Last month I picked up a copy of Coimbra on a bit of a whim. I knew very little about it, other than both the numbers and colours of the dice were important in game play, and it was super colourful! I usually research my games a little more thoroughly than this, but it was in a sale and I convinced myself I deserved a lockdown treat!
My husband kindly read the rules (he enjoys it, honest!) and we played our first game with his 14-year-old daughter. I think it’s fair to say that although we all enjoyed our first play, it was definitely a learning game. It took quite a long time, as there was a lot of checking of the rulebook and clarifying what all of the different symbols on the character cards and monastery tiles meant. This is all par for the course for a first game, but by the end we all felt like our brains had melted a little! I think the main reason for this is the use of the dice. Players draft dice, and while the number determines the order players choose cards and the amount they pay for them, the colour determines the income reward players receive from the corresponding influence track.
Settling down for our second game a week later, I was prepared for a similar experience. However, this time the game flowed really nicely. We felt more confident as soon as we started, and were able to plan our turns with more understanding. I was particularly happy to get hold of a card that gave victory points for the number of monasteries visited, as I had moved my pilgrim a long way around the map.
So, my gaming moment of the month is not a huge victory or a crushing defeat, but more those moments we all love when a game suddenly ‘clicks’. It’s wonderful to see it in others when you teach them a game, but it’s also nice to feel it yourself. These moments are a constant reminder of why we love our hobby as much as we do.
Being a new dad is wonderful. Sure, it has its ups and downs but on the whole, it’s been a really life affirming change. That said, it really cuts into the gaming time. Especially with the better half. Generally, one of us has to be watching the kid while the other can join in game night as normal, but every now and then we get an evening where the stars align. The washing is done, the bins are out and the baby has gone to sleep nice and early. In those moments we tend to reach for the games.
This month we had an epic game of Love Letter. For those who don’t know, love letter is a small hidden roles game where you are trying to get your love letter to a princess without it being thrown into the fire. You do this by using character powers to try and knock out your opponents or have the highest numbered card in your hand when the deck runs out. It works surprisingly well with two players and I would definitely recommend it.
Anyways, we were playing best of three games. I’d already won two, but we decided to play out the third because “How often do we get to play games together nowadays?” The third game was going terribly for me all my bluffs were getting called and every 50-50 choice I made seemed to go the wrong way for me. I was five points behind, and my other half only needed one more point to win. I joked that I was still going to win, but six wins in a row seemed pretty unlikely.
But the wins started to come, it got to the point where it was six points each and the winner of this last hand would take the game. I had a bad hand. I think my other half knew it. The only way I could possibly win was to try and guess her hand. I looked around at all the face up spent cards and took a risky guess. I managed to get it right and finish an incredible come back. Something I’ll probably never manage again, but it was an awesome way to end a game.
I have two this month! First moment is all about the game, and that was Whitehall Mystery, Fantasy Flight’s super streamlined, cat and mouse Jack the Ripper game. Just the two of us playing over TTS – I was the coppers and my friend was playing Jack. I couldn’t get Discord working properly so we were in silence and relying on the chat function, which actually added to the tension. I also didn’t have a pen and paper with me, so while I could count turns to get a sense of where Jack might be, I wasn’t recording where I had searched, so there was plenty of ‘hunching’ going on.
The Game’s Afoot
First murder to second murder I didn’t get many clue tokens on the board, but as the turns progressed and no second murder happened there was a real sense I was close and was getting in Jack’s way. The second murder happened on turn 13 of 15 – so close to a win - and then Jack had to use a carriage to escape. Second to third murder I split my three policemen and lost him – but again I got close enough with the solo copper that when he triggered his third murder he needed the Alley to escape. This gave Jack the possibility of a huge jump across the board, but I managed to close on his most likely locations.
In the end it became a choice of searching for clues to get a precise bead on where he was, or gambling with a couple of speculative arrests. If I chose the latter and got it wrong, this would give him a good chance of escaping for the fourth murder and a win. I went for the risky arrests anyway and heart in mouth he moved his Jack counter from the turn tracker to the space I had just chosen – victory!
My second moment was more about the people and the moment itself. Sunday morning and my 8 year old asked for Junk Art out. I was hesitant, as her 4-year-old twin siblings were pottering about. I could envisage them being interested but this rapidly turning into a meltdown as the fine dexterity proved far too frustrating. Still, I gave it a whirl and how wrong I was. Cue about an hour of joyous building – rules hacked to take out the competitiveness but lots of glee, particularly as all four of us completed our ten item structures successfully. Magic!
Some Euro-style strategy games have score tracks that sit around the outer edge of the board. You know the type; Ticket To Ride’s an example everyone knows. These games tend to have ways in which you score micro-points throughout the duration. Mega bonuses kick in at the end, where – fingers crossed – you’re able to score any game-long goals you’ve accomplished.
These types of games can be make-or-break by those ‘micro points’, in some ways. If you’re neck-and-neck with another player(s) for the whole game, it’s ace. Continual leap-frogging over each other makes you feel great that you’re keeping up with the pace-setter. If you can’t keep up though, it can cause disheartening frustration. It puts a lot more pressure on your end-game scores – they’d better be huge if you’re to break down your rivals’ lead.
Other games don’t use a system like this. Instead, there’s no scoring during the actual game itself. All scoring occurs after the game-end whistle’s blown, as it were. Again, these games often live and die by the drama during the add-up. If there’s a chunky range between scores after the reveal, it can leave players feeling like they failed. But sometimes, on the sweetest of rare occasions, you get a delightful moment. You’re adding up the scores, and holy-moly! This is going to be close!
I experienced this golden moment last month when I played Everdell solo for the first time. Everdell’s solo mode pits you versus an A.I. rat called Rugwort. He claims a Meadow Card every time you build a card, yourself. I added up Rugwort’s total first, and he got 60 points – in part due to me claiming just one of the four Special Event Cards. That’s a strong benchmark. Deep breath. Now to add up my own tableau…
First the face-value points of the cards themselves. (I finished with 18/15 cards because of a husband and wife combo. Plus, I bought two Wanderers that don’t count towards your fifteen-card limit.) Then the set collection add-ons from the purple Prosperity Cards. Last of all, any Basic and/or Special Events earned. A smile appears. 61 points. A one-point victory – why, thank you very much. Tough luck, Rugwort! This woodland society ain’t big enough for the two of us.
With only 14 logged plays, July was my most fallow month of board gaming for four years! I can’t explain why – it just happens sometimes. Despite the lack of gaming, the moment of the month was still hotly contended and ended up being a four-way battle between a quartet of very different games.
I bought Sushi Roll in July, and while it has already provided many fun family times I wouldn’t say there was a specific standout “moment”, but I think it deserves a mention.
The second contender was the second part of an X-Wing double-header with a friend – I had lost the first game, but in the second game my “Feskitt Flyers” trio of Boba Fett in his souped-up Slave 1 and the two ion cannon toting Goons in their Y-Wings all survived a narrow 84-77 victory over a four-ship Rebel list. The big “moment” came when, to his surprise, I decimated my friend’s Auzituck Gunship – poor Chewbacca!!
I also dusted-off Elder Sign for a couple of plays in July. I hadn’t played this since just before my son was born (he turned 3 last week!) and thoroughly enjoyed both plays! Strangely enough, although I won the first regular game, it was the second time I played, this time with the Omens Of Ice expansion, that a “moment” came where I had so many dice locked up by challenges and monsters that I realised I couldn’t win the game without the Ancient Elder God awakening. In that moment I had to accept the inevitability and prepare for the great battle, which I duly lost!
But I think it’s clear to me, now that I have gone through the contenders, that my most memorable gaming “moment” came playing my 99th game of Azul with my wife. This isn’t because I narrowly won a low scoring game 54-52 – it is because it came outdoors by the campfire on a short mid-week break in Devon while camping in a wooden “pod” with the family! It’s hard to forget such a unique gaming experience.