Once or twice per year, we close the store early on a Saturday evening to prepare for one of the store’s social highlights of the year: Games and Grog. The evening event is closed to the public, requires an entry ticket; and we put it on as both a thank-you to our loyal clientele and as a way for the staff of Imaginary Wars to hang out with its customers in a much more casual manner. Though the star of the night is board games, the guest of honour is the beverages produced by smaller local companies.
In the past, Games & Grog has served the mead from Fallentimber Meadery and Musknuckle Pale Lager from the District Brewing Company, all during a night of board gaming. The evening is much loved and never fails to fill Imaginary Wars to capacity with gamers, beverages and board games.
With last Saturday’s Games & Grog, we took a break from mead and introduced our customers to the fine fare produced by Calgary’s own Wildrose Brewery. Though a very established brewer in the local market, Wildrose Brewery is still relatively new having only started up in 1996. They produce a variety of different beers, catering to a wide variety both more mainstream and esoteric tastes; and at Games & Grog, they brought a good cross-section of their line-up for thirsty gamers to try out!
Not only that, but they even crafted a cask of custom beer for this year’s Games & Grog! Jim and I met with Phil, one of their brewers and the fellow that would be whipping up the custom cask for us. After a short brewery tour and a bit of conversation, we decided that our custom beer would be their WRed Wheat Ale with vanilla and whisky-soaked oak chips added in.
So how did it taste? We didn’t discover that until the night of the festivities, but it was well worth the wait! The beer itself was a reddish-amber brew that was neither too light nor too dark. The malt and the hops were nicely balanced, but the real treat was the aroma that the whisky oak chips gave off, and upon drinking it, one would notice a hint of sweetness at the finish (delivered by the fresh vanilla pods that were added to the brew).
The reception to the beer, which we named “Red Five Ale,” was spectacular! The custom beer made an already favourite night for all feel that much more special. It wasn’t the only beer available for the evening, but it was the well that people went back to the most!
The night began with a few of the fellows from Wildrose giving a small talk about Wildrose Brewery and, more importantly, the variety of beers they brought for everyone to sample! But aside from beer, how was the evening? Well it didn’t disappoint! We had every table full of all sorts of board games being played all night long. We managed to get quite a few pictures of quite a few games underway…which without proper context don’t really make for engaging pictures. Nevertheless here’s a few shot of the myriad games being played throughout the night.
Needing to be around the till constantly meant I wasn’t able to play many games–Luckily I came prepared for just such a situation: I brought my copy of the game, No Thanks! that night and took it upon myself to introduce the guys from Wildrose Brewery to it. It’s a deceptively simple card game that can appeal to non-gamers; I usually tell people that it has similar appeal as poker but is a great gateway into the world of modern board games. Though able to appeal to those with a more mainstream gaming appetite, No Thanks! has such elegant game design that it easily charms established gamers.
Game Play: No Thanks!
Players collect cards throughout the game and score points for each card they collect and place down in front of them, with the understanding that the object of the game is to score as few points as possible from those cards. Players start the game armed with red chips that lower the point value of their card total (one point per chip) at the game’s conclusion.
The game has similarities to Rummy in that players are trying to build runs of cards (from a deck numbered 3 to 35). Unlike Rummy, the deck has no duplicate cards, so grouping in pairs (or better /more) has no place in No Thanks! In a player’s turn, he flips over the top card of the main draw deck and must take that card. He can say no thanks to taking the card by placing one of his red chips on that card; the next player must take that card now…unless he too places one of his No Thanks red chips on the card. This continues until someone finally decides to take the card (he also gets the chips). The game ends when the draw deck has no more cards.
If a player builds a run of cards, he only scores points equal to the lowest card in the run. So if a player has a 21 and a 23, his score is currently 44. However, if he then gets a 22 (thereby building a run of 21, 22, 23) his score is changed to 21.
Here’s the upshot: at the start of the game, nine random cards are removed from the deck and kept secret until the game’s conclusion, making everyone unsure where the breaks in the deck are.
The result is a game of mild-to-intense frustration and passive aggressiveness as players bluff by playing their No Thanks chips on cards (when they need to and when they don’t), all while building card sets, unsure the whole whether they’ll be able to complete the sequences they’ve chosen. Though unassuming, it’s an incredible game.
Games and Grog Wrap Up
By eleven o’clock, people were starting to file out in threes and fours as their final games of the night concluded. By midnight, the store was empty, and after all our banquet tables were put away the only evidence the night had happened was the mostly empty cask, the tower of pizza boxes from the late-night meal Games & Grog always provides …and the detritus of a packed store hosting a night’s worth of board gaming: nothing a dedicated sweep and mop couldn’t fix—but THAT would wait until the following morning.
Looking back one week later, I think I can say that this was one of the best Games & Grogs we’ve ever run; as always, the gaming was casual (if at times a touch raucous–which is okay!) and the fellas from Wildrose Brewers were awesome guys. They played games, they tapped the casket and poured all evening and were cool guys to hang out with. The way the company had decided to help us out and offer up their full repertoire of beer certainly made them new fans (the night’s most popular bottled beer was the Wraspberry Ale…which had barely edged out the Velvet Fog Wheat ale). I think everyone was completely blown away by how cool Wildrose Brewers was: Games & Grog is certainly no big event, but it’s a great way to gain new fans. And us nerds are some of the most passionate, dedicated fans.
MISSING FROM THIS BLOG POST:
Missing are the pictures of the three winners of the free game draws we did for night. Close to the end of the night, we raffled off some of our demo copies, namely Costa Rico, Patchwork and Five tribes, but I’m always slow on the draw when it comes to snapping photos so I guess these pictures of the draw prizes will have to suffice.
I’d like to thank everyone who came out for Games & Grog to make it such a successful evening–and a big thank-you again to Wildrose Brewers too!