Boardgaming in Glasgow

Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India

For the final night of 'themed' June I decided to stick with the winning combination of Kramer and Kiesling ... but it was difficult. Difficult because Last train to Wensleydale was one of the games nominated, and i love a big slice Wensleydale .
I particularly like it when its served with a side of Smith and Kelly (and it was)

So we split into 3 groups. Nick's group played Municipium, Stephens group played Wensleydale and I tabled Maharaja.

The aim of Maharaja is to build palaces. If you can build all your palaces before anyone else then you win the game. If two or more people build them all on the same round then money is the tie breaker.

Each round the Maharajah visits on of the Cites on the board and scoring will take place. Then its a simple majority exercise with the winning player getting 12 coins, 2nd getting 9, 3rd getting 5 and 4th place getting 3.
Palaces are expensive to build (12 coins each) so you have to ensure you get enough income from city scoring to allow you to build more palaces.

To aid you can take special character cards which give you special bonuses (e.g. an extra coin every turn, palaces cost 9 gold etc..)

The heart of the game is the clever action selection mechanic. Each turn starts with everyone secretly selecting 2 actions then in turn order revealing those actions and performing them. As usual 2 actions is never enough and you spend a lot of time agonising over what you think your opponents will do, what you want to do, what you need to do and how your going to get the money to pay for it all.

Early game scoring.. Julia is mysteriously absent while Kyle (Blue) and David (Yellow) vie for majority. Calum (red) watches on with amusement.

The game ended with Kyle and myself both building out 7th palace on the same round, fortunately I had a few coins more then him and squeaked the win. Calum was close behind and Julia was off somewhere muttering that she hated the stupid game.

As is always the case when you haven't played a game for a few years we got a couple of rules wrong, but nothing too serious. It also reminded me of what an excellent game it is, and I really must make more of an effort to get it to the table more often (unfortunately it joins a long and illustrious list of games I want to play more often) 

So theme month is over - back to normal games selection again.

A few members have never had the pleasure in trying out our 'namesake' board game, Primordial Soup, so hopefully we'll get a chance to rectify that (I've even made some fimo amoeba specially!)

Go Stop. No really - please stop!

The second of our 'theme' nights in June kicked off with a Feld (Aquasphere), a Wallace (Brass) and a Kramer Kiesling (Java)

Where i learned that no matter how much you love a game, and no matter how good you think you are at it, sometime you just can't get it together. 

Michael, Andy, Mark and myself all settled down to a nice relaxing game of Java and i was pretty excited about it. I love almost all Kramer Kiesling games but Java's the one i want to love the most.  
I just love the way it looks, i love the action point system, i love the area/control dominance aspect of the game and i love the games ability to let you pull off some really creative moves.

It was Marks first game so we had a quick rules explanation before we began (and a much needed refresher for the other 3!), first player was chosen and it was me.


So - what do i want to do here again i asked my brain. It blinked silently at me and said nothing.

The game progressed with the others competing heavily and building ever larger cities, while I pottered about elsewhere enjoying the scenery or something. Festivals were had and I was quite literally always late to the party.

Michael has a mid game melt down as he tries to work out if he can irrigate 6 tiles, expand the city, build a palace, stomp on Andy, and gain dominance with his 6 action points [spoiler: he can't!]

Andy stormed into an early lead and looked untouchable for most of the game, with Mark keeping him honest. Michael quietly expanded into a good position and by the time Andy initiated end game scoring had control of most of the board.

Michael won with Andy a close second. Mark finished a respectable 3rd not too far away from the leaders. I was last seen  in the supermarket trying to buy drinks and nibbles for the first festival.

As always it was an enjoyable game, making sure you are present in as many cities as possible with good access to sneak dominance during final scoring is key!

Elsewhere Brass was being played, or 'tolerated' in the case of Nick. Rob popped is brass cherry in an experience he described as intense, which pretty much sums it up.
Stephen took a comfortable win but hats off must go to Mr Smith who had the biggest pile of cash I've ever seen at the end game! 

We rounded off the evening with 3 quick card games.

The excellent Abluxxen is a game i've had for a while but only recently got a chance to play. The rules are very simple - so simple in fact that you wonder where the game is when you hear them.

...und Tschuss is a Martin Wallace games that doesn't involve trains, loans, industry or cheese but is still rather enjoyable.

The crowning glory / utter horror show of the evening was the final game of GO STOP. This Japon game was purchased in bulk by us at our first Essen in 2008. The rules are atrocious, the game play is silly but we laughed we cried and a good time was had by all.

The Palaces of how do you play this again?

Our 3rd week of 'theme' night June and the juggernaut that is Kramer/Kiesling  just wouldn't stop.

The Palaces of Carrara

I played this once a few years ago and I remember doing very badly at it. The aim of the game is to build buildings in six cities by purchasing, and using, marble of different quality and cost.

Each city has specific requirements on the quality of marble you must use and each will give either victory points or money when the buildings in them are scored. Scoring building also lets you receive certain wooden objects which are worth victory points at the end of the game (a Palace will give you a crown , Biblioteca will give you a book  etc.).

Nick, Mark, Julia and myself played last night, only Julia hadn't played before and we had plenty of time to go over the rules while waiting for Nick to turn up.

Near the start of the game. Nick builds one of the many "Porta's" available

We all adopted slightly different strategies (mainly because we had all forgotten 'how' to play the game).

I went for a frugal approach - only buying the cheapest stone and building only in Red, Blue and Black. A tense last round seen me grab the opportunity to initiate end game scoring. The extra five points helped me stay ahead of Nick and Mark for the win.


We rounded of the evening with 3 games of Abluxxen, deciding to keeps score from one game to the next.

This turned out to be a terrible idea as Nick destroyed us on each round. His score of 54 beat the rest of us combined (17,16 and 10) :S

Next week I'll try and get a Knizia to the table, as long as I can resist the urge not to nominate Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India!

Power Failure in the Indian Grid

Andy was back from Essen with the new Power Grid map – Australia & Indian Subcontinent, and we played the India map. I understood from Simon that while I played a warm-up game, Andy had taken the opportunity to tell everybody to watch out for me, because I was a dangerous player. Hardly true, since this was to be my third game. Although, as Simon pointed out, I did not deny it.

In Step 1 of the game’s three steps, you really feel that you are in a developing country. You are only allowed to buy raw materials up to cost five, and there isn’t much there to buy. There is also a risk that there will be a power failure, resulting in lost income. 

The first time I played Power Grid, everybody built two houses in the first turn except me, so this time I thought I would build two. I got hold of an (inefficient) coal-fired power station that needed three units of coal to function. It worked out in the first turn. I built two houses and was in the lead. Already in the second round, however, this backfired, because the way the game holds you back if you are in the lead, I was now the last player to buy raw materials. Andy, having realised raw materials were scarce, had bought enough for his plant but could buy the last available coal. “Unless somebody really needs it.”

“I do!” I said foolishly, and Andy bought the coal, leaving me without power and income for the turn. I would probably have bought it also, but without checking if anybody needed it first, which was a bit mean, although perhaps more entertaining. Things were not looking good. In turn four I was also without enough coal and seriously behind the leaders.

The first step took forever to get through. In step 2 India’s economy started to take off and it became easier to buy enough raw materials. A lot of trash was being generated, so an incineration plant I had bought came in handy, even though this type of plant is inefficient in this version of the game, requiring one extra unit of trash to function. I hoarded coal which cost money and maybe I could have built another house if I hadn’t.

In the end Stuart and I had the same number of powered houses, but he beat me buy a few electros, so I finished last. Congratulations to Alex who won! Everybody seemed to enjoy the game except Ian A who didn’t like the theme much. Despite my shortcomings as a Power Grid player the game has become one of my favourites. I will try to get my revenge on Andy another time!

In The Year of The Scholar

So everyone knows that after a promising start at "in the year of the dragon" some four years ago, I developed a case of the yips worse than David's famous Steam Yips of 2012. I spent all of 2010, 2011 and 2012 not registering a single win, my mid game collapse was legendary, renowned as being a fireworks whore, I was the player everyone wanted in a 5 player game, as it meant I was one less person to worry about.

Something changed in late 2012 and suddenly I was competing, I wasn't playing brilliantly by any manner or means but i was doing okay, I wasn't hemorrhaging workers and my houses had pretty reasonable foundations. Suddenly I actually started winning the odd game - a famous three player victory against my nemesis Hynes healed some of those old wounds, but still something was lacking. I hadn't yet played the perfect game .... well until Sunday that is!

Having warmed ourselves up with a thoroughly intense game of Steam - congratulations to Andy for his victory therein, I suggested we round off with a game of YotD. Adam had never played before but we gave him a good briefing and lubed his arse up proper. Mark and Andy were eyeing each other up, both sensing the presence of their biggest threat. Michael looked slightly bemused and unsure of himself but as this is Michael's stock guise, I hadn't guessed that it might all be a ploy.

Anyway - the random draw for starting player began and to my horror I was first. Now it was a strange looking board from March it went like this. Fireworks, Helmet, Tax, Helmet, Tax, Fireworks, Sickness, Rice, Sickness, Rice - thanks to Mark Hall for this glorious set up. I stuttered, the obvious Helmet, Fireworks was there but it didn't feel right, if i went budha helmet, i would open myself to a budha firework ass fucking, so did i do the obvious build, money - play from the back? After much debate, I plumped for the highly unlikely and improbably Money, Rice option - 7 on the initiative track and likely last place. Mark was next straight out with FW/Bud and Andy replied with H/B - so it was the die was cast, this pair were going to fight it out from the front. Adam played relatively safe and chose a reasonable FW/M and Michael threw the absolute curve ball of Scholar/Money.

The game started as you would expect, Mark and Andy fighting for build and fireworks, occassionally grabbing initiative, Adam strolled through the middle taking safe options for free, Michael and I stock piled cash and where possible I grabbed in advance those things I might need at game end - Rice and Healers.

By the end of the second recruiting round, Michael had already burnt his scholar and a wild recruiting more scholars, meaning that every time he was able to take that choice for action he would score 7-10 points. Tragically scholar kept arriving unpaired, meaning each round he could grab some points. 

By the half way stage, Andy and Mark were still fighting, Mark on 2 x 3 storey builds, Andy on 3 x 2, both 90% full, both scoring well, I was - as usual at the back but building up a head of steam, thanks to my 4 buildings, geisha and 2 point charm. Michael was a walking disaster, starving employees, collapsing buildings, no tax, no helmets, the surrounding territories looked like a warn zone, with the burning corpses of his failed enterprise for everyone to see. He may have been killing them left right and centre but its only fair to say the people able to survive inside his university - well christ they were getting a dmaned good education.

So we enter the closing stages, Michaels final Tax and Rice requirements, kill 4 employees, destroy 2 buildings and leave him with 1 single building and one highly educated super brain melon. Andy was looking okay - sitting about 10 points ahead of me and 4 or so ahead of Mark with 4 buildings and 7 employees, a small buddha - a nice tidy end game. Mark was slightly worse off but with a better buddha configuration meant that it would be tight between them, Adam had played very well for a virgin and was going to end the game on something like 85 points. 

However if I say so myself, my town was a thing of glory. Every building standing all but one employee recruited and still alive, 2 double buddhas - it really was perfection and so from last place I began my slow descent towards inevitable glory. First the employees, 13 employees thats 26 points, jumping me over Adam, then Mark, then one buddha, thats 6 points, bye Andy, another buddha thats another 6 points - hello 100 here I come and two final points for spare rice ..... I look up ready to accept the acclaim of my fellow players, having played as they say an utter blinder but wait, why was Michael smiling, why was he gleaning the handshakes and approval, hang on - is that Michael on 103 points? Mister - one building, no rice, no money, harbinger of doom, death to all who set foot in his town, mister never seen a firework in his life, doesnt need an army, bringer of famine and pestilence, did he honestly score over 75 points with his fucking scholars? yes he bloody well did.

I play the best game Ive ever played and science boy chooses to abandon everything but one action and claims victory over a table of 5 and people say Puerto Rico has an easy route to victory.

Well I guess its well done Michael, clearly education is the key to success!

BSG - how Doug was Andys toy

First of all, I have to say that trying to table Battlestar Gallactica on a Wednesday night was probably not the brightest idea. The game ended up around 1am, after we rushed through the last 40 min or so.

The game design is quite clever. There are various different roles to take on board Galactica, all inspired by the characters from the tv-series. Then one person needs to be the president and one Admiral, both giving extra powers. Then all charachters draw a role - in the pack there are 10 humans and 2 cylons. These are redrawn halfway through the game, with the exception that cylons overrule humans (so if you get one of each you are a cylon). So in the first half of the game there are 0-2 cylons, in the second half 1-2 (if one person should draw 2 cylon cards).

I think the humans might be able to win this game if there are 0 cylons in the first half. We had 2.

Attending this game was Andy, Nick, Brian, Doug, Mads T and myself.

In the first round of playing, I had a read on Nick, and so I played a card allowing me to see his role - he was a Cylon (as expected) and I immediately announced this to the group, and obviously Nick vehemently denied this. We then went through several rounds of combat making it ever more unlikely that we should ever make it to earth without some sort of miracle.
Then Mads T decided to also play the "view role" card, looked at Nicks card, and announced him to be a Cylon as well.

Now, this should be pretty clear cut now, Nick is obviously a Cylon.

But now we are exactly half-way through the game, and veryone draws roles again. This could mean that while Nick was definitely still a cylon, now anyone else could also be.
Still, at this point its by any standards wise to put Nick in the brig, and be sure one of the cylons is put away.
But for some unknown reason, Doug, who was now both president and admiral, and Brian, decided to believe Nicks very far fetched stories, and Andys even worse "logical" deductions, and both Mads T and I ended up in the brig, while Nick and Andy could create havoc on our beloved battleship. (yes, the lack of logic Andys arguments showed me very clearly that he was a cylon - what I didn't know at this point was that he had been all along).

As expected, the Cylons managed to win this game quite comfortably, in what was a very funny and intriguing game night, and the latest Wednesday finish for me so far.
The only discussion point that remained afterwards, was how Mads T and I ended up in the brig, when clearly we could never both be Cylons.

Well played by our cylon twins Andy and Nick, but something clearly went wrong in the way we humans managed the game.

Thank you all for a great night of talking, and a game that was way more fun than it looked like originally.

Note to self: If Andy doesn't want to be a clear cylon in the brig, take a look at his role card(s)

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1800 Reasons Why Nick is a Cock!

1800 Reasons Why Nick is a Cock!

We all know that Nick is a Cock but I have recently decided that one event stands out above all, as evidence of his Cock stature. To many of you, it would seem an innocuous incident, one hardly worth mentioning but I can assure you that one simple sentence, uttered in around October 2009, has generated more tension headaches than any other I have ever witnessed.
What was that sentence I hear you ask

I think it went something like this .... "Hey, do you think it'a about time we played an 18xx clone?"

Why did I say yes? Why did I encourage him? We were all relatively happy back then, we had our Puerto Ricos, our Steams, our Power Grids, did we really need a new obsession?

Well it all started to go down hill about a month later, Nick turned up at our Flat with his brand new 18FL - apparently one of the easier games to get your head around. A 4 player game set in Florida, it follows a fairly generic 18xx model but is less punishing in the operations round and less demanding in the dividends - "a fairly good place to start" they say!

Well in classic Primordial Group fashion, this 3 hour game took the best part of 5 hours to play. It was tight it was tense and it was mathematically exhausting - I won, which helped with the pain of being main calculator. It didn't immediately grab me as the greatest gaming concept - but it niggled at me for a few weeks, until we were able to play again. We played 3 more games in the ensuing 5 or 6 months, David and I claimed the Victories and along the way, many good natured arguments broke out as players argued about Share Manipulation and Operation Values, we experienced one classic disaster in our final game, when the bank, the winnings and the player cash got mixed up - We will never truly know whether Nick pipped Andy into second ... we think he did but don't tell Andy I said so.

18xx then took a bit of a back seat as we couldn't organise many weekend sessions with Nick and as he was the only member with the game, we all began to forget about the concept - that was until Essen 2010

On the Saturday at Essen five of us found ourselves playing Poseidon the new 18xx clone from the makes of the classic Australia and China versions. We were all sucked in very quickly and three copies of this were brought home, along with a copy of Baltimore and Ohio which had been requested by David.

Poseidon saw one outing shortly after Essen which passed without much comment, everyone seemed to like it but no-one was truly gushing.

Then at Christmas I was bought both a copy of Poseiden and a copy of B&O by my brother, he had seen by Geek Wishlist and acted accordingly.

A few weeks later B&O hit the table on a Saturday Night, We loved it david won it, so much so we played two more sessions on the following wednesday - David won another along with Stephen. The hook was starting to take hold.

A weekend Poseidon followed and then another ... Stephen bought 1860, I grabbed a Steam over Holland and then David reminded us all that he had previously bought 1853.

Last night - we roped Christina into our sad band with another brutal and brilliant B&O and to make matters worse ...

.... Tomorrow - David, Stephen, Bez and I will all be taking a day off work - a day in which we plan to spend 7 hours cultivating migraines and anger at each other, a day which will end with one player happy and three absolutely gutted and worst of all, a day which will end with at least three of us checking our diaries to establish when we can find the time to play 1860.

For those interested in becoming a part of the afflicted group, I suggest you have a look at Lonny Orgler's website wherein you can order the aforementioned Australia and China (7 player) versions for a mere ?39

A final word goes to Nick - You Cock, I was quite happy before you made me play 18FL and I now I have a problem and I'm not sure I'm managing it.

Anyone fancy trying 2038? It has asteroids you know!

Bez brings a whole new meaning to the Brass Canal Phase!

Anticipation was high, Tension was higher as David and I sat down to continue our epic and long standing Brass rivalry. We both realised before a card was played that it had been some time since we last played and we were thus feeling a little nervous about the opening exchanges.
Brian joined us for his first ever game and numbers were completed by Bez, David and I both silently pondered if one of us would benefit from the presence of a less experienced player - noone could have prepared us for the chaos that followed.

I won the toss on turn order and the usual first move AP kicked in, should i grab the £2 development option or guarantee turn order by taking an early loan. I decided to risk an opening which had a decent chance of paying off, I opted to build a Coal Mine in Wigan. Wigan is a strategically important slot in Brass as it links to two iron works for the second round and is a cheap opening move. In normal circumstances this -Kasparov - opening is usually countered by a similar build in Bury - The Fisher Reply - or the aforementioned Loan/Develop choice

David looked concerned as he had come fourth in random turn order selection, this could/should have resulted in having to take 2nd or 3rd in turn order for the next round. Unfortunately for me, David gleaned the early initiative as Brian's Coal Mine in Bolton, allowed Bez a first round Iron Works - unheard of in professional circles. David was thus granted two free developments and turn order, two more developments for free and two for £2 gave David the early initiative, at this stage i was uber-concerned that I wouldn't catch this early advantage. Brass really is this tight and the cash saved could prove to be crucial.

By three rounds in, I had formed a strategy - Coal, Canals and Cotton Mills would be my early attention and I'd look to cash in on the Iron, later when the demand diminished.

Brian had by now grasped the basic principle but was not seeing the bigger knock on effect of cooperation, Bez was having a slightly erratic and indecisive game, lots of take backs and rethinks.

Having already fallen behind David, I was fearful that any misplaced token could spell disaster and then .... it happened!

After a series of frantic card shuffles, tile placements and take backs, Bez lunged at the table and in classic Gilmour style toppled one pint of water all over my taken display. Panic ensued, I ran for Towels, Bez began drying off the Wooden money with his shirt, David and Brian quickly grabbed the board to prevent further destruction.

I returned from the kitchen, David and Brians quick thinking had saved the game but alas my tokens had now disintegrated into warped mush - my heart sank and with it my concentration.

Bez looked forlorn, I was less than understanding. We considered abandoning play but decided to continue.

The board was returned, I took apart my destroyed markers and air dried the remaining transfers. We began collecting our cash and cards. Suddenly I was faced with choosing one of three piles of cards, none had the right number present. Finally a set of 6 cards was passed to me and we moved on, it took a full two rounds for my early suspicion to be realised ... I was playing with the discard deck and not my own cards. Now not only was I using warped tokens, I had built a network to which I could now not connect. The Canal phase ended with me 11 points off the lead and a further 5 behind on tile placement.

Brian actually had the highest points total but as all his tiles were removed for the start of round two, his joy turned to dismay as he realised he had been well and truly wallaced!

By the second or third round my game was a mess, David was relentlessly charging towards victory, my only hope was to use the massive cash pile I had to build Shipyards and hope I could flip big cotton mills at the end.

Bez commented upon the enormous stack of wooden cash that both David and I had acquired, i explained that i was merely constructing pillars upon which I hoped to place the game board, in order to avoid future water logging, Bez didnt laugh!

I built Shipyard 1, David winced, I built shipyard two, David winced big time. I paid for my shipyard and watched as David made his next move.

Bez who by now had been christened Poseidon, was frantically playing with money to my right, it took me a few seconds to realise that he had 18FLed the money! 18FLing the money involves a player tampering with the bank and making change during play resulting in chaotic recalculation of payments and change.

This was the final blow, somewhere within the mass manipulation I - at worst - paid for my shipyard twice or at best - paid for a level 3 coal mine and Iron twice.

I was done for, wet board, the wrong cards and missing about £20.

David looked deeply disappointed, how could he relish the inevitable victory if his key opponent had been so systematically raped by "Bez has got talent"

My only hope was to claim a respectable 2nd and it looked possible, cash to build two more cotton mills and a couple of unflipped Harbours ready and waiting, I could conceivably score another 20 points or so and perhaps only lose by 10-15.

Then Brian stepped in on the fuckage, by selling cotton to all the unflipped mills, he left me no option but to try and sell to the distant market which was sitting at the last space available. I tried, I failed and with that my disasterous game ended.

David - who had played impeccably stormed to victory by around 40 points, Captain Nemo pipped me for second by a further 10 and Brian realised that Brass is not for beginners storiming in a distant (but dry and financially correct) 4th.

There is only 1 thing for it, I demand a rematch, I demand we waterproof the board and I insist that Bez plays in a different postcode!

Essen 2010: The Games

Essen 200 kicked off officially with Dakota, this much hyped game of area control and resource management was billed as the nastiest and toughest German game for years. In it you take the role of either a Native or a Settler and essentially fight the progress of the other players, with you out to prove that you are the best. Settlers and Natives are in direct competition, with success for one ultimately meaning failure for the other, the subtlety and "genius" of the game is meant to come from the internal battles within each camp. In our game, Nick and I were pitched against Julia and Andy, whilst on table 2 Michael found himself up against the combined efforts of John, Nick 2, Brian and Stephen.
The game has a nice shared area control/bidding mechanic for resources, frankly this was pretty much the only fun part of the game and after 5 or 6 rounds of this we discovered that it was only fun because we are automatically drawn towards conflict.

In our game Julia pipped Nick, then I. The three way attack strategy adopted by Andy failed miserably. In the other game, Michael cruised to a win whilst the settlers all bickered over resources.

Looks - Pretty

Mechanics - Old Hat

Hynes Rating - Broken!.

Cleoptras Caboose
We actually went off in search of Poseidon when we cane across this ZMan train game. The box announces it as an 18 Ankh Ankh game, we decided after much time invested that "Ankh of Steam" would have been more appropriate.
We had the pleasure of being taught the game by Steve the designer, this charming American chap spent quite some time discussing the games origins, which essentially consisted of him trying to make a single game containing the most over used mechanics/themes in gaming ..... Egypt, Trains, Auctions, Set Collection and Area Control. One would think that this would create a chaotic, random and ultimately messy gaming experience, surprisingly it doesnt, what one experiences is a tight, well balanced and aggressive train game, part Age of Steam, part El Grande and part many other games you have loved.

Steve went to great lengths to explain how it had play tested, he encouraged caution and highlighted the importance of cash management, he just about fell off his seat when I opened the first auction for turn order with a bid of $5. He presumed this must have been a case of beginners naivety, how wrong he was as future rounds began with $6, $8 and on one occasion $13.

Steve seemed to be really happy that such a tough group of gamers were having such fun with his baby, we bumped into him on a number of occasions after this and were greeted each time with "Hey!. Hows my favourite Games Group?"

The game plays a lot like Age of Steam in the general round mechanic but the set collection and area control aspects take it off into another spectrum entirely.

We all Loved it, Stephen bought it!

Looks - Egyptian

Mechanics - All of them!

Hynes Rating: Genius!

20th Century
After lunch we pitched up at Rio Grande Games, we hadnt been too excited by the options at this stand and when we split in two it looked as though Nick, Andy and Stephen had won the watch with 20th Century, I still havent played it but this Polish game received high praise from all three. Andy bought it.
Looks: Eastern Block

Mechanic : Unknown

Hynes Rating: Genius

Glen More
Whilst the other chaps were investing in 20th Century, I convinced a reluctant group consisting of Brian, Julia and Michael to play this one, Alea's new mid box about Chieftains and Whisky. It all looked a bit fiddly at first, reminding me a little too much of Alhambra, Julia was less complimentary. Michael and Bryan seemed to be enjoying it and by round 3, I had started to warm to its inner charms, Julia remained unconvinced and despite winning the game labelled it a stinker.
Unperturbed I bought a copy, I had to, it's an Alea after all. We popped it open at Essen airport on the way home and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Looks: Scottish

Mechanic: Factory Building/Worker Placement

Hynes Rating: Genius

Julia and I decided to go for a wander to Treefrog and left Michael, Brian and Nick 2 to play the first of the Friedman Friesse Essen Releases, this stock market beer production game had been hyped prior to the event and we were eager to hear their views. They returned later with a copy which augured well. So Andy, Julia, Michael, Stephen and I settled in, we had been quite excited by the market engine when it had been explained to us earlier in the day, at the Power Grid stand. Things started well and Andy was quick to point out the "Genius" in the mechanic, I was less impressed finding the game a little tedious and solitairy. A few rounds passed and Andy dried a little, noticing that in over 45 minutes he hadnt once bothered to look at his opponents fields. We all raced to a finish adopting totally different strategies, I opted for low yield and quick build, completing five palaces promptly, however the card sorting mechanism, left me flipping through a few rounds of useless hands waiting for my 6th palace to become available, Julia opted to hoard cash ready for a final push, Andy and Stephen looked on hopelessly and all of us failed to notice Michael rush to a victory with a double last round build.
Looks - Predictable

Mechanic - Pointless

Hynes Rating - Genius ...... Err No Broken

Seven Wonders
This dominionesque card game was the buzz of the event, I didnt play but Nick had multiple games and seemed impressed, Andy played one game whilst borderline unconscious and drunk, thus it wouldnt be fair to apply the now patented rating system.
Looks - Space Age

Mechanic - Card Management/Set Collection

Hynes Rating - Unknown

On Friday we rushed back to ZMan and grabbed five seats for this 18xx clone, things started badly as the rules explanation wasnt going well, our gold toothed German instructor was making no sense and with phrases like "2 ships shit" and "4 kills 2", my hangover kicked in and my frustrations reached breaking point when I instructed him to stop and give Nick the rules, he took the hint to stop explaining but this didnt stop him talking and with every question raised by Michael, my head pounded exponentially, eventually I buggered off and asked to be called for when we started.
I returned with fluids and after another 15 minutes or so we kicked off on what turned out to be the second most popular game at the event (with 3 copies purchased)

Midway through the game Andy arrived nursing a bigger hangover than me and watched as a standard Primordial Group 18xx end game ensued. Julia had gone for No control and loads of stocks, Nick and Stephen opted for big shares in a few top companies and I went for Majority shares in three, the system in poseiden where companies rarely devalue meant that there was very little difference in end game share values, this paid off for me handsomely providing my fourth victory in four 18xx outings. It was tighter than normal, my £2717, defeating Julias £2672, Stephen and Michael produced respectable scores of just over £2500, whilst Nick realised that no matter how much he loves this concept he simply cannot bag a success, coming in a distant last on $1750.

Later that day Andy, Julia and I nursing recovering hangovers played a game at the hotel and I claimed my fifth win this time nudging Andy by a mere £6.

Looks - Lovely

Mechanic - 18xx

Hynes Rating - Genius.

Truckers Version 1.5
Earlier in the day we had spent some time at the Japon Games stand and had all fallen in love with the quirky look of their games. I splurged on an untested set collection game, purely on the looks of the cards, we had a chat with the designer and he kindly signed my set.
After our three player Posiedon, we broke this open and began working out the rules, a couple of glitches and a few moments of madness in play had us thinking this was a cute but worthless game, however we battled on and warmed to its charms.

Later that night, Nick Julia, Stephen and I gave it another outing and all loved it.

Looks - Stunning

Mechanic - Set Collection/Race

Hynes Rating - Broken ..... Err No Genius

Magnum Sal
Both Nick and I had been drawn to this game about the second largest salt mine in the world, Andy was cynical to the point of dismissal, however we wandered over to the Polish games stand and met the enigmatic and embarrassingly young designers, they charmed us all and Stephen was first to pull out his wallet. They used key phrases like "Nasty", "Screwage" and "Evil". Even Andy was given an acceptable explanation as to why they had made a game about the second largest salt mine in the world and not the largest.
It was played twice by our group and once by the Edinburgh boys, Nick was so impressed he bought two more copies, one for him and one for Colin. Sadly I didnt get a chance to play nor did Andy, thus I cannot let you know if it was indeed Broken or Genius, you will have to find out for yourself.

Rio De La Plata
We had all been looking for this years Sushizock and Stephen was sure he and Nick had stumbled upon it that afternoon, we broke it open close to midnight in the crammed Ibis Bar.It consists of a box of eggs and two dice, you roll the dice, grab eggs and then have to show your dexterity by holding them in compromising positions. We drew many bemused and even more annoyed looks as we fell about laughing, fell over each other, knocked over drinks and fought for rolling Eggs. I havent laughed so much in years.
It gleaned another outing at 4am in the hotel reception, Andy came out the other end with a leg injury and the whole group earned the annoyance of the hotel staff, it didnt stop us playing it again!

Looks - Eggs

Mechanic - Stupidity

Hynes Rating - Genius.

Loch Ness
We always plan to settle in for a long session at one company site on a Saturday but having been underwhelmed by Rio Grande and unimpressed by Queens offering, we opted for Hutch games, we turned up to discover that all the tables had been prebooked, we panicked and looked for a quick alternative, I remembered Hans Im Gluck having a few tatsy offerings and we were lucky to grab a table. our attempt to hold two was foiled by the organisers, but we were able to get five of us accommodated at Loch Ness.
This strange race game, where half the players simultaneously move Nessy and everyone tries to predict her destination, seemed a little light but after a few rounds we noticed the internal beauty, the gloves came off and we all fought bluff with double bluff, sadly my opening rounds had been weak and I found myself out of sight of the leaders, Nick claimed a Victory but was closely chased by Julia, Stephen and Andy, we all suggested that one of us should buy a copy but sadly noone took the hint.

Looks - Scottish Again

Mechanic - Card Play

Hynes Rating - Broken/Genius

From the stable that brought you Traders of Genoa, this ship/train game, set collection, resource management game might have been my favourite of the whole trip. We played twice and all involved loved the simplicity and competition. It throws up massive challenges as everyone shares communal networks and buildingsl, you simply score for what you added and when. It was a lovely brain burner which played in 45 minutes, sadly we couldnt find where it could be purchased until the very last minute by which time we had all filled out bags to bursting.
Looks - Disappointingly Obvious

Mechanic - Link Building, Resource Management

Hynes Rating - Genius

Rio De La Plata
After much table hovering we finally managed to grab a post lunch table at Rio Grande, we considered the new Friedman Friesse Stock market game but had heard poor reviews, we were talked into considering a 5 player Three Musketeers game, however within 2 lines of rules reading, my Coop fear kicked in and then it all went blank, we binned it in favour of an apparently 90 minute city building war game. We waited for a rules explanation and all collapsed in fear at the suggestion of 5 hours to complete, we decided to give it a blast and all quickly started to hate the tedious mechanism, so much so we quickly engineered a war and raced to see it through. It merits no further explanation, think simply of a very detailed Carcassone with a Junta/Struggle of Empires war round and then take away every appealing image this throws up - simply awful!
Looks - Couldnt Care To Remember

Mechanic - Hideous

Hynes Rating - Demand Your Money Back!

Busstop and String Railways
Another trip to Japon produced two more games in multiple purchases, the first busstop, a simple race set collection game in the mould of Truckers 1.5 again seemed disappointing at first glance but once we ironed out the rules, it proved to be quick, charming and once again beautiful. The second String Railways was an absolute joy to behold, it does exactly what it says on the tin ... String Railways.
You set a perimeter with String, build a mountain with String, provide a river with String and then build networks with your own coloured string, scoring points for the stations you connect to and losing points for the strings you have to cross getting there. We loved it, we played twice, we will no doubt be inflicting this on you all for years to come!

Looks - String

Mechanic - String

Hynes Rating - String Genius

Incan Empires
Our brilliant plan to get in early with passes blew up in our faces as Hutch had again prebooked all tables, leading to cries of "Abort Abort" as we tried to synchronise our efforts from totally different areas of the halls. I ran for ZMan (the last thing I heard Nick say before being cut off) Nick lost everyone and made his way to the last spoken location, Andy lost Julia and Stephen, they spotted the lost Hynes and began falling him as he wandered in Circles looking for them, oblivious to the fact that they were actually following him.
I fought off four Italians and claimed a table at Incan Empires, Nick rushed in to bolster my claim and slowly the group reconvened.

We were taught the game and instructed to play a short demo, which we did. I took an immediate dislike to the mechanic and found it to be an overblown and less enjoyable Titania, Nick was much more enthusiastic, Stephen began to agree with Nick just in time for the game to end. We squabbled about its merits, Nick considered a purchase but was perhaps talked out of it after both John and Nick 2, who had played it at another stall had come away equally uninspired.

Looks - Aztecy

Mechanic - Link/City Building

Hynes Rating - Probably Broken

That pretty much put an and to our Essen. Roll on 2011