A Trip to the Gaming Cafe

Potion explosion and Chai

We met up with a couple of friends to spend an afternoon at our local board game cafe, The Board and Brew. They have a library of over 500 games – so many more than we have in our collection! For a flat $5 fee, you can sit and play as many games as you want. Of course, we always spend way more than that, with lunch and snacks, but well worth it.

The first game we tried, was one I had been hearing about on the gaming podcasts I listen to – NMBR 9. In this game, players place polyomino pieces representing each digit from zero to nine – two pieces per digit – following some basic placement rules (on the ground floor, new numbers must touch the side of another number by at least one ‘grid’ side, and if placed on top of other pieces, the new tile must overlap at least two other tiles with no holes underneath). The numbers only score if they are off the table – those on the table are zero points, on the first level are one times the number, second level are two times the face value, etc.

NMBR 9

Everyone is playing at the same time, with the same numbers, so we wondered how different our final creations would be. With the first 2-3 tiles, we had similar layouts, but by the end, we all had very different layouts. I shared the win on our first game, but just couldn’t get off the ground in our second game.

I love the puzzle aspect of this game. The shapes are just complicated enough that they don’t fit together as well as you would hope, but just well enough that you feel like could get somewhere with one or two more moves. I do wonder if it will get old quickly, or if it will retain interest with each replay. On the other hand, Tetris has only seven pieces and I still love that game, so maybe I’m overthinking it.

After two games of NMBR 9, we turned to Potion Explosion.  In this game, we are concocting potions by pulling ingredients (marbles) from a track. If the marble you pull connects two (or more) marbles of the same color, you take those also. And if pulling those connects two (or more) marbles of the same color, you take those, on down until the two marbles coming together are of different colors. There some additional actions you can take – either by using an already-completed potion or taking negative points – to get as more ingredients each turn.

Each turn you are working on two potions. If you complete a third potion of the same type as two other completed potions or a fifth unique potion, you earn a skill token. At the end of the game, potions and skill tokens are worth victory points; helper tokens (which let you pull an additional ingredient) are negative points. Whoever has the most points wins.

I had played this previously as a two player game and was excited to see how it played with additional players. It was still a lot of fun, but having two more players increased the game time quite a bit. With the additional players, it’s nearly impossible to plan ahead too far – the ingredient tracks change completely by the time your next turn comes around. Not a complaint, just a comment.

We played through twice – both times I eked out a win, but only by one point! In fact, both games were quite close, which (to me) makes it even more fun.

All in all, we had a great time – that despite a fire alarm that went off in the middle of the afternoon. The Board and Brew is on the ground floor of a huge student housing complex which was holding a fire drill, but we didn’t know it was a drill, so we evacuated with everyone else. We were outside, in 20* weather, for at least 20 minutes!  No matter, I warmed up with a hot chai afterward, and we finished our games.

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