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





Wet as an otter’s pocket Thur – Being a Drax report


Different people like different games, it’s like anything in life, some like Jaffa Cake Muffins some don’t….  (yes we had home made Jaffa cake muffins for Thur night gaming thanks to my wonderful missus).   I like Leader 1 but the last group to play it were pretty ho hum about it.  They didn’t DISLIKE it they just didn’t love it and well I LOVE this game.   We had a big group on Thur which is always good so we split in two and while one group played Agricola our group played…. Leader 1.  But I digress, first up was COUP


I’ve been ranting a bit about this game and we got to play the extra rules which makes for very interesting team play.

If you’ve been following my last column I mentioned COUP it’s a very neat filler game where players take on the roles and actions of various characters or at least claim to have those characters and try and be the last person standing.  It’s a bluff game.  Just like resistance.  Matter of fact it’s by the same guys.  Now where it gets more interesting is where each player starts on a team either Protestant or Catholic (it doesn’t matter really it could be team A or team B or itchy or scratchy whatever you’re having yourself) and they can only attack players on the opposite team.  They can still call the bluff of their own team.   To make it even more interesting for 1 coin they can swap teams and presumably avoid a bullet or pay two coins and make another player part of the opposite team they are currently on.  This is a goodie I highly recommend coup.  It’s the most fun game we’ve played so far this year and there’s only another 50+ gaming nights to go 🙂   Oh yes it’s also a Definite for Knavecon on the 1st March


We decided to split into two groups (let’s call them “my group” and “not my group”) and my group had a crack at Leader 1

All of the players bar myself hadn’t played but were avid racing fans and were slapping on the shammy cream in anticipation of playing this game.  They’d previously played Rallyman and this wasn’t a 100 miles from that.  What ensued was a great nights gaming.


The game starts with each player in this case picking two specialist riders from a choice of three, climbers (good at hills), Sprinters (good on the flat) and Leaders (a bit of both).  Then the mass of riders known as the peloton belts off with all the riders safely tucked inside.  It starts slowly enough with the riders peddling along happily keeping and eye on each other and then BANG! someone makes a break for it and others may or may not follow them.  Just like real cycling the break away group try and stay ahead of the peloton and make it to the line before everyone else.

Buried in the photocopies we found a scorecard and realised (not surprisingly) we’d been playing wrong or more accurately winning wrong, just like formula 1 it’s points based on the two riders finishing position, so 50pts for the first rider over the line, 46 for the second and so on, SO finishing first doesn’t guarantee a win by any means if the next team get two high finish points with both their riders.

A fairly early break by three hill climbers set the pace, they did really well ascending then descending the mountain (we could nearly hear the whiz of peddles on the downhill) they were very quickly followed by the remaining riders who all broke cover and pursued them down the hill.


It was fast and tense.  Riders jockeyed for position, trying to slipstream then pass the riders ahead of them.  The hill climbers out of their natural element started to falter, burning through their reserves of energy on the flat ground.  The downhill specialists reeled them in then passed them followed by a lone leader.  One canny rider held back until near the finish then took off burning through cakes worth of energy (c) to pass everyone.  The peleton kept it’s relentless pursuit and towards the end the horror settled on the players.  The hill climbers would be caught by the peloton and absorbed again and there was nothing they could do.  They were.  Just before the last sprint the peloton swept in and took them back, three riders never finished and somehow… I won.  Both my riders made it and although they came I think it was 3rd and 4th or maybe 4th and 5th their combined score won it…. FOR ME!!! YESSSS!!!!!

Best game ever !  😛

While this was all going on not my group were enjoying Agricola.  I’ve played it only once and very badly so I can’t comment and my head was down trying to slipstream during the whole thing so I leave it to someone who was there to describe it

Last up was a bit of warm down Coup and we all headed home

A FINE nights gaming, more of that I say!





This Drax Report is dedicated to the memory of my oldest friend Chris Maher who tragically and unexpectidly died last weekend. Chris was an avid gamer whom I grew up with and over the last 30+ years we had clocked a huge amount of hours happily gaming together.  You are sadly missed old friend.

Last Thur – Being a Drax Report


There are effectively two types of game nights, good nights and great nights.  Last thur was a great night.  We got a good group together and played some damn fine games

First up for me was Love Letter

I’m a big fan of simple games, and this really is simple, 16 cards (15 really because you remove one before you start) and away you go with 2-4 players, over several rounds.  The idea is to finish with the highest numbered card in a round and therefore win favour with the Princess either that or eliminate the others players in the round.  do it four times and you win.  Remember Fibonacci series in maths? it’s a bit like that where the previous played card affects the next played one.

I was introduced to it’s charms at Knavecon and was hooked after a couple of games.  It does take a few games to get your head around it after which you’ll be won over.  It’s also dirt cheap.  €10 or so and it comes in a nice bag.  What more could you ask for?


Next up was BOSS MONSTER


Now THIS is something special. I WANT Boss Monster.  I’m going to go and seek out a copy asap.  It’s brilliant.

You start with the aforementioned Boss Monster and over time build a dungeon with traps which attracts increasingly powerful adventurers who’s souls you want to take (by bumping them off).  It’s a bit Dungeon Keeper, bit Tower Defence.  The real fun is where you stick a spanner in someone else’s works just as they’re about to bump off said adventurers.  Typical ploys involve deactivating an opponents trap, buffing up a wimpy adventurer or a variety of sneaky nasty tricks all of which make for a brilliant gaming experience.

We played one game that lasted over an hour and it was a riot from start to finish.  Everyone came away wanting more

While this went on the other group got to grips with a game called TRIPODS which is in beta, I didn’t get to play it but it looked really good.

Next was an old classic.  Mag Blast.  Truth be told we’ve played a LOT of mag blast and although it’s a super game it can drag on a bit and this was no exception.  Also I didn’t win so it’s a silly game and we’ll never play it again 🙂  Oh and no-one made the sounds so it doesn’t count

Finished off with a bit more Love letter than we wrapped it up

Great nights gaming

More of that sort of thing




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




Conclave Eve Thur – Being a Drax Report


Had a small group on Thur so we played those games you never get a chance to play normally.  In this case we got to play


For some reason ‘got to catch them all’ keeps coming to my head when I see the adverts for this game but it couldn’t be further from the reality.  Quarriors is a fair bit like Dominion with Dice

Possibly a bit unfair but there you go.  I LIKE dice games.  I like liar’s dice, I really like roll through the ages and I WANT to like Quarriors but it’s doing a damn fine job of evading my love.  Granted we had too few to really give it a lash but it doesn’t seem to scale that well.  I reckon it’s a full cast or no game.

Just like Dominion you start with two ‘hands’ of dice, this time in a bag, representing money.  you draw six dice roll them and depending on what turns up you pay ‘qudditiy’ (gold) to power them or use your GOLD to buy creatures and enhancements.  it then becomes a bit like Magic the Gathering where you attack your opponent and they defend possibly sacrificing their creatures.

Creatures surviving a round score glory (points) and the first to a set point target wins.  it’s all harmless fun and the skill is in picking a winning strategy whilst defending against your opponent.  NOW here’s the thing, I reckon we must be missing something because it’s all a bit weak.  you build the biggest creatures you can afford and attack your enemy.  Rinse and repeat.  Fastest to get to the highest score wins.  There was a distinct lack of strategy in this game so I’m going to hold off my opinion (It sucks) for now.  As I said I like dice games (this one sucks) and want to like this so watch this space.




Now THIS is more like it.  I must admit I had no idea about it outside of the fact that it was a 4x game and it had spaceships in.  As the saying goes, you had me at spaceships.

Ascending Empires is a very different game.  You move around the map land troops, conquer planets, fight battles, carve out an empire.  All standard stuff but movement of the ships is achieved by flicking your little round ships.  If they collide with an enemy both ships die, if you outnumber your opponents ships within a certain range you destroy him.

Ships can be converted to troops to land on a planet, to build structures and to summon more troops.  Structures can be used to score end game points or allow research of better stuff.

I LOVE this game.  its simple, the flicking mechanic works perfectly.  The board could be better.  The joins between sections are a bit iffy in places and can affect your flick but it didn’t when we played it.

I’m going to bring this to Conclave (and possibly everywhere I go) and show it off.  It’s a cracker and I’m surprised it didn’t make a bigger splash when it was released.

It’s no longer in print but there’s a few copies out there so you’ll get it secondhand easily enough.

So after Conclave tomorrow it’s back to thur and more Huzzahs



My Thur Rages on – Being a Drax Report

Spartacus a big favourite of the group (and more importantly me) was supercharged on Thur with the addition of the first expansion for it “The Serpents and the Wolf”


The group had been watching this with anticipation so when it was released we pounced on it like a starving cat in a lifeboat.  first up, it’s good, it’s very nice indeed.  This is definitely worth getting and they’re giving away a promo card (or two) with it.

I’d put money on it (not mine) that if they reprint the original this would be included, it screams “should have been in the original box but we were saving money to make the base version popular”

For your dolla you get two new dominus (it’s now six player), a stack of new gladiators and slaves, some very small rule additions and most importantly the ability to field teams of two v two.  THIS is the whole sizzle of the expansion and not wanting to wait I forced the first match to be a 4 player.

The rules are that if your influence is 10 or over you can call a Primus (a 4 player) and an intrigue card can force this too.  it makes for some very hairy races to the finish.

The game plays a tiny bit slower and you tend to analyse the 4 player moves a bit more carefully but it doesn’t slow it by much and I believe you would be back up to normal speed for the game pretty quickly.  Because of how the game works even with six (and we had six on thur) it doesn’t leave people waiting too much, we flew through intrigue and market.  With six in the running anything can happen.

The only thing I was unsure about was you can’t stab your team mate in the back unless you have a specific gladiator but I think a house rule would fix that.  We’re ALL about the backstabbing on thur nights 🙂

This is a cracker of an addition.  if you’re a fan of the original it’s pointless me saying but GO get this. it’s well worth the entrance fee. Oh yes and it’s NOT suitable for kids but it says that clearly on the box (as I’m sure an actress may have said to a Bishop)


a few rounds of Zombie Dice rounded out the evening.  I didn’t win that either but I’ll still



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