This week’s Friday Diary is brought to you courtesy of the 5punky bash weekend. Bashes are get-togethers we have several times a year in order to meet up and have a few drinks. They’re great for keeping us close as you get to know each other a lot better in person. Bashes usually have a theme too: Prof runs LAN parties, Joose and Grimmie tend towards beardygames, Mr Johnson’s are quite foody. This weekend we had two bashes on, by unavoidable coincidence. Grimmie held his annual bash, probably the longest running we have, and Anery held a not-bash. Since I went to the latter I will post about that, and hopefully someone else will do the same for the Grim-Bash.
The theme for the Not-Bash was board games. Recent years seem to have had a resurgence of adult-targeted games (or maybe I just started noticing them), and between the Not-Bash-goers we had a few to be getting on with. This was interesting to me in particular because I never play board games – I live a long way away from my friends so pretty much all my socialising is done over the internet now. Other attendees this weekend were Anery (obviously), Pnut, KillaVodka, and non-5punker Justin, who is an old friend of mine and Anery’s.
Friday was reserved mainly for getting the formalities out of the way. Once Pnut, Justin and I had survived our various lengthy journeys (KV didn’t arrive until Saturday), we got down to the serious business of consuming beer. Since we had all weekend for games we also went to the pub to watch the England game, and then ignored it because we were too busy talking (and because it was a dull game). Upon returning we decided to give our first game of the weekend a go, and we chose Relic. I’ll go into Relic more later because we aborted this attempt. The game was going on too long, we got the rules wrong, and we were too drunk. This always happens when Anery and I try to play games. Instead we watched Gremlins 2 before retiring at about 5AM.
Saturday brought pounding hangovers and a Ghostbusters marathon until mid afternoon. They were eventually seen off by burgers (including the not particularly well received donut burgers) and more beer, provided in copious quantities later by KV. The slower pace meant we were better suited to a few games, and we decided to ease ourselves into it by starting with the relatively simple Discworld Ankh-Morpork.
Ankh-Morpork is a game which, on the surface, is about controlling the titular city by achieving a random objective. It’s pretty simple, using a few different types of card, some wooden counters, and a rarely used D12. The rules fit on a few sides of paper, and it’s kind of like a chaotic version of Monopoly. The beauty of the game is that you spend the entirety of it trying to fuck the other players over. Each player has a hand of event cards, and these are the main interaction with the board. They give you options of placing minions and safehouses in the city’s various districts, making (or losing) money, and, most importantly, the weird and wonderful unique events wrought by the various Discworld characters on the cards. It is the last part which makes the game stand out, as it brings a Wacky Races style inevitability of your lead being brought crashing down by some hilariously disastrous situation. For example, in our first game, KV burnt down half of the safehouses in the city with some outrageously lucky dice rolls during what we now call the Great Fire of Ankh-Morpork, and everyone else ganged up on him to move all his pieces onto the same district for no other reason than that it was funny. During a game on Sunday Pnut managed to shaft Anery’s progress by playing a card on him which required him to pay for each safehouse – a disaster because he had no money, so had to sell all of them. Each such setback was met with hilarity because of how ludicrously unlucky it was, and yet we all experienced them several times. Ultimately the winner seemed to be whoever had been dicked the least successfully. On Saturday this was me, despite attracting a lot of negative attention by gleefully stitching up absolutely everybody at every possible opportunity.
With all of us in the mood for it by now, and with KV having arrived, we decided to try Justin’s Kickstarter backed Zombicide. Zombicide is a beautifully presented zombie survival game, with each player taking a Left 4 Dead style character and the group having to work together to complete a mission among the hordes. It’s bloody hard, as you can see from the image above of our second game, but it’s great fun. We played three games before Justin had to leave, one of which was the pretty easy tutorial. The rules were easy to pick up, and we went into game two with confidence. Too much confidence. I wonder if the first map you get is deliberately difficult to set your expectations, because we got swamped and eaten. Admittedly we had a bloody unlucky sequence of zombie cards which meant the zombies got two free turns. This in turn meant a horde of about eight zombies caught and instantly ripped apart Anery and KV, leaving the rest of us without a weapon that would kill the fat-boy zombie which was chasing us down. The best laid plans, and all that. The third and last game was more successful. We chose a medium difficulty map (they don’t do easy, it would seem), and worked well together. Despite the first turn appearance of an almost indestructible Abomination, we led the zombies about, grabbed our objective, made short work of the hordes with sniper rifle and chainsaws, and made good our escape. We were lucky too I think, the polar opposite of the game before.
For the last game of the day we played a Dungeons and Dragons spin-off, Legend of Drizzt. The game tells the tale of the outcast Drow Drizzt Do’Urden’s escape from the Underdark, and we were quite taken by the lovely miniatures which came with it. Unfortunately we weren’t quite as favourable in our opinions of the rules, which in our tired and slightly drunk state were obtuse and complicated. We felt as though the zombie hordes were bearing down again as we were beset by disaster every turn – not by bad luck, but the design of the game. Despite it all we managed to succeed without losing a player, but it was with more of a sense of relief that we were finished than that we survived. I expect that had we been in a better state we would have enjoyed it more, but as it was it felt like a grind and the relative length of this paragraph is telling of how much of note happened.
Sunday morning came with a relative lack of hangover for all but KV, and after the statutory bacons we hit up another game of Ankh-Morpork because of how much we enjoyed it the day before. More hilarity and fucking each other over was had. Ready for something a bit meatier, we gave Relic another go. Relic, for those who don’t know, is a Warhammer 40k version of Talisman. Talisman, for those who don’t know, is a game where you move around a board trying to become powerful enough to take on the dragon at the centre, and usually getting fucked over by the game before you get there.
Relic is a long game. It took us hours and hours, and KV had to leave halfway through. On our second attempt we found it to be quite a good game too. It’s hard at the beginning, and you spend a lot of time trying to avoid getting smashed up by the various monsters. It also has lovely models – busts of big players in the 40k universe, and plenty of them. Anery had a Calidus Assassin, KV had an Imperial Commissar, Pnut a Sister of Battle, and I had… a Ratling. Off we went, scooting back and forth around the board, fighting aliens and trying to complete our various mission objectives. Now, Relic isn’t really a co-op game, but in the early stages you kind of play it like one because everything is so dangerous. So it came as a mild surprise to the others when my Ratling started nicking their money every time they encountered him. The Imperial Commissar in particular took a dim view and had a mission to bring him in. Nobody managed to die, which was quite impressive, but it’s not the disadvantage you’d think as you just go back to a hospital square and lose a few cards. Incidentally, I did lose my character in the game from Friday by hoarding corruption and then drawing some rather poor cards. I just picked up a new character and carried on. Things went better this time, for the most part, and we started to pluck up the courage to move into the middle tier, upping the ante from besieged Imperial worlds to nasty xeno worlds. It’s about this time that both Pnut and I got missions to catch Anery, while Anery got a relic that let him teleport pretty much anywhere on the board. This is where we started to turn on each other a little, as Pnut and myself tried to corner the slippery assassin (unsuccessfully). Pnut had been lagging behind until this point due to drawing an infeasibly high quantity of friendly cards and so being denied the experience from kills he needed to level up. Now he was catching faster, and Anery decided to head towards the middle of the board, a process which involved moving slowly through Chaos worlds getting utterly molested on each square, before fighting a hard as nails Chaos blokey, and possibly winning the game. I, in the meantime, had accumulated a lot of stuff with which to fuck over the other guys. It felt in character. So I went after him. If it wasn’t for his teleport, Anery would have been completely screwed when I stole all his power cards – special abilities and bonuses which can help you throw a tough fight – in the middle of the warp. As it was he bailed out and I took on the Chaos worlds instead. By this stage I had accumulated so much money from theft and underhanded tactics that, along with a Psycher companion card which allowed me to buy more power cards on the fly, could completely replace my cards in the middle of the final battle, and I walked it. So, Relic, a tough game, and a long game, but thoroughly enjoyable.
We’d spent pretty much all day and most of the evening on that one game, so Anery introduced me to the Avengers movies (with Avengers Assemble, and the flying space turtle eels), then both of us to Community, and an early night was had by all in preparation for the next day’s travel.
All in, a great bash was had. I’ve decided that board games like the ones we played here are a far more viable option than the likes of Necromunda, Battletech, or any of the Warhammer battle games, so I’m going to be keeping an eye out. I want one friendly co-op game like Zombicide to play with my wife, and at least one backstabbing, mate-shafting game like Ankh-Morpork, because they’re hilarious. And because, apparently, I fuck my mates over in any games I can. Thanks Anery, for hosting us, providing games, and cooking endless processions of bacon sandwiches.