Kneedeep in Seamen

On The Town 1

Having played Serenissisma a number of times I thought I had heard every possible Seamen joke, I had been misled….

We had a big group on Thur night and we tried our best with an eight player game of Tsuro but when it’s that size the only thing to do is split into two groups.  Our group played this.

Serenissisma is a nautical game of trading in the Mediterranean in the 14th Century.  Integral to the operation of your fleet are your seamen.  Being a group of 16yr old schoolboys at heart and mind, the game very quickly became a series of jokes about the aforementioned lads.  So what follows now is review of the proceedings liberally infused with seamen ‘jokes’…..


“Let’s not beat about the bush (you see what I did there), I’m a big fan of Serenissisma, My copy has been knocking about for a long time and only occasionally do I get to whip it out and play with it with unsuspecting gamers”

The game is played out on a map of the Mediterranean with up to four players taking control of a major power.   The map is made up of a number of ports that each supply one of seven goods Wine, Iron, Wood (of course), Cheap Plonk, Knock off CDs, (well maybe not but you get the idea.) and around 30 or so sea square   Each of these ports that produce a particular good want goods of the other types so you’re job is to zip around in your ships full to the gunwales of goods and seamen and drop them off like a merry postman, sticking your flag down to claim ports as your own and getting into or avoiding fights with other players doing the same.  A Pat Mustard of the waves if you will

There’s a limit of five spots in a ship, so the balance (and there’s always a balance in games) is between how many goods you stick on board and how man seamen you ram in there.  More seamen means more protection and speed for your ship but less space for valuable trade items.   Even more fun as you probably guessed it is to attack other players ships and take their ships and goods as prizes.

In all the games you’ve played THIS is the most unforgiving of plays.  You build up a fleet of ships, buy some goods are thinking about your Ferengi profit and BAM! some savage steams in, pistol whips your swimmers and gets all familiar your very expensive goods and ships, THEN to add insult to injury, sails off and sells your previously owned goods.  Pirate code me hoop.  This is not a safe game, once you get tangoed like this you’ll never forget it so guard your stuff well.

“The key to the game is your seamen… (waits for laughter to subside), you need seamen, lots and lots of seamen, if you’re going to succeed (oh err missus) and come out on top, you’ll need more seamen than the other fella (canned laughter). “


Once again the old puzzle, which comes first the chicken or the egg problem is evident here.  You can’t afford lots of seamen if you don’t sell lots of goods, you can’t protect your goods without lots of seamen.  So you do you’re best.  A Gamer worth their salt does this sort of thing the whole time.  Still hurts when you get holed below the keel and your plans evaporate.

The other thing I like about this game is you don’t really have time for vengeance.  Go after someone who’s wronged you and you’ll probably lose the game.  You need to pull up your big boy/girl pants and get your house back in order and then ON YES then you get to exact a revenge on them IF you have time.  So in essence get your vengeance in first and make sure you do it so they never recover.

The game ends after eight turns (more if there’s less players) and rattles along for a good 2+ hours depending on players.  There’s a good range of decisions to be made each turn and there’s very little downtime as everyone else’s move can have a big impact on you.  Some of the mechanics like getting a monopoly on certain goods and setting the prices for them can really rankle players so if you’re militarily weak it’s often a case of appeasing other players but ultimately if you don’t hire seamen and plenty you’re goosed good and proper.  As the game progresses it becomes more and more crowded with ships and it’s very much a powder keg waiting for the spark that’s most beneficial for you.  This game can be very tense at times, mostly towards the end.  It’s also possible to be really petty, sacking a person home city just because, even though you’ve got them on the ropes already.

Is it any good? Yes.  It is.  Iv’e got an older copy, a new revamped version two came out and I haven’t tried it but I understand it’s a bit different from the original but opinions are divided as to which is superior.  Will I play it again soon?  Wellllllll… probably not.  I’ve played a good bit of this game and whilst not bad it’s not as good as some newer stuff out there.  Worth getting.  Welllll again there’s better out there but that doesn’t make it bad.  Try it at the next Knavecon.  I’ll bring it along and you can join in a chorus of comments about seamen.

Don’t get me wrong I like this game but if you get overrun by someone else seamen, it can leave a bad taste in your mouth.



More of that next week






Running Rings Around – Thur


Thur night was a night of stealth and deception.  First up we played something that’s been on my shelf for a long time but never dusted off

Lord of the Rings – The Confrontation

I’ve never been a massive fan of Reiner Kniza’s LOTR games, they’re fine but the whole happy happy co-op thing just doesn’t work for me.  They’re also a bit too simplistic.  The Confrontation is another in the same style.  Same sort of box, same type of artwork but this time it’s a two player game and it’s very much not co-op (The name does sort of give it away)

The Confrontation is like a cut down version of Stratego with only nine pieces per side and the addition of combat cards. That pretty much sums it up, so feel free to get back to your life and not read the next bit.

Ah thanks for joining me again.

The game is played out on a stylized map of middle earth with Mordor on one side and the Shire on the other and a dozen or so locations in between.  Each player gets a set of nine characters and work to get either Frodo to Morodor OR the Witchking to the Shire.  Now I have no idea why the Witch King wants to get to the shire, maybe he’s heard the food it good, Maybe he’s going to take the waters, maybe he wants to buy a T-shirt that says something like “I Soured the Shire and all I got was” but if he gets there or Frodo gets to Mordor it’s game over.  Equally if three of Saurons forces make it to the shire together like a bunch of beered up soccer hooligans it’s a win for the forces of evil too.

Here’s where it gets a bit more interesting. Your opponent (via a nice set of plastic blocks you insert the cards into) can only see the back of your cards so they have no idea where your key players are, more importantly they have no idea where your hard hitters and wimps are in your mix.

When two opposing characters bump into each other they reveal their characters, each of which has a combat value and a special ability.  The special abilities are resolved straight off (Boromir in keeping with Sean Bean dies in his first combat but takes the enemy with him, The Orcs win their first battle automatically and so on), if the two characters are still standing they secretly pick an attack card with a combat value from their limited set of cards and the highest combined combat value wins.  The cards are limited btw. It’s simple, it’s neat, it’s cheap,  It’s FAST,   A game can easily be played in 20 minutes and it’s good fun.  There’s also a number of variants to it, like alternative characters and abilities, extra magic cards and so on.  As two player games go, this is a goodie and so far I’m liking it a lot.   It’s also quite a simple game and plays quite well with younger players.  All in all a winner I reckon

Next up was another game of Fury of Dracula. (Show him your cross!)


It’s great how with fresh players games can get a new lease of life.  One of last weeks players (not me) decided to take their chances as the snappy dressing Transylvania…..  and he lasted about as long as those 5 dots back there.  BOOM, staked, good and proper.  So after a quick bit of pointing and laughing we decided to have a second game with the same vampire and this one was way more interesting.

Dracula is a great game, I think the most fun is to be had as Dracula himself although it’s good to be a hunter too.  Dracula led us a VERY merry dance and unlike most other games he was popping out lady vampires to beat the band or more accurately beat we the hunters.  There are two cards in the game that are real show stoppers.  Hypnosis where you can find exactly where drac is and eh… something else that effectively lets Dracula teleport to another spot on the map.


Mid game Dracula got the first and despite our best efforts (and our worst) we didn’t get so much as a sniff of colonge of our target.  It was looking bad and after extensive searching we finally reckoned (a scientific measure) he was masquerading around England far from the maddening hunters.  With little time to go before he completed his dastardly plan and scored his six points we finally tracked him down (via hypnosis) to London and one of our number confronted him cook report style.  After a ‘robust discussion’ with Dracula he finally slipped our net and having lost more blood from his body than John Holmes he staggered off confident of a quick win.   Then I arrived, grabbed him and renditioned him right off a cliff.  Bye bye Vlad.  You came close but no cigar.

Great game.  Always fun and absolutely no shame should be be attached by us to the Dracula player for losing.


In a row.

More of this sort of things soon









Back to Thur – Being a Drax Report


I was THIS close to winning Dracula, damn those meddling kids (and by kids I mean a bunch of old blokes and one young fella)

We didn’t get to game last week so it was great to get back in the saddle, meet some good* friends* and try out a few new games.  First up was a polish special.  A favourite of this blog

“Rycerze I Zamki”.  (I reckon Countdown would have been a very different game in Polish.  “I’ll have a Consonant Kharol, and another Consonant, and another Consonant”). This is the the fourth gamephoto 4

I’ve played from this games company and they’re all great fun, also cheap as chips.  €5 for a game is just wonderful.  I suspect our man in Poland will get asked to smuggle back in several more games the next time he goes home.

Rycerze I Zamki which means Knights and Castles (My google is strong) is a very simple game, you have a set of three castle types which can be made of Wood, Brick or Stone.  Everyone starts with a set number of cards (Knights, Catapults, Archers and so on) that have a value from one to ten in these three elements.  Some better than others in the three different categories.  Each turn you draw a castle which is worth 1 or 2 points and players secretly pick two of their cards and reveal them.  Duplicates between players are removed and the combined value of both cards in the element for that castle wins it (the points value of which are totalled at the end of the game).  A few other rules like one castle being randomly removed at the start, being able to draw back some of your cards and so on make for a very interesting and very fast little game.  It’s lite, it’s fun, it’s a great filler.  All hail Rycerze I Zamki and the Polish game industry. It has yet to turn in a dud

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Next up was something I’ve wanted to played for a few weeks now. El Grande (pronounced “Y Grande)” and featuring a Castillo (Castiyo) and a bunch of Caballero (Cabayero).  So Spanish music channel and “we don’t like your type around here” jokes were the order of the day.  El Grande is a worker placement game which came out nearly 20 years ago.  It rates high on Boardgamegeek and…. we’ll I didn’t win it, I didn’t come close, but it’s still a fine game.  Spanish music was stopped after a bit.  It was like being in a taxi to your hotel on holidays and didn’t add to the 15th century vibe.

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El Grande is set in the 15th Century funny enough where Grandes (large coffees from starbucks I assume) vie for power and more importantly score around the edge of the board

It’s all about placing your Caballero on the board and gaining dominance (biggest numbers) of as many provinces as you can come the scoring rounds, of which there are three.  Unlike life there are prizes for both second and third place when a region is scored, but any number of cards and cock blockery can affect things.

The game has got elements from Eight Minute Empire in fact Eight Minute Empire is like a lite version of El Grande in every way.  It also borrows a tiny bit from a Study in Emerald (or maybe I just really Like ASIE and I want to work it into every blog) The Caballero work in a similar manner where you have a two stage staging area where you firstly draw them into your muster point from the void (provinces) then use another action to place them on the board.

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The game plays out over nine rounds after 3,6 and 9 there are scoring and that’s it.  You do you best.  A clever mechanic is your power cards which are finite and dictate your play order.  The earlier you play a round based on your power card the less Caballero you get to bring to bear on the board so it’s a juggling act.  Going early gets you an early pick of the action cards which do things like, score certain areas once off, move existing pieces, move the king who exerts power on a certain area and everyone fawns over him by only deploying men in adjacent regions.

It’s a nice game.  It’s also medium fast so it should be possible to get it all done and dusted in ninety minutes I would guess.  It plays five which is sort of a magic number for gaming and it’s close and fun throughout.  I started scoring early on and looked good but got caught up mid game and was left coughing scoring dust late game.  There’s a bit of a pattern here but, we need to play more of this.   All in all I like it.  I’m still a bit unsure of it but it’s definitely good, not stellar but good.  Maybe replays will make it stellar.  Who knows

Having finished this fairly quickly we had to play something else of medium length.  Some of the lads hadn’t played Fury of Dracula (or Furry Dracula if you prefer) so they got introduced in quick order.  To paraphrase Mannequin there are two things I like doing, fighting and playing Dracula.  I got to play Dracula again.

Fury of Dracula is like a more complex version of Letters from Whitechapel, which is itself a more complex version of Scotland yard.  Before we go any further let me declare my interest before the right honourables.  I LOVE this game.  I loved it from day one and still love it now.  It’s stupendous.  One person plays Dracula and the other four players play various vampire hunters who must work together to flush him out and stake him good.  Dracula who steals the show must spend his time sneaking around Europe, setting traps, avoiding pursuit, hiding during the day, attacking hunters at night and leading the hunters a merry dance.  It’s all good.

Fights ensue, Dracula is more than a match for hunters at night but weak and mortal during the day.  He had a limited amount of blood points that get whittled away from fights, spell casting and sea travel and when it’s down to zero it’s photo 1

good night Vienna.  The Hunters have only six days to find the fiend, less if he starts killing them off and gaining bonus points that way.  But enough about the rules, more of the merry dance.

I started off as far away from the hunters as possible and slowly ambled my way up from Greece while the aforementioned scratched (amongst other things) their heads trying to find me.  It was day two before I popped up and I quickly disappeared again.   I bumped off Nina Harker (oh err missus) and it was looking rosey until the hunters started to successfully second guess me.   A robust exchange happened in Prague and there were wigs and fangs on the green and shillelagh law ruled the day.  Dracula just about survived as did one of the hunters so he was in trouble BUT close to getting his six points and winning.  Then disaster struck, I took the group for fools (and I was right) but they stumbled onto me anyway and like the scene in Full Metal Jacket with the bars of soap in the pillowcases I got seven shades beat out of me and died my undeath again.  THIS CLOSE I was THIS CLOSE to winning

Great game and of course we got a rule or two wrong even though we’ve played it several times before

More of this next Thur





After Knavecon Thur – Being a Drax Report


I’m not ALWAYS a Cylon when I play Battlestar Galatica BUT I always want to be and when I am people tend to remember because I revel in it.  So last night.. Well I was a cyclon.  HAPPY DAYS!

Just like werewolf being a Cylon is great fun especially if you’re an evil fecker who likes to ruin people day.  What’s not to like?

If you haven’t played this game it’s based on the TV series which is several years old now but still crackin Sci Fi.  I’m going to start on the basis that you KNOW BSG and go from there.

Each player takes a character from the series, each with some special traits and during their turn they take a good action then have to take a bad action which everyone else tries to help them with…. UNLESS they’re a cylon in which case they want to screw up and make happen that bad action.

Obviously no one knows who the bad guys are but during the game they may deduce it and of course it’s all about paranoia and mistrust.  What’s really cool is half way through the game is people get additional loyalty cards and may or may not become a cylon.

The game does a fantastic job of matching the series and racking up the tension.  last nights game was particularly close being one a step or two from winning for the humans against some tough odds but… they didn’t.  They lost and it was mighty 🙂

I love this game, I love the series and it’s still a cracker after a number of years.  There’s been no less than 3 expansions released the latest one only recently.  I’ve had the pleasure of playing the first one “Pegasus” which introduces extra boards, a second battlestar and a host of new play mechanics.  It does lengthen a game that already is hefty if you don’t keep it rolling around, but it improves an already excellent game so it’s worth the time.  The second and third I haven’t tried yet but it will happen.

I thoroughly recommend this game.  It’s a fantasy flight game so very good build quality and artwork.

More of this and I’m sure next time I won’t be a cylon….



Thur Most Foul – Being a Drax Report

“He’s Hardly gone back to the scene of the crime to hide in plain site has he?”. Thus ended my promising career as Jack the Ripper in the game Letters from Whitechapel

It’s a deduction game in the vein of Curse of Dracula (highly recommended) and Scotland Yard (no idea).  One player takes the role of Jack and has to commit a number of heinous murders whilst the others take the roll of the police and try to apprehend him

Jack has to be sneaky (check) and resourceful (check) and more importantly in last nights game sneak past the Sauron like view of inspector Drax (no check).

I’m a huge fan of Fury of Dracula having played it many times and always enjoyed it.  Although the rule book looks daunting this is a simpler affair but no less fun for that.  Apart from the theme it could be easily played by youngies so maybe scotland yard which is quite similar could be substituted for this.

It’s a cracker of a game.  It’s brain meltingly hard for the police who are constantly scanning for traces of jacks movements or where his hideout might be (he has to return there after each murder).  I got to play Jack and I loved it, sneaking, backtracking, leading the police in the wrong direction, epic stuff.

The game is back in print with some minor tweaks (not to the rules) and it’s definitely one that will be replayed again and again, like say next thur

After my swift demise it was a revisit to Notre Dame

No not that Notre Dame, the other one

Notre Dame is pure worker placement.  I liked it when I played it first and I like it a bit more.  I did NOT like scoring 58 points and having Drax score 59.  That aside it’s still a nice solid game, a little different and it certainly need a number of plays before you get the swing of how it works and more importantly what’s going to come up.  Like Whitechapel this one will definitely make a reappearance , losing by 1 point aside it’s a very interesting game, theme works and it’s the right length of time to play.  I like it, not as much as Whitechapel but I still like it

More of this sort of thing next thur I say



Winning Legend Thur – Being a Drax Report

It’s a rare thing for me to win a game let alone ALL the games in a night.  Some people may claim a mistake in the rules but we all played by it and haters have got to hate 🙂 But I digress

First up was



I swapped, well let’s be honest I pawned off a game of mine (silk road) for this and letter of Marque.  Never trust a gamer. Doubly so if you think you’re getting two for one.  Sultan is a simple bidding game where you attempt to score points for bidding with a limited set of ‘coins’ for various valued gems.  get sets of them and they become worth more.  it’s a plain and simple filler game.  it’s quick and if you can be bothered card counting you have an advantage.  BORING.  it may never see the table again.  oh If I’m swapping it to you, it’s a GREAT game, well worth swapping something for 🙂

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Next up was

Lords of Waterdeep.

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Lords of Waterdeep is a VERY good game. Having played it a half dozen times I’m eager to play it again.  For some reason the gods (one of the one that probably likes me) gave me good luck in this one and I was able to sneak ahead and stay there pretty much to the end.  Usually I lose this game so I think I took the group by surprise by sneaking ahead and they probably thought it was a fluke.  it wasn’t 🙂

Great game, I’ve spoken about it a before

Get this game it’s a winner.

Finally we decided to have a crack at


I had read the rules carefully for this so we had no idea how to play it and having handed the rules over to Drax and put on more coffee we shakily made our way into the game.  Notre Dame is a worker placement game in the classic euro sense.  You attempt to gain as much influence as possible (score) through a variety of methods.  Placing workers in your boroughs and hiring professionals to assist you (sets of which change round by round).  The big negative is rats (the plague) which you have to control before they overun and reduce your influence.  It’s a lovely little game

Card Counting – YES

Worker Placement – YES

Rats – YES

All those who took part (and lost to me) were eager for more of the same (apart from the losing to me bit), never a bad sign

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so I reckon next thur we’ll be visiting notre dame.  Practically no quasimodo jokes were harmed in the playing of the game




Sudden Death Thur – Being a Drax Report

2-4 Players can often be just like the pirate code a Guideline rather than a rule.  We proved that to be the case with Bloodbowl Team Manager – Sudden Death Last night.



But before that could happen we had to have a few warm ups whilst the players assembled

First up was ZOMBIE DICE with the expansion

I ordered this for my son who’s a fan of the game and it’s GREAT fun.  adds a surprising amount to a simple game.  The expansion itself is three dice

The Hunk – Features double shotguns and double brains

The Hottie – Runs away a lot but still packs a punch

Santa – Gifts for all the zombies in the audience

Each of these ‘characters’ can rescue each other should they be brained and the game becomes a little (not much) tactical.  If you have the original, you need this expansion

I ordered it via Parcel Motel (more on that in another post) and it cost €6 including postage. So great value

Next up was….

Letter of Marque.



Since trading for this at the last Knavecon, I’ve wanted to like it.  it’s got ships. so I should like it.  After several games last night I DO like it.  It’s a good little filler and after a few games we started to learn the subtleties of it.  It’s simple it’s fun it’s a good filler. no more no less



NOW twas time for the meat in the sandwich.

Sudden Death.

I’ve been warming to Bloodbowl Team Manager and this expansion adds more of the same to it.  That’s not a bad thing.  There’s three new teams  Vampires, Undead and Dark Elves.  The first two were trotted out last night and both proved great fun.

Undead are all about regeneration (if you can roll the dice)

and Vampires are all about gaining blood points for attacks which increase they’re star power  (no connection with super mario)

We played it six player, bypassing all safety protocols and it proved to be very nice indeed despite a longer game.  We played three rather than four rounds and it rounded out the evening nicely (before more zombie dice)


The Expansion doesn’t add a whole lot of new rules, the rule book for it is a four pager.

It does add extra match ups, extra events and a few more powers for the existing races.

I would have liked to have seen more but it’s a fine expansion and there were no complaints from the group.  The game is straining for a few more expansions and I can’t see Fantasy Flight leaving us too long before there’s another.

All in all a good fun game as good as the original.

Evening rounded out with some more zombie dice and the threat of Tichu but we were all a bit sensible and left it with dice

More of that next Thur

Thanks for those who prebooked for Knavecon




Conclave 2013


I’ll be making an appearance at Conclave 2013 in Thomand Park this year (15th June).  Looks like it’s going to be a good one.  I’ll be there from 2pm onwards on Saturday running a number of board and card games.  If anyone’s about give me a shout


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