Proceedings started when my travelling companions and I arrived in Telford late on Friday evening with the DVD game of Telly Addicts (yes, with Noel Edmonds). Females challenged the males and, sadly, won by a whisker despite being behind for most of the game (and despite being two people to our three). And they won the re-match by somewhat more than a whisker. The DVD of Catchphrase (with Mr Chips, and possibly the voice of Roy Walker, though I didn't check the credits) was then brought out, but we were less impressed. Males were a fair bit ahead by the end of the first round, at which point the DVD player crashed — and the same thing happened when we attempted it again.
Saturday's games began with Ticket To Ride. The board is a map of North America with the major cities marked. The players have to build trains between adjacent cities; each one requires between one and six carriages as marked on the map. On each turn you can do one of three things: pick up three route cards (of which you can discard up to two on your next turn); pick up two carriage cards, or build a train between two cities by paying the appropriate number of carriage cards of the same colour and placing your little carriages on the board. Some of the routes require cards of a particular colour; others can be built with cards of any colour. Each train built scores you some points, with longer trains scoring more points of course. Each route card names two (non-adjacent) cities. If at the end of the game you have a continuous train connecting those cities, you get the number of points stated on the card — otherwise that number of points is deducted.
I finished in the middle at the end of that game, possibly because I was new to it, or possibly because I had short routes which weren't worth huge numbers of points (though I completed four routes and didn't have any points deducted). It's an interesting game and worth looking out for.
Buzz! The Big Quiz is a Playstation game which comes with four controls, each having a big red button and four coloured buttons, and is in the format of a TV gameshow with the players as contestants. There are several rounds with different gameplay and it is quite entertaining. It was quite closely fought until the last round, in which one person managed to buzz in and answer correctly on all but one of the questions, thus winning the quiz by a mile. We followed that by Buzz! The Music Quiz, at which I expected to come last, but managed to steal a win at the last moment mainly because of other people buzzing in wrongly and getting points deducted.
After lunch we played a round of Chronology, the historical quiz in which you have to put events on the correct place in your timeline. Three of us amassed eight cards and it took a couple of rounds before one got lucky and had questions that he could answer to get the last two cards — sadly not I.
As we seemed to be alternating board games with multimedia games, we went on to play the DVD of Test the Nation: 70 questions about British people, places and events with Anne Robinson doing the introductions (but fortunately not reading out the questions while you're trying to answer them). I scored a modest 46; the results were more or less in age order (the bottom two were swapped).
This was followed by Carcassonne, another member of the "games devised by people called Klaus" family in which you have to place settlers in castles, thieves on roads and farmers on pasture (all denoted by the same type of playing piece). The landscape is built up tile by tile; you don't get the choice of tile, but you do get to choose where it goes, provided the landscape matches where it touches the other pieces. Once a tile is placed which completes a road or a castle, you get your settlers back and score points based on the size of the road or castle and the number of settlers you had on it.
The set we played had the "River" and the "Inns and Cathedrals" expansions. The river doesn't affect gameplay but just gives you a different starting configuration (all the river tiles are played first, and then the land tiles are played as normal). Inns and Cathedrals gives you a few more land tiles plus two new land features: an inn is like an ordinary road tile but doubles the score obtained by completing a road, and a cathedral goes in the middle of a castle and increases the score obtained by completing the castle. However, if you don't complete the road or castle then you score nothing. The set also gives you one large settler, which is played like the other settlers but counts as two when the scores are calculated.
Unfortunately with five players the chances of completing a castle once it's had a cathedral added to it are pretty low, so it's used to sabotage other players rather than build up your own score. I was on the receiving end of this for both games. I seemed to have a particularly hard time with my selection of tiles in the first game and finished last by quite a way. I improved in the second game and finished in the middle.
We paused the games for Doctor Who only to discover that we only had a partial recording thanks to someone crashing the Sky+ box half way through. But we decided to watch Doctor Who Confidential anyway, then had dinner and watched Big Brother. We almost entirely avoided Eurovision, but flicked across occasionally for the scores and watch the demons do their encore at the end when it turned out they had won. Then it was time for…
Doctor Who: the Interactive Electronic Board Game. The Doctor's Tardis is damaged after a battle with the Daleks and he needs to visit six locations from the 2005 series in order to pick up the necessary parts. (How he manages to do this with a damaged Tardis remains unclear.) This is basically a "throw the die, move your counter and do whatever it says on the square" type game, except that the die is actually a spinner and the squares are hexagonal (but they are still called squares in the instructions). If you land on a Tardis square then you get to pick up a card from that zone which represents one of the components needed for repair; once you have (at least) one of each component then you can start moving towards your home spot on the inner ring. There are two twists. Firstly, the Daleks are after you. The spinner which tells you how many spaces to move also has an inner ring which tells the player on your right how many spaces the Daleks can move. The Daleks move before you do, and if they catch up with you the player on your right can steal one of your cards. Secondly, if you land on one of the orange spaces then you get to press the flashing blue light on the top of the little plastic Tardis, which plays a random soundbite from the TV series. You then look up the soundbite in the instruction booklet and it tells you what to do. This is the "interactive" bit of the game, though really it's just a glorified D12.
In practice, we were not terribly impressed with this game. There are only so many variants on "moving the counter" type games, and this one is more about the Doctor Who branding than the actual gameplay. It looks fairly impressive until you start to play, but it gives the impression of not having been play-tested very well. Apart from the (at least) two glaring apostrophe errors in the instructions, there are several cases where it's not clear or doesn't cover all situations. (For example: if you land on a "trading" space then you must choose another player; both of you spin the wheel and the one who gets the higher number can claim a card off the other. But what if you both spin the same number? If a player lands on a space occupied by another player, then he goes on to the next unoccupied space; but the instructions don't say whether or not this applies to Daleks). More importantly, the game seems to be very difficult to finish in serious play: it looks like it should take about half an hour, but we went on for two hours before giving one player a bit of help to reach his finishing spot (by not capturing him with the Dalek when that was clearly possible, and by allowing him to move his counter on the final move in a way which we aren't sure is entirely legal — but then the instructions don't make clear what they mean by "one direction only" since you clearly have to turn corners in order to stay on the track). It seems to be too easy for the other players to steal your cards, and you can effectively prevent someone from getting to their home spot by moving all the Daleks into the inner ring. Moreover, because you can frequently pick up cards but hardly ever have to put them back (most penalties involve giving cards to other players, not putting them back on the board), the cards will eventually run out. Even though every player has a handful of cards, none of them actually has all six different types, and the only way to complete the game is by trying to steal the card you want off another player. So cards are continually changing hands, and even if you manage to collect all six types you are quite likely to lose one of them before you can get to the home spot.
bopeepsheep and I had been meant to meet people for a picnic on Sunday, so I had a train ticket for the 10:03 train back to Oxford (for the princely sum of £8, plus a credit card fee of £1.50 which rather irritates me because the design of TheTrainLine's payment form meant that I didn't notice the fee would be added until after I had completed the transaction). So we had a quick look at a bit of the QI interactive DVD before it was time for me to leave.
In the event we were rained off, but the surviving members of the party did have a pub lunch before we dragged our wet selves back home.