I went to Beyond Monopoly again yesterday. I'd intended to get there early and then leave fairly early too, and do a short day. As it was I didn't get there as early as I wanted, and the I stayed late to play a game of Border Reivers with a bunch of interested gamers, so I left late too. It was a great day, although I didn't get much time to do gluing for Border Reivers once I got home.
First up was a 6-player game of Condottiere by Dominique Ehrhart and Duccio Vitale with Jon, Paul A, Paul D, Mason and Robert.
In this game you have to claim three adjacent cities to win. Each player plays cards to compete for the current city, with the player who plays the highest scoring cards winning. As well as numbered cards there are some interesting cards which allow you to mess around: The Drum doubles the values of your cards, Winter makes all players cards score 1 (except the Heroine), The Heroine always scores ten, a Scarecrow allows you to retrieve a card you've already played, a Key automatically ends the battle - scoring the city and the Bishop ends the scoring without the winner getting the city. Once a city has been claimed the winner gets to choose the next city, and you play again with the cards you have left. This continues until only one player has cards remaining, when you all draw a full hand of cards and carry on. This turned out to be a really nice tactical game as you tried to compete for the cities you were interested in and scupper the others when you weren't. By the end of the second round I was in the best position with five possible cities winning the game for me, with Mason and Jon a close second with two possible cities each. I bluffed the first possible city for me, making the others think I'd lost my good cards, while hanging on to my best cards for the last round. In the end I pulled it off and won right at the end of the third round.
Next up was an 8-player game of Pitch Car the dexterity game by Jean de Poel. I'd had my eye on Pitch Car ever since the disastrous game of Manifest Destiny when a tableful of people next to me seemed to be having a lot of fun playing Pitch Car while I wallowed in despair.
It didn't disappoint. You play a Formula One style race on a wooden track with plastic rails protecting one side of each track segment. Players take it in turns (starting with the player in the lead) to flick their car (represented by a small wooden puck) around the track. If your puck goes off the track or knocks another player's car off the track all affected pucks are returned to their positions before your flick. If your puck ends up upside down (either on or off the track) you must miss your next turn flipping it the right way up - representing correcting a spin. It's a fun game, with lots of squeals and whoops. Paul A got an early lead, and was pretty much unassailable, even lapping a few of the back-markers. After a couple of turns I was very near the back of the field, but throughout the game I slowly crept up through the field eventually coming third at the end of the three lap game. It was really good fun, simple and yet very engaging. I'd definitely be up for that again.
I went down for lunch with Jon and we had a quick two-player game of Hive by John Yianni. This reminded me of Hey! That's My Fish! in that it was a very simple game, and yet there was a lot of strategy and tactical play involved as the options were many and varied at every turn. Jon had a distinct advantage (having played it before), and when I started getting a strategy together to win the game (about halfway through) Jon was clearly one step ahead, as he was shutting me down at every turn. Jon won it in the end but I wasn't that far off, and I made a bad decision in my penultimate turn that made it easier for him.
After lunch, Paul the Third (it was a surprisingly Paul-heavy day, I played with three of them, and chatted with another two) sat down for a quick game of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation.
Like Lord of the Rings this is designed by Reiner Knizia and illustrated by the Tolkien artist John Howe. It's another beautiful game, but at heart it's just a version of Stratego with the pieces having special powers, and a set of one-off use cards to boost your chances in a combat. Paul and I played two games, one from each end (you play as the fellowship or the bad guys), and in both cases the good guys won by getting Frodo to Mordor. I wasn't really enamoured of this one. It's didn't grab me like the others I had played.
Paul also wanted to play Border Reivers by me. As we set up Paul (the fourth), George and Wolfgang asked to join in. As it's only 2-4 players, Paul the Fourth and Wolfgang set up a game of Jambo instead, and then we were joined by Adrian for a 4-player.
Paul started saving his money in the first turn, and built up an early lead while the rest of us spent all our money on cards and Armies. The other three players all went for a Market first, while I choose a Guildhouses to increase my chances of getting cards. Adrian fully tooled up his city, getting a full set of buildings for it, while the rest of us went for two cities. The mine was hardly used (Adrian had it for a turn or two), but was tempted out of it to make attacked or defend himself. George built the most effective economy drawing in nine gold every turn, but I was the first to start saving and then George had to play catch up. I was repeatedly attacked with Reiving Parties and Insurrection, but my choice of Guildhouses earlier in the game meant I'd been able to get a Militia in to defend myself. In the end George realised he couldn't beat me, so he spent all his money on defending an attack from Paul. He still managed to come second as Paul and Adrian had continued spending throughout the game. Final scores: Me 40, George 9, Paul 7 and Adrian 5. It was a much closer game than it appeared from those scores though, as if I'd been successfully Reived or Insurrected George (aged twelve) would have beaten me at a game I had designed myself. Draw your own conclusions...