We were a little hesitant about pointing guns at each other in the pub, even foam ones, but that didn’t stop us starting the evening with a game of Ca$h ‘n Guns. This is a fun and silly game that we’ve not played before with the group. It is based on the premise that the players are gangsters trying to split up the spoils of a robbery and being gangsters, they play a game of chicken to decide who gets the loot. So, enough loot cards are set out in the middle of the table for one each, and each player starts with a magazine of bullet cards. Most of the bullets are blanks, but a small number are “live” and everyone secretly loads their “gun” with a single bullet. One player, “The Boss” begins a countdown that ends with everyone simultaneously pointing their gun at another player. The Boss (being The Boss) can then order one player to point his gun at someone else, after which, everyone gets a chance to back out (also simultaneously after a countdown). Backing out means they won’t get shot, but also won’t get any money. Players who backed out unload their gun in secret, while everyone else reveals their bullet cards. Players who had a live gun pointed at them get a bit of sticking plaster and are out of the round so don’t get any loot.
We were playing the new, second edition of the game, so those that didn’t chicken out and survived (i.e didn’t get shot) then divide up the loot by taking it turns to choose the choicest pickings from the loot cards on display. The players continue to take cards until they are all gone, so if a lot of people back out or get shot, the spoils are all the richer for those that remain. Green started off collecting art-work, while Red and Blue went for jewellery. Yellow and Cyan concentrated on money, but seemed quite determined to take each other out and both suffered as a consequence. Aside from when Cyan aimed for Green and accidentally “shot” the pub landlord, the game went without hitch; Red and Blue finished with the same amount of jewellery so neither got a bonus, which left Green to take the cream of the loot with his vast art collection (on the other hand, selling stolen art is risky, so he’ll certainly get caught by the police first!).
Next, we gave the “Feature Game”, a try. This was a new, Japanese game, called Secret Moon. It is a small quick card game that is the sequel to one of our most played games, Love Letter, and tells the story about what happens when the Princess receives her message and goes out to meet her young man by the light of the Secret Moon. From the rules:
One day, by chance, a letter reached her. The letter was not filled with vibrant words of love, or poem after poem praising the fair Princess and her beauty… as one might have wished. However, the contents did touch the princess’ heart. “I have heard of you, and travelled from faraway in search of you. If I may ask, I would like to see you and tell you the tale of my travels here.”
The Princess made her decision, wrote her reply and entrusted it to a kind priestess. “On the next night of the new moon, I will open the back door to the garden. If you please, could you retell your tale to me there?”
But someone overheard the exchange. The castle Minister. He feared that the Princess he had worked so hard to find the perfect groom for, would have her heart stolen by some wayward, suspicious Wanderer, so he ordered the Guards to watch her closely. What fate awaits them? Will the Princess be able to hear the Wanderer’s tale, or will the Minister and the Guards get in their way?
So, this game has a lot in common with Werewolf, in that there are two teams: those on the side of the Princess, and those on the side of the Minister, but while everyone knows which side they are on, only the Wanderer and the Princess know each other. The idea is that there are three rounds i.e. each player gets three turns. On their turn, players can inspect anyone’s card. This means that they know definitively who that person is, but only they know. Players can also ask, “Who goes there?” Different characters respond in different ways, thus the Minister replies, “You fool! I’m the Minister!” whereas the Guards respond, “It’s just me!” and the Princess and the Wanderer remain silent. The Priestess is a curious character: When the Princess asked her for help, she was quick to accept, but officially, she is helping the Minister. So, in reality, the Priestess is the third member of the Princess’ team, but if asked, she says the same thing as a Guard. This allows her to buy time for the Princess by masking her whereabouts e.g. by hiding in the first round to draw false suspicion or she can accuse the Guards like the Wonderer might.
We played a total of three games of this in the end. The game begins with one player dealing out turn order cards and character cards, so Green got to go first. The game is supposed to be played with no table-talk, but in the first game, we chatted a bit to try to understand what was going on. The Princess’ team trapped the Minister (Green), and since he was the start player, there was nothing he could do about it. One of the features of this game is that, like Love Letter, a card is is put to one side in order to make the game a little more unpredictable. So, in the second game, imagine her consternation when Cyan, as the Princess found she was all on her own. Things came to a head when she was asked, “Who goes there?” and, with no-one to hide behind, was quickly captured. But there was something that was not right. After some discussion we came to the conclusion that it seemed very deterministic in that it all depended on the round order. That precipitated a quick re-reading of the rules and there, in black and white it clearly said, “Go back to step 1 with shuffling the turn order cards and play another round.” So we gave it a third try…
This time, things started badly when the Red was the first player to be asked, “Who goes there?”, thus identifying herself as either the Princess or the Wanderer. She managed to hide for a round or so, but the Minister eventually succeeded in capturing the Princess (who was indeed Red). It was definitely much improved with the change to the turn order every round though, but it was clear that most people were a bit unconvinced. In truth, it is probably one of those games that needs the right group of players and most of them know what they are doing for it to really sing. Since it is so small, however, it is a game that will be carried around readily, but it may be difficult to persuade people to play it again.
Red, Cyan and Yellow had an early start so headed off, leaving the rest to discuss the viability of the group without Azure and Orange who are no longer able to make Tuesdays. The discussion rambled on for a while getting no-where, until Black suggested we played something. So, after a number of options were (literally) put on the table, we decided to have another go at Istanbul. We played this last time, but only Green had been involved in the game as everyone else had been playing Castles of Mad King Ludwig. Since we didn’t have long, we played the “short routes” like last time.
This time, Black tried Azure’s strategy of making money in the Tea House and buying Diamonds. Green started the same way, with a visit to the Small Mosque to pick up the tile that allows players to alter their dice rolls. However, he then decided to try something different and ended up wandering around the Great Mosque/Post Office area with Purple, who had started out well, collecting enough goods to get a tile from the Great Mosque, but then lost her way a little. Meanwhile, Blue started out avoiding everyone else with a quick trip to the Post Office then made a visit to the Wainwright to expand her cart to hold three of each goods type. She then got very lucky in the Black Market picking up three lots of jewellery (blue goods) on each of her two visits. This left her with a lot of collateral to trade at the Sultan’s Palace and the Large Market as well as being able to pick up both tiles from the Great Mosque quite cheaply and her first gemstone with it.
While all this was going on, Black was picking off the early gems at the Dealer, moving back and forth between the Tea House to collect money and the Wainwright to expand his barrow it looked like the game was his to lose. For his fourth gem, he needed more money than he could easily get in one round, and Blue was just behind with a decision to make. She needed sixteen Lire and an assistant, but could she get them before Black, who went before her in turn order? If she went to the Tea House to get the money, she would have enough, but since Black’s Merchant was already there, she would have to give him two Lire which was sufficient for him to go to the Gem Dealer and end the game. So, she went to the Post Office and then popped into the Police Station to free her Family Member and send him to the Jewellers in her stead, bringing the game to a close one gem ahead of Black. Last time everyone enjoyed it, but this time it had a more mixed reception: while Blue liked it, Purple actively disliked it, and everyone else agreed that it needed to be played with the more challenging layouts to make it more interesting.
Learning Outcome: Games work better when you play them according to the rules!