At the Brewery: The Battle for Papal Supremacy

We recently attended the inaugural Northeast Nerd Night, a soon-to-be regular evening of gaming and beer in the name of charity, held at Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope, PA. This month, we gathered in support of Fisherman’s Mark, a locally-based grassroots social service agency. The turnout was great, the games were a blast and the beer was delicious!

Nerds from all over the northeast took over a quarter of the Brewery to play games and drink beer for a good cause.

And since we were already playing games with beers in hand, we figured we’d do an on-location Game & Beer Pairing at the brewery with a Triumph draft.

We chose Avignon: A Clash of Popes, a two-player wallet game designed by John du Bois (@JohnduBois) and published by Button Shy Games. What’s a wallet game, you ask? Simply put, it’s a micro-game packaged in a slim vinyl wallet. They’re tiny (usually 24 cards or fewer), and slip into a pocket easier than a deck or box.

The best part about the wallet games, particularly Button Shy’s lineup (which currently includes eight different games) is that they are simple yet fun; they take minutes to learn and set up, and usually play in fifteen to thirty.

Don’t let its size full you; This small and fast game is teeming with strategy!

Avignon: A Clash of Popes is only eighteen cards, so there’s some room left over in the wallet for a mini-expansion. For this pairing, though, we played with the base game.

Here’s a quick history lesson for you: Once upon a time, in the fourteenth century, a series of popes were like, “We’re French, so we’re not moving to Rome. We’re gonna chill in Avignon.” And Rome was like, “You can’t do that,” and the French popes were like, “…Screw you, we’re doing it.”

In the left corner, playing Avignon and weighing in at [REDACTED] pounds, Eric “The Blond” Cesare! On the right, fighting for Rome with [REDACTED] pounds of might, Anthony “El Tigre” Rando!!
In this game, each player is a candidate for pope* who is vying to move the papacy to their city of choice, either Rome or Avignon, depending on which side of the table you’re sitting on.

If that sounds complicated… it’s not, we promise. There are only four actions you can take; you can beseech (pull a character one city closer to you), chastise (push ‘em one city away), excommunicate (discard and replace a character), or petition them (use their special ability).

You take two actions, you can’t do the same thing twice, and you can’t mirror your opponent’s last turn, lest you get stuck in an infinite time loop that results in there being no pope and Rome being sold to Germany and made into one giant pizzeria. Or something like that.

Triumph New Hope is a beautiful place to drink with its cathedral ceilings and exposed brick. Oh, and there’s Anthony!

Anyway. For our beer, we chose Triumph Brewing Company’s Belgian Dubbel, which is a stronger version of a brown ale first brewed by Trappist monks in the mid-nineteenth century.

Monks? Popes? Close enough, right?

*Pope hat not included.

How it pairs

In Avignon: Return to Thunderdome A Clash of Popes, two popes enter, one pope leaves! To win the game, all that one potential-pope has to do is get three characters to their city.

We started out the game with two Nobles and a Knight on the table, which wasn’t very good because it’s an auto-win for a player with a Knight if the other has a Noble. So we excommunicated Sir Ends-the-Game-Early and brought out… a Peasant, a character that’s an auto-loss for a player with a Noble and him.

The Noble, together with the Peasant and Knight, interact in a unique way to add additional win/loss conditions.

So we banished him from the church too. Peasants. Who needs ‘em, right?

Out came an Inquisitor, who shifted the game quickly. His petition ability is pretty strong and allowed us to tie up the game two to two. Then Eric put the game in check by having two characters only one space away from his city. With no available moves other than to delay his defeat, Anthony conceded, and the stubborn pope remained in Avignon.

In the end, a noble, knight and cardinal were all it took to “Triumph” over Rome.

The Belgian Dubbel is one of Triumph Brewing Company’s strongest beers, not just in ABV (at 7.4%), but also in flavor, and we can safely make that assumption because we tried all they had to offer save for a weiss, which we’ll make sure to get next time (and make no mistake—their other beers were delicious as well).

Triumph’s Dubbel pours a deep, hazy copper, not as dark as some other dubbels. The taste is sweet without being overly so, with caramel malts shining through. It was not just our favorite of their brews, but most of the other attendees at Nerd Night’s favorite as well.

That rich, copper glowing liquid you see is as good as it looks!

We’ve done pairings on a lot of small, portable games, and all of them have been awesome, but we have to admit that Avignon surprised us. We weren’t expecting much out an eighteen-card game, but it requires a good deal of strategy and thought. We could easily see this one rivaling something like Love Letter as a perennial favorite quick in-between game.

What are your favorite pub games?


About Avignon: A Clash of Popes

  • Published in 2016 by Button Shy Games
  • 2 players
  • 10 to 20 minute play time
  • Try this game if you like Love Letter, Coup, and the idea of using your religious influence to convince the masses that you shouldn’t have to move all your stuff to another city.

About Triumph Brewery’s Belgian Dubbel

  • 8.6% ABV
  • Brewed in New Hope, Pennsylvania
  • You can’t get this one bottled; you have to travel to their brewery for a pint or a growler. Grab a bite while you’re there; their beer and food are both worth the trip!

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