Monthly Archives: November 2015

First Light to Second Heavy

Wednesday’s Corbridge Gamers session was relatively light, with the short civ-tableau-engine-builder Imperial Settlers starting proceedings. While the concept of a civilisation game where you can destroy your opponents’ buildings might not initially appeal to the eurogamer, when you realise that the defender gets 1 Wood and gets to keep the card as a Foundation (which can be used as part-payment towards a high-VP faction building), it doesn’t seem so bad.

Which was good for Corbridge harmony really, because I spent a fair bit of the game razing John’s buildings to the ground. I played the Roman faction which can store Raze tokens between rounds; John, as the other side in the suggested 2-player newbie game, was the Barbarians, who are good at producing and storing people from round to round. John got a nice little engine going fairly early on, involving some sort of gold mine and an Acting Troupe card which let him clear off the gold mine and use it again to gain even more Gold tokens. Gold being wild, he could then pour his mountain of it into building new Locations.

The Acting Troupe was first on my list of Raze targets. While John was gaining ground on the VP track, I was going for a much more ‘civilised’ approach, building as many of the Roman faction Locations as I could. That meant also picking up as many cheap Locations from the Common deck as possible, so I could build them and then spend them as part of the building costs for the Roman Locations. It worked out pretty well, with some lovely Feature Location synergies and a lucky draw of two ‘multi-colour’ Roman cards which each triggered two Feature Locations for extra Gold and/or VPs.

My glorious Roman civilisation. Common Locations (1 VP each) to the right of the Faction board, Roman Locations (2 VPs each) to the left.

My glorious Roman civilisation. Common Locations (1 VP each) to the right of the Faction board, Roman Locations (2 VPs each) to the left. I was very Production-heavy.

I was a little behind on the VP track at the end of the fifth and final round, but my massive collection of Roman faction Locations outstripped the Barbarians.

Final score – Me: 44 / John: 39

Imperial Settlers was a very fun, light (but not too light) engine-builder with tons of replayability and different factions to explore. I’m sure it’ll get played a fair bit in future.

We moved on to my fresh copy of Reiner Knizia’s venerable Samurai, in a lovely new edition from Fantasy Flight Games. I’d had a little bit of experience with the iOS version, but I’d never been any good at it and it had been a while since the majority of my plays anyway. We were essentially both new to the game.

The crucial difference was that I’d already figured out the crux of good Samurai play: timing. It’s not about getting the highest-value tiles down next to the statues; it’s usually about being the player to get the last surrounding tile down. It took John a few rounds to realise that, and by that time I’d already got the upper hand.

The end of the game after four tied statues – I took two majorities for the win.

The end of the game after four tied statues – I took majorities in buddhas and castles for the win. Never mind all that though… it’s PRETTY.

I forced the end of the game by causing a fourth statue to be tied while I was ahead on two categories. It felt a little gamey – it would certainly be lot harder to do that with confidence in a three- or four-player game because captured statues are kept behind player screens in those games.

We finished with a “quick” game of Harbour, which was new to me and didn’t make a great impression, largely down to an unlucky card draw which made the first few rounds painfully slow. Four of the five cards available to build at the start were high-cost, which is one thing you just don’t get in Le Havre (from which Harbour takes clear influence) because although the building order is slightly randomised, it’s also structured so the engines get built first. Not so here, so we struggled on for a while before things eased up and we could finally get some building done.

I managed a win, 40–27, mainly because John twice used the Wizard’s Travelling Imaginarium to swap one of his existing buildings for a higher-value one. That meant he got a cheap build, but at the sacrifice of the points he had in the building he traded in. Thus, I ended up with five buildings and John with three.

As I said, not a great impression, although I could see how much more fun it could be if the cards came out in a better order.

Saturday brought another Newcastle Gamers session, which began with another game of Samurai, this time with four players. It’s a very different beast with four – there are substantially more spots that could be surrounded by the time your turn comes back round, plus there are more spaces for ships to affect multiple contests. Thankfully, everyone twigged the timing aspect of the game pretty quickly, but there were some very long turns as people analysed the board situation and tried to figure out the best move… or sometimes just the least bad move. After a long dance, the last castle disappeared from the board and the game ended. I won a leader token and Graham won another (the third went unclaimed by either Olly or Andrew), so the tiebreaker was statues in castes other than the one in which we had the leader token. I just tipped it in my favour with 6 against Graham’s 5, so a win for me.

The rest of the session was a rematch of 1830 after an initial play in September. In order to fit the game into a normal Newcastle meeting, we’d gathered a few resources to make things quicker and easier (poker chips, player aids and a fabulous iOS app called Survey Party that does things like automatically calculating maximum railroad revenues and player payouts based on shareholdings) and actually played out the initial sale of private companies by email over the preceding week. I’d nearly ended up without a private, but thankfully Ali passed on his opportunity to buy the B&O private at face value and I snapped it up (setting share par at $90 in the hopes of keeping the B&O railroad a steady medium-to-high earner through the game). That left Olly with the C&A (I bid him up to an eye-watering $246 before dropping out), Ali with C&StL and John Si, King of the Privates, with SVR, D&H and M&H.

My initial plan worked OK for a while – the B&O is in a perfect position to crank out decent payouts pretty quickly, especially with a handful of trains. My 2, 2 and 3 did me well, until the 2 trains rusted and things slowed down dramatically. As expected, Olly’s PRR was knocking heads with the B&O in several spots, and he ended up blocking me via both tile and token placements (the latter after I’d foolishly let the B&O’s cash reserves run down to $3 so I couldn’t afford a token of my own). Ali’s New York & New Haven and John’s New York Central were far enough out of B&O’s way to not worry me in the early stages of the game.

About an hour or two into the game. B&O has upgraded some tiles to gain better revenue, but blocked out of some tiles to the east by the dastardly PRR.

About an hour or two into the game. B&O has upgraded some tiles to gain better revenue, but been blocked out of some tiles to the east by the dastardly PRR.

I played the shares game very carefully – probably too carefully – and only held a maximum of one share in anyone else’s railroad until we were into the diesel era. That protected me from having bankrupt railroads dumped on me, but it also ‘protected’ me from gaining a decent income. And for the second time, I failed to start up a second railroad. In fact, the Erie didn’t float at all, while Olly took control of Boston & Maine, John took Chesapeake & Ohio and Ali ran the Canadian Pacific again. This failure to start a second company (in part caused by the fact I got the B&O private – it closes as soon as the B&O railroad buys a train and thus can’t be sold to a railroad for fat stacks of cash you can spend on a second company) was a big part in my mediocre performance overall. I couldn’t play the game of buying trains between two companies in order to have enough money in one to buy a better train; rather, I had to withhold revenue to save up enough cash to trade in my 4 for a D train. (That was actually my one triumphant moment of the whole game.) At least I wouldn’t have to fund a train from my personal money, but I wasn’t going to do well overall. 60% shareholding in a railroad running one diesel on a heavily blocked route doesn’t compare with what the others had.

Olly, meanwhile, was manipulating the PRR share value to stay within the yellow zone, meaning his 60% of PRR shares didn’t count towards his portfolio limit of 16 certificates. That left him free to invest widely in other companies, benefitting from their continued revenue payouts while he kept PRR relatively low in value (and occasionally paying out handsomely). I only went over the 16-certificate limit by one, because all the interesting shares had been snapped up.

This time round, Ali was the only player to get stung by a forced train purchase, but it was a nasty sting, costing him just over $800 of personal money for a diesel. That involved ditching a bunch of decent shares as well, so Ali’s game never really recovered, while John and I just trundled along, paying out with our railroads, trying to engineer some decent track routes (failing in my case) and picking up the odd share here and there when they became available.

The endgame map

The endgame map – notice how horribly boxed in my B&O is, and how unappealing the Erie railroad was.

The bank broke around midnight. The last few operating rounds felt a bit stale – very little was happening in terms of track changes, so at least the Survey Party app helped keep things ticking along smoothly. As an aside, that app probably saved us at least an hour just tracing train routes and working out revenues. Possibly two hours. Seriously worth the money, especially because it’s free.

Final scores – Olly: $9,039 / John: $7,924 / Me: $7,602 / Ali: $4,646

For reference/interest/completeness, some cash/share-value splits:

Olly: $5,405 cash / $3,634 shares
John: $5,134 cash / $2,790 shares
Me: $4,616 cash / $2,986 shares
Ali: $2,066 cash / $2,580 shares

Not a terrible showing from me, considering the lack of second railroad (my widespread portfolio actually served me pretty well alongside a high value for my six B&O shares), and an unsurprising victory for Olly, considering his excellent manipulation of the PRR stock value and massive shareholdings. As with the first game, it was really good fun and now I feel like I’m just getting a handle on the ebb and flow of 1830… and handily there’s already talk of a further rematch.

Final gaming news of the week was that our marital copy of Pandemic Legacy arrived, which should keep us on our toes for some time to come. Looking forward to getting started with it!

Prodigal Ambition

After a quick rematch of Small World with 8-year-old J (he beat me again, 105–95 this time, even with my Ghouls), John Sh and I met for our now almost weekly Corbridge Gamers. Essen – and my birthday – having just passed, there was new stuff galore to choose from. We started with the newest arrival, which had turned up on my doorstep that very morning: the new Roll for the Galaxy expansion, Ambition.

Choosing to leave out the optional Objective tiles for now (as John pointed out, it’s not like it doesn’t get played a lot, so there’s plenty of opportunity to add them in future), there wasn’t a huge amount of new stuff to explain. It’s really just the addition of double-phase Leader and Entrepreneur dice, along with the many, many new starting faction and home world tiles. (Five new tiles to the draw bag doesn’t really seem worth mentioning.)

And so it played out feeling pretty much like vanilla RollftG, with the exception of very occasionally getting to put a black or orange die straight back into the cup. The black Leader die we each started with obviously added a tiny bit of flexibility to our dice assignments (after all, the double-phase faces give you a choice of two places to put the die), so it did feel a little bit easier to do what I wanted and to the extent that I wanted to do it. Also, the Leader die behaving like a purple die for shipping purposes is a pretty major thing; I racked up some early VPs that way.

You start with a black die (replacing one of the five white dice in the base game), so that's a wild face from the outset as well as the extra flexibility afforded by the dual-phase faces.

You start with a black die (replacing one of the five white dice in the base game), so that’s a wild face from the outset as well as the extra flexibility afforded by the dual-phase faces.

I kept myself in cash by completing planets with pairs of green and red dice (my faction gave me $2 when I did so), plus occasionally shipping from my yellow world for $6, and John stayed solvent with his faction power which gave him $2 for each good on a green world at the end of the Produce phase. Plenty of cash meant I could settle new worlds pretty quickly, giving me extra dice and new opportunities to Produce and Ship; a development giving me +1 VP for shipping from a brown world was a handy bonus. I just skipped ahead on the Shipping game which, along with my relatively expensive worlds, tipped me just ahead in the final scoring, triggered by the VP pool running out.

Final score – Me: 38 / John: 36

Like I said, fairly vanilla-feeling. Adding the Objectives next time should shake things up quite a bit.

We followed up with a follow-up: Vladimir Suchý’s The Prodigals Club, his 2015 sequel to 2011’s Last Will. I’ve enjoyed Last Will a couple of times, although reliance on a random card draw did irk me last timeThe Prodigals Club mitigates that randomness hugely. There’s no opportunity to draw blind from a deck of cards; rather, all available cards are drawn at the start of each round. That means it’s all meaningful, tough worker-placement decisions from the outset, and plenty of them.

The Prodigals Club comes with three modules (Election, Society and Possessions), of which you can choose two for each play, or you can play with all three, or even play with two modules and use Last Will in its entirety as the third. (That final option seems to me like a special kind of madness.) We went with the suggested first-play option of Election and Society modules which naturally means, in true Last Will style, that we were trying to lose an election and offend everybody in polite society. Of course, just doing one of those things isn’t good enough, so there’s scoring à la Knizia: your final score that actually counts is the worse (i.e. higher – start thinking backwards now) of your two module scores.

The fun comes from queueing up big combos of cards, so that this thing gives you that, which moves those down to there so you can do the other with these… Getting to that point is a bit of a battle, but all in a good way. Everything’s interconnected, so decisions you make to primarily influence the election competition can also have a knock-on effect in society and vice-versa. I took an early lead in losing the election and managed to start my four society markers on their journey down the scoring ladder. (This is where I wish I’d taken pictures. There’s a fun little geometric shuffling game there, wanting to keep the four markers out of each others’ way while also paying attention to Dame Beatrice – who can apply “penalties” every round because she thinks that you’re really a lovely person at heart – and positioning markers to take advantage of the icons they land on.)

John eventually managed to string together the mother of all combos, involving offending Conservatives and Liberals while getting into several arguments and annoying everyone in polite society too. My previously unhealthy-looking election score was suddenly far too healthy, and John managed to get both of his scores under zero in the fourth round. Just one score hitting zero is enough to trigger the end of the game, so I didn’t get the chance to stage a comeback (not that I’d have been able to).

Final score – John: -6 / Me: 9

Yes, the worse of John’s two scores was -6. I think the other one was -9. My society score was down to -2, I think, but my election scuppering slowed down in the third and fourth rounds. Overall, I liked The Prodigals Club substantially more than Last Will, and I already liked Last Will a fair bit. Looking forward to another shot at it!

The week ended with the arrival of my Sierra Madre Games (i.e. Phil Eklund) pre-order package, containing Pax Porfiriana Collector’s EditionPax Pamir (sequel of sorts to Porfiriana) and Neanderthal (sequel/prequel of sorts to Greenland). That should take up my entire rules-learning brain quota for the month. Getting them played is another matter – EklundFest 2.0 on the horizon, maybe…

A Cyclone on the Horizon

Long-time readers and people who actually know me will be aware that I’ve been going through a relapse into – and recovery from – chronic fatigue syndrome. Obviously this has affected many things, although this blog hasn’t really been one of them. At my physiotherapist’s behest, and as part of my own ramshackle attempts at pacing and graded exercise therapy, I started cycling back in May. I got myself a road bike and gradually built up the distance and time I was riding for, taking care never to push myself too far, but always notching it up to the next level if it was comfortable.

Well, now I’m at the point where I’m riding over 100 km per week, happily climbing hills (seriously, it’s my favourite bit – it helps being short and relatively light) and genuinely feeling like I don’t have CFS any more. Well, only when I’m cycling. Weird, I know, but walking still feels like the slog it has been for the last two years; standing still is oddly exhausting; even just thinking is a struggle at times… but when I’m spinning along at 90 rpm, everything’s just fine and dandy.

Because the cycling’s been going so swimmingly, I thought I’d enter a sportive – if you haven’t come across the term, it’s like a fun run for cycling (i.e. not a race), but still officially timed and with mechanical support and feed stations along the route. It’s a little something to aim towards. Given where I live, the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge seemed like a good option, but with route options of 34, 64, 90 and 106 miles, which should a recovering CFS-sufferer go for? Hmmm. Yes, the 106-mile one. Definitely. That’d be sensible.

So I’ve signed up. Yes, it looks like lunacy at first glance, but given that I’ve gone from 0 to 65 miles per week in six months, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that I could get to well over 100 miles per week over the next seven months, which should set me up for the Cyclone. Of course, that means the slog of winter training, but I’ve got the British Cycling training plans on my side. As long as my body can keep up, I’ll be out on the road.

See you there.

October Gaming Roundup

Picking back through my logged plays on BoardGameGeek has got a bit more difficult now that I’ve made the decision to log plays of digital/online games as long as they’re against real people. It was starting to feel ridiculous having only two or three logged plays of, say, Castles of Burgundy when I’ve played it online (on Boîte à Jeux) 18 times against real people. I’ve also been playing online quite a bit recently, not only on Boîte à Jeux but also Board Game Arena and Yucata. As I write, I’ve got two games of Trajan on the go, plus one each of HivePuerto Rico and Tash Kalar.

But I’ll concentrate here on face-to-face gaming, facing real people with their real faces. John Sh and I played Nations at the start of October, which was (as I so often seem to say) something I’d wanted to play for a while. I like Through the Ages a lot (although I’ve only played it online and not for a while, so… no logged plays on BGG – sigh), so I was interested to play this apparently streamlined distillation of the essence of TtA, especially in advance of the new edition of TtA. The influence is blatant, but the differences are abundant – and nothing is more different than the military system, which removes virtually all of the player-vs-player nastiness of TtA.

We opted to play the “advanced” sides of our player boards, even though it was my first time playing. I’m a big fan of asymmetry and it wasn’t a change of rules – simply a difference in starting resources and a small special power. My empire of Rome pushed me towards a military strategy straight away, while John’s Egyptians were clearly much more peaceful; indeed, John renounced the military game pretty much immediately, in favour of being able to build more stuff while I pummelled him as much as the game would allow… which wasn’t actually much. A few bonuses here, a few things taken away there – I probably lost just as much stuff from being behind on the stability track for much of the game.

Everything progressed in a fairly TtA-ish way, with bigger and better cards coming out as each era began, slowly replacing our buildings and/or military units. The last couple of rounds became a slightly mathsy parallel-solo optimisation puzzle, which wasn’t a problem in and of itself, but it did detract a little from the civ-building theme. In the end, we totted up our points to find that my Romans had beaten Egypt, 36 to 28.

Overall, Nations does a decent job of simmering the civ-building genre down into a palatable play-length. It just doesn’t quite match the grand feeling of Through the Ages, but that’s OK – it’s a very enjoyable game in its own right.

A week later (and after a Newcastle Gamers session in the middle), John and I met again for Suburbia. Astonishingly, this was only John’s second play of Suburbia, having played it when I picked it up just after Essen 2012. That first time round, he’d taken an early lead, which is generally a Very Bad Idea in Suburbia, and he spent the rest of the game being pummelled by the red lines on the Population board reducing his Income and Reputation. Not an enjoyable introduction to the game, and he’d understandably been a bit put off.

The pain had dimmed to a dull ache after three years, so we attacked the base game again. It was all fairly close (and John edged ahead for a while) until very late on in the game, when my experience showed through (with a bit of good luck) and I was ready for the uncertainty of the game-end timing in the C stack. John got slightly too hammered by the red lines again, but not quite enough to push his income down to -5 on the last turn like mine. That meant I took the Miser goal (lowest income) and the Aquaphobian goal (fewest lakes), because John had to build a second lake when he had no money left and had used all three of his Investment Markers. We each made our private goals, but that wasn’t enough to stop me soaring ahead in the final scoring: 169–130. I’m pretty sure that’s my highest score ever. I mean, 130 is pretty damn good, but 169 is ridiculous.

The key thing is that John enjoyed Suburbia much more this time round, which means there’s less chance of it languishing on the shelf – that’s great, given that I’ve just bought the Suburbia 5★ expansion.

We finished off with John introducing me to Arboretum, which is a fabulously thinky little card game. It’s like a two-dimensional Lost Cities, with elements of tableau building and hand management thrown together into a simple-yet-oh-so-AP-inducing super-filler. John was planting some lucrative-looking trees in his arboretum, so I made sure to hang on to high-value cards in those suits so he hopefully couldn’t score them. Meanwhile, I was struggling to plant anything useful in my own tableau, with a hand full of 6s, 7s and 8s. At the end, the vast majority of my success came from denying John the ability to score his trees, so it was a low-scoring victory for me, 16–11.

Continuing the “gaming weekend” theme from last month, I had a weekend alone with our 8-year-old. J (as I shall refer to him, given that it’s his initial) has enjoyed a few of the games from my collection over recent years, but he’s just turning a developmental corner which means he can really start planning ahead. Oh, and he can read fluently now, which is a great help for games covered in text. Being an 8-year-old boy (and a voracious reader), he’s much more interested in fantasy creatures and exciting gameplay than economic models and quiet contemplation of worker placement, so we took a trip to Travelling Man in Newcastle, to see if there was anything we both fancied the look of. We ended up leaving with Small World, which is pretty distant from my usual gaming territory, but I know it has a reputation for being ‘fun’, if nothing else, and J was drawn to the artwork, the presence of wizards and dragons (just like in his favourite books) and the fact it was for “age 8+”. (As an aside, I’m quite proud that he declared the newly released Star Wars Carcassonne to be “a ridiculous idea”; it certainly looks it.)

Over the weekend, we managed:

  • Castle Panic × 2 (too light for me, and too easy to win, but just right for J – again, including the theme)
  • Small World (what fun there is largely comes from the race/power combos – J got Heroic Halflings and thrashed me 95–75)
  • Carcassonne (probably the last time we’ll play this for a while – I’m just too nasty, which is what I enjoy about 2-player Carcassonne)
  • Labyrinth (the old Ravensburger maze one, not the GMT global terrorism one)
  • Forbidden Island (we died pretty early on, even on Novice level)
  • Jungle Speed Safari × 3 (my hands hurt for about four days afterwards)
  • Ingenious (against all odds, J loved this on his first play)

Yes, a weekend of games that aren’t entirely to my taste (except Carc and Ingenious), but that’s not the point. A weekend of games with one of my kids. That’s the point.

Another evening session with John featured the most painful game of Snowdonia I’ve had in a long while. We were trying out the Trans-Australian Railway expansion, but we can’t blame the expansion for our woes. Every so often, the card draw in Snowdonia just doesn’t work out nicely. We had rain after rain after rain, including the Australian “extreme weather” version – floods – meaning the excavation and track-laying were painfully slow. The whole thing took nearly twice as long as it should (we played for getting on towards two hours) and just felt like being battered about the head with a Mallet of Obduracy. I finished the game at the earliest opportunity and won 121–86, essentially by accident. (It possibly should have been 124–90, because we forgot to score double points for the Nullarbor Plains track cards.)

Just over a week later, we held another Corbridge Gamers session, this time swollen in both length and numbers. Olly and Graham came over in the afternoon as well as John, bringing us to four for a good ten hours or so of games. We started with my newly acquired copy of Poseidon, an 18xx-euro hybrid which condenses most of the key elements of 18xx into a fixed-length game full of wooden discs.

We all synchronised fairly well: everybody set up a nation in the first round (my Megalopolis got a bit screwed by John slightly unexpectedly cutting me off, but my plan from the outset had been to keep Megalopolis slow and steady until the final few rounds so it wasn’t too much of a bother) and then we all started a second nation in the same merchant round a while later.

We’d all played 1830 before (although for Graham it had been eight years and for John probably about 25), so there was much “ah, just like 1830” and “oh, this isn’t at all like 1830“. The huge difference is that Poseidon features recapitalisation as part of the game flow. At the start of Phases 2 and 3, nations can add more Potentials (wooden discs) to the Merchant Pool to raise more money for their coffers. That means that (a) there’s a careful balancing element between issuing Potentials as Merchants and using Potentials as Trading Posts on the map; and (b) it’s much more forgiving in terms of being forced to buy trains Ships from personal funds. That latter point, combined with the fact you can’t ever forcibly dump a nation onto someone else – even if they have more shares Merchants than you – makes it a much, much gentler financial game than 1830, and I certainly ended up concentrating very heavily on the map and getting the most out of my remaining Potentials once I’d figured out how many to issue as new Merchants.

Should the Merchant Pool be that full at the end of the game?

Should the Merchant Pool be that full at the end of the game? With a limit of 15 Merchants per player in a 4-player game, it seems likely… although we could maybe have managed nations better and got more Trading Posts on the board instead.

Megalopolis (purple) became very profitable indeed over the last two Operating Rounds Exploration Rounds, but it was too little too late. Olly had run Larissa (orange) very well for the whole game and, although it wasn’t generating a huge revenue in the last rounds, he had seven Merchants from Larissa (and a couple from Megalopolis) so he was bringing in a fair chunk of money each time it set sail. Graham was the only one of us to get seriously burned by the forced purchase of a Ship, which took several hundred drachmas from his personal funds and scuppered his game somewhat in the closing stages.

Final score (in drachmas) – Olly: 3626 / Me: 3296 / John: 3128 / Graham: 2649

I know a few things I did badly and a few things Olly did well, so I reckon I could play substantially better next time. I’m starting to get really excited by the idea of 18xx as a game series. I’ve got my eye on the imminent 1844/1854 double-package from Lookout Games and Olly’s already picked up 1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties, so there’s plenty of possibility for more diverse 18xx in future.

After a quick pub trip for food, we spent the rest of the day engaged in substantially lighter (but excellent) fare. I maintained my 100% win streak in the superb The King of Frontier (Me: 52 / Graham: 44 / John: 42 / Olly: 28), failed miserably at Codenames (which could do with more than four players, to be fair) and came an honourable second in the mayhem that is Camel Up (Graham: 34 / Me: 29 / Olly: 28 / John: 20).

Tucked in among that lot was a successful run through Ghost Stories – yes, we defeated Wu-Feng! OK, it was only on Initiation level, but I tried to avoid quarterbacking too much (I’d had a solo refresher game on Nightmare level that morning and won fairly easily as the yellow Taoist). It was a really tough start to the game, with multiple Haunters coming out early on and several player boards being perilously full, but getting through a tough start means it should be easier later on. And it was for a short while… until Wu-Feng himherself turned up, as the Dark Mistress.

Victory! (A pyrrhic one for Graham, lying dead in the Graveyard.)

Victory! (A pyrrhic one for Graham, lying dead in the Graveyard. And clearly not an easy one for the rest of us.)

Obviously, none of the incarnations of Wu-Feng are exactly fun, but the Dark Mistress is my least favourite of the lot. Throughout the rest of the game, the dice are largely mitigable – in fact, my general rule of thumb is not to bother attempting an exorcism unless I have the Tao tokens available to do it without dice. The Dark Mistress takes that away, requiring three blue dice/tokens to exorcise… except it locks Tao tokens so you can’t use them. You can still use the Circle of Prayer so that’s only two blue (or wild white) dice needed once you’ve put a blue token on the Circle, but even so… it reduces the final encounter to simply rolling dice until either you succeed or you die.

So it wasn’t the greatest ending to Ghost Stories, but at least we won. Hooray!

These monthly roundups are getting out-of-hand lengthy, so I’m going to attempt to do little and often in future. Hopefully there’ll be enough gaming to justify it!