Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Humanities last stand, take two









Deep Sea Assholes was doing the rounds in the early evening, so Dom and I decided to play our own filler game of, erm, Space Hulk. Dom had risked permanent back injury by lugging his enormous thrid edition box along to the club, but what a beautious thing it is to behold! Quite possibly the most blinged-out game around, take that CMON! We set up for a pretty straight-forward mission where the marines have to carve their way through the Genestealer hordes in order to douse the escape pod control room in flames so that the completely-not-like-Geigers-aliens-at-all-just-a-coinicidence-honest cannot board them and land on a nearby populated planet. Why they couldn't just sit in their goliath space fortress and blast the escape pods from a safe distance is a mystery that only George Lucas couls answer for, although 'because Star Wars' probably doesn't work as an excuse here.

Anyway, Raj rolled in a little too late to get involved in any of the other games so he jumped in with us on the principal that two minds can surely screw things up twice as badly as one, and with a cry of "for the Emperor!" we faced off against Dom as a team. Our game plan started off well, and Raj's unnerving ability to roll hits on almost every roll not only put down a veritable horde of bad guys, it also allowed our heroes to wedge their ungainly armour into some form of recognisible formation. Things went very wuickly downhill for us from there as both our point men went down in a flurry of bites and razor-claw strikes, exposing our sole flamer unit who was vital to mission success. As the marines can barely fit in the narrow corridors we had a heck of a job reversing some of them out of the way to allow a new formation, but try as we might we couldn't quite keep our defensive line in efective shape. The end result was the inevitable massacre of mankind. Or maybe not, as the Emperor, in his ultimate wisdom, later sent in a new contigent under the guidance of Tom. Hopes were raised as the furry one marched his troops into the blood-stained hallways, proudly boasting of his assured triumph. Thirty minutes later, it was all over for humanity again. Oh well, at least we tried.

Other diversions for the evening were the now obligatory end of evening game of Rhino Hero, a tilt at Sushi Go!, and Sentinels had a double showing. The first was an ultra quick bash at Baron Blade in Freedom Tower as David and James were both on the cloc; it's not the most satisfying or challenging set up for the game but a good introduction all the same and quick to play. We then progressed onto the equally inept Gloomweaver who we dispatched with similar ease.

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 James B, Gareth, Sarah, Philip, myself and TomToo started the evening with a six player game of Deep Sea Adventure. Everyone had played before so we plunged straight into the race to see who could die the fastest. Gareth, James and Philip all played it safe returning home at just the right time to leave the rest of us floundering. Some last ditch heroics weren't enough to save James B or myself so it was left to Gareth to win with Philip in a close second.

Following that I convinced Gareth and TomToo to join James B and myself for a game of Homeland: The Game, a hidden traitor game that is often described as Battlestar Galactica distilled. The roles are split between a Terrorist who wants the world to burn, a Political Opportunist who wants the world to burn just enough before saving it and Agents who want to save the world. New threats appear every turn and players can combat these by playing hidden 'intel' cards that either help or hinder the threat. As a Political Opportunist I set about trying to help the terrorist straight away by throwing in as many bad 'intel' cards onto threats as possible. I feel I got away with this for at least half the game until I made the mistake of throwing away a powerful positive card that raised suspicions. By then though I was confident of victory, I was sure there was no terrorist and the other three were agents. When it came to the critical juncture where three imminent threats would decide the fate of mankind imagine my surprise when TomToo opts out of helping defeat the most powerful threat as he announced his evil intentions as he snatched victory from us all as the hidden terrorist. I thought I had screwed up just enough missions and then expected the rest to save us before announcing my victory so TomToo did a great job hiding his true role. I really enjoyed it, I don't watch the show but the theme works well with the mechanics and it feels easier to hide your role than say Battlestar Galactica or Dark Moon.

To end the evening James B and I jumped into a quick game of Sentinels of the Multiverse along with Dan, Raj and Gareth. I think most of us chose our heroes based on names rather than abilities so I ended up with Captain Cosmic. James B and I only had time for a quick intro game but it was enough to defeat the mad scientist and save the world. This is something I would want to play again now I've had a taster.



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It had been far too long since the perennial favourite Railways of the World had been brought out at IBG, so it was time to dust off the trains and track and dive right in. Jon & Noel were joined by the suave Natasha (sharp suit and bottle of wine de rigueur) and Sarah, who was a newbie to the game. Europe was the map – and long was the game!

Noel won the first auction and started out in Northern Europe, whilst Natasha went for a service bounty in Northern Italy. Jon couldn’t bear to be parted from Noel, and so built right next to him, and Sarah chose Southern Italy for her starting point.

Jon took a card that prevented anyone else building into Essen, which forced Noel southwards. Natasha expanded up into Russia and Sarah scrambled up into Southern Europe and then down into Turkey. Noel and Natasha both grabbed early bonuses and were soon streaming ahead on the points track, with Jon and Sarah lagging far behind. Noel built westwards into Spain, where Natasha failed to follow him, whilst Jon now struck out Eastwards for the Paris-Constantinople bonus. Jon had some long deliveries paying off now, so the gap was beginning to shorten, and he deliberately urbanised to extend the game by one more round.

It did eventually end, however, and even when Noel’s numerous Bonds were deducted from his score, he still came out on top, but only just, being 4 points ahead of Natasha and 1 more from Jon. Sarah brought up a gallant last place, surely wiser after her first experience of the Railways system.

Despite its length (150 mins) this was another great game, and if only Natasha hadn’t glugged that second bottle of wine, he might just have won….. 




Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Meanwhile, down in Old Mehico




Contributors: David, Daniel

We started the evening with Rhino Hero. There's not much to say about this other than how much fun it is. I think we reached about 8 levels before the whole thing came tumbling down as Paul A tried to relocate the Super Rhino.
After that, Gareth, myself, Jon, Sarah and Philip moved onto Deep Sea Adventure as we waited on the last few people to arrive. Jon and I were routinely screwed over by diving too deep as Gareth, Sarah and Philip grabbed the early loot and then worked their way back slowly reducing the air each turn. I spent most of the game confusing Philip by moving his yellow piece (<--- I play Yellow).After the warm up games myself, Philip, James and Lucas sat down for a game of Troyes. James had owned it for a while but never got around to playing it and as I have played Troyes quite a bit as well as being one of my favourite games I set about running though the rules (With the help of Philip who had also played before). I'm probably not the best at delivering rules and it took a while to run through everything so hopefully it hasn't put James and Lucas off playing again as it truly is a great game. Each turn players assemble a workforce of dice by how many meeples they have on the board. They then use these dice to complete various tasks around the city such as earn money, victory points, complete events and gather more dice for the next turn. As the game progressed it was obvious that Philip and I were going for roughly the same strategy, exploiting the Goldsmith activity card that allows you to burn yellow dice for both victory points and money. I was fortunate to be first player on the last turn which allowed me to buy up as many yellow dice as I could which not only helped me score big but also prevented Philip from using them. When it came to the final scoring I just pipped Philip to the win by 45 to 42 with James and Lucas scoring in the 30s. 

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 After the usual start of evening fillers, Paul and Peter joined me for another trip to revolutionary Mexico in Pax Porfiriana. The last time we played this as a trio I tilted my hand at two different VP victories but was thwarted and closed out of the running on all four occasions by some decidedly strongarm plays from my opponents. That game was eventually won by Peter after both Paul and I found ourselves staring into the abyss of what would have been a long and slowly crushing race to accumulate wealth that neither of us could keep pace on. As they say, a fool never learns, and so I decided to try my hand again at pinching a sneaky VP victory.

This time around I made sure to first of all shore up my income stream, which was my weak spot the last time. Despite being a cash heavy game, Paul was way ahead in getting his prestige out and some canny timings of headline play forced both Peter and I to discard significant fortunes. Speaking of headlines, there was an odd moment when almost all of the cards in the exchange were exactly that, backed up behind a couple of partners that nobody wanted to take, so there was some very careful cat-and-mouse play to maneuvre around the challenges that they were presenting. The slow play that resulted from this enabled us to regain huge amounts of wealth which became a pivotal factor as we were then able to comfortably buy cards from the top slot at sixteen coins each.

There was plenty of extortion going on in this game, and Paul took great delight in deploying his train-based machine gunners to chase enemy troops across the provinces. Peter and I traded the same partner back and forth, handing me an edge on Revolution in the process. I had been quietly gathering cards that would further this cause and careful not to give things away by putting too many of them into play, and when the regime changed to outright rebellion I spied my chance. A generous donation to the church got them on my side, whipping the population into a furore, and a straw man play on one of my own enterprises made me both the victom of a terrible injustice and the hero of the people at the same time. Using the last of my fortune I engineered the topple and stole the victory away by a single point. Utterly fantastic once again.

After filling in the gap with the ever-welcome Royal Goods, I counterbalanced the evening by going from the highly confrontational Pax Po to the rather more chummy Sentinels of the Multiverse. Chrono Ranger, Argent Adept, and The Naturalist went up against The Dreamer in the Tomb of Anubis and it did not go particularly well for us for much of the game! We were right against the wall when the villain finally flipped and then a rash of nasty cards incapped both the time travelling cowboy and the mystic spell-singer. With only The Naturlist left on a handful of HP we thought it was all over, but he somehow managed to stay alive for just one more round - with a little help from his friends the last couple of projections were destroyed and the day was saved once again! Two of my favourite games in the same night, it doesn't get much better than this


 

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Cake or Paintball? Tough decisions reign at IBG




Contributors: Daniel, Peter, Jon


Tom and I hastily built some decks in Deck Building: the Deck Building Game, then we went twice round the table with No Thanks! The second time was quite possibly the weirdest game of this I've ever played, despite some rigorous shuffling most of the cards came out in near-perfect streaks which meant a lot of them were grabbed without going too far round the table. I think Tom's only involvement in the game was to pass once, a really odd game.

Tom, David, Raj, and I got lost on a desert island in Robinson Crusoe. We were stuck there for all eternity (not a reference to the playing time, which went by at a fair clip) and despite the islands best attempts at murdering us with wild animals, starvation, and starving wild animals, we managed a comfortable win. 

We welcomed a new member to the club, Lucas, who jumped in on Sushi Go! with Jon & co. (and maybe something else after?) Meanwhile there was some deep thinking going on in Bruges, and some hot and heavy farming action in Agricola (Andy won again, after being summoned by the Magic Word in the forums. At least we know how to get hold of him in an emergency now, it's like a bat-signal only in the shape of a sheep).

Some table switching at the end, with Rhino Hero making an always welcome appearance followed by games of San Juan and Medieval Academy. I also snuck in a quick half-a-game of Soccer17 with Tom, a wafer-thin treat that squeezes a surprising amount of fun out of an achingly simple call-my-bluff mechanism.

James also decided to instigate the massive-multiplayer game of "how much cake can you stuff in your face" which seemed to go down well, but unfortunately the night was not long enough to be treated with Street Paintball: The Game (otherwise known as "throw things at Neil" or "reasons why you don't want to enter a mystery prize competition run by James")

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The very beige and brown tones of the classic Goa was the game of choice for myself, Phil, James & Neil. Playing this reminded me how wonderful so many of the older games are and so deserving of more table time. Goa is pure class. I caught an episode of the Sopranos the other day, the first time since finishing the box set off many years ago. It oozed finesse from every pixel on the screen. It wasn't dated (except for the mobile phones) but timeless. Same with Goa. Our very own Tony Soprano, James, was in the expedition and plantation business, Neil was all about colonies and flag-sharing with James, Phil was into ships, Gold and plantations, whilst I was expeditioning the game away. It was a narrow victory for myself.



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Welcome to Lucas – local boy who made his first appearance this evening.
Welcome back to Lord Lucan (aka Andy Ricketts), who turned up to whip everyone at Agricola.
Thanks to James for bringing along a rather large chocolate cake.
 
Sushi Go
Looking for a quick filler to pass time until the Agricola boys all arrived. This was a birthday present (thanks Noel!) and has been a huge hit as a family game. Really easy to pick up and everyone is involved at the same time, as it’s card drafting.
Lucas joined us after the first round and was dealt into the game without really knowing the rules – welcome to IBG, Lucas!
Despite not collecting any puddings (he is far too fit for that), Noel still managed a sneaky little victory. Love this game – it’s going to need sleeving at this rate……

Valley of the Kings
Lucas mentioned that he’d played Dominion before, so a deck-builder seemed in order. This is a great little game, and Paul assembled his artefacts and entombed them in the most efficient fashion to come out victorious. Keen to try out the stand-alone expansion, Afterlife, when I get the chance…

San Juan
This is the new second edition with the improved artwork and several new buildings. I have to say that I was already a big fan of San Juan, but with the new edition they have hit a total home run (which is more than can be said for the Blue Jays…) I love the colour artwork, and the new buildings they have added are perfect – not complicated, but give just a few more opportunities for scoring in different ways.
Paul had a flying start, building a Prefecture and one other building that gave him an advantage when picking the Councillor, and when he added an early Library, it all looked cut and dried. However, Jon got his own Prefecture to match Paul’s card collecting, and threw in a Black Market (use pre-traded goods to pay for buildings) to speed up his purchasing. David was meanwhile in a world of his own, bemoaning the fact that his Gold Mine was acting a bit more like a British Coal Mine in terms of income. 

With 3 players this game fairly rattles along, and Jon knew that he had to end it as soon as possible to prevent Paul getting his production engine going, so he built as often as he could, and snuck a few cards under the Bank on the penultimate turn. So he built a final 1-point building with Paul and David still having a couple of gaps in their portfolio, and won a low-scoring game by just 4 points. And it was all done and dusted in 25 minutes – bargain!

Coup: Guatemala ‘54
To round the evening off, a 6-player game using the expansion that Jon had picked up at Essen. This included the Anarchist character, who sets off a bomb and demands that each player must either diffuse it or pass it on (by declaring that they also have an Anarchist). One word. Carnage.

Neil decided to challenge Noel early on and found himself taking an early shower. James (strange that…) was targeted by several bombs and ended up blown to smithereens. Paul made good use of his Arms Dealer to gather much income, whilst Jon’s Politician promptly stole it off him. Philip’s Arms Dealer was a little less successful – he must have been selling air-rifles or something. 

Paul made the classic mistake of challenging Jon’s honesty whilst he had a bomb sitting in his lap. Jon proved to be honest (as always) and the bomb still exploded – so it was goodnight Paul, losing both characters in one turn. Philip was next to bite the dust, and so it was left for Jon and Noel to Duke it out. Unfortunately, Jon had both a Politician and an Anarchist (great combo!) which meant that Noel’s lonely Anarchist stood little chance, so he fell on his sword….
James complained (as usual) that an Arms Dealer and an Anarchist wasn’t a great combination. “No S***!” replied Noel, looking over his shoulder before tucking a Beretta into his belt for another day….



Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Bruges: officially the only place that is better than Bruges





Contributors: Daniel, Peter, David

Ludwig's secrets occupied most of the night for me. I don't personally think that this adds to the base game in a productive or meaningful way, nor does it move the experience forward a great deal. My main problems with it are that it makes the game so horribly slow and with so many extra scoring avenues open the game kind of gets lost in all the noise. Even the setup is a royal pain in the ass as you have to create a balanced stack of tiles for every single room size before you can play, with some from the base game and some from the expansion; what a tremendous waste of time for what is supposed to be a light game that is playable within an hour.
Proceedings slow right down as there are so many extra things to take in and it kind of loses it's charm as a simple, fun castle building game, and becomes quite a bit more serious instead.
The scores are also out of this world with an unforgiving spread, we ended up with a range from around 140 pts to nearly double that amount! You can really notch up some big scoring moves so the combos that you build up are fun at times but then this isn't really a combo-making game so it doesn't feel right for some reason. I think I prefer to stick to regular castle building from now on.


Warhammer Quest also made another appearance - I quite like this game but it didn't seem to work very well with four, will have to try it two player sometime to see if it's one of those games best suited to solo play.

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Bruges with Neil, James and myself. The second best thing to an evening in Bruges is an evening with Bruges. You could be there: tall elegant houses, hand built by you and your workers, fights for the power in the town hall, rats, plague & floods, building canals with your bare hands, a bunch of mavericks living in the houses, and every person is different, just like in Bruges (or so rumour has it) - so who says Stefan Feld doesn't do theme? Pah. We were in Bruges that night.
AND NOW WITH PETS!

So, playing the game not only saves you the bother of ever visiting the town it is also, and at this point I become serious, one of the finest games to grace a table. Pure Euro Heaven.

It was James' first play of this wonderful game so Neil and I let him win.

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 Arrived early to find James and Philip already there and itching for a game and James suggested The King of Frontier a Japanese game about building up your kingdom by buying and laying tiles as well as producing and consuming goods. Dan arrived just in time time to join us for a quick run through of the very simple rules. Each player is given a small player mat that they play tiles onto, with bonus points for filling in every space. A bit like Puerto Rico the active player can choose a role of either developing, producing, building or consuming with every other player allowed to do the same action at a slightly reduced capacity. There's a lot to enjoy in this, it doesn't out stay its welcome as it rattles along and the option to do something on other people's turn means there's almost no downtime. It's not the prettiest game in existence but it's a nice mash up between Carcassonne and Puerto Rico.

After that everyone else started turning up and we split into two tables with myself, Dan, Jon and Philip choosing Castles of Mad King Ludwig and it's expansion Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets. I've only played it twice now but it's one of those games where I always make terrible decisions and it ends up leaving me a bit cold. Also I'm not sure if it was the way we were playing it or the added elements of the expansion but it seemed to take a long time with a lot of downtime between turns. At games end Dan had utterly crushed us with Jon in second and Philip and I picking up the scraps, although hats off to Philip for building the most aesthetic looking castle I think it's possible to build. I want to give this another go as I feel it's something I should enjoy more and perhaps as faster game would be better next time. (Quick note to anyone building a castle, don't hire me blush)