Match Report 6th December 2010

With Gwen’s injury forcing her to work from home she joined us for the first time in ages, plus Ben now back from Greece for the winter, Alex with a month off from the joys of flying and old favourites Crispin and Ian. Sadly Daniella was suffering with a bad back and Malcolm had an outbreak of male pattern forgetfulness remembering at 9pm where he had planned to be that evening!

We managed three games with another run out of Hick Hack to start (a game where the foxes eat the farm birds trying to eat the best feed – it’s silly but great fun) , this was won by Ben shortly after saying how badly he was doing!

The players in a game of Dominion considering their next action
We then moved onto Dominion which was unfortunately hindered on this occasion by an incorrect interpretation of the rules – my fault. However it was a pleasant surprise that Gwen was enthusiastic about this game and thought that it compared well with Fresco, a game I thought she would prefer. Somewhere along the way we managed to squeeze in some chocolate panatone as the munchies for this evening, sorry no photo’s.


The picture doesn't show the tension on the players face and the quivering hand as he tries to place the next object in a game of Bausack
Then to the last quick game that was so much fun we played it twice overrunning our normal ending time. Bausack is a gem of a game with rules for 4 different ways of using the 90 odd wooden pieces, all with the general aim of building towers and gaining points for their either their height or instability! However as at least 50% of the wooden pieces are blatantly

Games for Christmas 2010

What to do with guests over Christmas / Some Christmas Gift Ideas 

If you are thinking computers games and Wii, DON’T; Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble etc NO; the miriade of commercial games based on popular films or TV shows STOP !

There is whole world of great games out there waiting for you, just not in the high street stores. They are less well known because they are rarely sold by high street retailers (with the exception of specialist games shops) and so are largely unknown to the UK public. If you want to buy any games mentioned below (prices will range from under £6 to £40) then there is a list of internet retailers on the right hand side of my blog titled Where to get the games.

As we approach the festive season our minds turn inevitably to the various ideas for presents and there are a number of lists out there of games that would work for Christmas (as just a couple of examples Mark Rivera's list is here and the BoardGameGeek recommendations here), so I thought I would approach this blog from a slightly different angle and look at what games you might want in the house for others to enjoy over the festive season.

Modern board and card games come in many forms but the best ones are not designed around hackneyed old games or some cult TV program / film of the moment, but rather stand out from the aforementioned games because frankly they are better. You know the saying ‘a pet is for life not just Christmas’ well so it should be with modern games. The games talked about in this blog post and my blog generally are great fun and hopefully you will be tempted to play them at other times of the year, not just over Christmas.

To those who say 'they don't like games' or have had bad experiences in the past with games I would make the following points concerning these games:
  • You don’t need to be good at spelling, general knowledge, computers or anything else to play them and have fun. I guess maths and a little logic will help but we all need a lot more of these elements to survive in the modern world than you will find required in the games listed below. 
  • There is not a dice in sight, the games are about how you deal with the situations and cards you are dealt not about trying to roll a 6 or indeed any other number.. 
  • The games are more about building than destruction, meaning that direct conflict between players should not be something to worry about, particularly if everybody remembers that when playing games it is more important to enjoy the journey and have fun than win at the expense of ruining the journey for the other players. 
  • There are games listed below that are in all probability unlike any games you have played to date.
This blog post is divided into three elements, so you can just go to the part that interests you:
  1. Quick Games for Christmas Morning
  2. Fun Games for Christmas Afternoon
  3. After the presents – Boxing Day
  4. Conclusion
Quick Games for Christmas Morning 
With people coming and going and a focus on food preparation you may need ways of amusing and distracting people for 20/30 minutes at a time. The following are some simple games that are quick to teach and will amuse both young and old:

Latest Social Gaming eZine

thru-the-portal has just published its fourth FREE issue targeted at social gamers in their many forms. Articles that may be of interest include:
  • 'Teenagers can play board games' an article from a New Zealand teenager following a trip to a friends party (pages 22 and 23);
  • 'Bringing Games Back into the Community' an article by little old me (page 36);
  • Christmas goodies! (page 37)
plus reviews of:
  • Totemo (one of the games I picked up at Essen);
  • Bohnanza (a game we have played a lot in our group this year);
  • Super Farmer (originally created in 1943 this is a re-working that receives high praise particularly if you have younger children)
  • and lastly Dixit (a game that I love but has received very mixed reactions from our group).
Needless to say there is much more in the latest issue of thru-the-portal

If you are asking yourself why I am promoting it so much well it is a work of love for Neil and Laura that is trying to raise the visibility of social gaming - something I fully endorse. Have a read, it may not be entirely to your taste but I am sure there will be something to interest you in it.

Match Report 22nd November 2010

Another Games Night saw the return of a number of by now familiar faces (Daniella, Matt, Malcolm, Crispin and Ian) in spite of my mentioning that we would be trying out two new games.

Dominion (Age 10+, 2-4 players, 30 min playing time)
If you get bored jump down to the 5th paragraph 

Well the first new game to the group was the 2009 Spiel des Jahre winner, Dominion. A card game (unlike anything I had ever played before) where the theme is vaguely medieval - you seek to build up your Dominion of Estates (worth 1 Victory point), Duchies (worth 3 Victory points) and Provinces (worth 6 Victory points). The game commences with each player having 7 copper cards and 3 estate cards, you shuffle these and deal yourself 5 cards with which you play the first round, the remainder makes up your Deck.

During their turn a player uses the 5 cards in their hand to do the following:

A. Perform an action (or actions if allowed by your cards)

B. Buy a new card (or cards if allowed by your cards). There are a number of stacks of cards (see below) laid out in the centre of the table that you can buy.

C. Clean up your used cards and put them in your discard pile and deal yourself 5 new cards from your deck i.e. the unused cards from the start of the game. (Once your deck is exhausted you take your discard pile i.e. the original 10 starting cards plus any additional ones you have bought, and shuffle them before dealing yourself 5 more cards with which to play the next round). As the game progresses this constant addition to your hand increases the strength of your deck whilst the shuffling means you can never be quite sure what you will get in your hand at any one time.

When you buy more cards you have a number of alternative options laid out in front of you, with costs ranging from 0 (yep!) to 8:

· Kingdom Card – There are 10 alternative stacks of 10 cards e.g. Militia, Market, Village etc. Each card type provides some benefit once it is in your hand, such as more money, actions or various special powers.

· Treasure Cards – Gold (with a value of 3), Silver (with a value of 2), and Copper (with a value of 1). The value equates to buying power and so they help in acquiring other cards.

· Victory Cards - The previously mentioned Estates, Provinces and Duchies

The game ends when either all the Province cards have been purchased or three of the other Victory or Kingdom card stacks of are exhausted.

(5th Paragraph!) If you have read this far well done and if you were like me when ever I read a review of Dominion you are probably going, “sounds a bit dull”. Well all I can say is I was wrong this is an awesome game with massive re-playability. The game itself comes with 25 different sets of Kingdom cards of which only 10 are used in any one game so it is going to take a while before you have exhausted yourself on them. It is also a fast game as, once you have had your go, you deal yourself 5 new cards and start working out what you are going to do on your next turn. For those who like a bit of mischief in a game then the game has this in bundles, albeit (as you might expect with a Eurogame) more by your ability to impact ALL other players rather than pick on one individual.

The verdict at the end of the group’s first game was a unanimous thumb’s up with a “let’s play that again next time”. If there is a downside it was only that in order to accommodate the group I had to buy the Dominion Intrigue expansion as the basic game accommodates only 4 players. (Having played it at Essen and invested in the two Dominion boxes I was very relieved that the group enjoyed it as much as I had hoped they would.)

Taking a break for the lovely Panettone that Daniella had bought along (for which thank you), we set off for a much more serious game!

Hick Hack (also called Pick Picnic at times) (Age 6+, 2-6 players, 30 min playing time)
The players during a game of Hick HackThis is a game where 6 different types of poultry are represented by square cards in the centre of the table. At the beginning of each turn feed is distributed to the poultry by placing small wooden cubes onto the cards.

As players you have 5 cards representing the various types of poultry or foxes! Each person places one card down in front of them. Once revealed:

1. Players with the same type of poultry typically fight over who gets the feed placed on the relevant card in the centre of the table.

Munchies and the Hick Hack tiles and feed2. The foxes (if they turn up) eat the poultry (if present) or rue the fact that they went after the wrong type of poultry (it happened three times to me last night whilst Malcolm to my right sat chuckling away as his foxes kept eating my poultry- oh the injustice).

This was another game picked up for a mere 7 Euros at Essen which like Straw and Saboteur will, I am sure, become a regular at our games evenings. It is very light but has that mischievous element that people love.

Eastbourne 19th November 2010

Mikko and Jeany playing Thunderstone
A brief visit to the 4 day autumn gathering down at Eastbourne saw me quickly fall in with Jeany and Mikko for a game of Thunderstone;a game with strong similarities to Dominion but more complex and with a strong fantasy theme. They and some of the other attendees at this event initially met through their involvement in the on-line game World of Warcraft and now meet up at various gaming events such as Eastbourne, Essen and the UK Games Expo.

Having interrupted the flow of the game with numerous questions and lines of discussion that interested me about why they were there, their experience of games etc. Mikko (who had flown in from Finland the previous day just for this gaming event) eventually won and I, needless to say came