Photograph of four cardboard chariots crossing the line on a three laned track in a game of Chariot Race. Purple is winning with brown and blue close behind. Red is trailing behind.

Adventures In Rougham – Pt 2

Jobby and Sarah meet up again with the Bury St Edmunds Board Games Group. Here’s how the night went…

Racing Romans

Thursday night came round again so Sarah and I braved the wilds of Suffolk to meet up with our new pals the Bury St Edmunds Board Games Group (try saying that three times fast!). This time we were not so scared of the country roads or being murdered and were eagerly looking forward to who might be there.

Arriving at the pub we found Tom, who seems to be the host of this meetup and a young couple, Hannah and Chris for whom this was their first week. We assured the newbies that this lot were fine and some small talk was made as others gathered. We then split into smaller groups for some warm up games. I proffered Chariot Race as an option and Dan, John and Sarah sat down with me to charge around a Roman race track.

The other two lads had never played so I gave a quick rundown of the rules (having to check myself on a couple, it’d been a while). We lined up in our starting positions and began to charge forward. This game is a bit like Yahtzee crossed with Formula D with a smidge of Mario Kart thrown in. Soon we were rolling dice, taking corners far too quickly and dropping caltrops a-plenty.

Photograph of four cardboard chariots crossing the line on a three laned track in a game of Chariot Race. Purple is winning with brown and blue close behind. Red is trailing behind.
The chariots cross the line after the first lap. Things are mostly holding together and the track is still quite clear of caltrops. Oh how that changed!

Poor Dan took a beating as lots of people decided that the quickest way round the track was through his chariot! His chariot was limping around the track but some help from Fortuna (goddess of luck!) got his ride back into order and he wiped me out as he slewed round the final bend. Poor Jobby!

John confidentally crossed the line well ahead of Dan and began to prematurely celebrate his win. In a surprise last move, Sarah came whizzing round the last bend, dodging Dan and sliding past John to win! Well done, Sarah!

Building Buildings and Scoring Cards

Now everyone broke up to find a bigger game to play. Sarah was tempted over by the table playing Gizmos – the lure of marbles was strong! Another table went for secret dwarven backstabbing with Sabateur. I settled down with three guys I hadn’t met to build little Roman towns in Carpe Diem.

This is a new game by Stefan Feld, an oft celebrated designer who had yet to produce a game I had played. Well, I was putting that right tonight. Damien set about instructing us how to set up the board whilst explaining the rules to us. It seemed like the game was simple enough but there are a lot of things happening and the rules explanation did seem to take a while. To be fair to Damien, we were confident with the rules at the end of the explanation.

The game revolves around picking up tiles from a central board to put them on your own to build your own Roman town. Tiles will make buildings that get you benefits or fields and ponds that will get you resources such as chickens and fish. Once all the tiles are gone from the central board, players will, in order, choose two adjacent scoring cards to score. These cards are then marked so no other player can score them for the rest of the game. Repeat another three times and you’re there!

There’s some end game scoring, mostly to get points for leftover resources and some of those personal goal cards like Castles of Mad King Ludwig has (the ones that give you points for collecting things you never see during the game). Oh, and there’s Villas which are special buildings that score points at game end, potentially big points, but only if they’re completed. And there’s where my game fell apart…

Photograph of Jobby's board during a game of Carpe Diem. Most of the board is filled with a red-roofed building (a villa) which would have scored lots of points. Another player took the missing piece!
You see that big, red-roofed villa? That would’ve been worth loads of points. And I would’ve got away with it, too, if it wasn’t for that pesky Simon!

I had decided in my first play to eschew the normal path of collecting resources, etc. and tried, instead, to build a ginormous villa. This would have worked out wonderfully if it wasn’t for the player to my right, Simon, taking the villa tile that I required to complete my villa. We knew that another tile like that wouldn’t appear. Nick and Damien rejoiced in Simon’s meaness. It was then that we noticed Simon’s move had messed up his own board so he wouldn’t be able to finish his own villa! There was something very satisfying about this.

In the end, Damien won with 84 points with Simon close behind on 79. I managed 70 points which I thought was respectable considering my main plan had gone to cock. Nick brought up the rear with 67 points.

Not too bad a game – there’s a bit of thinking to do and several balls to juggle. It is pretty ugly, though. I’d play it again if someone offered but, to be honest, I don’t feel this game does anything amazingly new or exciting. This play certainly hasn’t enticed me to rush out and buy it. The game also took a while to play. By the time we’d finished, Sarah’s table had finished their play of Gizmos and had put in a play of Mysterium, too!

All gamed out, Sarah and I headed home surrounded by that happy, warm, fuzzy feeling that only comes from a night of gaming.

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