Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas Gaming 2011

Over the Christmas period I played games with Wendy Alan and Lewis and as a small task beforehand I asked them all to nominate a game that they would like to play. They each gave me two which made my task easier. The games we played I hope to review over the next week, but as a small appetiser here were their choices.

Lewis  . Duck Duck Go and Vikings
Alan . Stoneage and Kingsburg
Wendy . Egizia and If Wishes were Fishes
Kevin . Meltdown and The Christmas Game

Sadly Stoneage and The Christmas Game did not get played, however instead we did play Scalextric, Ace of Aces and Satanix.

I had also done a little quiz as a filler, four sections were pictures only and as I cannot attribute the sources I will not reproduce them here, so you are left with the first seven sections. Wikipedia was only one of the many sources used for this quiz. Feel free to try your luck, answers will be published in 2 weeks time.

The sections are :-

1.      Music – 1pt each except 8 (2 pts), 6, 9 & 10 (2 pts) 1 for the song & 1 for the artist
2.      Fictional Places – 1 pt each.
3.      Alias’s and pseudonyms – 1 pt each
4.      Literature – 2 pts each, one for the book and 1 for the author.
5.      Loosely Sporting – 1 pt each except 42 (3 pts) and 45 (2 pts)
6.      Pot Luck – 1 pt each
7.      Games – These are games which you probably have played or are at least on display in Alan’s house or at Kevin & Wendy’s. – 1 pt each.


1.      What shape is the body of a Balalaika?
2.      Which land did Puff the Magic Dragon Live in?
3.      The washboard and tea-chest bass are normally associated with which musical genre?
4.      After the Beatles which is the biggest selling group ever?
5.      How long is the Camptown racetrack?
6.       What is the best selling UK single with 4,865,000 sales?
7.      Who has the most No 1 singles in the UK?
8.      What was George Gershwins one and only Opera called? For a bonus point what was the title of its opening aria?
9.      “It’s close to , there’s something evil lurking in the dark” Is the opening line to which song? (1pt each for song and artist)
10.  “ Whatcha gonna do with all that junk, All that junk inside your trunk.” Is the opening line to which song? (1pt each for song and artist)


11.  In which series of books does the building “Hogwarts” appear? 
12.  In which TV series does the residence “
31 Elm Tree Avenue
, Purley” appear?
13.  Blandings Castle appears in many books by which author?  
14.  32 Railway Cutting’s, North Cheam appears in which series? 
15.  Honolulu Heights, Barry, Wales appears in series 3 of which TV programme, now filming series 4?
16.  Which family lives at
1630 Revello Drive
, somewhere in America?  
17.  742 Evergreen Terrace, appears in which American TV series?  
18.  Which family lives at 368, 12th floor, Nelson Mandela House, Dockside Estate, Peckham, London? 
19.  Burgh Island in Devon is the real name of an island that inspired the setting of a best selling book that was serialised in the Daily Express in 1939. Who was its author?
20.  Ambridge is the village setting of which series?

BY ANY OTHER NAME :: The following are the birth names of famous people; who are they better known as? To help a little, I have added in which century they passed away where applicable.

21.  Costadinos Contostavlos (Singer)
22.  Gnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (d 20th) (Nobel prize winner)
23.  Roy Harold Scherer Jr (d 20th) (Actor)
24.  Ellis Bell (d 19th) (Writer)
25.  Eldrick Tont Woods (Sportsperson)
26.  Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (Singer)
27.  Eileen Regina Edwards (Singer)
28.  Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili (d 20th) (Politician)
29.  Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (d 20th) (Spy?)
30.  Tiziano Vecelli (d 16th) (Painter)

LITERATURE :: The following are the first lines from popular / famous books. Book and author required, 1 pt for each.

 31.  “If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die.”
32.  “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”    
33.  “At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin.” 
34.  “You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.”  
35.  "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
36.  “Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug."
37.  “The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn."
38.  'Where's Papa going with that axe?' said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast."
39.  "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
40.  “Marley was dead, to begin with."


41.  Which Jamaican holds the world record in the Mens 100Metres, achieved on 16-9-2009 in Berlin Germany?      
42.  On February 8th & 9th 2011, He played for 25 hours against 604 players, winning 580 (97.35%) of the matches, drawing 16, and losing 8 thereby gaining a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the most simultaneous games. A point each for his name, discipline and nationality.  
43.  The Superbowl has the winners of which two “leagues” going head to head (acronyms accepted)?
44.  This sport is judged on accuracy where a final position like the hand of a clock scores best at to the competitor. Sometimes judging from the side is required where for example, an angle from the ground of 84 degrees is better than 68 degrees. What sport is this?    
45.  Gholamreza Takhti (27/8/30 – 7/1/68) won 1 Olympic gold, 1 Asian Championship gold  and 2 World Championship golds between 1956 and 1961. He was most famous for his attitude to sport, an example being when he heard that his opponent Alexander Medved had an injured right knee. Not once during the match did he attack this weakness. He lost the match but showed that he valued honourable behaviour above victory. What discipline did he win his golds in? 1 extra point each if you can name the discipline he was a world reknowned practioner of and his home country.
46.  What sport made its debut as a demonstration sport in the 1988 Olympics; again was a demonstration sport in the 1992 Olympics, missed the 1996 Olympics but then gained official medal status in the 2000 Olympics?   
47.  Svetlana Masterkova holds the Womens World Record set on 14th August 1996 in a distance for which the 6th May 1954 is a landmark date. What is this distance?
48.  In which sport do 5 Shimpan watch proceedings?    
49.  In which sport does a “Mark” get rewarded with a “Free Kick”?     
50.  Past champions include Chris Anderson, Helen Thorpe and 14 year old Jo Guest. It is a British sport with at least 200 years of history behind it, taking place over a 200 yard course with speeds of up to 70mph. What is the name of this sporting event?       


51.  Using their atomic numbers only, add Boron, Carbon and Nitrogen; multiply the result by Helium and then finally add Hydrogen. What number do you end up with?
52.  What is this symbol commonly known as   ?            
53.  What is any of various lateen-rigged sailing vessels, typically having a raised poop, a raked stem, and one or two masts, used along the coasts of the Indian Ocean  called?
54.  Wuhai, China & Valdivia, Chile; Christchurch, New Zealand & A Coruna, Spain. What do these two pairings have in common?          
55.  What is a Steam Calliope?
56.  Although its authorship is in question, who is the “Book of Lemmas” (or at least its contents) generally attributed to? 
57.  What were the 2 gangs in west side story (1 point for each)?
58.  In Computer engineering what does VLSI stand for?
59.  Halley’s Comet will next make an appearance during which year? 
60.  A unit of mass equal to 200mg is more commonly called what?

GAMES :: These are fairly well-known games. I have selected a tell-tale rule or two from the game which may be slightly altered to avoid too easy an identification. All you have to do is name that game. ~x~ refers to words taken out of the clue – you do not get them that easy.

61.  A chain containing 11 or more hotels is safe and cannot be taken over by another chain.  
62.  The Judge picks a green ~x~ card from the top of the stack, reads the words aloud, and places it face up on the table. / For a more leisurely and thoughtful game, allow everyone except the judge to play a red ~x~ card in each round.
63.  After players have decided whether they will jump out or stay in the ~x~ ~x~ , the ~x~ pilot must decide what he or she will do.
64.  Moving back to a
Tortoise Square
costs nothing.
65.  A player cannot sink a green hill piece before all the yellow lowland pieces have sunk.
66.  Then turn the crank clockwise in the direction of the arrow and watch the action.
67.  Mounted Indians cannot enter or pass over the squares marked with trees, boulders or battlements. / General Custer with his 2 guns, is allowed 2 shots (at the same or different opponents).
68.  When a player draws a card, he looks at it and may either keep it or pass it on face down to any player who does not already have an Empire card. / A player must not look at an Empire card passed to him until all players have received one.
69.   Escape Equipment cards are obtained in a similar way to the Escape Kit, but by placing two POW’s in each room where the required equipment symbols are shown.
70.  You may only build a settlement at a tile intersection and only if all three of the adjacent intersections are vacant.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Martian Dice

Martian dice is a simple fun game designed by Scott Ames and produced by Tasty Minstrel Games. It is new this year and is aimed at ages 8 and over (though the rules can be understood by a 6 year old). It is for 2 or more players. but I would not go much above 8 because of the downtime between turns, with large groups you tend to get 2 or three players who run the game whilst others socialize/chat giving a nudge to other players when its their turn, strategy is limited to your own turn so knowing what others have done is not really important.
The tube it all comes in
The container is small yet still too large for the game, it could easily have been sold in something a third its size and even more annoying it is a tube. I have a thing against tubes because they are a pain to store, they just do not stack properly with other games or tubes and each company seems to pick completely different sizes to sell their products in, they also leave gaps round them on shelves. Still they are better, only just mind, than blister packs which some small games come in and which have no discernable stacking shape at all.
The Rules
The game consists of one sheet of rules and 13 dice. Each die is a normal 6 sided die with five possible faces. A chicken head (yellow), a human head (blue), a cow head (white), a human tank (red) and a laser canon (green) which is shown on 2 of the faces. The aim of the game is to score 25 points over a series of rounds, when someone achieves 25 or more points at the end of their turn the round is completed and victory goes to furthest past the post.
The 13 Dice
On your turn you throw all the dice, put aside all red faces (these are the evil defending Earthlings) and all the dice of one other colour having done so you may re-throw the remaining dice and likewise collect all red faces and one other colour. Other than the laser canons (green) you may only collect the remaining colours once in a set of throws. i.e. Yellow, white and blue
– the abductees – you are a Martian after all, all chickens cows and humans are strange creatures to be examined and questioned at length later back on Mars. You may stop whenever you want and score up and if you have a turn where you cannot collect any non-red dice because of the above restrictions your turn will end and you may score up.
The possible faces
Before you score there is a pre-requisite and that is that your laser canons (green) must equal or exceed the number of defending evil Earthling tanks (red), if successful then you may score the other coloured dice – your abductees. Each scores 1 point per die and you get a bonus of 3 if you have all 3 different abductees represented in your collection. The dice are then passed on for the next player to have their turn.

Gary shows complete contempt for the puny Earthling forces - and all for 2 points!
I would like to thank Sally of Spirit Games for introducing this game to me.On the whole it is a quick simple filler game, lasting about 3/4 minutes per player. I have played it with a number of groups and each have enjoyed the game.  It is fun but requires little in the way of pre-planning or forethought in that you just do the best with what you have got, there are decisions to make, but not big ones so I can see it sliding to the back of the shelf after a while for me, though it may remain a sticker with some groups.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

If Wishes were Fishes

I picked up a copy of If Wishes were Fishes in “The Works” recently where I think I walked in at the right time as they were selling off a number of Rio Grande and Queen Games fairly cheap, and most I had never heard of before.
Box lid showing multiple language version
If fishes were wishes is designed by Michael Adams and Peter Sarrett, it is produced by Rio Grande Games and takes from 2-5 players aged 10 and above and plays in about 45 minutes.
The box contents consist of a playing board, depicting 7 market stalls each stall with a different type of fish and a score track going around the perimeter; 75 small wooden fish and 5 small wooden discs split into the 5 player colours; a deck of 70 fish cards and 4 “Closed market” cards; 5 wooden customer counters valued 3, 2, 2, 1 & 1; lastly 30 large rubber worms.
The Playing Board
The Rules booklet is multilanguage (German, French & English) and easily read being 2 pages and one page of card explanations. There are a couple of ommissions though common sense will work these out (eg with each sale do you put a fish on for making a sale at the market or for each fish you sell at the market? This is not covered anywhere, we worked it out to be one for each fish sold).  
Rules Booklet
Most of the fish cards are split in two having one of the seven fish depicted upon it and the second half containing a wish, i.e. an action which the card can be used for.
Market Card, Player Start Boat, Additional Boat, four Fish Cards
The winner of the game is the player who collects the most cash, this is generally gathered from collecting fish cards and then selling them at the appropriate market stalls, however cash bonuses can also be obtained by selling the majority of fish at a stall when it is closed or having the most worms, in addition some of the wishes give a little cash bonus. The game is all about taking the correct actions at the correct time. The set up consists of players taking their fish markers and 6 worms, placing their disc on the score track, randomly putting a customer on five of the seven stalls and dealing out 4 fish cards in a line. Each player also has 2 ethereal boats (my edition came with a card showing the 2 boats, but they are not available in all copies).

The Game Pieces
A turn consists of taking one of three options. The first is taking a fish card from the row as a fish and placing it in your boat. Any cards you jump over in the row you must place one of your worms upon. When a card is taken all cards move down and a new one placed at the end, any worms on a card when taken go into the takers stock.
The worms (they are fun to play with on their own)
The second option is to sell a fish that you already have in a boat at a market stall, in such a case the value of any customers there is added to the stalls base value of 2, the card is then discarded, cash added to the points track and a fish placed on the stall. If after a sale a stall contains as many fish markers as is shown on the next closed market card, that stall is closed and bonus points given for first and second placed majorities. More fish can be sold at the stall, but they are placed on the rubbish tip. The game ends when either ten fish are on the rubbish tip or 4 stalls become closed.
Customers in various sizes
The third option is to take a fish card but use the action part of it, actions can only be taken from the card row and worms must be paid for each card you pass over. There are many actions which involve moving customers, selling multiple fish, collecting cash for worm holdings, throwing someone’s fish on the rubbish tip, creating another boat and selling one type of fish as another. It is the use of actions at the right time which will win you the game, choosing when to take fish, when to sell and when to pay out worms for the right card.
Close up of Fishes
The game plays very smoothly, I have played it several times 2 player and a couple of times with 4. No matter how many players it has always been a tight contest with no fixed strategy. In one game I paid out worms to get more boats, in another game I decided to hoard worms instead of chasing the extra boats. Both strategies won, what was key to both successes was getting in multiple sales, so fish stock management in your boats is crucial. This is a good game, light enough to interest non-gamers and strategic enough to entertain the thinkers and at £8 well worth the money.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Montego Bay

The Box
Montego Bay is a game for 2-4 players aged 8 and over, designed by Michael Feldk√∂tter  and produced by Queen Games. It plays in about an hour. The contents include 15 wooden coins, 16 cardboard boats, 16 barrels in each of the four player colours, a big and small playing piece, a score marker for each player and 2 neutral pieces the Tallyman and Lazy Jack. Each player will also receive a set of cards numbered 1 to 5 for each of his pieces.
The Playing Pieces
The board is quite big and depicts several warehouses each split into 2 store rooms, 4 loading piers, 2 pubs and a circular path.  The rules are quite clearly written and contain examples for clarification.
The Playing Board
The background is that you are in charge of a couple of dock-labourers whose job it is to load barrels from the warehouses into the waiting ships, whoever has loaded the most barrels onto a ship when it sails gains points. The winner is the player with the most points at the games end.
Stickers for the wooden playing pieces
Your 2 workers are placed in the pubs at either end of the building, movement round the board is in a clockwise direction only, and once moving only one piece can end on any one spot. Should a piece be moved so that it ends its move on another piece, that piece is pushed through to the other side of the warehouse it is next to; however if that space is occupied then your piece moves to the last free space it can reach. In some cases this may mean it will not move at all. Pieces move in a set order which is determined at the start of the game, this is shown by a line of tiles at the end of each turn last tile is moved to the front to begin the next round. Movement is chosen from the set of cards for each of your pieces, all cards are available each turn.
Cards for the Yellow Players Pieces
After all pieces have moved the tallyman walks round the board anti-clockwise and each docker in turns loads a number of their barrels equal to the side of the warehouse it is next to into any of the ships that the player wants in whatever breakdown. If at any point a ship fills all its hold spaces the ship leaves immediately and scores up, all ships move up one space and a new ship added to the end. The ship at Pier 1 also moves off at the end of the round, scoring as it leaves play. The stern of each ship gives points for first and second in 2 and 3 player games and third position in 4 player games. Position in a ship is based on a majority basis. Players also score a point if they put the last barrel in a boat.
Boats 2/3 player on left 4 player on right
Play continues until only 3 or fewer boats are at the piers. Some of the warehouses give coins, most of these are at store spaces where you have to take barrels off of ships. Three coins can be used to hire Lazy Jack, he then goes on a space with another of your dockers and moves first using one of that docker’s cards. It is expensive, but other than that the coins are only used at the end for a tie break.
Three of th warehouses each with 2 store rooms
Wendy Alan and I played it three player and it worked very well, playing in about 45 minutes and that was with Wendy leaping in and out of the kitchen cooking a crumble and home made custard. It is a light game with enough second guessing of other players movement choices to add an air of excitement.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Small World

I have just had three game sessions 3 days in a row so there is a bit of catching up to do. This review is based around Small World. Last week there were seven of us sat round the table to play games so we split into a 3 and a 4, the group of 4 chose Kingsburg whilst Joe, Wendy and I played Small World. I do not know how Kingsburg went other than everyone enjoyed the game and thus onto Small World.

Small World Box Lid

Small World is produced by Days of Wonder, designed by Phillippe Keyaerts, it is for 2-5 players aged 8 or over and plays in 40-80 minutes. The box on opening is nicely laid out with holes for everything, and a lift out counter tray. There are 2 two-sided map boards, crib sheets, 36 Board and Game Markers, 14 Race and 20 Special Power Badges, 109 Victory point chits (coins), a reinforcement die and Rules Booklet.

The Rules Booklet

Victory Point Chits, Mountains, Races and Skills Tokens
 Small World is a derivative of Vinci by the same designer which was published by Eurogames; it has been upgraded with a Fantasy Theme, had some minor but telling alterations to the rules and is now supplied with a small variety of maps depending on the number of players. These map boards show various coloured regions depicting different land types with some containing special symbols defining a power or resource base. So how does it play?

Stout Wizards (a la Pratchett?) and Diplomatic Humans (Damn Politicians!)
To start with 6 race badges are randomly picked and laid out, together with a randomly picked Special Power, the two tokens mesh together and you get a number of troops as shown in large red discs on the tokens. These troops start from a board edge and attack a chosen land space. To attack an area you place 2 troops for the land and an extra troop for each defending unit, an additional troop is also needed for attacking Mountains. Any troops in hand can go on to attack another adjacent land area in the same way. You keep going until you run out of troops. With your last attack you need not have all required troops, in such a case you can roll the die which will provide from 0-3 extra troops for that battle only. After all attacks, you count up the number of land areas you own and take that many victory points. Then the next player takes a turn. On your next turn you can choose to either take spare units back into hand and continue to expand or you can go into decline. In decline you just leave one upside down counter (they are double sided for this purpose) in each area you own and score as before. On your next turn you can choose a new pairing of Race and Special Power and attack with this new combination, you will then be scoring points with both your active empire and your empire in decline, however you may only have one declining empire.

Ratmen Counters

Counter tray
Special Tokens
The extra twists in the game are given by the race and special power badges, these may give you bonus points for owning particular land types, or bonuses in attacking, some even allow you to break some of the rules such as attacking non-adjacent areas or having more than one empire in decline. Most, but not all, powers do not work in decline. There is a fine balance in the races and special powers and it is choosing the right combination at the right time which will win you the game.

Diplomatic --- Tritons
For those who want to know about the differences with Vinci, other than the map board which for Vinci is of Europe and the Small World maps appear to be purpose built for the player numbers, they boil down to three things. The first is that in Vinci a players’ new empire may not lay adjacent to their declining empire, this rule does not exist nor is it needed in Small World. Vinci does not have a random die for the last battle, so cool calculations are required to get the best from your empire; the last is that victory points are secret and therefore there is no long winded calculations going on in the last couple of turns. These changes take it away from the “wargame” feel of Vinci into the fun family game realm and knocks about 20 minutes off the playing time.

5 Player Board
So how did our game go? Sadly for me not very well, Joe had a good game and had picked Heroic Sorcerers which he kept from start to finish, he also played an aggressive game, so I played a defensive game leaving barriers across most of the board, Wendy did not have as good a time as me, at one point she had a null turn where she could not attack or defend and so went into decline, as this was the penultimate turn she had no chance to recover either. Saying that, it was an enjoyable and fairly close game. The game was spoiled by one thing and that is the crib sheets which accompany the game. First of all they are large so take up too much table space and secondly we used them to explain our powers, but they are horribly incomplete; an example being that they state the Sorcerer can change a solitary unit of every other player in the game once per turn and misses out the all important word “Active”. In the end we ditched the crib sheets and just used the rule book.

Unuseful Crib Sheets
This game played slightly differently when I played it 2 player when I visited peter in June. Our game also played well with two different strategies going on Peter was the more aggressive attacking my active empire whenever he could and when he didn’t have the troops for this he went into decline, I on the other hand was concentrating on easy targets – empty areas or his declining empire and trying to get the most points out of an empire before declining. I won in the end. As a note Vinci does not play well as a 2 player game.

2 Player Board
The final verdict is a nicely balanced game no matter the number of players, I would say careful choosing of race and powers is very important, more so than in Vinci, it also scores over its predecessor by having a shorter playing time.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Sorry for the lack of posts, this has been mainly due to carpal tunnel syndrome (in both hands). Anyway on to this report.

I first started writing this report a couple of weeks ago, since then Smite has had a number of airings, so it now is a composite of those playing sessions. Smite is an outdoor game and is the UK version of a Finnish game Molkky. According to Wikipedia Molkky has similarities to Kyyka  (aka Finnish skittles, aka Karelian skittles) whose heritage lies in Karelia where a wooden bat is thrown at a line of skittles 10 metres away.
The Wooden Box

However back to Smite. The game is produced by , the designer is not acknowledged. The game can be played with any number of players and works as well with 2 as it does with 6 or possibly more and can accommodate singles, pairs or teams equally well. A game with six players usually plays in about 20-30 minutes.
Contents (minus rules)

Smite comes in a nice wooden box, and contains 10 skittles numbered from 1 to 10 and a “smiter” made from a light but durable wood. The box also contains a small sheet of the rules which are clearly written.
The "Smiter"

The skittles are set up in a triangular formation about 4 metres away from the box with the point furthest from the players, players then take turns throwing the “smiter” at the skittles with the aim of being the first to reach exactly 50 points. On their turn a player has one throw at the skittles and scores a number of points equal to the number of pins they knock over, however if only a single pin is knocked over then the player scores the value of that pin. Skittles that have been knocked over are stood up at their resting place for the next thrower, thus as the game progresses the skittles get knocked further away from the other skittles and become easier solitary targets. If a player exceeds 50 points, they reset to 25.

My Set Up (opposite to rules set up)

So how does it play? Well several weeks ago there was six of us and we enjoyed about an hour playing 2 games where several tactics were noted to improve peoples chances, Wendy elected “The long stride” stretching as far forward as possible, Joe went for consistency, Naomi for the lob and Steve liked the “aim at Kevin” technique (as I was the re-righting the fallen skittles I was generally stood near them). All these techniques were for nought as Adam won the first game with a very neat throw. Undaunted, we launched into the second game where my obsession with aiming at the 10 pin eventually, after a number of misses, won me the game.

Steve throws

Position after several rounds

The next session was played in a back garden in Bromley with different friends where a large number of 30 point games were played 
Jonty & Wendy watch Lee throw

A singleton hit for 3 points

The most recent session was back in Canterbury where we played three 50 point games. Smite is fun and an excellent garden game. Every time I have introduced this game to people they have insisted that they play more than one game and some have even sent off for their own set however we do play with a few house rules which (I think) makes it a “friendlier” game whilst still retaining the skill element. The first is that you can only go out on a single skittle (this is the added skill factor). Secondly exceeding 50 is treated the same as in darts in that you bust and retain your old score (not reset to 25 as in the rules which seems a bit harsh). The third house rule is that if everyone in a round does not score, then the box is moved a yard nearer to the pins. The rules have it that anyone that does not score 3 times in a row is eliminated from the game – again we felt this overly harsh for what is a garden game for all to enjoy, so I ignore this rule. The last house rule is that throwing is done with one foot touching the box (anywhere) whereas the rules are quite prescriptive with a throwing line, if we had that we would never get to see Wendy’s “lunge” shot!

Wendy watches Steve for alternative throwing techniques

Final synopsis is that Smite is a lovely game and easily adapted to minor rule changes to suit different groups of players without spoiling the game. There are also Championships played, Smite has an event in Cornwall and the World Molkky Championships are in Lahti Finland.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


The latest game session had 8 of us ready to play and the elected game was Croquet. Okay, so Croquet is not a board game (I am not including Carpet Croquet or Tiddly-Winks Croquet), but it certainly is an excellent game combining both tactical and physical skills.
Man armed with a Croquet Mallet

So what is in my big croquet box (and it is a big box)? A Centre Peg, 6 Hoops, 4 Mallets, 4 Balls and a small Rule Book. Before going too far I ought to talk about quality of equipment. If you are going to get a set it is worth investing in a decent set. The balls need to be weighty to run properly on the grass and you need a solid mallet to get proper strikes. The hoops need to be solid enough that they don’t shake or move when a ball hits them, the set I have (and which is shown in the photos) is at the lower end of the scale of decent sets. My set is quite old and most sets now include corner flags, scoring clips (I use painted clothes pegs) and a wooden mallet (to knock the hoops and peg in) as well as the above items. There are quite a few companies who make croquet sets and I cannot comment on who does or does not do a decent set, the set in the photos is a Townsend set and my match mallet (not featured in the article) comes from Jaques

The balls split by team colours
A hoop with scoring clips attached
So how do you play Croquet? I will give only the basic rules here so no complaints please (the official rules I have is nearly 50 pages long), we were playing for fun and  an introduction to the game, so full rules were secondary. Each team (a team can consist of one player and  normally not more than 2 players) plays with a pair of balls either red and yellow or blue and black. The aim of the game is to get both your balls through all the hoops and then hit them on to the central peg. On their turn a player goes on to the lawn and uses the mallet to hit one of their balls once. Then it becomes the turn of the other team. However a player may earn bonus strokes, the first method is by running a hoop, that means getting your ball completely through the metal hoop, success results in getting another turn. The second way is by hitting another ball with your chosen ball, yours or your opponents, this is called a roquet. After a roquet you pick your ball up and place it touching the ball you hit, you then strike your ball with the mallet again, in a way so that the other ball moves, this is the croquet shot after which you get one more free stroke. You may roquet each of the other balls once in a turn, an extra bonus is gained if you run a hoop as the roquet count resets and you may once again roquet all the other balls. In this way it is possible to complete all the hoops and peg out in one turn.

Joe shows how to run a hoop

An old man leaping at the chance to roquet
 The skill of Croquet is in how you play your shots, a little knowledge of angles and vectors helps as does practice in the various types of shots you can do with your mallet. Roll shots and stop shots by putting top spin or bottom spin on the ball; on a perfect lawn there is also the nap (similar to a snooker table) to consider. A good player will run several hoops before their turn ends. Once you get to this stage preplanning of where you are placing the other balls during your croquet shot is very important, its not about splitting your opponent up (though this can be a satisfying consequence) its about placing balls ready to run the next few hoops.

Joe finds hoop but no blue ball, where is it?

Hidden behind a tree, Team 2 deny their ball is off the lawn
So on to our particular game. The first thing to mention is the lawn, a lot of hard work had gone into carefully mowing it prior to the game, it was an open green complete with trees, manhole covers and tussocks and although smaller than a competition lawn it still required a certain skill and deftness to negotiate successfully. We split into 2 Teams with the 2 captains taking turns to pick. Team 1 was Wendy (Captain), Steve, Adam and myself; Team 2 was Becky (Captain), Joe, Steve and Phil.

Hoop 2, Team 2 got there first
We were only playing 6 hoops so the Rover hoop was at hoop 6. Initially we were all playing well and although Team 2 got there first, we were running neck and neck through the first 2 hoops. Team 2 then started to slowly edge ahead and were on hoop 6 whilst Team 1 who had missed a couple of hoops, including myself missing a sitter (aaarrgghh the agony of it all), were still on hoop 4. Team 2 then made their assault on the centre peg, pegging out one of their balls, Team 1 saw their opportunity to attack and pushed Team 2’s remaining ball towards the corner, but not far enough, they returned to the peg on their next turn and Team 1’s second attack failed, Team 2 pegged out their second ball and one the match. The final score was Team 1 - 7 points, Team 2 - 14 points. Team 2 must be congratulated for a level of accuracy which Team 1 never quite achieved, also their team spirit, sometimes calling on all members of the team to discuss and plan a shot before playing it.

Steve, Phil, Becky and Joe (Team 2) discuss a difficult lie

Adam, Wendy and Steve (Team 1)
It was an excellent match, the threatened rain stayed away (except whilst I was setting up the course) and everyone had fun. Next time though Team 1 will be giving no quarter.