A Visit to Thirsty Meeples

For my *cough* 21st *cough* birthday this year, I took a trip to Thirsty Meeples, a boardgame cafe in Gloucester Green, Oxford.

The idea is simple. For £5 per person (£6 if you don’t buy any food or drink) you book one of their well worn tables for 3 hours. During that time, you can play as many of their 2,500 boardgames as you want. Their massive, well-organised library takes up half of the wall space.

Squeezed in among it all is a cafe serving a wide range of teas and coffees, and a small selection of light snacks, sandwiches and sweets. A couple of sandwiches and a slice of spinach pie went down well, and the hot chocolate was excellent. Best of all, though, was the Super Sugar Rush bowl of mixed Haribo, M&Ms and marshmallows to keep the energy up!

I got some game recommendations in advance from their active Twitter feed, and the knowledgeable staff made more recommendations on the day. They were also on hand to give us a decent breakdown of the rules to maximise playing time. During our visit, we managed to fit in a game of New York Slice, two games of Beyond Baker Street and just about squeezed in a run of Betrayal At House on The Hill before the end of the 3 hours.

For a mid-week afternoon I was surprised at how busy the place was, so booking in advance is definitely recommended.

If you want to try out some games before buying them or are looking for something different to do with some like-minded friends, give Thirsty Meeples a go!
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Agent A: A Puzzle In Disguise

Agent A

Ruby La Rouge’s cat meets Agent A

Agent A is your typical point-and-click / escape room adventure game. It’s lifted above the average by nice graphics and a great selection of puzzles with few moments of frustration or tedium.

The basic plot is that Ruby La Rouge, an enemy spy with an awful accent, has killed your boss and several of your fellow Agents. You’re Agent A, the best in the business, and it’s up to you to confront Ruby in her hideaway. No sooner have you found your way through the front door, then Ruby turns the tables and traps you inside with her vicious cat.

What follows is a short but charming homage to spy films as you crack safes, reveal secret rooms hidden behind bookcases, and put oversized precious jewels to good uses.
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Cryptogram Puzzle Post

Cryptogram Puzzle Post Envelope

Cryptogram Puzzle Post April 2017, The River


While rooting around the Travelling Man game shop in York, I came across a series of nicely presented envelopes promising “codes, ciphers, riddles, spells and illusions inspired by witchcraft and alchemy”: the Cryptogram Puzzle Post.

Issued monthly since March 2017, each envelope holds a self-contained bundle of 7 small puzzles, leading one to the next towards a final solution. That solution can be emailed to the author for confirmation of its correctness, or a set of three correct answers from a full Season can be submitted to unlock a “mystery art” prize.
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Pandemic Legacy: Tutorial Games

Pandemic Legacy art

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

NOTE: This post DOES NOT contain plot spoilers for Pandemic Legacy. To learn more about the game, here is a longer, also spoiler-free preview.

In brief, Pandemic Legacy is an episodic, choose-your-own adventure, campaign-style board game. Intended to be played over 12 months, the rules and objectives change month by month and permanent changes to the game are made by ripping up cards or sticking things to the board depending on how well, or badly, you do in each game.

Everyone’s story will be slightly different, though the major plot points in the game will be the same for everyone as you work through a fixed “Legacy Deck” of events and objectives.

January has been a busy month in the world of Pandemic. My other half and I played several tutorial games before finally jumping into the full campaign. This post covers my thoughts on the basic Pandemic game based on the tutorials and contains no campaign spoilers. I’ll save those for the next post.

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The Clock Without a Face: Solutions Part 2

clock without a face cover

The Clock Without A Face

The Clock Without a Face is a frustrating armchair treasure book because so many of the puzzles are ambiguous with no clear solution. In many cases, the answer could only be confirmed by going and digging up the treasure. This option is, of course, no longer available.

In Part 1 of this solution, I pointed out where the 12 objects stolen from each resident could be found hidden in the book. I also explained, as best as possible, the way to find the hiding places for the first 6 numbers of the clock itself.

This post works through the final 6 numbers from the clock and the problem of the missing number 12 from Floor 9. A reminder to please support the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine if you find the archived links in this post useful.

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Picture Puzzle: Name the City

puzzle

Puzzle: Name the City

A tricky little picture puzzle to test your decryption skills and a simple question: name the city.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

If that isn’t enough fun, this post includes some of the code used to generate the picture. If you understand the code, it will give you a big hint for solving the puzzle.

The image was created using the free POV-Ray raytracer. Generating raytraced images involves creating a virtual 3D world with objects and light sources and a camera. POV-Ray then calculates how light travels around the virtual world, bouncing off the objects, and creates the view that would be seen by the camera. The usual aim of raytacing calculations is to mimic real-world physics as much as possible to try to create a photo-realistic image.

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The Clock Without a Face: Solutions Part 1

clock without a face cover

The Clock Without A Face

The Clock Without a Face is a divisive book. Ironically, it is two-faced and I enjoy and despise it at the same time for its oddities.

As a storybook, there’s a childish charm on the surface that clashes with the cruel abuse and betrayal of the narrator bubbling just underneath. As a treasure hunt, the bright, detailed illustrations are fun to sift through and reveal endless potential clues, but the final solutions are ambiguous and unsatisfying.

I’ve put off writing up the solutions for The Clock Without A Face because every time I start trying to piece it all together from the few confirmed answers (some from the author, others from shouty arguments on the Internet) I am left frustrated and annoyed. Trying to solve the puzzles in the book sucks all the joy out of it. It is an awful puzzle book in this regard and there’s no getting away from that.

But, needs must when the blogger procrastinates. So here is my best attempt at providing a reasonable set of solutions to the Clock Without A Face. This first post covers the 12 missing objects from each floor and tracks the first 6 missing numbers from floor 13. The last 6 numbers, and the location of the doubly-hidden number 12 will be covered in part 2.

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Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 Preview

Pandemic Legacy art

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

NOTE: This preview does NOT contain plot spoilers for Pandemic Legacy.

If you’re not familiar with the Legacy genre, this will sound like an unusual way to start a review of a board game. But Legacy games are unusual, as I recently started to learn.

Released in 2015, Pandemic Legacy was the second game in the Legacy genre. The series started with Risk Legacy in 2011 but it was the buzz around Seafall in late 2016 that finally caught my attention.

The concept underpinning all three titles is that decisions and outcomes in one game affect subsequent games. In Risk Legacy, a variation on the classic game of world conquest, players choose a faction they will lead over the course of 15 games. Factions gain and lose bonuses depending on how well they do. Individual games become parts of a longer campaign.

Pandemic Legacy reportedly raised the bar and produced something excitingly different. I intend to recount my personal experiences while playing through the whole of “Season 1”. This first post is spoiler free in the sense that I have done nothing but open the box, read the rules, and play a trial, legacy-less game with my other half.

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Merlin Mystery Solution: Part 13

Merlin Mystery wand

The Merlin Mystery prize wand

Go to the Merlin Mystery Solution Index.

This is it! This is the final part of my solution to The Merlin Mystery by Jonathan Gunson and Marten Coombe.

For a puzzle where the number 12 is so important (relying on there being 12 zodiac signs, 12 positions on a clock face and using 12 different alchemy symbols), I like that it has taken 13 blog posts to reach the final solution.

Before revealing my answer, a final summary of the whole puzzle and how the solution is reached is warranted. Links lead to the 12 preceding parts of the solution to read the full details of each stage.

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A Present of a Picross

picross

Example Picross

A final present from me for Christmas! This time it’s a Picross puzzle.

A picross is a logic puzzle. They’re also called Nonograms, Hanjie, Griddlers or “Paint-By-Numbers”.

The goal is to blacken squares in a grid to create a picture.

Numbers around the grid are clues. From these clues you can deduce exactly where all the black squares go using logic and deduction. There is only one solution where the clues in the columns and the clues in the rows are consistent.

Each clue number signifies an unbroken line of black squares. These lines appear in the same order as the numbers, running left to right for the rows and top to bottom for the columns. Every line of black squares is separated by one or more un-blackened squares. You can mark these in with light Xs. A zero means the entire row or column is unblackened.

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