Wednesday 21 May 2014

Lunch Money, Jack the Ripper, Red Dragon Inn and Love Letter

At the Blood Bowl NAF Championships, we didn’t just play Blood Bowl. A proper post about the tournament itself will follow (once I’ve scanned in the pictures) but in the meantime, here’s a breakdown of the other games I was involved in.

Husbit took his NAF and usual online name from this game – he introduced it to my friends at uni the first time he visited me there and they couldn’t all remember his name afterwards but they did remember the game. It’s a card game he particularly enjoys, being fairly simple and playable in a much larger group than the rules say. Everyone uses the same draw pile, too: it isn’t a deck-building game (such as Magic: the Gathering), so success doesn’t rely on spending more money than your opponents.

We played it up at Cantaloupe’s on the Friday night. Husbit won all 3 hands – he’s pretty good. I think, also, I’m a bit nice for the game – I tend not to like finishing someone off and would rather start picking on another player for a bit so everyone stays in longer. This is not the way to win the game.*

The idea is that you’re kids in the playground beating each other up. You have a hand of 5 cards drawn from the central pile. At the start of your turn, you play a card (or, occasionally, more) and then draw back up to 5 (you may have used some in other players' turns and can choose to discard other cards instead of having a turn). The cards are mostly attacks, but you also have defences (blocks, dodges, freedoms and hides), health cards (visiting the nurse) and ‘humiliation’ cards (I think one of the expansions renames these ‘horror of horrors’) that can be used to counter anything played before – if you can come up with a clever story. You have 20 health which is reduced as the other players attack you.

In my opinion, this game is best played with story – rather than just slamming down a jab card, I like it when a description of the action is given “I see you on the swing and come over to deliver a sharp jab in your ribs. Take that, coward!” Other people disagree, preferring the faster paced version of just throwing in cards. But humiliation cards, in particular, are just so much more fun when played with story – “as you ran to me, you misjudged my swing and instead of punching me, my foot caught you in the bladder at just the right angle to make you wet yourself. Nananananah, can’t hurt meee”.

This is one of Cantaloupe’s games. We moved onto it after Husbit proved too good at Lunch Money… He also won this.

The game is a variant on Rummy, with the idea being to collect sets of evidence and related suspects, victims and scenes. You can play a scene any time, but no other card can be played until a victim has been played. If the scene in the same colour as the victim has already been played, you can take it. If not and someone else plays that scene later, they can take the victim. Suspects can be played once 3 pieces of evidence against them are down. The suspect with the most evidence played against them scores double points unless the appropriate alibi has been played by someone else. There are also cards that have effects when played – one that forces any victims in hands to be played and others that force players to discard and so on.

My first hand had the special card “Ripper Escapes”. This card scores negative points equal to twice the number of played victims unless all victims have been played, in which case it is worth 35 points. This sounded like a good way to win, but Husbit very quickly discarded his entire hand and I was stuck on negative points… this happened again in the third round, at which point I basically gave up and we went to bed.

I liked this game – I haven’t played any variant of rummy since school so it took me a moment to remember how the hell you played, but this was very similar and brought back fond memories of wasted free periods in the sixth form common room, stealing polos and spending time with friends. The cards are nice, too, because they all have a little bit of information about the various historical victims and suspects, which I found interesting.

For me, this was the (non-Blood Bowl) game of the weekend. Naz picked it up on Day One of the tournament, and we settled down to play it that evening.

The premise is simple and designed to appeal to geeky roleplayers like me: you are adventurers, back from adventuring and enjoying your hard-earned cash fighting, drinking and gambling at a pub – the Red Dragon Inn. The original game – the version we were playing – gives you the options of a wizard with an insane rabbit familiar, an elven priestess, a warrior and a halfling rogue. The first game saw me as the priestess, Husbit as the wizard, Naz as the halfling and Kare as the warrior. Each character has strengths and weaknesses so as the evening progressed and we played different characters we had a very different game (I think I like the priestess best, followed by the warrior. I didn’t get to play the wizard).

Your turn starts with discarding/drawing cards from your character’s draw pile. You then play an action (if you have one), such as starting a fight of some sort (and reducing another player or players’ fortitude) or beginning a round of gambling. You then buy a drink (which can be given to sit in any player’s drinks pile) and you drink a drink – turning over the top drink of your drink’s pile and taking the effect (usually increasing your alcohol count). If you don’t have a drink to drink, you reduce your alcohol count instead, as you start to sober up.

The idea is to outfight, outdrink and outgamble your other adventurers. If you run out of money, you’re thrown out of the pub and if you pass out you’re also out. This is cleverly worked out: you have a counter from 0-20. You start with your red fortitude marker at 20 and your clear alcohol marker at 0. As you take damage, your red marker moves down and as you drink your clear marker moves up: when the markers meet, you pass out. You can also play cards to make drinks stronger or weaker or to negate other actions or ‘acquire’ money.

As with Lunch Money, I think this is a game where a bit of roleplay/story telling helps – the cards themselves certainly lend themselves to this (one of my favourites is the warrior with her damage-causing action cards “Not another chainmail bikini joke” and “Want to arm wrestle?” It’s fair to say she kinda reminds me of my sister).

What’s nice is that they’ve thought about expansions from the first box set – the drinks include ones that affect trolls or ogres (for example) differently, even though there are no trolls or ogres in the box. There’s at present 4 boxes and a number of individually available characters (including the wizard’s insane rabbit). It worked well with 3/4 players, but I think it would stand up to more players too, because it’s quite fast-paced (even with a roleplay element) so everyone could stay involved.

I definitely want my own copy.

I was intrigued by this game – it looked simple and is set in a fictional realm called Tempest, my NAF name. Also, the idea of seducing a princess the week after getting engaged to a king entertained me highly.

It is very simple: 16 cards of varying strength. You start with one in hand and each turn you draw a second, consider the two you have and choose which to discard. The effect of the discarded card is then played, and the next player takes their turn. Whoever has the highest valued card at the end of the round (or is the only one left holding a card when the others have been knocked out by card effects) wins the round and a little token – the winner is the first to a number of tokens determined by the number of players.

The idea is that the princess and heir of Tempest has gone into mourning and you are one of the many people trying to get your letter to her in the hopes of winning her heart. The cards represent the person currently holding your letter and go from guards through barons, handmaidens, princes, kings and up to the princess herself.

There are tactics to be brought into play. For instance, the second most powerful card is the countess, the princess’s best friend, but if you are holding this card and draw a king or prince (or are holding a king/prince and draw the countess) you must discard the countess. This means if the countess is discarded, your opponent has 1/3 chance of holding a king and 2/3 chance of holding a prince (there being 1 king and 2 princes in the deck and, of course, depending what has already been discarded) and if you can play a guard and name the correct card being held, that’s them out of the game! Ah, except, what if they’re double-bluffing you?.. and so on.

Yes, I liked this game. Simple, but with lots of opportunity for tactical play at a level I can cope with.

*I have spent many years saying I don’t enjoy non-co-operative board games because I get too competitive. It was during this game that I realised it’s playing them with Husbit that makes me too competitive: in myself, I’m not, but he is and I respond to this with a competitiveness that outmatches his and spoils it for everyone.


  1. I have more games for us to play, as I may have spent money at Comic Con.

  2. Fantastic! Hope it was amazing :)