After the previous week's disappointment, 18 September 2008 was a great games night! I only played two games, but in both cases there was a surprise at the end.
André brought Notre Dame and Matt, Ben, Peter H. and I played with him. At another table, Damen and someone else played together, and Peter C., Keith, Sam, and someone else played Mission Red Planet. André explained the rules and we played the game without much trouble, just one or the other clarification. Keeping victory points secret adds much to the game’s tension, although it doesn’t change much how we play. I stupidly passed a Notre Dame card right in the first turn, and was the only one not to score that round (or maybe that was better). I kept throughout the game the neighbourhood with the extra victory point, Matt even had 4 cubes there and got +2 victory points every time. In the last 2 rounds, I had most of the time to pay the rat penalty (-2VP) and so lost one cube per turn; as I wasn't gaining many cubes, I was mostly moving cubes around neighbourhoods. I was lucky to score 1(+1)+12 points in Notre Dame in the 2nd round, and another 6(+1)+2 in the 3rd round. Peter was mostly playing in the points neighbourhood, getting successively 5, 6, 7, 8 points per round (and +1 bonus). We all were often short of cash and couldn’t bribe any character. In the end, we assumed Peter had won by a large margin due to his amassing of points every turn. When counting, Matt and Andre had 48, Ben had 30+, Peter 53 and I 54! Total surprise, even to myself. Peter and I were hiding our VPs in our shirt pockets. When we were putting away the bits and bobs, Peter found 10 more VPs in his shirt pocket, so he actually won as we thought.
To sum up, it’s a nice game that keeps the suspense until the end and plays rather fast — it took us about 2h with rule explanations. It could have been shorter if a certain person (me) weren't always taking so much time in thinking what cards to pass on to their left player. However, the game is rather abstract and doesn’t enthuse me much.
Next we played Intrigue, which I had brought. It was a blast! Fun and laughter all the time, in part due to Damen’s comments and suggestions how we should play, in his usual devious way (he's an experienced Diplomacy player). This made us realise that Intrigue is actually a great spectator game, which can't be said for most games. We actually played the game far too slow, taking 1.5h, but it was worth every minute of it. At some point, Matt was banking 25k+ in every turn, so we ganged against him, and - surprise, surprise! - André won by a large margin: 160+, Ben next with 150+, me with 102k, Peter with 95 and Matt with 78. Again, the winners were totally against expectations: André and Ben had sneakily done very well.