We’ve been struggling to find time to finish off the awards process this year. This is partly because (as I have mentioned before) one of the finalists, Catacombs, is a big game in just about every sense of the word. It takes more setting up than most, and can take longer to play than most of the games we have in our current repertoire. But at last we found an afternoon and got on with it. And here we have our report of this year’s grand final between the behemoth of cardboard and wood, Catacombs, and the feel-good Pratchett game, The Witches.
First up was Catacombs, which we played in our currently-standard form of running through two preparatory rooms, followed by the healer and merchant rooms combined and then the catacomb lord’s lair for the big boss fight. We decided to up the ante in this game by using the next boss in difficulty: Shargila the Gorgon. I had fun with centaur archers running around and taking pot shots at the adventurers, while Miss B hurled fireballs around while her wolf companion run amok. I am pretty sure we still get quite a few rules wrong (the rulebook is probably the weakest part of the game, which is a real shame), but this being something akin to a roleplaying game rather than a real competition between us, we tend to just go with what seems fun.
When we got to the final battle, I was very impressed with how philosophical Miss B was when I started using Shargila’s mega-power of petrification: a one-hit kill weapon, but using it can leave her wide open to counter-attack. I managed to petrify two of the four adventurers before the last two managed to incinerate the gorgon with a volley of giant fireballs.
I wasn’t able to get a thoughtful critique of the play experience from Miss B as she was too busy with her victory dance.
We cleared up, grabbed fresh drinks, and then set up our second game, The Witches.
The game officially has a phase of drafting the different characters, but Miss B always wants to play Tiffany Aching (natch!) and I’m happy to let her have that when it is just the two of us playing. I randomly took Annagramma Hawkin with her boosted magic capability at the game start.
Having played the game a few times now, The Witches flows really quickly, with the simple structure of turns going nicely, and there being some fun decisions to make most of the time: off over here to deal with those elves, then jump on the broomstick to visit another witch for a cup of tea. An, yes, having a cup of tea can be a critical part of the game, and one which I exploited rather more this time than I have in the past.
Miss B also had fun this game, but I think moved on to dealing with the harder problems a little too soon and had a couple of turns of having less useful cards in hand, leading to a couple of frustrating turns. To be fair, the game is such that no card is useless, but it can be infuriating to battle some elves and be forced to run away due to some poor dice rolls, only to draw a frying pan card (a mighty weapon, greatly feared by elves) right afterwards.
We hadn’t even started putting the game away before Miss B announced, “Catacombs wins!”
She went on to say that it was just because of the fun from these plays and that it’s not anything wrong with The Witches, which is also great.
I asked if we should take a photograph to commemorate the result. “I know what to do!” she said and ran out of the room. A couple of minutes later she reappeared, stuck a smiling face and a medal onto the Catacombs box, grabbed the camera and started taking pictures.
And so, I give you the winner of this year’s TaG award: Catacombs. Well deserved by a great fun game.
So we had an afternoon free, so I challenged Miss B to a game of Empire Express. It doesn’t really take that long to play (maybe an hour or so these days, plus some set up and clear away time) but it is long enough that it can’t just be played on a whim any time we fancy. This being one of her favourite games, she readily accepted the challenge, but added that she also fancied playing Yahtzee, a game that she has recently developed quite a taste for.
No problem, I said, would you like to play Yahtzee first, second, or play them both at the same time? What was meant to be a little joke was greeted by bright, wide eyes and an enthusiastic request for the at-the-same-time option.
And that’s what we did. While one of us drew lines on the Empire Express board and moved our train around, the other was rolling dice and noting down scores. I was busy trading in goods for $profit$ when I heard a gasp and Miss B was holding out the dice tray to show me her second Yahtzee of the afternoon, meaning lots of points.
Yahtzee is a rather shorter game than Empire Express, with only 13 turns, so it finished while we were probably two thirds of the way through the bigger game, after which things seemed actually a bit dull. Miss B had beaten me soundly with the dice and I was at that stage of EE where you have enough track and the right contract cards that you just chug along knowing that you will finish the game in a few more turns, as long as you don’t get derailed anywhere.
The session finished with an equitable win for each of us and high-fives all round. I think we agreed that the whole exercise of simultaneous games was fun, but neither game turned out to be as good as it would have been with both of us paying proper attention. Probably a lesson for life there.
September was a much quieter month for gaming than we have had for a long time, with Miss B largely wanting to be doing other things lately, mostly either reading or playing with the vast stash of Zhu Zhu Hamsters (plus accessories) that she blew a chunk of her savings on when we found them in a local charity shop. It has to be said that it was a fantastic value purchase, but it means that the conservatory is now overrun by small, furry, motorized toys with squeaky voices.
Anyway, the score for September was 22 plays of 14 distinct games, though some might consider we cheated a bit because several of those plays were of a couple of prototype games that I have been working on. They’re still games though, so I reckon they count. The most played game of the month, in fact, was one of these prototypes: I Know An Old Woman, which is a contender in the Children’s Game Design Contest on BGG (if you want to see what’s up, the entry thread, including downloadable and printable materials is here), with 5 plays. Timeline (General Interest) had a respectable 3 plays, and Loopin’ Louie and Yahtzee had 2 each.
Yahtzee has been a new introduction, after Miss B played it on a website that she had to visit to do maths homework, and then I pointed out that I could download and print some score sheets and, of course, we have plenty of dice around here. So far she’s been showing a much better aptitude (plus uncanny luck) for the game than I have.
All this doesn’t affect the year’s top games by much, though it does bring Timeline into double figures. We still have ‘6’ in the lead with 17 plays, closely followed by Yardmaster Express with 16. Backgammon and Timeline are on 11 plays and Dobble is still on 10.
As for the 10×10 challenge, we haven’t been doing so well, and Miss B has been losing enthusiasm for the enterprise, so it is looking increasingly unlikely that we will get there. Mind you, we only have 24 plays left to go, with 3 months in hand, so with a bit of a tail wind, 8 plays a month is entirely possible. This could go to the wire…
|Game||Plays so far|
|Apples to Apples||8|
|Piece o’ Cake||5|
|Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck||6|