Other gaming news:
Last Saturday I visited Simon at his girlfriend's flat in Battersea. A few months ago they bought a copy of Lord of the Rings, but after an abortive attempt to teach themselves had given up. So after dinner I sat down to teach the game to Simon, Simon's girlfriend Fiona, Simon's girlfriend's sister Clare, and Simon's girlfriend's sister's daughter Daniella. (Are you following this?) It went very well - this is an ideal "gateway game" and I find it easy to teach. The structure of the game, with its early stops in the Shire and Rivendell, breaks new players in gently, and because it is cooperative you can introduce rules as you go along and people who don't quite understand what to do can be helped out by the others. Everyone got deeply immersed in the adventure and took it all quite seriously - there were passionate discussions at critical points. We did very well indeed until we reached Mordor, when we hit a patch of terrible bad luck with the event tiles which pretty much finished us off before we got away from the start point. Apparently they have played twice more since I left so I count that as a successful bit of "evangelism".
I have also been playing Thirty Years War solo. This card-driven wargame was badly hit on its release by unfavourable reviews from a couple of highly regarded game geeks. I think they were wrong. Not only is this not a bad game, in my opinion it is a very good game indeed. It is simple and quick to play, has bags of historical flavour, and tells a very strong story. The big story arcs of pillage and foreign aid, Swedish intervention, the disappearance of the veterans and death of leaders, the increasing intensity as the players' decks are boosted by Intervention and Apocalypse give a strong narrative drive to the game. By the end, when exhausted leaderless bands of militia and looting mercenaries are staggering through the shattered desert landscape that used to be Germany, you really feel as if you've lived through something.
For the record, the Protestants won, but not by much. The Swedes left it very late to get involved, and when he finally arrived Gustavus lost his first battle, but lived long enough to besiege Munich. Lots of dramatic turns of fate along the way, I really enjoyed myself. Will have to find an opponent soon.