The evening started with a quick two player game of “extend the table and try to find space for it”. Just as we were finishing, one of our regulars arrived with his family, including his dinosaur-pyjama-clad four year old – unquestionably the youngest GOAT to date!
As planned, we started off with our “Feature Game”, the gorgeous, dexterity car-race, PitchCar. The idea of this game is that, starting with the player at the front of the field in each round, players take it in turns to flick their small wooden car round the custom-made circuit. Since the game was new to so many of the players, we started out with a simple track with just one jump (from the first expansion) and smooth corners (from the second expansion). Despite their tender years, Black and Yellow demonstrated a remarkable aptitude, and Black ran in the easy winner.
The first game was such a hit that when three more people arrived, we built a second, slightly more complex track while pizzas were “prepped”. In this game, Blue (played by one of the new arrivals), quickly got half a lap ahead and managed to maintain his lead until the end. This was followed by a game of “hunt for enough chairs” by which time, the first of the pizzas were ready. By this time, despite it being two hours past his bedtime, “dinoGOAT” was still keen to play on, however, we managed to persuade him (with the aid of a mince pie) that it was bedtime and we’d play Dinosaur Race another time.
That left us with just enough people to give the first of our “Christmas Games” an outing. Waldschattenspiel is not, as you might think, a game about what bears do in the woods. It is actually a really unusual game, played in the dark, where one player (the designated adult!) operates a candle and the others are little dwarf meeples with felt hats. The idea is that that wooden trees cast shadows, and the dwarves, who start the game hiding in the woods, have to meet up together behind the same tree. The snag is that when they move, they must do so without being illuminated by the candle. Any photophobic dwarves caught in the light become “frozen” and are unable to move until they are rescued by other dwarves. The dwarves started out badly when Green got trapped, and then frozen, very early on. The rest of the dwarves managed to meet up, but in a failure of strategy, tried to rescue Green as a group. When they all got trapped and only Red was able to escape, the writing was on the wall and the Candle scored a win on the next move.
Next up was the second of our Christmas Games, 7 Wonders. This is a card drafting game, where each person picks one card from their hand to play, then passes their remaining cards on to the next player. The aim of the game is to build your civilisation by developing your science and technology and building one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. We played the ‘A’ side and with seven players, most of whom had never played it before, there was a lot of chaos, and the game was a bit of a mystery to a lot of us. However, the game was won by one of the new players, who, as well as successfully building the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, also had a strong army and had a well developed civilisation.
A couple more players left and the rest of us played with the tower from Amerigo while we decided what the next game should be. Enticing though it was, it only played four, so, after much deliberation, we decided to play Dixit.
This is a clever, light card game, where the “active player” secretly chooses a card and uses a sound, word, phrase or sentence to describe it. The other players all choose the best card from their hand to match the sentence and secretly hand them to the active player who shuffles the cards and displays them to everyone. The players then try to guess which card was played by the active player with points being awarded for choosing correctly, having your card chosen by another player, and, as the active player, for being ambiguous enough to ensure that some players, but not all, chose their card. The artwork by Marie Cardouat is wonderfully surreal and the game produced some equally peculiar clues in what ended up as a close game. Blue took an early lead, but it couldn’t last and, everyone else closed, pausing for just a brief interlude to sing Auld Lang Syne and watch fireworks (it was raining, so we “wimped out” of setting off our own and just admired everyone else’s from the warm; one group were especially obliging and set off some very nice ones just outside the window!). White snuck ahead of Blue with the last point of the game, and took the first win of 2014 adding it to her last win of 2013. This was in contrast to Red who lost both the last game of 2013 and the first game of 2014!
Learning Outcome: Cold pizza isn’t that bad after all!