Boardgaming in Glasgow

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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!

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

An Open Letter to Martin Wallace From Mark Hall

Dear Mr Wallace

I would first and foremost like to start by stating that you are a cock for producing some of the most brain melting victory point driven board games I have ever played. When you were designing games did you set out to make the end scoring as difficult to understand as possible so noobs always get fucked in the ass and feel like their brains are bleeding? Yes?

Last night however I played Last Train to Wensleydale, your game about cheese and stone, another one of your excellent integrated themes might I add. Fortunately I have learnt from getting pissed on in tinners trail (again congratulations on the theme) and quashed in Liberte - the secret of your auction mechanics and influence paths. The secret is not to go with what you think is best or to devise a complicated long term plan but to go with what is more historically accurate. I being a cheese connoisseur and related to a stone mason am well aware of the importance of cheese to Skipton and the south and given the NERs significance in pre-war transportation heading up the west side of the board was a no brainer. Armed with these historical facts I, for the first time, won your game by a comfortable margin. 

I am already researching Lancashires historical cotton industry and iron works for my upcoming victory in brass.


If you make your wife playtest all your games she must fucking hate you so Id sleep with one eye open


I am also currently writing a similar letter to another cock, probably a bigger cock than you, Stefan Feld. Do you have his address? 

 Many thanks

Mark Hall

Hands up if you are a grumpy baws - or how to hand Smith his ass on a plate

Ok so nobody likes to lose but we play so many games its bound to happen occasionally right. Even disregarding skilful play -something I have very little of- the law somebody wrote to take account of luck will come into play occasionally. Even discounting this some poor hallion will get stepped on - not because their opponent doesn't like them but because the game requires it. How one handles this ass-reddening paddle spanking determines to a large extent the size and character of their sexy-bits. One of life's great lessons ... or something.

Ok so the fact that Brass shares many letters with a slang term for Mary-Joanna shouldn't mean you have to smoke the weed -no not a euphemism- to do well at it.

I've played this once before and been less than impressed. However Ian tentatively suggested it earlier in the week and I felt it was only fair to try again. While the outcome was pretty similar again I enjoyed it a lot more. However Brass seems to benefit from knowing pretty well how things flow and how the different elements of the game score. So basically I was sharked by players because they were more familiar with the game rather than because they were more skilful.

I tried to develop my harbours early in the game with the intention of laying them quickly and kind of cornering the market. I only played one level 1 building trying to invest in pieces that would stay on the board after canal scoring and earn me points twice. I realised this was a problematic strategy as other players stopped building cotton mills and exporting as soon as they spotted my plan. I then had to concentrate on building mills myself to flip my harbours and the whole thing got pretty messy. I couldn't invest too heavily in tracks and canals and I got royally humped in the final scoring. However just for the record :) I did not view this as either directly or indirectly Ian's fault. In fact I felt fairly positive about Ian at this point -though in a purely heterosexual fashion - just so we're clear-

It was about 10:10 pm and I was looking for something falling in the 45mins-ish category and was very happy when Smith whipped out Manhattan. Its a game I love and I play regularly with non-gaming family members. I have to explain that my family do enjoy games but only in a ruthless, chop your knob off type of way. Its fairly well accepted that in a 4-player game one person is bashed early on and then a three way race ensues where each player tries to lie JUST in third position until the final round when they streak out to claim a bloody but well deserved victory.

All of the above was unbeknownst to Ian as he splurted out a couple of buildings in the first round. I gently tapped him one in the eye building over one of his towers. When I did it again he raised an eyebrow. I think David may have joined in at this point. Robert bashed me a couple of times. We scored; Ian was last, I was third and everything was going according to plan.

I think it was after another few bashes that Ian began to question my strategy. This is nothing new as often I play in a seemingly random fashion just to lull other players into a false sense of security. However undeterred I pressed on with my game plan. I thought Ian looked a little grumpy and he did say something about getting the -clear leader- which was Robert at the time. I pushed on bashing subtly at David and then at Robert whilst at the same time knocking Ian so he'd retaliate and keep me slightly behind David and Robert. I think this was the point at which Ian's guilt-trip tactic caused David to lose control. I pointed out to Ian that his grumpiness had caused me to beat down on David rather than to play -where I wanted to go-. This was of course nonsense and a distraction tactic so that David would not retaliate and beat me to a small an squashy pulp. David however glazed over and explained in a fairly polite though angry way that he was also not beating down on Ian because he felt uncomfortable and I guess slightly guilty. He did not feel nearly as guilty as me though for causing this.

Anyway to cut this long story short so that I can slope off to bed, I managed to ekk out the win by a point, much to my relief. It was a tense yet still enjoyable game.

I think that fundamentally Ian and I have different ideas about how players should behave in games. I very much like to experiment and sometimes I do unusual things, I think he likes to reason what people should do to maximise their play in particular situations so that he has a better understanding of what they are likely to do. I'm not criticising this but I think it limits your options based upon where you can see the game going. Sometimes a play that seems less than optimal can lead to an advantage later in the game. That's my feeling anyway.

Own up or i'm tossing a coin!

Tonight's gaming came straight out of the twilight zone mainly thanks to Robert and Andy. If weird things keep happening over the next few weeks I am tempted to buy some garlic and lock myself in the toilet.

Every time I say the word I expect a plump friar to step up behind me and whisper - bless you my son. -

Ok so first off, I've played Tichu maybe once before and enjoyed it however that was with a decent partner. I know you're probably thinking - oh here comes the old lame 'its my partner's fault I lost' excuse - but hear me out: it was really all Robert's fault.

You see, try as I might to communicate (via card play rather than by pulling ears etc) with my team mate, he insisted in playing randomly. Now normally I can deal with randomness however Robert scattered apparent logic and strategy throughout his play, lulling me into a false sense of security on the occasions that I took note and attempted to adjust my strategy. However plan as I might, he managed to scupper me. Eventually I worked out that he was playing away; batting for the other side, if you will. So my only option was to call a few minor and one major Tichu in an attempt to put us back in contention with Andy and John. This did not work and we ended up with huge minus points. It was all Robert's fault (have I said that already). On reflection I didn't enjoy this much, it was overly long and not as elegant nor as fun as Mu (nor as good as I remember).

Ruse & Bruise
As we waited for the other table to finish Royal Turf (Winners Circle) John whipped this out onto the table.

Maybe when I hadn't heard of this alarm bells should have started to ring. Or maybe I should have ran after John mentioned it was an impulse buy. However I must have been groggy from the Tichu game because even after the rules explanation I still played it. To say Ruse and Bruise is bad is like saying mass murder is bad: it doesn't even begin to describe the horror. The game is entirely devoid of strategy. You have nearly no control over when the round will end and thus you can get severely humped in the scoring. Add to this mainly hidden card play and a set of cards with so many lengthy rules, so little good card design (give me some icons to indicate if a card activates when flipped or only in the scoring phase please!) and a scoring phase where there is an eight or nine item order in which cards resolve before scoring and this out complicates most CCG's! On the positive side; most of the components will burn without releasing toxic gas.

Mammoth Hunters
I'm glad we got a chance to play this. I've tried it once before with the Northern Ireland group before I moved over to Scotland and while I enjoyed it, it didn't go down well with the other players. Tonight I got a chance to see how much of a game there really was in this nice brown box.

It turns out we got a rule or two wrong in the first turn but once spotted we corrected it and I don't think the game suffered. I enjoyed this again and I think the others had a similarly positive experience. I think the dark and light card mechanic is nice and I enjoy the tension as you balance helping your opponents with improving your own position. The game is pretty tactical but its nice that you can manipulate your hand a little by discarding a card before you redraw. I don't think there's too much luck and the fire tiles don't add that much hidden variation to the scoring regions. Plus the clubs help you insure against a disastrous removal during scoring; if such a thing is likely. Overall I think this was great fun and hope it comes out again soon.

Highlight of the night: Andy tried to determine whether to screw over me or Ian: he knew one of us had beat down on him in the previous turn (it was Ian by the way) so he threatened us with the classic line -ok so whowever it was better own up now or I'm tossing a coin to determine who I shaft - GENIUS!!

Edited by Andy to add:

"We got a rule or two wrong in the first turn" should be replaced with "we got the entire game wrong in favour of everyone except Andy who ended up coming last".  To quote BGG rules translation:

"If there are more Hunters in an region than are permissible, some of the Hunters must be removed: The player with the fewest Hunters takes one Hunter from the region and places it back into his supply, followed by the player who has the next fewest Hunters, who likewise removes one Hunter, followed by the player who has the next fewest Hunters etc., continuing in the same sequence over several rounds, until the limit of the region or less is reached." (poor grammar as per original BGG article).

Unfortunately we performed the hunter removal incorrectly on every turn.  Sore loser! Me?  Actually it was a good game and I'd like to play again - with the correct rules.

On a side note we are starting to see the evolution of a new phenomenon: "off the ball speech-play" from Ian.  Otherwise known as whining, sometimes followed by winning, always preceded by sitting in a clear-leader position.  It featured heavily in Shogun the other week, and again in Mammoth Hunters this week.  I only mention this as he has criticised me for such behaviour in the past.

Edited again by Ian to add

Now now Mr "It's okay when I do it" Hynes, tell it like it is, the "off the ball whining" you refer to in Shogun was in direct response to a 4 player agreement to "all target ian" and as for Mammoth Hunters, I was never in the lead at any point of that game.... so clearly your memory serves you badly there. If a player chooses to vocalise his desire to target one player, it is thus perfectly reasonable for the target to attempt to deflect the bullets. For the sake of clarity, I feel I must remind you that I sat in dead last for rounds 1 and 2 of Mammoth Hunters, jumped into 2nd at the end of round three and retained that position, with John jumping the previous clear leader Ivan to grab victory.

I will forgive you this oversight because clearly the facts don't matter when one is being duplicitous and trying to find excuses for coming last.

Edited by Ian to add:

Master Builder & Royal Turf
Despite Ivan and Roberts assertion that the former game is without merit, I have always felt that played in the right spirit, this can be a light weight laugh, this was undoubtedly the case on Wednesday, Christina began her howler of a night by ending the game with less money than she began, Stuarts impressive evening began with a well crafted 2nd place. In Royal Turf, Christina absolutely failed to grasp the closing straight and in one foul swoop gifted Stuart a winning haul of £1200 and Victory. Christina's terrible evening was compounded when she discovered that her friend had spent much of night camped at a Theatre Box office, awaiting her arrival, alas poor Christina had her dates wrong and managed to wreck more than a game outcome!

Shipping Cubes for Martin Wallace ....

Okay so it's all over, Andy, David, Julia, Nick and I returned last night with 40kg more luggage than we left with!

The trip got off to a mildly stressful start, first of all Nick was 20 minutes later than his anticipated hour late arrival, he then decided that he would have to check his tyres at the garage, thus as we approached a 2 mile tale back on the M8, we were beginning to worry a little.

Things improved and we made it to Edinburgh Airport, checked in without incident and cleared security, well 4 of us did, Nick was asked to explain why he was attempting to transport a knife onto the plane, the tube having forgotten to take his Swiss Army Knife off his keychain. We laughed, he panicked and ran back to his car to deposit the offending article.
In the Airport bar, we met one of the Lamont brothers, who - to show his thanks to Andy and I for playtesting Snow Tails, handed Nick a press pass to Essen! ......My decision to pre-organise a Transfer from Dortmund was a stroke of genius, We cleared customs in Germany and were greated by a friendly German brandisging a large "Primordial Group" sign - at this point I was wishing I had opted for the more humorous and much more appropriate signage of "Nick's a Cock!"

Day One At Essen

The basic game reviews can be found on the guild page, thus I wont bother too much with reviews here - although I may contribute some meatier reviews to the website page!

The first day was spent watching Nick run around trying to establish the best prices for the games he wanted to buy, the rest of us, played the odd game, looked on in amazement as hundreds of German's turned up dressed like Odin then stuffed our faces with schnitzel and bratwurst.

The highlight of Day One for me was not game related but actually real life resource management. Having watched the guys at the warfrog/jklm stand make an utter arse of setting up the play area, Andy and I found ourselves taking charge of the situation by actually reorganizing the entire "shop". I spent about an hour lugging games to and from storage areas, Julia coordinated the table clearing and Andy was actually found to be moving furniture onto Vans.

As this was at the height of the busiest day, on some occasions we had to take secuitous routes to our destinations, I myself detouring through Valley Games to get to a storage facility that was a mere 10 feet from my starting position. On these various journeys we could not work out why occasional cheers or howls were to be heard, as we used routes belonging to other companies ... Andy pointed out that we were clearly pawns in a giant game of Age of Steam - and these stall holders were merely celebrating the income they were gaining, or mourning there losses as we Shipped Goods for Martin Wallace!

Whilst we were so involved, David and Nick were playing Le Havre - I'll leave it to them to explain why they thought it was a cow!

Much of that night was spent playing Knizias new sushi/dice game which proved to be an utter joy!Later we managed to table both Chicago Express and "Stool Driver" - both proved immensely popular!

Friday was spent camped at Rio Grande, Manu Pichu underwhelmed us in ways we would not have thought possible. Whilst we fought off numerous advances from eager gamers desperate to grab our table. By this stage we had earned the reputation for being the straight talking game reviewers and numerous groups of potential buyers strode over to ask for our succint reviews of their intended shopping lists.

We scuppered many a sale and created a few more.

"A Castle for all Seasons" proved to be the day's surprise package, alas when Jon Sykes managed to grab a game the following day - all the fun was sucked out by having to play with two of the most meticulous and tedious geeks imaginable!

Another night of gaming at the hotel, this time Nick and Andy joined myself, Julia and Colin in Driving each others Stools. This provided the most frustrating Essen experience for me as despite three rules explanations, Andy struggled to grasp even the simplest aspects.

Andy - "How do we spend money?"

Ian - "You don't!"

Andy - "So How do we get shares?"

Ian - "Resources!"

Andy - "How do we get Resources?"

Ian - "Each round you get 8 to spend or save for future rounds"

Andy - "So how do we make money?"

Ian - "By building track and collecting route cubes at game end!"

Andy - "So how do we pay for that?"

Ian - "With the resources from the companies in which you invested"

Andy - "So whats the money for?"

Ian - "Money = VP's"

Andy - "So how do we make money?"

Ian - "Dear God!"

Andy - "So what are my shares for?"

Ian - "For Control in the companies?"

Andy - "Can I Buy more?"

Ian - "No!"

Andy - "So what's the money for?"

Ian - "Money is VP"

Andy - "Right I get it ... but why is this square red?"

Ian - "Because at the end of the game, whomever controls the rail company that links there, can claim the red resource from the red square"

Andy - "Okay but why is that one white?"

Ian - "White City = White Resource"

Andy - "Why do I want different coloured resources?"

Ian - "Sets of different resources pay our more than sets of the same resources"

Andy - "How do I claim them?"

Ian - "By controlling a company whose route links to them!"

Andy - "How do I control a company?"

Ian - "By having the most shares in it?"

Andy - "Do I buy those shares?"

Ian - "No!"

Andy - "So what is the money for?"

Ian - "Aaaaaarrrrgggghhhh"

This is an expurgated version of a conversation which ran for the entire game and resurrected its head in the final round as Andy realised he did not have a controlling interest in any companies.

Andy - "I thought I would get a share in each companies profits relative to my shareholding"

Ian - "There is no company profit!"

Andy -"So what use are my shares?"

Ian - "They are only useful if you have a majority and then you can use the share control to collect resource cubes"

Andy - "What resource cubes?"

Ian - "The ones we will be putting on the map on the coloured squres when we get to the end!"

Andy - "Oh ..... okay ... why are some squares Red?"

Ian - "Jesus Fecking God - Are you kidding me?"

Andy - "Well I thought if I had 2 shares, I would get 2/5ths of the reward!"

Ian - "How the hell, can you get 2/5th's of a red cube?"

Edited to add, whilst Andy's inability to grasp any of the rules was hilarious, I must offer my sincere apologies for failing to correctly grasp the final distribution ... it seems he should have had 2/5ths of the red company value, I blame the beer, the sleep deprivation and the time difference

The game ended, Andy came last, Nick pipped Colin by £10 - £560 - £550, I pipped Nick £570-£560, Julia humped us all with £680 ..... but then Julia wasn't sitting next to Andy!

I popped off to bed and left the mob playing KakerLakenSupe ... all I can say is .... Onion, Leek, Slurp, Mmmmh, Slurp, leek, Chili, BANANA!!!" ... all will become clear in the months to follow!

Saturday was a lighter affair, Andy, David, Julia and I played Master Builder at valley, Nick popped in to see how we were doing at precisely the same point as a German lady earwigged on what she thought was a rules explanation.

She stood at my right shoulder listening intently, as I grasping the Master Builder Guide began explaining to Nick, the rules to Hai Alarm, that Julia, David and I had played earlier!

I didn't witness the response, but am assured that her bemused look turned to one of utter disbelief as she began studying the game components and rule sheets to try and establish, how I intended tabling a shark and what on earth any of this had to do with Dolphins at Sea!

The day ended much like the previous night with another bout of Hynes/Smith tension, this one down to actual game play.

The game was Confucius, a game based around manipulating the influence of certain game characters and each other. In round 1 - I handed Andy a gift and thus gained his indebtedness, in round 2 Andy chose to sponsor a nephew through University - hoping to gain his influence in parliament, before doing so he announced ... "If I do this, Ian will screw me over and sponsor his own nephew and I'll have to pay for Ian's because I am indebted to him" ....

You know what's coming ... he did, I did, he wasn't pleased and some minutes passed ... I extended the hand of friendship ....

Andy - "F*ck Off ... I'm not shaking your hand!"

We left, we ate Mexican with Jon Sykes and his pal Nick (hereafter referred to as Nick 2), we drank Beer, we played games. Nick 2 - really got into the spirit of Master Builder, not only was he to be found taunting his own "Lazy Ass Workforce" but was regularly seen toppling Jon's Gerry built houses.

In addition to the many new games we played over the weekend, we taught Jon and Nick 2, Torres, Thief of Bagdad and Big City, all of which had been retro purchases and much appreciated by all!

Essen ended, much as it began, shopping, gaming and schnitzel!

We headed to the airport where yet again Nick set off the alarms as he attempted to take his 500ml of Agri-Cola onto the plane. He was caught, he was questioned, we laughed, he departed, drank the cola (which "tasted awful") and returned with an empty bottle ... clearly there is no protocol for dealing with a Glaswegian brandishing an empty bottle and not realising just how dangerous the combination can be, he was allowed on board.

We came home, we slept!

I didn't even mention David's snoring!