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Our usual gathering of friends for several days over New Year was excellent - and I played nine new games!

Game of Trains:
This is cute and fun little card game where you build a train with numbers on the carriages, starting with them in descending order from the front. The aim of the game is to replace and/or move your carriages and the winner is the first person to get the numbers in ascending order from the front of their train. It's simple, but very enjoyable, and the art on the carriages is great.

Century Spice Road:
Here, you have cubes of different colours to denote different spices, and you use cards to trade them back and forth, in order to collect the right combinations to fulfil the requirements on other cards with point values. I agreed with the game's owner that the theme is a bit incidental, but it was interesting working out the best way to get the right stuff before other players took the card I was working towards.

Qwinto:
This is a dice game by the same people who make Qwixx and it's a variant on that type of game. Basically, you roll dice to get numbers to fill in on a card, but there are restrictions as to what numbers you can put where, and there are certain spaces that provide more points than others. It's quick and easy to pick up, but interesting in terms of deciding what to do with the numbers you get.

Pocket Mars:
Another card game where you are trying to get colonists into space and then onto Mars. There were two ways to play the cards in your hand, and it was a bit tricky to remember which action led to which results. Those who had played before dominated, but I still enjoyed working out the best way to utilise my cards, and I ended up with enough colonists on Mars to get one of the end game point bonuses.

Sail to India:
In this game, you move cubes about to represent movement of ships, sale of goods, amount of money and number of victory points. The complication came in ensuring there were enough cubes in the right places to achieve the maximum benefit each turn. There was also an exploration aspect, in which cards got overturned to reveal new cities, ending when someone reached the last card in the set.

Mottainai:
This was very similar in mechanics to Glory to Rome, though is seemed to have even more things to remember and different uses for each card. I liked the theme of maintaining a temple and creating artifacts to display or sell. I did very badly, and it all seemed to be over very quickly, before I could really achieve anything, but it's an interesting game and I'd like to try it again to get more familiar with it.

Hanabi:
This involved each player displaying their hand to the others (and not looking at it themselves) and the other players using tokens to give each other information so the correct cards could be played in the correct order. It was tricky deciding on the best action to take on each turn, and I don't think we were particularly good at planning ahead, but we didn't blow up and we managed to put on a successful fireworks display at the end.

The Secret Lab Exit Game:
This is a one-play-only puzzle game, modelled on the escape rooms you can go to do at various places. Here, we had a deck of cards that we could only access by solving the previous puzzle. It was a bit complicated for me, and the more experienced players tended to take over so I had little idea how we achieved quite a lot of it as a team. But I didn't manage to contribute a bit, and the way it all fitted together was very clever.

Unlock! Mystery Adventures:
This was similar to the above in that we had to solve puzzles as a team in order to obtain more cards to progress. We played three scenarios over the weekend, and I really enjoyed all of them, though one of them was much harder than the others and we didn't get on so well with that one. It seemed easier for the group to work as a team in this game than the Exit one, and I liked how the puzzles fitted together better. I also found the logic behind what to do a lot easier to follow and so I managed to contribute a lot more. I would definitely like to play more of these, perhaps in a smaller group so I could be involved even more.

Interestingly, none of the nine games above had a board. They were all designed just with cards, tokens and the occasional player mat. Most of them were quick and easy, though some of the escape games took quite a while. I enjoyed all of them, and it was great to be introduced to so many unfamiliar games in just a couple of days.

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