Southampton On Board - 31 March 2014 - Space Merchants, Deadly Deserts and Budget Musical Chairs

Wow, where did everyone go during the last couple of months? Haven't seen this many people turn up for a while, but I'm not going to knock it - we need more of this, so no excuses people, keep turning up, put Monday in your diaries, tell your significant others to quit nagging (or bring them with you, some people have succeeded on that front!) and join the party!

Got there stupidly early thanks to my last laser eye surgery aftercare appointment, but thankfully so did a couple of other members. Normally I would have whipped out a game but we got distracted by Marvel and DC discussions. We got started eventually on setting up our main game of the night, Merchant of Venus. Now I've heard Eric Summerer on The Dice Tower bang on about this game for ages so it was about time I tried it out. As we sorted everything out, the rest of the gang turned up and settled into their games, starting with Eco Fluxx, Among the Stars (really want to try that!) and Keyflower.

"Merchant of Venus"

Now I know that Fantasy Flight Games like to pull out all the stops to make their games look good, but my god, how many tokens are in this game? It took longer to set the game up then it did to explain all the rules as you have to set everything up in piles. It looks fantastic and the board is colourful and busy, but like with Arkham Horror, you have to work for it! There are tokens for just about everything and because they're all different goods and bonuses, you can't just shove them into a ramekin for tidiness so you have to painfully sort them out into piles beforehand. Talk about making you suffer for your enjoyment!


Throughout the game you are exploring new races and then picking up their trade goods and delivering them to other races who might want them. Occasionally you will have missions to do and passengers to pick up as well, unfortunately nothing illegal like you get with Firefly. The goods themselves are amusing with obscure weird names like Impossible Furniture, Designer Genes and Immortal Grease and I believe when it came to Grease and a special liquor I was effectively cornering the market on those.

"Among The Stars"

Graham was just a space taxi, not sure what goods he sold in the game apart from obscure dust, but he kept shuttling passengers for big bucks including the tax collector which was deemed to be me for game purposes given my profession. But as a taxi service goes, Graham is rubbish. He forgot he was even in his cargo hold for several rounds so by the time he opens the steel door to check up on me, I'm just a skeleton in the corner with my tax books next to me. . . . I'd have been better off with Easyjet.


It's a cool game and the theme works well. There's a bit of luck involved with movement and what special items you might collect and that can screw you over at times (poor Graham and that asteroid belt. . . ), but not as bad as other games (I'm talking to you Stone Age). The only main issue that the game has is the insane length. It's 30 rounds long and you've effectively finished everything that you can do with four players by the time you hit 20 rounds. We couldn't even finish the game, we only got to Round 24 and that's rivalling the likes of Firefly, except the last time I played that game, I finished it in one game night so in effect this is LONGER than Firefly.

It's a good game though and worth giving a try, but be prepared to maybe cap the game length by time rather than rounds - I think that works better.
Elsewhere during this time (bear in mind we didn't finish!) many other games were coming out. A large group next to us stuck to small games starting with Forbidden Desert, a very nice gateway Co-Op game, but also one of the hardest Co-Op's I've played. Seriously I've beaten Ghost Stories and I'm currently undefeated in Eldritch Horror, but I've never won Forbidden Desert in over 6-7 plays so far. If anyone in the group beats it I want video evidence!

"Forbidden Desert"

Once they'd inevitably lost, I handed them my Liar's Dice bag to use. Liar's Dice is a great filler of bluffing and bidding which is the same game the cursed pirates play in Pirates of the Caribbean 2. It does generate a lot of noise though from all of the dice!

Ticket to Ride made a welcome return to the club, a game which needs to be played more often. I own Europe and 3 other map expansions, it's a great gateway game and as commented by the new players to the game, it flows very quickly and smoothly, which is true, this is not a game that is daunted by AP!

"Ticket To Ride"

A couple of extra fillers made the cut including Masques, which sadly I know sod all about and Splendor, an interesting set collection filler game which I play-tested at Board Game Extra's demo day recently - catch my podcast for Episode 15 coming this week where I give my first impressions and no I'm not apologising for plugging my show! My session report, my rules!


Finally I'll mention one very confusing game "Two Rooms And A Boom!" This wins the award for giving me the most confused expression on a board game night as all I can see when I look up from my game is two groups of gamers talking to each other in secret and then swapping players to and fro. I couldn't tell if this was Musical Chairs on a budget or a very badly arranged wife swap party, but eventually I got the explanation as to what was going on.

Effectively players were on different colour sides and two players had special roles: a Bomber and a President. They had to negotiate and bluff their way into the different rooms, but one team had to avoid getting the President and the Bomber in the same room, otherwise they lost. It looks mad as hell, but I like a good party game, so this will be an interesting one to try out - it would certainly suit a convention setting.


Despite only playing one game, it was a good game and I was pleased to see a lot of returning faces including some recent newly joined members. One of the biggest numbers we've had on a gaming night and so many good games hitting the table. And for possibly the first time in weeks, no sign of Resistance: Avalon or Saboteur!!

But there's more to look forward to this week! Tabletop Day at Portsmouth On Board on Saturday and on the same weekend, a 48 hour Mini-Stab games convention in Southampton. Expect many pictures! And on a lesser, more painful note, I turn 30 on Friday. . . . OLD! But it's nice to have Tabletop Day straight after! Will I be conducting my charity 24 hour marathon that weekend? Well the donations so far have been almost non-existent. . . . . . but maybe I should anyway on principle! "Selfie" photographs are so boring!

Games Played

Merchant of Venus
Among The Stars
Liar's Dice (Perudo)
Forbidden Desert
Two Rooms & A Boom
Ticket To Ride