It’s been a long week here at The Misery Farm. Lizzy and Bob have been marking idiot undergraduate papers while Briony has been attempting the academic equivalent of fitting a gallon into a pint glass, i.e. condensing her Master’s thesis into a publishable paper.
Needless to say, they were all very happy to see the end of the week and to celebrate with happy hour cocktails (Bob and Briony) and going to bed at 9pm (Lizzy).
Saturday dawned bright and early. And hungover.
Somehow your farmers managed to pile into Bob’s shitmobile car and pootle all the way up to Oxford without any major death or destruction,* fully stocked with caffeinated beverages and terrible service-station sandwiches. What a treat lay ahead of them – a full day of board games ahoy!
What’s Little Wooden Houses?
Little Wooden Houses is the brainchild of Mac ‘Amazing’ Chapman, fellow board-game enthusiast and blogger. His dream was simple: to gather friends and acquaintances and pretty much anyone who fancied it, put them in a large room together, and play some board games.
It’s a formula which pretty much guarantees success.
Effectively, it’s just a day at a friend’s house with a bunch of people you like and a bunch of board games you like, but on a larger scale. Things that you like, but more of it! YEAH!
Unlike similar small and friend-run events we’d been to previously, like Gavcon, it’s a simple case of turn-up, bring-games, leave with the same games you arrived with. Simple stuff. Particularly good for those on a budget! We each gave a small contribution to M. Amazing for renting the hall and brought our own homemade sammidges, hangover snacks and maybe ordered a tiny bit of takeaway too.
Little Wooden Houses 2
This event, the second of its kind (but we weren’t at the first, so it can’t have been as good), was hosted in a little village hall near Oxford, where we’d previously had an incredibly successful day as the media in Watch The Skies. If only half as many nuclear bombs went off this time, it would be a success! It’s a bit further away from our homes than a couple of us would like, but it all worked out ok because Bob is an incredibly safe driver and we didn’t fear for our lives once in the entire journey.**
We started the day with HangoverBob opening her packet of Skips upside down and declaring it to be the end of the world. Fortunately, the team plodded nobley onwards, and got stuck knee deep into some games:
Elysium is a good game with one strange weakness:
‘Have I played this before?’
‘Yeah, have I? I really really can’t tell…’
‘Nah it just looks like all other games ever.’
It really does as well. It’s ancient-Greek themed and the artwork is a bit 7 Wonders, maybe a bit Cyclades.
We came across it on Day 4 at Essen and Briony bought it there and then.
There are pillars, but hungover games-explainer Briony is quick to point out that the aim of the game is not to build a tower out of them. Sadness all around.
Otherwise, it offers a good level of chance and luck v strategy and tactical play. It’s simple to learn, plus there’s just enough opportunity for dickery to keep things interesting and victory points get handed out like Skittles. And we love skittles!
As a downside, there are a few design errors. You must knock your pillars over to collect cards, but the bases of the pillars are circular so they just roll around all over the table and onto the floor, repeatedly. The turn order tokens are nearly the perfect size to fit into a slot on your player board, but not quite. Argh!
We still all had a pretty good time. Bob and Briony survived their hangovers, and laughed at the worst jokes.
‘Can I have a circley thing?’
‘You certainly can!’
‘… I CIRCLEY can!’
Victory for Briony!
Ok, when we said that Little Wooden Houses was just bring-a-game, play-a-game, we were almost telling the truth. Little Wooden Houses also has a long standing tradition (as long-standing as a tradition can be when it’s only the second event) of having a mini tournament. The first event was home to a Blueprints tournament, and this time Codenames was the star of the show!
If you haven’t played Codenames yet, then you should. It’s a competitive word-association game played in teams, but even more fun than it sounds.
Your steadfast reviewers made up a team of 3 (obviously), and were determined to come in either first or last place (because those are the only two positions worth blogging about). It was decided that Bob should be spymaster because a) she’s strangely OK at it even when wearing her ‘Captain Hangover’ hat and b) Briony and Lizzy can get inside her mind with ease. To catch your prey, you must think like your prey. To think like Bob, just replace 98% of brain function with pop culture references and sarcasm.
We started strongly. A decisive victory against a team which had never met before, followed by a trickier match-up against long-time friends. The tension was absolutely insane, largely because we take winning board games far too seriously. The final match was an incredibly close best of 3. We fought bravely but… ultimately the tiny plastic cup of victory was wrestled from our grasp.
A full review of both the game and the little tournament will be out soon!
Between Two Cities
After the intense stress of a tournament, a soothing game of Between Two Cities was called for. It’s fun and simple and can fit absolutely loads of players thanks to its team-based mechanic which means that until the scoring phase you only really play with and against the players to your immediate right and left.
Next was Takara Island, a worker-placement-lite game recently re-released with art by the incredibly talented Naiiade. Dive into the deep seas, fight some monsters, and dig for magical treasure. It’s flawed by some unbalanced mechanics which aren’t clarified in the rulebook, possibly due to translation errors.
Two Rooms and a Boom
There are a lot of reasons to gather twenty-something friends in a single place to play games, but one of the strongest has to be Two Rooms and a Boom. A game that not only works with these larger numbers, but thrives with them.
It’s a combination of hidden roles and party game: red terrorists v. blue secret agents. Everyone is divided up into two rooms and allowed to get chatting. Every few minutes there’s a hostage swap where a few people can change (or be forced to change) rooms. The aim of the game is to get the (red) bomber and the (blue) president in the same room at the end of the game if you’re the terrorists, and to get the president the hell away from the bomber if you’re the blues. That’s right, even if the entire rest of the secret service explodes with the bomber, as happened in one of the games we played, the blue team still win if the president is alive. Is death worth victory? Almost certainly.
Despite the ostensible secrecy of the roles, it quickly becomes clear who’s on which team.
“Lizzy, wait, are you on the red team?”
*Lizzy bursts into nervous laughter and has to run away*
It gets interesting when more roles are added. The engineer to fix the bomb. The doctor to diagnose the president. The Shy Guys, the fools. The first lady and the mistress, both of whom are competing to be in the room with the president at the end of the game (but not in the same room as each other). Moby Dick is there, as is Ahab.
Ultimately, despite the number of roles, it’s not a difficult game. Bob was the bomb and she quite successfully exploded. Good work, everyone!
The end of the day
Little Wooden Houses 2 ran on to the late, late hours of 11pm. Your noble journalists ducked out before then, but still had a wonderful day. The atmosphere was relaxing, friendly and rife with games.
Your competitive team of journalists had so much fun that they barely even cried at not winning the coveted Codenames tournament trophy.
But, as always, the real winner… is board games.
*Despite what Lizzy might say about Bob’s driving.
**(shifty look from Lizzy, as if from someone under duress)