AtB#2 was all about words, with a selection of games based around communication skills and quick-wittedness. There was also a short but rather challenging word-based quiz... questions and answers provided below :-)

Here are the games we picked out for November...

  • Concept is a game of guessing and clue-giving following along similar lines to Articulate and Taboo. We are long-time fans of both of these (to the extent where we've played them so much we've resorted to making up our own variants over the years, e.g. the version where you can only say things that the answer isn't: "not a porpoise" = "a dolphin", or the version where you can only mime the clue like in charades), so we were very excited to hear about a whole new take on the format. In Concept, you communicate each clue to your team by placing tokens on a grid of pictures representing simpler concepts, which (hopefully) your team-mates can piece together to reconstruct the idea in your head. Check out the review here for an example of how this works (or doesn't, depending on how well-attuned you are with your team-mates...). At AtB#2, the group playing this worried us a little by spending a fair amount of time sitting quietly watching one person stare forlornly at the board, albeit interspersed with bursts of laughter. We were reassured that they were in fact having fun by the general level of enthusiasm afterwards and reports that a couple of new copies of this game might be changing hands over Christmas :-)
  • Paperback is a card-based game taking many of its basic design elements from the popular deck-building game Dominion, combined with word-formation aspects akin to Scrabble. Players are cast as aspiring authors trying to climb the greasy pole to fame. Each player begins with a starting deck of cards, some with a letter on and some which are wild cards representing any letter. On your turn, you randomly deal yourself a hand from this deck, then use it to form a word containing as many letters as possible. Dependent on how successful you are, you then receive a pay-cheque which you can use to purchase new cards to add to your deck, giving you either new letters (some of which have special abilities providing more points, etc when used), or fame cards (displaying some delightfully trashy book cover art) which add to your points at the end of the game. This is a clever, fun and endearing game which we think neatly combines the satisfaction of strategic deck-building with the more creative challenge of coming up with a great word to put your cards to good use.
  • On the subject of creativity, Knit Wit knocks this up a notch or three by getting players to create a bizarre set of descriptions, then challenging them to a race against each other to come up with a unique "thing" to fit each one. If that sounds kind of dry, consider that the description sets are constructed in the middle of the table out of coloured string and clothes pegs, with wooden cotton reels to identify the answers required, and also that in the hands of certain individuals (you know who you are) this game can rapidly become extremely smutty! This is a rare game that you could teach to your whole family in five minutes, but that could also go down really well with a tipsy group of friends and only become funnier as the night goes on and things start to... unravel a bit.
  • Anomia is essentially a game about the brain-freeze you get when faced with a simple question under extreme time pressure, and more importantly, the entertainment value of watching said brain-freeze happen to other people. Players take turns to flip over cards from one of two central decks and place them face up in front of them. Each card shows the name of a category, generally something simple e.g. 'breakfast food' or 'dog breed', and a coloured symbol. If the symbol revealed matches the symbol on another player's uppermost card, the players race to name an example of the category on the other person's card, and the winner claims this card. The deck also contains wild cards showing two different symbols. The most recently drawn remains face up in the middle of the table and creates a new possible link between revealed cards, e.g. if the current wild card shows a yellow square and purple star, then yellow square cards now match purple stars as well as yellow squares. The player who has claimed the most cards when the deck is exhausted is the winner. This game is tense, loud, fast-paced and funny, and would no doubt become more so if played later into the evening :-) 
  • We wrapped up AtB#2 with Codenames, a fantastically successful release from 2015 which has never, in our experience at least, failed to go down amazingly well. It created something of a stir by winning this year's Spiel des Jahres award, a prize which traditionally goes to more thematic, family-friendly, component-heavy games (our AtB#1 picks include a couple of past laureates, incidentally). Codenames is played as two teams using a five-by-five grid of words in the middle of the table, which represent the code names of agents in the field. Each team nominates a player to be their 'spy master' for the game. The spy masters sit side by side allowing them to scrutinise a shared card dictating which of the agents belong to which team, which cards represent innocent bystanders, and which single card represents the all-important deadly assassin. On a team's turn, the spy master issues a clue in the form of a single word followed by a number. The word gives a clue to the identity of one or more of the team's field agents, and the number indicates how many agents the clue applies to. The rest of the team then attempts to guess the identity of these agents, while the spy master sits helplessly in an agony of tension waiting to learn the success of their clue. In the worst-case scenario, the clue results in the rest of the team inadvertently picking the assassin word causing them to instantly lose, so the stakes are always pretty high! If the team picks out one of the opposing team's agents, their turn is over and it's the other spy-master's turn to give a clue. The team which is first to identify all of their agents is the winner. This game ticks a huge number of boxes we think: it's exciting, highly mentally challenging, easy to learn, and can be highly revealing about your fellow players (listening to your team-mates interpret your clue is fascinating on a number of levels!). 

That wraps up our November games selection and brings us on to... the quiz! Questions were kindly provided by our good friend Ben, whose quiz-mastering style may be familiar to those who attended pub quizzes at the Riverside or Hallamshire House going back a year or two. This is a decidedly challenging set of questions (the best score of the night was 5/6), so top geek credentials to you if you can get them all! 

  1. Which single seven-letter word can be defined as opposite, token or surface?
  2. What connects the words Woodstock, marathon, alcoholic and Watergate?
  3. ‘REFLECTS NO TATAS' is an anagram of which popular board game title?
  4. Which four-letter word connects ‘OIL’ and ‘FLINT’?
  5. The chemical symbols for nitrogen, arsenic, sulfur and gold spell out the name of which Caribbean capital city?
  6. Cryptically: Reckless year after United Nations conflict (6 letters)

Answers can be found at the bottom of the page below the pictures.

Quiz answers: 1) Counter; 2) They all spawned a popular suffix; 3) Settlers of Catan; 4) ‘Skin’, as in ‘oilskin’ and ‘skin-flint’; 5) Nassau (capital of the Bahamas); 6) Unwary