New Years Day, with the help of Murray and Bruce, I managed to get two games off my unplayed list:

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Mage Knight

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Mage Knight is the current heavyweight champion of fantasy adventure boardgames. You’re not just playing a hero, you’re playing a Mage Knight – you’re already cool, you can already do lots of stuff. Just not necessarily when you want to do it. We only played the suggested beginning scenario, and we got through it faster than expected so we had time left for another game. I want to play it again, especially a longer scenario as I thought the game ended just as I was starting to get a handle on it – realising I’d picked up precisely the wrong Mage Knight as he was good at influence, which isn’t that helpful in such a short game.

WildLife is a Wolfgang Kramer game which plays like a cut down version of El Grande. Each player is a species trying to gain dominance in certain areas. It’s kind of halfway between Genesis and Dominant Species. The Uberplay edition has fairly cheap components, especially the cards, but is otherwise playable. This is staying in the collection as it’s a solid Euro with an educational aspect.

We also played Roll for the Galaxy, which would have been my game of 2015, if I hadn’t been so impressed with Codenames.

The lunchtime group started 2016 with the print and play version of Secret Hitler. Yet another social deduction game but one that at least provides some information for the players to work with. Secret Hitler is good at what it does, but I’m still not a fan of social deduction games. I don’t find them enjoyable.

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“nein” indeed

My friend Cyberkev came to stay, so we had a minicon (with Simon) in his honour.

We played Moongha Invaders: Mad Scientists and Atomic Monsters Attack the Earth! (or Moongha, for short) – Martin Wallace’s attempt to woo over the Ameritrashers by designing an alien invasion/monster creation game. The back story is a little complex – it’s meant to look like an alien invasion, but the creatures are created by the players themselves who play mad scientists – probably laid off from the CSIRO. It didn’t work for Kevin and Simon – I still think it has some legs as the resource management component is quite clever – and the two player didn’t work for Kevin and I when we played it the next day. My first play of it with Murray and Phil was fine, so it may just be a difference in play styles.

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Cairo’s in trouble!

Cyberkev once had an obsession with a CCG called On The Edge. I’d bought a sample box from Atlas Games some years ago, so we tried to introduce Simon to it. It’s not really his thing, whereas the theme, if not the underlying mechanisms, speak to me and Cyberkev as it’s based around esoteric conspiracies. Kind of like a more macro version of the Illuminati game, where you’re playing with the actual conspirators. Cyber and I played another game, but I ran out of decent folk to block so got shredded. We plan to revisit it at the numerous conventions we meet at.

Cyberkev also had the 3rd edition of Innovation – which doesn’t have major changes, more tweaks. Simon’s started a regular Innovation game at lunch time on Mondays and it may, just may, be replacing Glory to Rome as my favourite Chudyk game.

The next wave of visitors were Steve and Dean from NZ who were down for Cancon. Steve’s an old friend of mine, who sadly moved back to NZ as he has a predilection for sane countries, but gladly he bought Dean with him.

We played Elevenses together then, after Cancon, I was able to take Reef Encounter and its expansion of my unplayed list. I’d only played Reef Encounter online before, so it took me a while to grok, but I loved the physicality of it. I lost horribly, but Steve explained it’s a game where you have to constantly feed on yourself as well as others. A concept with which I’m far too familiar.

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I have no idea what I’m doing

In between was Cancon (which gets its own post.)

And at Cancon I bought Isle of Skye – a game that’s been popular with the Inner West Gamers group – basically a mongrel cross between Carcassonne and Castles of Mad King Ludwig – you’re building a landscape in front of you, but you’re setting prices on the tiles, and paying for the ones the other players don’t buy. It’s a clever game from the designer of Port Royal (another favourite) but Simon wound up hating it – I think he had the same problem I have with Feld from time to time, I’m pushing at the game system but I don’t seem to get anywhere.

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And that’s January.

Best New Game:

Isle of Skye & Orleans (played at Cancon)

Best Old Game:

This is difficult – I enjoyed Mage Knight / WildLife / Showmanager (Cancon) and Reef Encounter. So – all of them.

Cancon 2016

Posted: January 26, 2016 in Board Games
Tags: ,

Cancon is still going as I type this.

Unfortunately Australia Day falls on Tuesday this year, so tomorrow is a work day. We spent a day and a half at Cancon before returning home.

The crown jewel of Cancon is the game library run by Merran and Terry. IN a way it’s a victim of its own success – despite constantly increasing the floor space each year around midday the space is completely full.

Which is wonderful that so many people are enjoying the board game hobby.

The best thing about Cancon for me, and what makes this year unfortunate, is the people. I get to see many of my friends, from all over Australia and, some times, get to play games with them. Unfortunate because we had to leave early, but not as bad as last year where we could only have one day because we were moving in a week.

So, here’s a quick report:

Games played:


Played with John, Shingo and Sam.

I’d heard a lot of good things about Orleans, and was lucky enough to join the game after someone left before it started. On the surface it’s another worker placement Euro with stuff turning into other stuff turning into points – in the case of Orleans each worker has a particular job (farmer, soldier, sailor, etc – the text was in German) and you need combinations of them to recruit more workers, or collect goods by moving around a board, or placing guilds, etc, etc. The catch is, you are drawing your workers from a bag, so you can’t be sure you’ll have the exact combination you need to maximise your turn. In fact, the game encourages delaying actions so you can be sure that you’ll be able to draw the workers you need as, once an action is performed, the workers are returned to the bag.

The bulk of the turn (in thinking effort) is mapping out your turn with your available workers. Actually triggering the actions doesn’t take long, but you have to be careful about the order and it may be in your interests to hold off (but not too long.)

It’s a very clever game that gets around my boredom with worker placement games. I don’t need a copy myself because there’s at least three amongst my regular gaming buddies.

Show Manager

Played with Steve, Dean, Kevin, Bruce and Greg

I’ve been trying to play this for ages. Old school Euro combining set collection with a tight economic drafting mechanism. The only way to get more money is to take money from the productions that you’re trying to mount using actors that cost you money. It is best to use actors who are suited for the roles in each production, but you may have no choice if your money dries up. It is one of those old school Euros with a cheerful demeanour hiding a black, black heart.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective

Played with Kevin, Rachel and John

And talking about old school. I remember SHCD from my early board gaming days but it sounded and looked way too complex at the time. Turns out, it’s basically a cooperative Choose Your Own Adventure with the players as the Baker Street Irregulars trying to solve a crime (and follow an evidentiary chain) as quickly as possible to Sherlock’s benchmark time. At the end, though, it seemed Mr Holmes had a number of deductive leaps that we just couldn’t account for.

Hanabi (with the tiles)

Played with Barry, Kevin, Llyn and Brendon

– because I couldn’t find anything else to play immediately and, at least, it’s short. And I get to play a game with my wife!

It was one of the new tile versions of Hanabi, but it is a game I’m very much over.

Isle of Skye

Played with Steve, Dean and Simon (finally!)

Like Orleans, the new hotness but, unlike Orleans, a game I’d played before. Last Tuesday, in fact. Well described by David as a cross between Carcassonne and Castles of Mad Ludwig – players put prices on tiles they either want the money for, or want to price out of the market so they can keep it for themselves. A simple game with tough decisions.

Games bought:


504 games! Or at least the components and rules for such. An art prank, a viable gaming system or both? I intend to find out.

51st State

The proto version of Imperial Settlers (succeeded by The New Era). Always wanted to try it, and it was cheap.

Mermaid Rain

I have the Japanese copy of this – the English copy apparently has better component quality, and the benefit of being in English (mine is translated through pasteups.) How cool is the title “Mermaid Rain”? More games should have allusive titles like that.

Isle of Skye

The best of the new Essen crop I’ve played so far, except for Orleans, which I don’t need.


A 3M Bookshelf game! For $2! I now have three!

Blood Bound

Has a good reputation as a social deduction game (which I’m not that hot on) – the plus is that it handles 6 – 12 players. A game of this type is occasionally very handy for the lunch time games group.

Medici vs Strozzi

A Knizia! In a Cosmos two player box!

Port Royal Expansion

Because Port Royal’s such a cool game.

Frank’s Zoo

Legendary card game long out of print. Now I has it.

Hopefully next year I’ll have the whole two and half days available to me. Too many games I’m interested in, but more importantly too many great people to play with. Canberra has a strong and vibrant game community – there was an impromptu delegation from the Inner West Gamers, and some old friends of mine made it (including from New Zealand.) And some new old friends.

It was a great start to the gaming year and I can’t wait for the next one.

Happy New Year

Posted: January 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

I’m not making this a resolution (in fact, I’m only updating to see if this wordpress site is still active) but I intend to add much more content to my gaming blog.

You have been warned.

(this should have been posted years ago.)

I’m talking about the first boardgame to make an impression on me, the first boardgame that my and my school friends played obsessively, religiously. Not Monopoly, not Ludo or one of its popular variants (like Sorry) but something more evil – a roll and move game spiced with absolute bastardy.

It was Ludo with heavy weapons – it was Magnum Force and it was my first introduction into the appeal of boardgames.

In other words, it wasn’t my first lay, but my first real girlfriend, until she started to lose her appearance and I gradually lost interest in her and moved on to someone else. (okay, it’s analogy, not a confession, okay?)

Magnum Force was not exactly commercially available, it was the equivalent of the print and play games today. It was actually published as a premium over four issues of the notorious British comic “Action”. For the fascinating story behind “Action” (which begat 2000AD, which begat Judge Dredd, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, et al) you should find Martin Barker’s definitive book on this precusor to the extreme comics of today.

Magnum Force used characters from the Dredger story (who was the top-billed character in Action, the way the Judge Dredd was the breakout character in 2000AD – well Dredger competed with Hookjaw (a shark with a hook through his jaw) as the most popular character.) Dredger was a scummy MI6 agent who had no qualms about silencing the opposition, kind of like a low tech combination of James Bond and the Punisher – he wasn’t adverse to guns, but was more likely to reach for the nearest weapon available – like a forklift.

Magnum Force was also a forerunner of the character/role playing games of today (it predated Dungeons and Dragons) in that each character played a member of an intelligence agency. There was MI6, CIA, KGB and the Russian Secret Service (I think it was the same breakdown as The Sigma File – now known as Conspiracy). The board was a series of tracks around a New York cityscape, some of the spaces had entries to buildings – some of the spaces allowed the player to draw a Magnum Force card (most to be used immediately, some could be kept (and were marked with a huge K in the background) to be used when needed.) On your turn, you decided whether you were going to move or shoot. Either way you rolled two dice – moving was just moving the exact number of spaces, shooting was trying to get the number of spaces between you and your target (which had to be in a straight line – there was even line of sight rules) if you rolled the target number or above the target would get one wound, and the shooter would be vulnerable to being shot next turn.

If a player took five wounds they were dead and out of the game – the game would continue until only one player survived. Of course, one could make a beeline for the hospital to recover from the wounds, but the other players would make that a very dangerous proposition.

So let’s summarise:

uses dice for movement and combat

the playing piece represents the player

player elimination

action cards

Hmmm, sounds like a seminal Ameritrash game.

Magnum Force positively encouraged trash talking, alliances between players, acts of absolute bastardry and all the good things about games. We started to come up with our own rules – hit locations (if you put the wounds on the agent’s leg they’d get a movement penalty, a wound on the arm would give them a combat territory) we contemplated expanding the immunity rules (four of the buildings on the board were embassies where a player was safe – we imagined passport cards that would allow agents to use other embassies), vehicle rules, and different weapons (the card deck had a shotgun and a magnum that could be used to shoot people in buildings.)

The board, pieces and cards were stuck onto to yellow cardboard and I’d drawn a very rough board label to emulate the style of the Milton Bradley/John Sands style games.

The card and pieces were kept in an orange plastic slide box and the board folded into four parts – already I was on my way to true board game geekdom.

My coffee with Tom Lehmann

Posted: October 8, 2014 in Board Games
Tags: ,

So this August I was at Loncon3 – the World SF convention – where Tom Lehmann was one of the guests.

At SF conventions they offer “kaffeeklatches” – a chance to meet your favourite writer, artist or game designer as part of a small group. My wife had already attended one with Francis Harding (one of her favourite authors) so I signed up for one with Tom Lehmann. Lehmann is the designer of Race for the Galaxy as well as host of lesser known games and is currently collaborating with Matt Leacock on a Pandemic dice game.

Tom Lehmann
He’s very animated.

Whilst we waited for the others to file into the room, Tom played a game with us based around the roll of a die. We were thieves breaking into a bank – we had to roll a die to score but one of the faces was an alarm and another was a gate that would shut down. The object was to roll a certain amount and leave before you set off the alarm. The catch was, you had to steal more money than the previous player. Lehmann explained it was an experiment to see if he could come up with a satisfying game based around rolling a single die. Probably needed more plastic ninjas.

All in all he chatted with us for over the allotted hour and was prepared to continue on but my old man’s internal plumbing kicked in and I had to excuse myself. By the time I returned to the room, everyone had gone.

It was a great conversation/seminar with Lehmann about his approach to game design.

Some of the highlights:

– an anecdote about trolling Knizia with a bunch of other game designers when they were playing one of Knizia’s prototypes. One of the resources was happiness (and they were hidden behind player screens.) The game designers were identifying exactly how much happiness Knizia had behind his screen and ignored everyone else’s.

– I asked about his game Time Agent – he had worked on a two player version for Z-Man but it was never produced

– a discussion about the player interaction in The City. Lehmann’s proposal was the player interaction was in the tempo of the scoring – he’d found that there was a point where, based on the scores of the other players, you would continue with your current strategy, or adapt a new one to speed up the scoring. The City may finally be released in an English edition (it’s only been available in German so far) but the publisher is considering retheming it.

– Some of his other projects include a simplified version of Race for the Galaxy (no developments) and a version of Uno/Crazy 8s with persistent cards (like enchantments in Magic.)

– We discussed the issue of modelling narrative in a game. Lehmann has been working on dice driven cooperative starship game, that uses a paragraph system (kind of a cross between Tales of the Arabian Nights and Space Cadets though Lehmann was clear the basic dice mechanic was different to SC). After an encounter, three options are available: -mini adventure, -move on to the next encounter, -repeat the encounter with increased difficulty. A dice modifier can be agreed upon to change the difficulty, increase the chance of a mini-adventure, etc. It sounds like an interesting approach and I look forward to the final result.

– Board games that used smartphone apps. Lehmann believes that these will be playing a major role in new board games, enabling hidden information and playing the role of the paragraph books in games like TotAN and Agents of SMERSH. Lehmann had not heard of Ingress – the location specific virtual board game made by Google to improve their mapping.

It was a fascinating glimpse into the issues of professional game design and Lehmann was a charming and informative host

Still haven’t got a handle on this regular games blogging thing. Let’s start with a big catch up post and see where we go from there.

First up, PAX Australia

PAX (the Penny Arcade Expo) is a gaming con run by the creators of the Penny Arcade comic strip. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the strip – the brogamer attitude and its relentless homophobia gets to me – and a lot of the time it just isn’t funny. Nevertheless, the PAX cons are meant to be good and inclusive of all styles of games, both digital and analog, with a particular focus on independent developers. Most of all, they’re meant to be fun. Friends of mine had signed up as enforcers (their ominous name for volunteers) so it seemed like it would be good to rock along to, especially as I am extremely unlikely to attend their two US cons – PAX East and PAX West. I was worried about the tone of PAXAus, both from the attitude of the strip and the attitude of the creators (one panel I wanted to attend pulled out because of their insensitivity to gender issues in gaming) but I was delighted to say it truly felt inclusive with no accounts of harassment and a friendly atmosphere.

I got to meet (and thank) the creators of Sentinels of the Multiverse (and pick up some promos) and check out some independent computer games but most of the time I sat my fat arse in the board gaming area – once you gave up your seat, you weren’t ever getting it back – the area was absolutely packed. I spent most of my time with Cyberkev (from Brisbane) and Aaron (from Melbourne) and shared a room with Esonlinji (otherwise known as Other Kevin, also from Brisbane.) Also managed to squeeze some games in with my enforcer friends: Melissa, Steve and Rachel.

Stuff that was played:

Terra Mystica

I can see why it’s popular – a solidly deterministic Euro with some interaction on the board (blocking spaces needed by other players, building next to them for additional points) but it’s the kind of game that I’m only likely to play with people who already own it and they are likely only to play with more experienced players. It seemed fairly opaque at the beginning, with so many moving parts, and to have a really satisfactory game you would need to play with people who are as familiar with the game as you are.


Actually played this the evening before PAX. I met up with a Melbourne games group who introduced me to this Egyptian themed war/resource game thingy. From the same stable as Cyclades with beautiful figures and clever mechanisms it was a lot of fun. I’m considering picking it up.


I bought this at Milsims. From the creator of the now much loved Love Letter (which I also played at PAX) this is a trick taking game where the objective of each round changes (you might be trying to win the most cards of one suit, or the least, or none at all.) I like it a lot but it only seems to work with three or four players. With five (which was my initial play) it felt too chaotic. Every card has a special power when played, which makes the game extremely fluid. I seem to be collecting these Z-Man small card games as they all seem to have a fair amount of game in them.

Puzzle Strike: Shadows

Games Salute had a stall at PAX so we decided to try out one of the games they were demoing. I’d read good things about Puzzle Strike (mainly from Fortress Ameritrash) and wanted to try out its latest iteration. Halfway through our first game, two of us decided to buy a copy – it really was a lot of fun. Yes, it’s pretty much a Dominion clone, but it’s a Dominion clone where you’re constantly punching each other in the face to win. Each player has a character (which means they have access to three unique chips that they draw) and some wild combos could result.

Played some other stuff – I actually won a game of Glory to Rome against the dreaded Cyberkev and unleashed The Aristocrats on some barely suspecting players but the next time I go to PAX I’ll probably only go for a day, and check out the video games more.

Chatswood Games Group

I started attending to this when I can (which is roughly every second week) and they’re a good bunch to play with. Had one unsuccessful experience with Fiasco (one player seemed unable to give up being a DM) but I’ve had the pleasure of introducing some new games to Patrick, who was instrumental in introducing me to Eurogames at his old game group in Pymble.

Games of note:

Pax Porfiriana

Probably the most accessible Phil Eklund game, which isn’t saying much – the rule book is still pretty impenetrable but the game itself is very good, once you get the hang of it. You are wealthy Mexican land owners trying to take over the country – you have the opportunity four times during the game, when the Topple card comes out. You draft cards to get money, abilities, soldiers and valuable, valuable control points (which are in four different currencies, keyed to the four different types of government.) It’s a long game but engrossing. I also played it again at PAX and that didn’t go as well, but it’s a game I’m eager to play again.


I bought this when I was down in Melbourne for PAX. Ostensibly a Eurogame (with worker placement, resource conversion, building and market mechanisms) the hidden victory and end game conditions make it something else. I’ve played it twice now and both games have ended with every one losing. As it is also a semi-cooperative. It really deserves a blog post of its own as I think it’s one of the most interesting games I’ve played in years. There’s a great post by Ben McJunkin on BGG about it and I’m not sure I could do any better than that.


Patrick was selling off games on behalf of another gamer and I finally got my hands on this, a Knizia I’d been after for some years. It’s not one of his masterpieces (see below) but it is very, very enjoyable and I’m glad to finally add it to the collection.


Over the October long weekend we had a reunion of our games group down at Steve’s place in Traralgon. I see Murray and Bruce every so often at Chatswood, and we catch up when we can, but Steve had moved away to a better life so this was a chance to get the gang back together again.

Games new to me:


Stefan Feld seems to arouse the same excitement in hardcore games that Knizia used to, but I remain unconvinced. To my mind, Feld’s games have one or two interesting mechanisms, but they never really cohere for me, his games never dissolve into a pure experience. Macao has a clever resource mechanism with the resource cubes scattered around a clock, based on dice rolls, so you had to plan several turns in advance to make sure you had what you needed to play the cards you had. I liked it, but not enough to want it for the collection – another game I’m only likely to play with people who already own it.

Dungeon Roll

This was very popular when it came up on Kickstarter but I couldn’t get a sense of how the game worked. Now I know – it doesn’t. Typically underdeveloped KShit – no decisions to speak of – and for all the production, the cards used to differentiate the players’ abilities are badly laid out and difficult to read. No quality control at all.

Scoundrels of Skullport

SoS is the first expansion for Lords of Waterdeep. I don’t mind Waterdeep, but I can’t really see what all the fuss is about. We played with the Skullport expansion, and the corruption mechanism it introduced certainly added to the basic game. I’m now considering getting it, but I probably don’t need another worker placement game.

Triassic Terror

The dinosaur game. A fairly light area control game, but not quite light enough for a family. Nice components and refreshingly confrontational but nothing especially exciting.

Clash of Cultures

Apart from some graphics issues (some important text on the player sheets is practically unreadable because of the font colours) this is an amazing game, from the designer of Merchants and Marauders. It is a very clever, medium length civilisation building game with nice plastic components and clever, interlocking mechanisms allowing players to build different technologies with different currencies but with very little drag during turns. I’d heard good things about it and I’m pretty much in agreement. Z-Man are doing some exceptional big box games and I’m sorely tempted by Clash of Cultures.


Complex Euro about wine production in Portugal. Lots of pieces, an exceptionally dense and busy board and counter-intuitive mechanics (it took ages to catch on to the fact that the bottles of wine being produced were currency as well as point generators.) This took ages to get to the table. We couldn’t organise a game of it in Sydney with Steve – we tried to play it at Bordercon but Steve had accidentally left it behind, and finally we discovered one of the province tiles was missing. Fortunately, with three players, we could leave that province out. For all that, we weren’t disappointed. It is complex, there’s a lot of things going on and certainly I was too busy trying to work out effective moves for myself to take note of what everyone else is doing, but it was ultimately rewarding.

Despite Bruce getting sick, and having to sit most of Saturday out, Gippscon was a success, so we’re hoping to meet up again when Steve can make it up to Sydney for a weekend of gaming.

Knizia Klassics

With all the new games coming out it’s easy to forget about the classic Euros that got me into the hobby in the first place. The first designer I avidly started to collect was Reiner Knizia and, whilst I find his recent output fairly unremarkable, I managed to get three of his best games to the table and was not disappointed.

Tigris and Euphrates

We managed to fit this in at the lunchtime games group and it is still an amazing game. It feels timeless with rules that seem absurdly simple compared to recent Euros but play which is astonishingly deep. It is a civ building game stripped to its absolute essentials. An absolute masterpiece.


Ultimately just a set collection game but the variance in scoring (and therefore value) of the different tiles and the auctions limited by the sun tiles and the press your luck mechanics make Ra much better than the sum of its parts. Again, played at lunchtime. Phil prefers the Razzia! Mafia retheme but that leaves out the disasters which I think are crucial to the stress of the seemingly simple decisions of Ra. AFter all, there’s only two things you can do on your turn – draw a tile or start an auction. Ra was out of print for ages – I managed to find an original copy in a French game store and sweated on the long trip it made back to Australia by ship.

Taj Mahal

Not as highly regarded as the above, Taj is still my favourite Knizia. It’s not quite as pure as the others, some cards have special powers, it’s an auction game disguised as a card game disguised as a board game but there’s a wonderful tension to it. It doesn’t work for everyone but it works for me and I tend to think of it as one of Knizia’s more experimental designs.

New Acquisitions

I managed to score both Libertalia and Mage Wars in a recent Chain of Generosity. I’ve played Libertalia at our most recent games day and enjoyed it but I can see that it can be too dry for some as all the players are using the same cards making it a game of double think. I finally tracked down a copy of Hanabi, which was sold out in Melbourne when I was down for PAX but seems to be available everywhere now. Whilst at PAX I was convinced to pick up a cheap copy of Cuba. I haven’t played it yet, but a few of my regular gaming mates like it. During my recent trip to Melbourne (for Gippscon) I picked up Chaos (another Z-Man small card game like Chronicle – I’d played it some years ago and enjoyed how its wackiness), Il Vecchio (based on some positive reports) and Article 27 (a negotiation game.) High Frontier: Colonisation arrived after I’d completely forgotten I had preordered it. Other expansions include: multiple Netrunner expansions (though I still haven’t got past the base set yet); Dixit Odyssey and Power Up for King of Tokyo which is an excellent small expansion for this great game.

There may be some others I’ve forgotten, but I really am try to put a lid on new games, honest I am. (Oh yeah, Asteroyds, I’d forgotten picking that up.)

So – another pile of games I have to get to the table.


Lunchtime games 9/8/12

Posted: August 9, 2012 in Board Games

Dixit 2 – played by Simon H, Phil, Bart, Simon M and moi.

In an exciting finish, Phil and I had tied, so we played off against each other, paying our best card that matched “The Opposite of The Holy Grail”. Needless to say, the best man won.

That would be me