No Newcastle Gamers for me during February, and a bout of the nastiest illness I’ve ever had (tonsillitis coupled with hand, foot and mouth disease, for that bacterial–viral double-whammy) limited most of my other gaming opportunities too, but there were a couple of solid gaming sessions with John S in Corbridge.
At the beginning of the month, we played Keyflower, with the Farmers expansion. It was my first Keyflower in about a year, and my first ever with the Farmers, but there’s something so natural about the game that I didn’t need much in the way of rules-refreshment and Farmers only adds a couple of new mechanisms.
It was a bit of an oddity of a game, mainly because every single green meeple came into play. Most of them ended up in my village as part of a massive meeple population (meepulation?), because I was building towards some big winter-tile bonuses from green meeples and sets of three meeples. I kept using green meeples to activate the green-meeple-gathering hexes in my own village, thus locking John out of those hexes because he didn’t have enough green meeples… and so the cycle continued until the box of green meeples was exhausted.
John played a much more ‘normal’, rounded game, but it wasn’t quite enough to offset my big winter scoring (even taking into account that I’d misremembered a scoring rule) and I took the win, 74–68. As ever, I really enjoyed it. My favourite game I don’t own.
The other excellent session involved a Stefan Feld game I’d somehow never got around to playing – Amerigo. Quite how I’d never played it is beyond me, given that (a) it’s a Feld, and (b) it’s got a massive great gimmicky cube tower in it.
It also ended up as an odd session, because the random board layout left us with an archipelago almost entirely bisected by a massive island. It was the only ‘large’ island in the game, and one of the only islands not to be fully built up by the end of the game. Still, it didn’t bother me, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first play of Amerigo. In typical Feld style, there’s always a valid-feeling choice on every turn, and the real meat of the game is in trying to figure out which choice is actually the good one. I think I squandered a couple of turns here and there, and I wished I’d stocked up on cannonballs instead of going for a more immediately appealing option early in the game – that could have saved me a good 12 points lost through piracy and possibly won me the game. Instead, John showed his experience and won 156–146.
I love the cube tower too. Great use of an existing mechanism.
We also managed to fit in games of Patchwork (the least Rosenberg-feeling of any Uwe Rosenberg game I’ve played, but still good fun) and BraveRats (which was… fine, if a little inelegant – I don’t expect a 16-card microgame to need a combat results table).
And that was pretty much my February in board games. Not much action at all.
But during my recovery from the aforementioned devil-plague, I found myself back at the controls of Crusader Kings II on my computer. Having not played for at least a year, I’d forgotten just how much fun it is, especially when your character has traits like ‘Lunatic’ and you get events like this:
But beyond the ridiculousness… it’s a great game with huge breadth and depth, especially with some of the later expansions and additions to the base game mechanisms. The down side is that it’s a massive time sink – to play a normal game from 1066 to 1453 apparently takes 30 to 40 hours, and I’ve barely gone over a century in any of my games. Given that the Charlemagne expansion takes the start date back to 769, I can’t imagine I’ll ever play a game that covers the full possible span.
Still, I’m having fun just pootling around in the 12th century, marrying my children and close relatives off to (a) distant kings so I can call on their new lieges’ massive armies; (b) next-door neighbours so I can more easily expand my realm; and (c) just occasionally… each other. There’s still only a smallish chance of their children having the ‘Inbred’ trait…