Sunday, April 19, 2009


Student Nationals - Day 2

A shorter day for gaming as the closing ceremony takes up a chunk of time. Still four sessions but now each game is one that is quicker to complete. In one session, we have the time to complete two games. Strangely, I completely forgot to take any photos of the games but luckily others can remind me what we played.


Of all the games this weekend, Citadels was the only one I had played before. A reasonably simple card game where you get to choose to be a particular character (king, architect, assassin, merchant, etc.) each turn and build parts of your city. Our game became unbalanced because one player knew how to play the game well tactically and the rest didn't. Although he didn't win, it did have the effect that one of the other players kept getting assassinated and missing their turn. Missing turns sucks in any game and missing a few in a row kills off your chances.


This is an interesting resource management game where you try to fill the fields of your zoo with animals whilst avoiding having creatures you have no space for - no one likes culling pandas. My risk assessment in this game was pretty poor and my big plans ground to a halt through lack of money.


A few players in this game - rated an impressive 8.1/10 on BoardGameGeek - were familiar with the rules and happily charged off into the distance towards victory as the rest of us started to get the hang of things. It's a card game where everybody starts off level with a small deck but over time you buy more cards to make your deck more efficient - that is, make sure the cards you draw each turn allow you to pick up more cards and generate more wealth. If you know what you're doing, your deck will get faster and faster - Magic: The Gathering fans will be familiar with the concept. Why play 1 card when you can play 5? An alternative approach, favoured by myself, was to force the end game before the power players had started to Hoover up all the victory points. It may not let you win but it sure stops you coming last.

Next were two short river games played as one slot.

Fast Flowing Forest Fellers

This was a quick and easy fun game where you have to move a couple of lumberjacks down a river and off the other end of the board. In the way are logs and other players which you can shove out of the way, Abalone-style. There are also rapids that force areas of the river to flow in different directions. Looks a simple game but when you have 5 players all trying to squeeze past some rocks at the same time, it became nightmarishly hard to predict where you would be come your next turn. Being able to push other players into the rapids and back up the river was definitely amusing. Recommended game for playing with non-gamers.

Mississippi Queen

Out on the Mississippi are Lovely Ladies waiting to be picked up and carried further down-river on your paddle steamer. On the way the river winds through small islets and round bends which limit your speed and force you to spend more coal on manoeuvring. And, like in FFFF above, you can be bumped out of the way by a boat coming through on its turn. Fortune favoured the brave so I didn't win.

After all the games were finished and results taken away, we had to wait for the Awards Ceremony to start so played another couple of games of Dominion to pass the time.

The Awards Ceremony is a long, drawn-out process and, traditionally, is late starting and seems to go on forever. This year's was no exception. The programme stated (amusingly with hindsight):

5:00pm Awards Ceremony
6:00pm Close and Go Home

First up was the charity aspect of the event - a donation to Christie's, who raise money for The Christie in Manchester (one of the largest cancer treatment centres in Europe).

Next was the raffle where, for a change, we won nothing to resell on eBay. There was also a prize for getting a slip stamped by all the traders in the hall - a good way of encouraging people to visit them. And a third prize for guessing the total number rolled by the 400+ dice collected at registration on Sunday. Another Vague novelty.

Eventually, it's way past 5pm and the AWARDS part (where points are dished out to the different teams) starts to kick into life. The Crystal Vague had been a success and Big Bad Jon announced the best costumes (individual (SteamPunk) and team (Wizard of Oz with flying monkey)) and the overall winners before condemning the team that trying to cheat their way to victory. It should have been in the "Bible of Vague Roleplay" that was on sale at the event - BBJ will catch you out.

Nearing 6pm and we get to the actual games played. Unfortunately, we had a train to catch and so started to collect our luggage together and squeeze through the crowds to the exit. Deciding that a loo break would be a good idea, I went upstairs to the toilets by the bar. When I returned, they were calling out the Boardgames results and I was 3rd - the first time ever that anyone from GARPS had placed! By the time I'd clawed my way back to the stage, they'd moved on to 2nd and I'd missed my seconds in the limelight although Judy Bartlett (Vague boardgames supremo) did sing our society's praises for me.

And so to Manchester Piccadilly where we ease into our seats in the train with plenty of time to spare. We had allowed for a lot more time to get to the station than we needed - two thirds of a mile does not require 30 minutes to walk - so I was annoyed with myself for leaving the Nationals so early.

With an uneventful trip to Euston, Waterloo and Earley, we were home by 11pm.

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