I arrived a bit early to Afternoon Play on Sunday to see Heather & Simon playing Splender, one of the Spiel Des Jahres nominees for 2014 (Alongside Camel Up & Concept, which they also seem to have picked up at the UK Games Expo ^^). Seeing as it gets so much hype I watched briefly before we opted to play something that isnt’ Splender, seeing as the pair of them have apparently played a hell of a lot recently, and the game they’d played when I arrived was their 3rd just for the day.
After a period of failing to make a decision on what to play, we went with one of my games – Voluspa. For those who may not know, this is a fairly easy to pick up but brain-burning tile placement game. Players take turns to put down tiles, numbered 1 through 8, and if the placed tile is the highest in the row/column it scores 1 point per tile in that row/column. The tiles 1-6 (1-7 potentially, but we weren’t using the nio-hoggr tile I have from the new expansion) have special abilities which give them their value.
In our game, we played with the base game tiles, 2 from the saga-of-edda (Included in the base-box – Hel & Sea Serpent) and 2 from the new expansion I received recently (Raven & Dwarf). Hel lets you break up lines (7 is the maximum length, but the hel tile creates a split to make 2 smaller lines), the Sea Serpent can score over gaps in either the row or column it scores, the Raven is placed twice and can go atop other tiles like a dragon, and the Dwarf has a special scoring method where it scores the value of adjacent tiles divided by 2).
Our game started off fairly friendly, with me using a Loki on the initial tile making for an easy to score against 0 tile. A good spread of tiles were used early, with no trolls coming out until later in the game (Trolls block placement next to them, so with them being left out till mid-game it kept opportunities for scoring plentiful early on). Another rule of Voluspa is that the maximum length of a row/column is 7 tiles, which is also a contribution to a wane in points opportunities in the mid-game. Another tile we used,
Following our game of Voluspa, we gained an extra player (Adam, I think/hope). We changed game to ‘Loonacy’, which is a fast-playing symbol-matching game (Which seems to be a popular mechanic among small games ^^).
Each card has 2 pictures, from probably 10-15 possibilities (No idea how many exactly). 2 cards are placed face-up in the middle of the table, and each player is dealt/takes 7 cards to make their starting hand. In real-time, players try to match symbols on cards in their hand to ones on the table (Only one of the 2 images need to match), putting the card down atop the other when they see a match (One at a time, but can just play very quickly ^^). If noone can place, everyone draws a card, flipping so they see it at the same time, and play continues. First person to run out of cards wins.
I was a little worried when this was suggested as it’s a loony labs game, and while I found Fluxx fun for a few plays it has a tendency to overstay its’ welcome (And ‘Are You the Traitor’ from them is a pretty half-arsed attempt at a bluffing/deception game). But I was assured it was particularly quick so well, why not ^^.
The first game I was able to run my hand down to 2 cards before the first draw, and down to 1 for another 3-4 after that where the opportunity to put down my last didn’t show, but finally did netting me the win, with others in need of a flag which didn’t go down until my winning card ^^.
The second game went considerably faster, with I think 1 draw before Heather emptied her hand ridiculously fast & taking a speedy victory ^^.
Next up we got some more players involved and changed to the game ‘Concept’. I only know Jenny’s name from the additions so the others are unfortunately to be known as ‘P6’, ‘P7’ and ‘P8’ =P. (Note, I wrote the next paragraph multiple times…Remarkably hard to explain this game without the board in front of the explainee).
Concept has a similar er..concept..to something like charades or pictionary, without the aspect where you have to be um…competant. Players take turns to present ‘concepts’, which they do by placing pieces in 5 colours onto a board of images, which each represent something, such as ‘liquid’, ‘green’, ‘nighttime’, etc. The other players try to guess what your concept is while you do this – the first to guess correctly gets 2 points, and each player involved in presenting the concept gets 1 point (You always work with the player to your left, and can optionally invite others to help present, they get to see the card then, but can’t get 2 points for guessing). For one I did yesterday, I put the main concept marker on ‘naval/marine’, with a cube between fire & water (Spoiler: Steamboat).
I have no idea what format to write about this game in, but lets try this (Sorry I can only remember a few examples on the spot!)
– Main concept marker on ‘speech/saying’, other cubes placed in an arrow pointing from ‘eye’ to ‘torso’.
– Main concept marker on ‘person’, cube on black. Subconcept cube on sun, and another on ‘inversion’
– 3×3 set of cubes places on ‘Wind/clouds’
– Main marker on ‘location’, cubes in a cross over ‘city/place’. 3×2 of red cubes placed on the star
(Admittedly most of those are ones I was on the ‘placing pieces’ side, as it’s evidently hard for me to remember what other people put down ^^).
– The first of them took a while for us to get (I think it was Simon/Heathers first one played of the game). In fact they had some help and extra subconcepts were put down asides from what I describes (One on naval/marine for example, to get the ‘navel’ bit ^^). I don’t think I’d have got it given hours, ‘navel-gazing’ isn’t the most obvious of phrases to me :S
– The ‘person’ one was one I picked from the card, for ‘Silhouette’.
– The 3×3 of cubes, which I said to avoid saying nine as that’d be too easy to guess, was for cloud nine (The main concept marker was on movie, forgot to mention ^^).
– Finally was the one we used as a tie-breaker between the 2 players on the most points, so the rest of the 6 of us put out the pieces. The 3×2 of red cubes had a line of 4 blacks added to make it a clear flag (Chinese flag!) and the cross over the city…Forbidden City ^^.
All in all, I think it’s a fantastic game and am looking forward to my own copy arriving, as I think this will go down well with housemates/friends who’re less into more complex games, while still requiring a good amount of thought into the play. Many thanks for Simon/Heather for bringing this along as it was great fun to play with 8, which probably won’t happen for me too often ^^.
After concept we were getting near the closing time for the cafe that Afternoon Play is held at, so with the group splitting into ‘heading home’ and ‘moar games!’ I joined the games option and went to Evening Play (In a pub, so unfortunately a less pleasant environment ^^).
We arrived before the other Afternoon Play group (There’s 2 cafe’s its’ held at, although I’ve only been to the one that’s 30 seconds from the train station =P), and with 6 of us at the table initially ‘Braggart’ was suggested and become the first game of the Evening (Myself, Adam, JP, Nasia, Jenny, and er…Player 6, sorry my memory is awful, this is the person right next to me as well!).
Braggart is a game of, suitably enough, hanging out in a bar and bragging about past adventures (For we are grand adventurers who have many a tale to tell!). Over the game you try to obtain cards to perform ‘boasts’ (Stories), which must consist of a deed and a foe, but may also have a Scene and result for extra points. In the deck are also ‘plot’ cards helping you restructure your hand or steal cards, and ‘liar’ cards which let you interupt someone’s story and swap one of their cards for one of the ones in your hand.
The result is a particularly fun game of ridiculous stories which have a tendency to get even more ridiculous when people call you a liar on them (Although for the most part, people leave your story alone if it’s funny enough! One of mine in our game was ‘Astride my Mighty Steed, I married off my Sister to an Evil necromancer, and won a reward for it’ (Well, roughly, I think I mixed up a couple by accident but that’s the gist of it!).
I don’t remember many of the stories told (For our adventurers were having many a drink telling them after all) but a good time was had, with JP & Adam getting a healthy chunk more successful stories than the rest of us (If your story scores highest in a round, you keep all cards as score, otherwith just the highest-card…I never got the highest). The end-score was a huge range of 40-something down to my petty 17.
Finally, with Jenny/Player-6 heading off, the 4 of us remaining (There was plenty others about, but in games at the time) went with ‘Hanabi’, a game I haven’t played before, but one I’ve had a mild interest in with it’s rather unique mechanic where you don’t know your own hand.
Hanabi is about building up an impressive firework display, with the aim being to impress the emperor and avoid having your heads chopped off for sloppy work. This is achieved by playing cards in 5 colours (6 as we accidentally had the ‘rainbow’ set in there as well), but you have to play first the 1, then 2, then 3, etc for each colour to get them down (You can of course do all the piles at the same time). Of coures you don’t know what you have, so that’s quite difficult ^^.
On a turn, you can do a number of things, play a card (Either put it on the right pile, or into the discards and lose one of the 3 lives for getting it wrong), discard a card (Throw it a way, restoring a clue token and avoiding losing lives, but potentially losing an important card – e.g. there’s only one of each 5, 2 of each 4, etc), or giving a clue (I.e. use up one of the 9 clue tokens). To give a clue, you tell one person only, either all the cards they have of one colour, or all of 1 number (E.g. ‘this, this and this card are 1s’). It’s then up to the individual player to remember that those cards have that information (Of course you can help yourself along by positioning cards smartly).
Our game started off with things going pretty easily, as with 9 clues to give and nothing down on the table, it’s easy to give people the information to get the 1’s down on the table. Before running out of clues to give, we managed to get the 5 1’s and up to about 3 on the green pile.
When those initial clues are out though, the game gets that much more tense, as while you probably have some information at this point (I knew I had a 5 for example), you can only discard or play, so either throw away a potentially useful card or sacrifice one to recover a clue token. We were able to get many of the 2’s down fairly quickly, but things slowed down past that, particularly as we happened across a rainbow card (In there by mistake) and decided to keep it in as an extra suit – A quick reshuffle to spread them out (As they weren’t well distributed as they weren’t supposed to be in the deck ^^) and we continued with play. I think I lost us the first life somewhere around this time, though I can’t remember what I did to make that happen.
We were able to get to the required score to be considered a success (I.e. not have our heads chopped) but opted to try and carry on and hit a ‘stretch’ score of 25 (18 is the pass point). Things went a bit downhill by this point however, with us struggling to pass the right information for successful plays, and I ended up discarded a few important cards as I was given no information + got left not being able to give out clues.
When we neared the end of the deck, we’d lost another of the 3 mistake chances along the way and with one left, couldn’t risk playing again, which meant we couldn’t hit the 25 score (Not sure if we could have at that point anyway, but could have been very close had we taken random chances on playing cards).
I think we finished around 22-23, and had lots of fun. Very happy to have had the chance to play Hanabi, as it’s a very interesting one to play, forcing players to work together (While also being frustrating, because you are totally reliant on others!). It’s also a difficult one to deal with any distractions in, as JP demonstrated by forgetting which of his cards was a red, then getting told 2 were 5’s (Had he known which was the red 5, we could have done a good amount better, losing a life instead as the yellow 5 was a mistake to play) – On top of that, he got told which 2 cards were 5’s twice in a row, when the information he was missing was the colour, eep! (Interestingly, while I usually forget what everyone else did in this game and remember my own things, it’s a bit opposite here ^^).
After Hanabi it looked like the next game was to be Avalon/Werewolf, and seeing as I really wasn’t feeling up to wasting time on a traitor game headed off home (I do like them btw, but got to be in the mood, as I get ignored/permanently considered-a-traitor because I’m too quiet anyway). Thanks very much to everyone there and especially those that organise it, hopefully see you next month!