This week was memorable for a number of reasons. Firstly, the non-playing member of the group, had been to the vet for the first time in about fifteen years and she didn’t like what they did to her (in fairness, she started it by taking a chunk out of the vet, but it is certain both she and the vet won’t forget the day quickly). Secondly, nearly every current member turned up, the first time this had happened since the fire at the Jockey, and with the added bonus of a new member, we were just a bit pushed for space. It is a very nice problem to have though, especially since this time last year we were really struggling.
People arrived gradually, so we started with our “Feature Game”, the filler Zooloretto: The Dice Game. This is closely related to the tile laying game, Zooloretto, which we’ve played before. Both use the “Coloretto mechanism” which is a variant of the “I divide, you choose” mechanism that children sometimes use when sharing a cake. Basically, the idea is that players take it in turns to roll dice (or draw tiles or cards depending on the game) and choose which “truck” to place them in. When they see a truck they like, they can choose to take the contents instead of rolling (then they sit out of the rest of the round). In the case of the dice version, players are collecting custom animal dice; the idea is to have as many as possible up to a given limit and exceeding the maximum incurs a penalty. The first two people to arrive were about half way through when two more turned up and joined in for a second game.
After the second game we had a quick game of “extend the table, rearrange the furniture and hunt for extra chairs” and were just finishing as the last group arrived. After some discussion, we decided to split the group into two and the first group played Montego Bay. This is a game that we played last year and all felt that it was quite enjoyable, so we decided to give it another outing. In summary, players control two figures, a large docker and a small docker who are travelling round the warehouses collecting barrels of rum to place on ships before they sail. There are two aspects to the game, the first is the priority given to filling boats because, when a boat sails, the player with the largest number of barrels on board scores the most points. Secondly, everyone chooses how far to move their dockers simultaneously at the start of the round, however, players take their turns in a prearranged order which leads to an interesting juxtaposition of chaos and “double-think”. In this game, Orange came back from the dead with optimal use of “Lazy Jack” to win by four points.
Meanwhile, the second group played 7 Wonders, which we played at New Year. Played in three rounds, this is a card drafting game where players take one card from their hand and then pass the rest on, then repeatedly do the same with the cards they receive until there are none left. The idea of the game is to build an civilisation and complete their “wonder”. For the last game there were seven of us and it was over-long and completely disorganised chaos. This time there was a much more manageable number and it worked much, much better. One player had played it many times before and it showed in the score with him winning with fifty-two points, five ahead of second place. The other group were only about halfway through their game though, so that gave an opportunity for a rematch. Revenge was duly served as the game finished with the winner of the second game fifteen points clear of a tight pack which included the winner of the first game.
For the last game we got back together as a large group and finished with a game of Saboteur. We played this nearly a year ago, but again didn’t have an optimal number of players. This time, with more than twice as many, the game played much, much better. The idea is that players are digging for gold by laying cards to form tunnels. Everyone is either a “Dwarf” or a “Saboteur” and at the end of the game, points are given to the Dwarves if they extend the tunnel to find the gold, and Saboteurs if they succeed in stalling the Dwarves so much that they fail. In addition to extending tunnel network, players can also play cards that inhibit the digging ability of others, or alternatively remove an impediment someone else has played. The first game everyone was watching our “Habitual Saboteur” and waiting for him to do something suspicious, meanwhile, another player moaned about the nature of his hand, and kept discarding cards and everyone else seemed to get on with digging. The Dwarves were about halfway there when one player declared she was a Saboteur and played a very obstructive card and immediately received a hail-storm of broken tool cards. It was only after the Dwarves had run out of cards that the “discarder” showed his true colours as a Saboteur and the Habitual Saboteur wasn’t (this time).
In the second round, our Habitual Saboteur made up for his good behaviour in the first round and teamed up with the Saboteur Queen. It looked like the dwarves might just make it when another Saboteur jumped out of the shadows throwing broken tools at all the Dwarves and putting the gold definitively beyond their reach. Going into the final round, the Saboteur Queen (who ended up obstructing in all three rounds) had what was thought to be an unassailable lead with six points to a maximum of three elsewhere and a third failure for the Dwarves would have given her a landslide victory. However, this time she only had the one team-mate which made it much more difficult for her to obstruct the tunnellers and, in due course, it was the Habitual Saboteur (who once again, surprisingly, wasn’t) who laid the final card and found the gold. He managed to take a total of four points from the last round and just pipped the Saboteur Queen to the win.
Learning Outcome: Don’t believe anyone when you know there is a Saboteur in your midst!