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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Five & Dimes 2010 (+ a peek at 2011)

American gamers seem to enjoy doing their annual ‘Five and Dime’ analysis of games played, and thanks to BGG it is quite easy to compile these:

Five and Dimes from Jan - Dec 2010

10 or more plays



Pinguïn Party


Don Quixote


5 or more plays



11 nimmt!


7 Wonders




Gambit 7




High Score


Hoppladi Hopplada!


Shadow Hunters


The above list is quite typical of the average year for me: one or two ‘dimes’, usually light family-friendly games, and a handful of fives. The two dimes were both introduced to me by Steve Kearon – PP at Baycon and Don Quixote at Manorcon. Both are fairly light family-friendly games, PP has become our standard light end-of-the-evening card game but the family also enjoy it. DQ was an initial hit, although I haven’t played it for months.

11 nimmt! is often dismissed as just a 6 Nimmt variant, but is far superior to the original game. Excellent for 4/5 and a light card game for gamers. Seven Wonders was the hit of last year’s Essen and continues to be played on almost a weekly basis. I first played Fresco at Origins last June, and it remains a favourite of mine although the group I play with it don’t enjoy it as much as I do.

Gambit 7 (the UK version of Wits & Wagers) and Dixit are both excellent family-friendly party games. Most of their plays will have happened around Christmas.

High Score is the American name of Wurfel Bingo – an excellent family-friendly push-your-luck dice game. Hoppladi Hopplada! is another family-friendly push-your-luck dice game, this time featuring rabbits and hutches. Silly fun really. Finally Shadow Hunters was the starter of choice for the Bolton games group – not a game I particularly enjoyed, but well you just have to join in!

So, of the above ten games, no fewer than six are essentially family games. The remaining four are fairly light-weight games. So, let’s move on to 2011, so far:

Five and Dimes from 1 Jan - 16 Mar 2011

10 or more plays



7 Wonders


Pinguïn Party


5 or more plays



Hoppladi Hopplada!


Seven Wonders and PP continue to be played on almost a weekly basis. They are both quick, fun and varied. My guess is that the number of plays will be a lot higher by the year end. The plays for Hoppladi Hopplada! were primarily around Christmas, but like 7W and PP, the first thought after a game of HH is ‘Why don’t we play again?’

All pics copyright Boardgamegeek

Friday, 4 March 2011

February Caching Outings (Part 2)

The following Saturday was the Wiltshire Event. We love Stan’s events and always attend if possible. Great attendance, excellent food and, of course, Wadworths 6X from Russell the landlord and a good old chin-wag with RoobyDoo (Keith), Furtive Ferrets (John) and TurnerTribe (Suzanne) among others. Even won a minor prize in the raffle. Before the event we did a lovely little circuit of 8 caches along a very quiet and still K&A canal.

Got home from Devizes and found that a cache (1st Stratton Scouts) had been published close to home, in fact probably the closest one there’s ever been. Well it had only been out for less than 2 hours, surely we’d be in for a shout for the FTF. Logging on to the cache page we found it had already been visited by 5 caching teams. The initial disappointment was quickly replaced when I saw that the Chaos Crew had bagged the FTF – a long over-due FTF for Sarah & team!

It was further dissipated when, a couple of hours later, two new caches (2 = Cuddly Toy Hotel and 1 = On The Way.....) were published by Newmanmadhouseteam up near the Great Western Hospital in Swindon. I knew that I was due a Sunday morning lie-in, so donned the head-torch and set off in the pitch black. The mud ensured that I had grown 6” by the time I had reached the caches to grab the FTF’s. The Cuddly Toy hotel is a really good cache, but is a bit out of the way – it deserves a lot of visits in the summer. On the way back I grabbed the 1st Stratton Scouts cache (couldn’t resist). I was a bit spooked at GZ, at around 10.30pm, when I heard a noise behind me as I re-hid the cache. A youth was in the woods about 30 yards behind me – doing what I have no idea. Needless to say, I legged it out!

Had a Sunday morning lie-in, had Sunday lunch and then was just getting ready to go out and grab a couple of caches on the Downs when a whole new series based around Covingham, Eldene and Liden was published by Newmanmadhouseteam (again). Well what to do? Grab as many as possible of course! Over the next 2 hours I got round all 10 caches, grabbing no fewer than 5 FTF’s! It could have been more: I failed to find one cache first time round (Toolaroola grabbing it!) and was beaten to another by the Middleleaze Moles as I stood and watched. Great to see new caches being hidden on this side of town though - an excellent weekend of caching thanks to this new-ish team.

2 whole days then passed before my notifications signalled a few new caches being published near Lacock, south of Chippenham. In fact these were right on the edge of my notifications area and it turned out to be 20 caches over 6 miles in a circular walk from Lacock. The next morning dawned and it was absolutely pee-ing it down. I logged on and noticed that the Lacock village caches had all been nabbed first thing, but the rest were pretty much untouched.

Therefore, after lunch, I drove across for a FTF hunt. I’ve never been to Lacock before and was surprised at how pretty it was. Ditto for the surrounding countryside – the route cut through some delightful areas and was absolutely full of varied and very cunning hides from start to finish. I won’t spoil it for anyone who reads this, but I would recommend you give this a go! I would rate it as definitely a 5* series, I can’t think of a better one (well maybe my MDT!).

If I were you I’d start on the village caches mid-morning in Lacock and aim to be at the Bell on Bowden Hill for lunch. You can then walk off the lunch around the circuit and return to Lacock for a cream tea – what a day! By the way, here is one of my favourite caches from the series – not a clever one, it just made me smile - Simples!

Anyway I had a pretty busy day rather than a pleasant amble around the caches fortified by real ale and a cream tea. In the end I finished in the pitch black, reaching my final cache (#1) at 6pm and fumbling blindly for the cache container. I managed to bag 21 caches with only 1 DNF. Among these were no less than 14 FTF’s, so a good day all round!

The following evening a new cache was published just outside Watchfield, Force 10: Zoe by Eaglegale. Another first hide by a cacher I met briefly at the last Swindon Soirees event. Sniffing another FTF I was up with the larks the next day and snagged the cache about 10 minutes before Flones, another local cacher. To paraphrase Robert Duvall, I love the smell of an empty logbook in the morning!

The weekend, last one of the month, was wet, full stop. No geocaching at all. But all was not lost: on the Monday at tea-time 3 new caches were published – one by our friends Newmanmadhouseteam at McDonalds on Great Western Way (Take Five) and two over in Sparcells by new hiders the Dartmoor Devils. We quickly rushed out to Maccy-D’s straight to the cache. Whilst piling in (subtle I’m not), we were approached by another cacher who turned out to be iBertie (Paul), who had beaten us to the cache but couldn’t find it. This has happened to me a few times and is a right b@st@rd to put it mildly. Anyway I quickly located the item and even offered a joint FTF with Paul (must be going soft in my dotage!), but Paul, who is a gentleman and a scholar and also hider of the very good nearby Central Park cache, was having none of it.

We returned home, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves and over the course of the next couple of hours I noticed the Sparcells caches hadn’t been logged. Cue action! So a quick drive to the first – Sparcells’ First Cache – Bridge Over Troubled Water – where I parked up close by (just how I like it …). Needless to say the cache was under a bridge. Opened it up, blank logbook: good call! The second cache was less than 200 metres away, walked quickly no other cachers in sight. The log book contained a name – beaten to it by the Furtive Ferrets; I uttered a rude word and signed the log. But a good evening to end to a great month.

Summing up February: lots of finds and lots of FTF’s. Discovered a great series at Lacock and pleased to see all the new caches around Swindon, mostly put out by new hiders. The future looks very bright indeed!

A review of my cache series

Marlborough Downs Trail – 1 or 2 visits per cache. Will refresh sometime around Easter.

Lower Stratton Loop – remains popular. At least one cacher a week does the series.

Sevenhampton Puzzles – not much interest since early in the month. Interest waning - puzzles too difficult or are puzzles just not popular?

Caches found this month: 94 (2nd highest month ever)

No. FTF’s this month: 25 (record month)

Total caches found to-date: 1,078 Total FTF’s: 89

Thursday, 3 March 2011

February Caching Outings (Part 1)

A local caching friend of mine, Sarah of the Chaos Crew, includes a monthly summary of her family’s caching adventures in her Are you flowin’? blog (referenced below). These are both interesting, including a good selection of photos, and brilliantly capture the essence of why this is such a good hobby (read it – you’ll see what I mean).

Of course this also provides a good historical summary of each month’s caching. Well, I’ve never been shy of stealing someone else’s good idea, so I’m going to do just that. However I’ve never been one for taking many photos so they will be sparse at times to put it mildly. Also I’ll label them outings rather than adventures: my caching outings tend to be enjoyable rather than exciting.

The month began with a visit out to Sevenhampton to check on one of my puzzle caches there (The Man with the Golden Pen). A Wantage based cacher had visited it the day before and whilst walking back to the village had been surrounded by a gang of armed locals

(hunt supporters, or more likely shoot helpers) demanding to know what he was up to. He had calmly explained geocaching to them and they left him alone. It was thought that they may have removed the cache. Anyway I went and checked and the cache was still safely in-situ.

The weather was pretty appalling on the first Saturday of the month so I just had a couple of hours to do the 5 caches in the triangle between Hodson, Chisledon and the M4. The wind was in the ‘right’ direction and the noise from the motorway was taken away from me making this an exceedingly pleasant little outing. A cock-up on the final cache of the afternoon meant I ended up in someone’s back garden and had to climb over their back fence – oops!

Sean (Smenus) joined us the following day and we were determined to go caching. However again, the weather in the morning was foul and we only got out mid-afternoon. We then proceeded to do 15 caches in the Coleshill and Coxwell Circuit (CCC), this being a circuit that starts at Badbury Clump, proceeds cross-country to the attractive NT village of Coleshill, then goes cross-country to the attractive village of Great Coxwell, before circling back to the Clump. Badbury Clump and the villages are very nice, but the bits in-between are dull and boring.

Unfortunately we left it too late and this ended up being a bit of a forced march to finish in daylight. We were pretty pooped by the end, to put it mildly. We did however record our 1000th cache on the circuit. This happened at a particularly dull cache. We recorded the momentous 1001st cache, which was marginally less dull, with a picture where we unsuccessfully attempted to spell ‘1001’ with our fingers!

On arrival at home, we noticed that a new puzzle cache had just been published – Whomping Willow to give it a name. The Cache Owners were the Hegwig Hawks who appear to hide mostly Harry Potter themed caches. Now young HP leaves me cold, but Sean and his sister read all the books and so I thought we might be in with a chance. We both started independently on the puzzle; I was about half-way through it, and feeling quite pleased with myself, as I’m not good at puzzle caches, when Sean announced he had solved it. 5 minutes later we were in the car, armed with a couple of torches. It was all quiet at GZ – I love a bit of night caching – and within a few minutes I had located the cache. Our first FTF in February. It later turned out that another caching team were also planning to go out that night and only changed their minds when Sean logged the find. In the FTF race, he who hesitates is Second-To-Find!

As an aside I heard recently that a local caching team grabs FTF’s but deliberately doesn’t log them for a few hours just to encourage others to join the FTF race, obviously without a hope of success. Charming!

On the following day we went back and polished off the last 2 caches in the CCC series and also completed RoobyDoo’s The Best Ale? puzzle cache. This contains some internet research, which I completed in June 2009, some locally gained information, for which I used Google Earth (naughty I know!), and then the walk to the cache. This cache now holds the record for our longest to solve cache at 20 months!

The logo has nothing to do with caching, but 6X is the best ale! ... to answer RD's question!

After the puzzle cache we legged it over to the nearby Watchfield Windmills cache where we grabbed this picture. Economically bankrupt (they cost more in subsidy than the electricity value they produce), and an environmental eyesore, they are strangely compelling up close.

The following Saturday we drove on over to Grove, near Wantage to attend the Logging Yer Lurve! event. Beforehand we did a really super circular walk in the winter sunshine around Grove starting from the aircraft on the edge of what was the Grove airbase (Grove’s Venom), taking in a stretch of the abandoned Wilts & Berks canal.

The following day we attended February’s Swindon Soirees meeting. Very good, as always, but I had to leave early to see John Cooper Clarke in Reading. Next day I had some business to attend to in Halesowen and couldn’t help taking in a local urban micro called ding dong!!! F-narr, f-narr to quote Viz!

A couple of days later we had a visit to Nottingham Uni with Smenus, grabbing a cache on-site and one just outside. On the way we visited Aladdins Cave which is a puzzle cache just outside Nottingham Centre – basically an ammo can in an Army Surplus Emporium, not many ammo cans there then!! The very friendly store owners are cachers themselves and we had a mega chin-wag; their prices are also great, so a visit is highly recommended if you’re ever in Nottingham.

To be continued ...