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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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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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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Having fun with Pokemon Go

pokemon go logo

Pokemon Go

It’s difficult to justify writing a blog about treasure hunting without mentioning the biggest treasure hunt of the last 12 months: hunting Pokemon with Pokemon Go. You gotta catch ’em all!

For some, catching Pokemon is an obsession. Others dimiss the game as childish nonsense. As usual, the best option in life is to find a happy medium between two extremes. It’s a digital treasure hunt, not something to get worked up over, and hunting Pokemon can be a lot of fun.

This post is about finding the fun in Pokemon Go if throwing red balls at weird Japanese monsters isn’t your cup of tea.

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Escape

Escape box art

Escape the Cursed Temple

“ESCAPE!” Say it in a loud, low, resonating voice with a trace of a German accent and you get some idea of how each game of Escape begins. For it comes with a CD soundtrack that acts as a timer for this frantic, real-time dice rolling game.

It brings back memories of the old Atmosfear games, where a video character interrupted you at random moments. But while I found Atmosfear to be enjoyable once for the gimmick then instantly forgettable, Escape has been brought out at a few parties and family gatherings and has always proved good fun.

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The Bus Game: Print out and Play

bus board game

The Bus Game Board

Good news, I have created a printable version of The Bus Game for everyone to enjoy.

You can download it here: The Bus Game Print Out and Play

Download and print off the file. Then you can either cut out and stick together the playing pieces, or you can use Lego bricks for the buses and a coin for the time-track counter.

There are numbers on the top of each bus so you can use a normal six-sided die if you want.

I hope you enjoy the game. Please leave a comment to let me know how you got on!

Citadels

Citadels game box

Bruno Faidutti’s Citadels

Citadels is a tidy little card game in a small blue box. When you have a lot of games, and when you want something to take round a friend’s house or to the pub, these things are important!

It’s also fun to play, this being the other important thing in a game.

The players are noblemen (and/or women) competing with each other to build the best citadel. This can only be achieved with lots of gold and the help of powerful characters such as the Thief, the Merchant and even the King.

Each round players secretly choose a character to aid them from a deck of cards. Each character has very different skills and abilities. The Bishop will earn you more gold if you favour the Church, while the Warlord will destroy buildings in your opponents’ citadels, for a price.

Most intringuing are the Assassin and Thief. These characters kill or steal from others, but only if the player correctly guesses the character selection made by others.

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Neil Gaiman’s A Study In Emerald

Study in Emerald game box

Neil Gaiman’s A Study In Emerald, the game

Sherlock Holmes vs Cthulhu, the ultimate showdown! This is the selling point of A Study In Emerald, the game by Martin Wallace, if not quite the plot of the Neil Gaiman short story.

A little background is necessary. In 2003 there was a short story collection called Shadows Over Baker Street. In it, 18 different authors mash together Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos in a nightmarish alternative history.

Neil Gaiman wrote the first story in the collection, beautifully introducing the concept and twisting the reader about like a confused puppet. His story, which won a Hugo Award, is available as a free PDF from his website and is worth a read if you’re a Sherlock fan – the style and in-jokes are clearly targeted at fans of Doyle rather than Lovecraft.

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The Bus Game

Bus Board Game

The Bus Game final prototype

The Bus Game is a children’s board game of my own design.

My other half and I made a prototype (for my nephew’s birthday) by buying bits of wood off the Internet, painting them with acrylics and tester paints intended for when we finally redecorate the bedroom, then spray-varnishing them.

Players try to get the four coloured buses through the village, from one bus depot to another, before bed-time. The game is co-operative so everyone wins or loses together.

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