Match Report 24th May 2010

Well let me start with a huge thank you to everybody who came last night for another really fun evening and in particular to Natalie and Crispin for bringing along some delicious munchies - THANK YOU.

Apologies were received from Joe (facing a mountain of exams this week , for which Good Luck) and Daniela (fighting the absurdities of the current education system). The latest news from Ben was that he was weathering a Force 9 storm through the night following a day in Force 8’s! His job certainly swings from the sublime to the ridiculous; hopefully this note will find him in calmer and sunnier waters. Alex is starting his Scottish placement this week. If I have missed other members of the group then apologies.

This week saw the arrival of two new faces. Gwen’s brother, Ian, who will be staying with us while he trains to be a Dive Master, after which he hopes to be heading off to much sunnier climes and Malcolm who having battled with renovating a bathroom all day found time to put down his tools and join us for something a little different. Along with these two newbie’s we had our old favourite Crispin and the slightly younger members Pauline and Natalie.

1st Game - Bohnanza
So with the newbies bringing our number to six (in a dinning room that felt like a furniture store/depot (Ian is also decorating for us between his studies) we thought to start with Bohnanza and duly set about planting our bean fields. With the normal heavy amount of trading between players resulting in such bizarre phrases as I will swap you a ‘stinky’ for a ‘black eye’ (hopefully the attached images give a sense of how this might arise). At the half way point our newbie’s were showing clear signs of having grasped the game with Malcolm profiting from holding off trading with the active player to then benefit from donations (at no cost to himself) of unwanted cards!!

Match Report 10th May 2010

Ben at work
Well as with last time I need to start with a correction - sorry. Ben mentioned that I hadn’t quite got the scale of his task to do with the ‘heads’ (toilets) right I suggested a mere 20 boats were having their pipe work re-done when in fact it was a 111 – double and triple urgh! However, his job does have some attractions as you can see from the attached photo.

A slightly smaller turnout than last time saw the welcome return of Alex together with Daniela and our stalwart Crispin. The list of possible attendees grows every larger with two new names being added to the list.

As ever we started with a catch up on what we have all been up to and Alex shed some light on the workings of one of the well known Irish travel companies, that on the one hand surprised nobody and on the other left people saying ‘unbelievable’. The most amusing being his flight team being told to head off to an airport 100 miles away but with no contact point, leaving them having to search the airport for their plane and a way of getting to it. The passengers unaware of this farce like activity at least knew where the plane was and had ground crew willing to take them to it!

Alex's hand looking a little like the Irish property market. Lots of capacity but few tenants!
Well to the games. Our first game of the evening was Landlord (described as” …. a card game for 2 to 6 players. Build apartments, rent them to tenants, and collect rent. In Landlord every card you play gives you two options; one side of the card is an apartment the other side has tenants, roofs, renovations and special actions. Move wealthy tenants into your apartments and put the deadbeats into your opponents'. You can even bomb buildings, but don't get caught; jail awaits those who are careless, although not necessarily guilty!”).

Match Report 26th April 2010

Well what an evening, but let me start with an addendum to the last report. I omitted to mention a whole new feature to the evenings; musical accompaniment. As we were Racing for the Galaxy we were listening to David Bowie "Space Oddity" and the techno music of Jean Michel Jarre's. This feature was omitted from this weeks game as we were just too engrossed in the game but it might be amusing to have some suggestions for other games?

Well we had big turn out, with the welcome return of Beryl after her winter hibernation Natalie (having baked some really lovely ginger buns, again in those strange multicoloured silicone cases – thank you), Pauline, Daniela and Crispin.

Carcassonne, at the end of the game with most markers already removed
Well to the games, we started with one of the groups favourites Carcassonne, which as a 5 player game could have caused some difficulty, the mathematicians amongst you you will have noticed that we had reached the heady number of 6 players. However Natalie and Pauline kindly agreed to work together and so we started building our French landscape of castles, monasteries and roads. A simple enough game but one which whilst on the face of it is collaborative provided significant opportunity for nearly everybody (even the most angelic members of the group) to provide guidance on how other players tiles should be placed, invariably to their own profit and not that of the person who was having their go. Beryl rose above such Machiavellian behaviour, however I don’t think that could be said of any one else. This turned out to be one of the funniest games we have played with the self interest always being blatant and so drawing the heckling attention of all the other players.

How Might We Describe The Games We Play?

Well the overriding word would be FUN!

Their appeal spans those at school to those well into their retirement, they have themes ranging from farming, building, economic, political, fantasy Sci-Fi Horror, railroad building, who-dun it, historical and a myriad of other to great to mention. They are played around a table with typically from 2-6 players and you can normally play 2 or 3 different games in an evening or afternoon.

Unlike the common or popular board games such as Monopoly, Risk or Trivial Pursuit they neither require a level of general knowledge or a desire to eliminate all the other players. In fact in many respects with their varied themes, strong social interaction they are ideal family / educational games. This makes it more than a little surprising that they haven’t found a wider audience in the UK.

Our group don’t see themselves as having board games as a hobby, rather they come together to socialise around the board game so it might be truer to describe it as an activity rather than a hobby.

Settlers of Catan
I started by using the word fun and that is because of the degree of social interaction typically found in our games where players have to trade, collaborate or in other ways interact with each other and that this typical occurs even when it isn’t your go. So there is always something happening and unlike more commonly known games rarely are players eliminated from the game so everybody is in with a chance right to the end. Whilst there is always luck this dimension in downplayed. Probably the most well known game in this genre is Settlers of Catan. This having recently featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal when it was discovered there were lots of people playing it within Google and a number of other Web 2.0 companies.

Where the popular games typically require you to eliminate the other players or result in direct conflict this is also avoided with a number being openly collaborative where you are seeking to play together against the game e.g. Castle Panic.

In a world where Facebook and its numerous apps dominates such a large part of many people’s recreation time many of us have seen friends Farming and being updated on their progression in FarmVille yet how many people have heard of Agricola, an award winning game were you are faced with similar opportunities and choices, but you sit around a table with friends to laugh and relax.

Our games could be described as German, or European, or family or Light Strategy games. Some are played with cards others on a board but all have beautiful and often amusing artwork, and high quality playing pieces, often at a similar price to a computer game, with many much cheaper. However what you will not do is find them in your normal high street shops, they tend to be found in specialist Bard Games shops or via the internet. Hence in part at least they are less well known.

The rules make the games easy to pick up, yet typically with a light strategy dynamic they provide just enough of a challenge to stimulate the grey matter, providing an opportunity to escape the strains and stresses of normal live, playing a part, at time out of character leading to much amusement and leaving you refreshed. We have found that the games and the social opportunity have resulted in members joining aged from 17 to over 80 with a good spread in between.

There aren’t many activities that would provide an opportunity for such a wide demographic to come together and have a fun evening.

An Introduction To This Blog

This blog records my own experiances with board (European) games and will over time explore how they may be used to bring people together,across the age ranges; within families, schools, churches and libraries and maybe even within the care setting. With a focus on fun and collaboration they provide a relaxing focus that can entertain, challenge, educate and distract, yet they do not have the prominence in the UK that they do in either mainland Europe or the US.