive Ian needed to finish his homework for the evening and he and Gwen sat on the step between our dinning and living room watching the last few rounds of our game. However their emergence was the final distraction for Crispin who as our resident Pop Quiz master started chatting with Ian about the Moody album Blues Days of Future Past we had just put on and various other artists / albums from before I was born.

The game whilst great fun took longer than normal to play and so left us with no time for a second game. A shame as having just returned from the UK Games Expo I have a number of new games and was keen to try at least one of them out on the group – possibly Saboteur.

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