SR: 11th July 2008 – More Backpacks & Blisters, Uptown

After the debacle that was the Agricola scoring last week, I knew I was in for some stick this week so I thought I’d try and calm everyone down with a nice stroll through the lake district. Unfortunately, this was winter and the previous week’s farmers were all for saddling me with the heavy rucksack.

The trip from Ambleside started off with fine weather as expected but with all the target locations in the north west of the map, most of us were competing along the same couple of routes. Steve, however, took an early ferry and started working his way on a more southerly westward tack. The weather quickly turned nasty and my cards meant I was stationary for a couple of vital turns when hoping to get to my first target. Things then took a turn for the worse as I drew the heavy rucksack, hampering my progress even further. By noon, I still hadn’t reached my target but I had just managed to pass on the rucksack, which Nige and Mark K then decided to trade among themselves for a couple of hours without moving. Guy managed to slip past them and was making really good progress and building up a big lead. We tried to slow him down with the heavy rucksack but this just prompted him to try and get back to Ambleside post-haste. He didn’t make it within the hour so we managed to vote it off him and onto ….. me! Lacking in points, cold, and no bus in sight, I vainly tried to get home before the five o’clock deadline, picking up a couple of blisters for my trouble. Mountain Rescue was called – humiliation was complete. Guy won quite comfortably, even managing a trip round the lake before going back to Ambleside for an early supper.

More Backpacks & Blisters is full of theme and is a fun experience. There is a fair bit of randomness but there are things you can do to offset bad luck. Planning your route to best utilise your cards requires some thought but don’t bank on the weather staying still for more than a couple of rounds.

We then tried Uptown, which I’ve been itching to play for a long time. Designed by Kory Heath and published by Funagain Games, it is a very clever abstract game of placing your tiles to form the fewest connected groups as possible.

The rules are so simple that you could be deceived into thinking the game is also simple. Far from it. There is a lot to think about every turn, even though you know all the tiles you will need to play, the order in which they appear can make or break how you’re planning to make your tiles connect. Nige was really impressed with this, his rating improving the more we got into the game.

We played a relatively friendly game but I suspect on future playings, people will mess more with other people’s positions as there is good opportunity for blocking moves. Steve illustrated this very well by blocking Mark K at a critical point and ensuring he was unable to connect up his two groups. I managed to keep one step ahead of the others in terms of keeping my long chain of tiles connected and, even though Steve tried to scupper my plans on the last round by replacing my joker tile (which I’d played just the round before, I was still able to keep just one connected group and take the win. Excellent stuff and, even though I’m not a fan of pure abstract games, this one really does hit a sweet spot.