Boardgaming in Glasgow

AAAOOOGGAH! This is a victory condition announcement!

So it all started badly, Nick missed his train, Michael forgot his wallet and we stupidly forgot that macdonalds breakfasts are not easily digested but at £1.99 for a double sausage and egg muffin with hashbrown, it represents incredible value for money. Anyway we arrived, well three of us, at 10.00am prompt, paid for entry, noticed missing wallet, paid for another entry and headed off to the games stack to make our first selection. I suggested holding off for Nick, Michael laughed, we all chuckled at the stupidity of the suggestion and decided to start without him. Lingering at the games pile was a awkward couple of blokes, feverishly clutching a copy of Ticket of Ride and looking for unsuspecting victims. They approached me and leaned, I smiled, they leaned a little more, I smiled a little less, they asked "Have you played Ticket To Ride?" I replied "Yes I have, although Ive never played the original, only the European and The Marklin, I really like the Marklin" This made them very happy. "Would you like to play?" I looked at Michael, Michael looked vaguely in my direction (or should that be Michael looked vaguely in my direction), Julia avoided all eye contact whatsoever and continued digging through the games pile. I thanked them but advised that whilst I enjoyed the marklin game, I found the european a little dull and imagined that the american version would be even more so. I noticed Michael looking a little (more) uncomfortable and wondered if I had just broken the cardinal room of games conventions. I apologised to them both and said, well if everyone wants to play I'd be more than willing. Michael began subtly shaking his eyes at me ..... I offered him the platform he needed "Do you not like Ticket To Ride Michael?" The answer was obvious and the game was returned to the table.
Within a few minutes we had settled upon Chinatown, Julia and I had both played around a year ago, Michael was new to it, as were our new best friends. I explained the rules. Dad looked confused, Son looked confident, I looked for an English Translation, Julia looked for the nearest Toilet and Michael looked vaguely in my direction.
The game commenced, for those of you that do not know it, it is eseentially a trading game. In which you trade building plots, business types and cash with your opponents in the hope of building the most profitable/largest businesses and thus gaining the most revenue. In the early stages it is difficult to assess the true value of things and the game becomes somewhat speculative, by the end values are obvious and the fun dies a little as the mathematics kick in. Well that is what should happen. Alas, one of our opponents were of the view that they should simply demand enormous sums of money for anything they wanted to sell and the only way to actually coax anything out of them was by essentially laundering the goods through three other players. Michael was losing patience when his clear brand of logic was seen to fail.
Michael "I'll buy your launderette of you for £4000, it's worth nothing to you and might be worth £4000 to me - deal?"
Dad "No Deal, I want £15,000!"
Michael "but its only worth £4000"
Dad "£15000!"
It is worth pointing out that on two occasions following similar negotiations, Julia had to be shown the yellow card for abusive language.
Anyway after much tooing and froing we ended the game. Dad came last on around £66,000, Julia kicked in with around £80,000, Son (a wholly owned subsidiary of Dad Investments) rolled out an impressive £96,000. Michael (an independent trading company and subject to 4 rounds of Dad Embargo) smiled with his equally impressive £96,000, i laughed and tabled £126,000. Dad looked vacant, Son looked miffed, Michael looked for a calculator and Julia looked for a Bathroom.
Julia nipped for snacks and drinks, Michael and I nipped for Lost Cities, Dad and Son announced that they loved that game and asked if they could play too ......
It is worth pointing out that during the Chinatown fiasco, Nick and Gregor arrived. Nick decided to keep himself busy with a table of gamers nearby, Gregor joined him in some dice rolling game about Giant Balloons. I cant comment much more, it looked like quite good fun and looked like Gregor was winning. This, according to Nick, caused the lady of the table to suffer the worst case of A.P. he had seen in a long time. Nick began looking twitchy and we began setting up Agricola.
Gregor opted out of the farming, we were briefly joined by another gamer, who promptly left saying "Err, Ive just remembered, I'm going to have to pull out, err yes sorry"
So we headed for 4 player Joy.
The game itself was quite good, neither Julia nor I entirely understood the scoring mechanism which left us somewhat underdeveloped at game end. Michael romped to a massive win thanks to his stone house with 4 rooms. Michael scored 40, Nick 32, Myself 31 (including a 6 point fine for unused land) and Julia 19 (with a similar fine) All in all I would say it was a good game, it is, in my opinion, nowhere near the quality of other role selection games like Caylus or Puerto Rico. It is undoubtedly cute and the game play is fluid, It simply lacked the edge I look for in these games. that said, I would definitely play it again and may even be tempted to buy the UK version as part of my problem stemmed from dealing with the translations (or lack of them in some key areas) Perhaps as you become more familiar with the roles more competition would develop, it did seem to lack interaction.
At this point Gregor was playing Vikings with the Fraggor guys, this received a heart thumbs up for the Paisley Reviewer, alas I cannot say much more than to point out its apparently similar to Cuba - but much better.
It was now time for Michael and Nick to get snacks, allowing Julia and I the opportunity to play Lost Cities. Another win for me which would have propelled me to the top of the Knizia competition charts, had I bothered to log the results.
By the time the boys returned, I had managed to convince Julia that she should be willing to give Age of Steam a go, after assuring her that the rules were simple and only the money was a problem issue, we settled down and began our third biggie of the day. It was considerably tighter playing with four than the previous week with three. We all managed to survive the early rounds and were beginning to produce sizable revenues, when pretty much all the resources disappeared from 2/3rds of the board. By this stage Julia and I had invested so heavily in the western corridor that our chances were looking slim, Michael was in good health but had borrowed considerably more money than the rest of us. By round 6 and 7, we were starting to screw with each other, stealing resources and blocking routes, until only Michael was able to ship beyond 4 links. By the end Michael's 75 points were too much for the rest of us, grouped in and around 63. Probably all in, the best game of the day. Having said that, Age of Steam produced the two tensest moments of the day, Michael's attempt to explain the bidding structure in round 1 had all four of us shouting at each other, accusing the others of not listening and ended with two of us close to apoplectic levels of frustration. When we found out that he was simply trying to tell us to bid in turn order and not clockwise order, we calmed down, smiled and began playing. The second was a little more sinister.
Julia found herself in the position of having enough income to pay expenses but not able to expand without taking a locomotive, I advised her to wait a turn, Michael advised otherwise showing that if she took a loco, she would be able to ship goods in a certain direction which would create enough income to pay the increased cost. I was of the opinion that she would end up one short if she was unable to ship the goods and should not expand her engine. Michael and Nick both coerced her accordingly and Julia duly - as her first move - expanded her locomotive only to watch Michael ship the very good he had used as the example two seconds earlier. Julia found herself then in exactly the position I had foreseen, unable to pay her expenses and thus eliminated. Suffice to say it was resolved amicably and I withdraw my suggestion that Michael was indeed the dirtiest hallion we had ever encountered.
Julia popped off to phone the bairns and Nick convinced Michael and I that we should play "King of Siam" - i'd love to expand upon why both Michael and I found it to be quite simply the most pointless and utterly irritating game we had encountered in quite some time. Essentially you attempt to influence areas on a map by playing cards and converting influence markers, you are essentially trying to back one of three horses in each region, hoping that by the end of the game you have backed the right influence and can claim to be the majority stakeholder. This description is painting the game as considerably more intriguing and worthwhile than it actually is, it is simply an abstract crap shoot which michael won on the grounds that he was tied on the third marker with the person who ended the game, after the ender was tied on the first two with everyone else ........ two words ...... UTTER BALLS!
By now Julia and I were starting to weaken, so Nick decided it would be a good idea to learn a new game and chose Reiner Knizia's Blue Moon City. I must confess I was a little prejudiced as I had looked at the card game and taken an instant dislike to it. The game itself was card driven and whilst it was enjoyable, I found the mechanism of playing multiple cards to change the use of other cards ultimately annoying. I have never been a fan of the "Ill play this to do this, but when I combine it with this, I get that which means I can ......" type mechanics. Other than that the game was straight forward. The board is a grid of around 36 square cards, each one shows a number of markers (between 1 and 3) which can be purchased by playing cards that correlate to the colour and number thereon. Once the markers on each card have been filled the card pays out a winning reward to the biggest influence and supplementary rewards to the other influences. Once a card has paid out it is flipped and shows an additional reward which is payable to any winners on the cards orthogonally adjacent. Thus as cards are flipped, surrounding cards become more valuable. Rewards came in three formats, Gems (the basic currency of the game), Cards (the basic mechanic of the games) Dragon Scales (which would then convert to Gems) The centre of the game was the scoring zone so to speak, if you visited this square you could make contributions to the Gods? By paying a number of gems (7,8,9,10,11 or 12) you could buy markers on a pillar - first to have four markers won the game. Nick won with 4 to Michael and My 3 and Julia's 2. It was by general consensus a worthwhile addition to the Knizia library, I was a little unimpressed but then as I said, I get really annoyed by games with that type of card play.
It was now approaching 10pm and we decided to try one more, having watched the Fraggor guys play Eketorp earlier I was eager to try it and we willingly settled down for a random and chaotic game of Viking based violence. It was fun for around 15 minutes and then became frustrating and ultimately a little pointless, it wasn't helped by the rules translation and the fact that we were all knackered, It was funny to watch Michael insist upon a full rules explanation, despite Nick and I both suggesting we deal with the rules for each situation when they hit, only for his eyes to completely glaze over when I began explaining. This from the guy who at the end of Blue Moon City had claimed he was unaware of the victory conditions despite me, at the point of Nick explaining them, producing a loud Klaxon noise and shouting "AAAOOOGGAH! Nick is explaining the victory conditions, This is a victory condition announcement AAAOOOGGAH!"
Somewhere in all of this we lost Gregor and Callum, who had turned up mid way through our Agricola, when we did see them they seemed to being having fun!
Highlight of the day for me remains the moment, when having witnessed a table of thirty something gamers, struggle with the rules to Chinatown, I offered to explain them only then to held to task by one gamer as to the point of a specific mechanic and found myself faced with demands that I explain the purpose of this rule. He was most displeased when I pointed out that he was arguing about the difference between 3 x 2 and 2 x 3 - which essentially were in my mind - THE SAME BLOODY THING!
Ah well, if thats what 12 hours in Glasgow is like, God help me after 72 hours in Essen.