This past Saturday was the kick-off to a series of twice monthly game days hosted by the Fletcher Free Library here in Burlington, Vermont. Organized by the dauntless Brennan Martin, these Saturday game days came from the desire to give the opportunity to play games to people who couldn’t necessarily work Quarterstaff Games‘ Tuesday evenings into their schedule, because of geography, other commitments or what have you. So Brennan took the initiative to organize the initial test events, schedule the use of library space and twist the arm of all his game-playing friends. After two successful Saturdays, the Fletcher decided to make board games a regular part of their programming, which meant it could happen more than once a month, by their rules for community members using library space.
So that’s how Brennan, his wife Hannah, Munk and myself found ourselves in the community room of the Fletcher Free Library, kicking off activities with a quick game of Dominion. We used the Village Square set-up from the rulebook this time. I never figured out if there’s a gimmick to that configuration, or it’s meant to be thematic in that all the elements of a village square are present, plus a Throne Room. Everyone consuming mass quantities of Festivals, Smithies and Villages ended the game early. We teetered for a long time on the brink with only two Villages left to buy; it was only a matter of someone deciding to end the game sooner than later to stop other people accumulating victory points, since we all had plenty of buys and, usually, money to blow on two Villages.
Hannah then suggested Alhambra, which I hadn’t played before. In the context of building gardens for the titular Alhambra in Spain, players accumulate different kinds of currency in order to buy tiles of different garden features to work into their configurations. The tile placing, pattern matching element appealed to the Carcassonne fan in me, but I’m distinctly less enthusiastic about games that require balancing building up money reserves against purchasing resources, as well as a deeper layer about having the most of a particular type of garden feature. I didn’t find Alhambra an unenjoyable game, and I’d probably play it again with less internal grousing, but I did think on more than one occasion “Carcassonne provides what I like about Alhambra better and with less fol-de-rol.”
Midway through Alhambra, Matt and Sasha strolled in the door. This was the first opportunity I’d had to meet them, since virtually meeting Matt through Burlington Board Gamers. Of the games Matt brought — including a find fresh from Goodwill, Wadjet — Formula D caught my eye in particular. Previously, I’d heard plenty of good things about it, but never had the opportunity to play; Quarterstaff’s demo copy went AWOL sometime last summer, and on precisely the week I intended to make sure it was played, to boot.
It’s a very fun game. Everyone gets a status card that tracks the wear of different elements of their race car, plus a gear box that shows which die a player rolls, depending on the gear they’re in, as well as the range of spaces they might move. So it’s a roll and move race game, with some wrinkles that are important to keep in mind. Sharp turns require a car to come to the end of its movement a given number of times in a defined zone, or it will spin out of the turn and have to start in first gear again. The issue is playing the odds of what one might roll on a given gear die versus the amount of room in the turn for drifting to use some move points. A couple of times I made the mistake of entering a turn going much too fast or not shifting down quickly enough, which ultimately had the effect of putting my gloriously wrecked yellow couple in last place. I blame it on my Car Wars philosophy: if the vehicle’s imaginary, do as much damage as possible to it, regardless if it’s yours or theirs.
Nonny and Chad arrived shortly after, giving us seven to break into two groups. Brennan took Matt, Sasha and Chad off to lay rails in Ticket to Ride: Europe, while Nonny broke out her trusty Talisman board for she, Munk and I to explore. I’ve written enough about Talisman in the past, so I’ll just report that I got the Prophetess again, which have been the reason for my cakewalk through the game while Nonny and Munk scrabbled for loot and power, as one more normally does. I accumulated an embarrassment of riches, while Munk and Nonny got all the nastier events and monsters. Unfortunately, Nonny had to depart early, leaving Munk’s Minstrel and my amazingly beefy Prophetess to vie for the Crown of Command.
My hat’s off to Munk, because he put in a commendable effort. While the Prophetess literally stumbled into the middle region, got a Talisman without even leaving the Warlock’s Cave and practically strolled through the Mines, Vampire’s Tower and Pits without breaking a sweat, the Minstrel heroically hustled to catch up from the outer region without much in the way of loot or abilities. Munk reached the inner region twice, both times being ejected via the Mines, once back to the Plain of Peril, then all the way to the Tavern. Even then I wasn’t sure what would happen, because I managed to roll three or less on the die at least four times in a row trying to cast the Command spell, but once I switched to a die borrowed from Pirate’s Cove, it was four plus straight on through.
And that is the tale of not only how I finished Talisman for the first time, but won it, too. By the end of that, it was after 4:00 PM and Chad and Matt had gotten into a game of Beowulf: The Movie Board Game, about which I can’t tell you anything except there’s a chess-like grid and, unsurprisingly for a Fantasy Flight Games endeavor, lots of colored plastic pieces. Munk and I whiled the time with a couple of hands of Fluxx, sharing a win each. I greatly enjoyed combining the Party bonus — draw and play 1 more card when the Party Keeper’s in play — with Inflation — X = X+1 — and the usual Draw X and Play X cards. We never were hard up for cards to play with all that in effect.
After that, it was about time to go, so we packed the room up and said our farewells to each other. All in all, it was a pretty successful day, in terms of games played. The game day didn’t make it on the library or Seven Days‘ calendar, so that’s something that will have to be resolved in the future. For regular game events to work, like we’ve discussed on Burlington Board Gamers, they need to be consistent in scheduling and visible to people who don’t necessarily know what they’re looking for. That’s all stuff Brennan and I can work on for the next game day in February.