Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Only Four Weeks to Essen!

Have I mentioned I’m getting a little excited? Didn’t think so. Anyway, I am. With Mr Sinden’s prompting I have up for auction various games that I’ll be taking with me to Essen. There’s fifteen of them. So far I have three sold and bids on another eight. I’ve made just under 250€ so far, that’s more new games I really don’t need, have little space for, and will possibly never play. And yet I’m excited, ridiculously so. Breathe, calm down, relax.

Last week the call to arms brought out a mad thirteen: Paul, Dans I and II, Dom, Tom, Jon, Jeroen, Philip, Andy, Noel, Gareth II, James and me, huzzah! We were out to impress the pub with our custom and bonhomie. As Dan II proceeded to drink for Britain it was down to Gareth to eat the menu, boy did he order some food…

There was quite a store of games on offer and several had some runs out. 

Greed (many thanks Paul)
Whilst the waited for the additional forces to muster, the first five along for the evening started off by passing the Thugs, Holdings and Action cards around the table with a 'quick' game of Greed.

Gareth II and Neil played actions to stop other players getting too much money, whilst playing lotsa Thugs too. Jeroen and Dan were trying a mixed bag with differing results. Paul was going for out and out holdings.

The three key cards in the game were:

Paul playing a holding that gave him an additional $5k / dollar token on it at the end of the game, which is where he started to predictably load up his dollar tokens.

Dan playing the ritz with some schmancy add ons which allowed him to place eight dollar tokens on it in one go - £80,000, very nice.

On the last turn Paul then played an action that allowed him to place as many tokens on one holding as the holding from his opponents that had the most holding. He of course used this to better Dan's impressive eight tokens, by placing eight on the card that made each one worth £15,000 with the resulting £120,000 giving him a runaway victory. 

All in the last card. He remembered to say thank you to Dan.

After quite a few plays of this game, it is still providing plenty of variety with different strategies able to complete for victory.

Final Scores; Paul - 240, Dan II - 120, Neil - 95, Gareth - 80, Jeroen - 40.

Whilst that was going on I’m sure I espied Tom and Philip playing Splendor. No idea who won though.

Cash 'n Guns (cheers Jon)

A quick opener for 6 players was required whilst the Greed table finished off, so Jon's recent Games Expo acquisition was broken out. A quick rules explanation from James and the shooting began.

The general summary of a fast and chaotic game was that Tom and Noel stood toe to toe most of the time, Jon ducked out of some early exchanges, Phil chose the wrong moments to be brave and Andy pretty much flew under the radar.

James was playing the macho role, taking a couple of hits but still choosing to stand his ground when he pointed his gun at Jon, only to find a black foam beretta staring straight back at him. Was Jon bluffing? Definitely not - in fact he had played his fire-first 'Bang Bang Bang' card, and left James in a crumpled, convulsing heap on the floor - out of the game for good. If only you could do that in more games….

Anyway, Andy's quiet, ruthless tactics paid off, and he sneaked out a win with $90k. Everyone else had less than that, but exactly how much remains a mystery….

Final Scores; Andy - $90k, Noel - ?$75k, Tom - ?$70k, Jon - ?$65k, Phil - ?$50k, James - dead (Ed: Doesn’t that read beautifully?!)

Following that a bunch of hopefuls ran off into the Dead of Winter and I know they failed in whatever it was they were attempting to do. The details remain in the inner sanctum.
Meanwhile Five Tribes, the latest Days of Wonder offering made its debut, but once again I have no idea what occurred, and I would be interested as it’s quite ‘hot’ in the games world at present….

Trains (thanks again Jon!)

Four willing participants were found to have another go at this 'Dominion with a board' game - and this time it was with Jon's new map (Germany / US). The German side of the map was used, and it has an interesting array of cities and connection spaces (instant 3 or 4 points). Jon chose to set up next to the connections to SW Europe, Paul and Neil took opposite corners, and Noel sat on Jon's lap. 

There were no cards in play which enabled Waste to be trashed, but the ever popular Tourist Train (score points as the game goes on) was available, along with the equally popular Garage (draw 2 cards, discard 2 cards).

It was interesting that a variety of strategies were employed. Jon (unusually) chose to start playing on the board, building into the adjacent connection spaces before Noel could get there. Neil also made his intentions clear, starting to build track and stations across the Eastern edge, accumulating an impressive array of waste as he went. Paul took a more mixed approach, starting to build out slowly into some nearby cities, but also attempting to build his deck with some useful cards, including a few Tourist Trains. Noel was very single-minded, building almost nothing on the board for the first 3/4 of the game, but picking up a healthy amount of Tourist Trains, along with some high money cards and several card-cycling cards. This led him to soon have a fine engine that was cycling cards at a frightening rate.

Jon and Paul had also picked up Tourist Trains, but Noel was clearly ahead on points in this department, and was the first to start purchasing the Skyscrapers. Paul had been maxing out the stations in some cities, but also started to purchase some points cards towards the end of the game. 

Jon tried to pick up some points cards, but always seemed to fall one money short of the skyscraper and had to settle for the less valuable points cards. Neil continued on his single-minded train route and would not be distracted (or more likely, didn't have the money!) to buy any points cards.

Noel suddenly turned his attention to the board, and had enough wealth to enter the connection spaces that Jon already occupied, picking up a useful 9 points with relative ease. Paul found that he could end the game on his turn, with 4 piles of cards running out, and the scores were totalled. It was pretty obvious that Neil and Jon were out of the running, but a quick look at the board position showed that Paul might be closer to Noel than originally expected. And so it turned out to be - a few measly points separated them at the end, with Noel's carefully planned 'don't play to the board until the last few turns' strategy just paying off. Well played sir!

The upcoming ('Rising Sun') expansion looks interesting, not only for the 2-player boards, but also for the 'route bonuses', that will certainly make Neil's strategy much more viable. Watch this space….

Final Scores; Noel - 60, Paul - 57, Jon - 47, Neil - 34.

Valley of the Kings (Jon, star of the week!**)

Another outing for the latest little deck-building game. After last week's minimalist scoring, would they improve this week (answer - a bit!)

As always, the game is completely about timing - when do you entomb your cards to start scoring for them? Andy and Jon had started collecting sets from the get-go, and both played some attack cards to reduce other player's hands on a couple of occasions.

However, the most noteworthy event during the game was Phil's rather strange vow of silence that he seemed to have taken. Whereas everyone else would commentate on their actions ('I'm going to use theses cards to buy this card and then entomb this one...'), Phil decided that swift actions with no verbal commentary but the odd piece of interpretative mime would suffice. A kind of cross between a Trappist monk and Marcel Marceau…

Regardless of these odd happenings, Jon and Andy had timed their entombings the best, with Jon's statues helping to win the day. I think that this game could see quite a bit more play at IBG, but only if Jon chooses to bring it along. So will he? In the words of Phil - 'My lips are sealed…'

Final Scores; Jon - 30, Andy - 22, Phil - 13, Dom - 12.

Kingdom Builder (cheers Noel, especially for being such a humble victor)

With a fine selection of games on offer it was decided Kingdom Builder was next up for Neil, Paul and Noel. Neil actually professed his excitement level to be a resounding 7/10 so with that exhilarating endorsement Kingdom Builder was set up with scoring to be horizontal lines, individual settlement areas and adjacency to location hexes. 

The special tokens allowed to place extra on sand, add one to 3-in-a-row, and move one to water and to your current terrain card. Short story made shorter, Noel had lots of tokens and points, Neil and Paul not so many but the cashews were nice. 

Final Scores; Noel - 75, Paul - 38, Neil - 35. (To be fair Noel went first and picked up 5 tokens in his first two moves, impressive to say the least. Paul and I took another 6 turns each before we realised the game was over long ago!)

Splendor

With plenty of time still in hand it was over to one Paul and I knew Noel wasn’t so keen on. It was the only way we were going to stop him. James jumped in, I know this is on his Essen ‘pick-up-cheap’ list. I let him go first.

Paul put up a fine performance of running through the rules I just reminded him of although we did catch both Noel and James with 11 tokens on occasion. I’ve been sticking to a strategy of working towards cards in the second row that score points and not worrying so much about collecting sets for the bonus noble tiles.

It was close. James was within three turns of reaching the magic 15 having picked up a noble. Paul also took one and was starting to look at the expensive top row. Noel came an admirable second showing what a roll he was on tonight. But I stonked it you know, sometimes being a genius is blissful. (If Only 1982-2014)

Final Scores; Neil - 16, Noel - 14, James - 11ish, Paul - 8ish.

After that I saw some Council of Verona being played, I love that game! Not a clue who did what to whom and why or even whether anyone survived. What a mysterious evening!

Loopin' Louis

Everyone’s played this, except me of course… dexterity game see, not really built for dexterity although at least I didn’t have to try and unwedge myself from the chair, more a case of taping the plastic thingy in time. Reminds me of the time I joined a reggae band. They let me play the triangle, which was nice. I just had to stand at the back and ting.

Anyway, first game, Paul, handily to my left, took himself out pretty swiftly. I just kept on tingin’. Then Dom, or was it Dan (I was concentrating so hard I it failed to register) blew himself away so Tom too over whilst I kept on tingin’. James, the most experienced looper in the business was looking good until he lost two tokens in succession and the impossible looked on until Tom, substitute Tom, knocked me off my perch. I almost won a dexterity game, I mean, come on!

So we play it again. Almost identical game plays out. Except of course, I win. How many dexterity games has it taken for me to win one? In fact I won one the week before at Paul’s house, Tumblin’ Dice. Maybe I am built for these things after all?


So, did we impress the pub with our efforts? Well photos were being taken, our audience reached it’s capacity attendance for maybe a half hour spread across the course of the evening: one! Of course we did, although the chef was pleased to hear that Gareth’s on shift next week, he was exhausted.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Build up to Essen

So, I booked the hotel last October, never one to leave these things too late, you know? The Horaholiday for summer '14 saw us checking out the hotel again, making sure it was still there and the like. Here's number one son;



And so I've been keeping away from the online stores and trying not to succumb to sundry enticements to buy another game - James, you're the perfect temptress. My list for Essen is divided into pre-purchases including a number of kick-starters, then 'I GOTTA HAVE ITS' which number way too many, and then there's stuff I intend to, but most likely won't, play before I buy. Time will tell.

More info available on the Geek, my very own geek list which actually made it onto the front page briefly, I Can But Dream.

As it was I had to make do with gaming away from the club this week due to baby Hora turning 12. Here's us recently in the Czech Republic;


Many thanks to big bad Jon for the write up this week, sounds a little different but interesting nonetheless. James and I played two games of Letters From Whitechapel early in the week, Jack won both times. Friday saw a great trip to the Dawsey's and the introduction to me of Tumblin' Dice, top fun, Twin Tin Bots, purgatory, plus Greed, an additional to the Horawishlist, and the Name's the Game: Paul, which worked well in fact and which Paul won.

Anyway, over to Jon: Some form of gamer-related crisis in West London left the IBG'ers decimated with only 6 hardy souls remaining - Philip, Dan, Jon, Dom, Paul A, Jeroen, so it was quality over quantity this evening:

Valley of the Kings

Jon's newly-sleeved (courtesy of the very generous Mr Horabin!) was brought out to start the evening. It was new to everyone, although all players were familiar with Dominion which helps.

This was a very strange game. For some reason, everyone was finding it difficult to generate enough purchasing power, which was probably related to the lack of entombing which was occurring. Jon was trying to play some cards which caused everyone to discard or sacrifice cards, but seemed to come across the other players' Offering Tables every time. There was also a concerted effort by more than one player to use their Shabti to sacrifice juicy cards from the pyramid, which further reduced the amount of time available to get an engine going.


And then, Paul suddenly uttered - "Oh - there's only a few cards left, and I haven't started entombing yet!" And then began a frantic scramble to get anything possible into everyone's tombs. Jon had entombed the most cards, but they were mostly worth only 1 point each. Philip had only 5 cards, but with a 4-card set, he scored 17 points. Surely that measly total wouldn't be enough to win? Well, despite Jon getting close, it wasn't close enough, and the less said about Paul and Jeroen's sparsely-furnished tombs the better. Let's just say that they wouldn't be likely to end up on Lara Croft's radar anytime soon...


Final Scores: Philip - 17, Jon - 15, Jeroen - 7, Paul - 5.


Jeroen left at this point, leaving only 5 players for the rest of the evening. And the unanimous decision as to play;


Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective


This is a fantastic game, that Jon had played with Dom a couple of weeks ago (Ed: was I not there too? hey? all that bloody effort cycling to Brentford, pumping the tyres up, in the rain). It's a kind of 'choose your own adventure' experience, but is much more open-ended and deductive. Players take the role of Sherlock Holmes' sidekicks, and a charged with solving some form of mystery in old London Town. 


They are provided with some background to the case, a map of London showing hundreds of locations, a directory (which identifies the location of numerous individuals and businesses) and a copy of a newspaper for that day. And away you go! Players decide which locations to visit based upon the evidence they collect, and then consult the game manual to find out what happens at each location. The idea is to try to solve the case by visiting as few locations as possible, with enough information to answer a number of questions posed at the end of the manual. 

Unfortunately, it's impossible to provide any detail of the case that was played without giving away major spoilers, but suffice to say that there was a murder, a lady, a jewel and a hideous code. Fantastic!


The 5 would-be sleuths pondered for the best part of 2 hours, before arriving at the correct solution (albeit with some help from Sherlock Holmes himself along the way). They didn't tally their score at the end (based on accuracy of solution and number of locations visited) but it probably wasn't very high, considering their 'visit as many locations as possible' strategy!


This is definitely more 'experience' than 'game', but if you're up for a couple of hours of head-scratching, discussion and amateur sleuthing, then this will be right up your alley.


(Ps this has almost instantly become one of my favourite games - it's elementary...)


BTW - the pub is changing hands this week, with Adrienne and Simon moving on to another pub in Isleworth. Adrienne has briefed the landlord that we meet each Wednesday, so hopefully not much (if anything) will change. Here's wishing A&S all the best for their new establishment.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

You Can't Go On, Thinking Nothing's Wrong...





The assembled boardgamers (L-R):  Gareth II; Andy; Dan; Waitress; Phil

A very short blog this week since only our poor souls managed to venture down to the banks of the Thames.  A report was provided to me by the lovely Dan (although classified as "not a report").  But before we get to that, the final list of listens for the week:

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - East/West
Mickey Newbury - An American Trilogy (Possible pick of the month - along with Lee Hazlewood)
Cousteau - S/T
Stevie Wonder - Innervisions
Bombino - Nomad
Billy Preston - That's The Way God Planned It
Ellen Foley - Nightout
Slave - Just a Touch of Love

By the way, anyone venturing into the Oxfam Music Shop in Ealing Broadway or Acton Recycling Charity Shop on South Ealing Road, I have recently got rid of all those albums that I haven't listened to in years - I need space for new arrivals.  Help yourselves - they're all exemplary of course *cough*.  Any way, onwards!

It was a cosy night for just the four of us in the end, although apparently somebody was asking around for us at the bar and left before anybody arrived. We were also almost joined by a random couple at one point, but they preferred to settle down with the pub's copy of Jenga instead of the meagre fair that was scattered on the IBG games table.

Games played were Dead of Winter: A Crossroads GameAirships, and who is going to drive Phil home tonight?

Dead of Winter

Gareth II was a Betrayer but was just a single morale point away from preventing the main objective from completing. He also couldn't quite fully arm the private army that he was amassing to help him usurp the colony and invest himself as dictator for life (no matter how short that may eventually become) and so would not have been able to claim victory even if conditions had turned out more suitable for him.

I had my victory condition, which was to rescue helpless survivors, handed to me on a plate by Gareth who was bringing them in by the van load as a by product of raising his troops. The plus side was that I was able to focus on doing good for the community overall and slaughtered so many zombies that we were able to pile their heads up as a makeshift barricade (that's not really part of the game, I'm just paraphrasing my fevered imagination). As we had to collect usable samples in the hope of finding a cure, this was a big contributor to completing the main objective.

Phil also completed his personal victory condition, all by himself this time, and spent most of the game rummaging around in the Grocery Store banging bin lids together making a god awful racket. This resulted in a number of his survivors being devoured by the shambling hordes that he was attracting with all that noise.

Andy's goal was a bit more pessimistic; in a fit of pique during a low period he had to pile up some wooden barricades around the colony, soak them in petrol, and set the whole thing alight. Not a plan with the repercussions thoroughly thought out, but it was his to implement and not an easy one to complete. We were deliberately attracting as many zombies to the colony as possible in order to knock their blocks off to collect samples, and the overwhelming number of them kept crushing the barricades. At one point we also voted the resolution of an event to end with more barricades being destroyed, so it was an uphill struggle for Andy all game long.

Airships

New to both Phil and Andy, but easy to learn and get stuck straight into.

I started by spending my bonus tokens like they were gong out of fashion to secure some early red dice. Andy was the first to build an airship but I promptly stole the bonus marker from him with one of my own. He then made a booboo by replacing a building that was providing white dice with one that converts white to red, promptly leaving him with not enough white dice to make the conversion. Gareth kept struggling with near misses on his dice rolls and couldn't capitalise on the excess of bonus markers he was generating as a result. Phil built a monster dice throwing engine but left it too late in the game to start it up on acquiring VPs, and the game ended before he could properly exploit his position. My early charge for VPs and push for a quick end were enough to secure a convincing victory.
I can't remember who scored what but I had something like seventeen points and a six or seven point lead over the closest competitor.

Some interesting things learnt last night: Phil may be all coy about games that don't involve trains or farmers but he has a secret past as a D&D Dungeon Master; Gareth II is unable to read out loud in anything more audible than a mumble; and dice hate Andy but only when he isn't rolling a bunch of sixes (or fives or eights).

After receiving Dan's report, I asked all of the four players to provide a retrospective opinion of the games played and received a response from all of them:

DAN

It is good, yes. I was dubious about the zombies beforehand but they are more of a MacGuffin than the central part of the game. Actually, they are more of a timer for making bad stuff happen and you either drain your resources to get rid of them or take big risks in letting them pile up. The game is more focused on the survival of the colony and personal choices than you would expect from something containing the Z word.

The traitor mechanic is hands down the finest implementation I've seen in any game; the lines are really blurred as not only might there not be one in the game at all, but every honest player also has their own rather selfish objective to complete at the expense of the shared objective so you are all kind of traitorous to a certain degree. If there is a betrayer then their task is not as straightforward as simply tanking the game for everyone else, they must instead achieve something which will require them to co-operate for most or even all of the game if they are to pull it off.

The much vaunted crossroad cards were quite a nice feature. I don't know if they really make the game or not but it was nice to have some random events that added a bit of story and which made sense by being tied to specific locations, characters, and situations. There was one weird moment where we had Christmas fall at the end of January, but I guess that the survivors were all a bit disoriented and hadn't checked their calendars for a while.

I'm not sure what the other guys thought as we were a mixed bag of gaming tastes but it seemed to go down OK with everyone and Phil refrained from stabbing me with his steak knife, so that's a good sign.

PHIL

While I would rather play Dead of Winter than Love Letter or indeed Through the Ages, I am hoping to play something else for the foreseeable future. We were fortunate no one rolled the "instant death" result.

I'd be happy to play Airships again though.  Thanks Gareth. 

ANDY

Did somebody say Through The Ages?

GARETH II

*mumble mumble*



Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Jon Wooden Trio Plays Chudyk's Brew



The blog's music theme continues.  I hope that enjoy this lovely archive picture of band leader, Jon Wooden, blowing on his favourite clarinet, Sindy.

Albums of the week as per usual:

Lee Hazlewood - The LHI Years Singles: Singles, Asides and Backsides
Wings - Band on the Run
Dion (DiMucci not Celine Dion, you smartarses) - S/T
Seu Jorge - The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions
Steve Miller Band - Book of Dreams
Free - Fire and Water

Now, onwards, to first class reporting!

Valley of the Kings (thanks Jon)

Jon had brought along his latest purchase and Tom, or one, was keen to give it a go. So a two player game was set up – and then Gary arrived. And then Lucas joined in. So a four player adventure it would be.
This is a deck-builder with some nice twists thrown into the mix. Each card has a monetary value, a special action, and a points value, so players must choose what they wish to use the card for (usually you want to use all three!). Cards will only score points for the players if ‘entombed’ during a player’s turn, which effectively removes them from the game. Therefore the game boils down to an issue of timing – entomb your cards too soon, and you lose the ability to buy more expensive and valuable cards, but leave it too late, and you may not get to entomb them at all, making them worthless at game end.

Gary was the only one to have played before and started entombing his starter cards from the first turn. Tom was also keen to start filling his tomb with goods for the afterlife, whereas Lucas and Jon were keeping their powder dry for the time being. The starter cards are interesting in the sense that they have a low monetary value (1), and a negligible points value (1), and their special abilities aren’t particularly useful for the first few rounds. Therefore, the temptation is to entomb them (or trash / sacrifice them) asap in order to thin your deck out. However, their special abilities (protection from attack / adjusting which cards are available to purchase / putting new purchases on top of your deck) become really useful as the game wears on, so it’s a tricky choice over what to do with them.

After the mid-point of the game, each player had made a choice about which set(s) of cards they were trying to collect (cards have a greater points value if you collect sets of them) and were starting to entomb in earnest. There were also a few ‘attack’ cards in play, and Jon managed to force everyone to discard down to three cards twice in succession in the late game. The game has a set ‘timer’ (draw deck runs out completely and all players have had equal turns) which gives everyone fair warning that they should be getting as many cards into their tomb as possible. Gary was struggling with this, as he was finding it hard to entomb more than one card per turn, whereas Jon and Tom were often managing to get two cards entombed, thanks to some neat special abilities.

When the game did eventually finish, Jon had succeeded in collecting a set of six statues, which gave him 36 points on their own, and it was this that enabled him to win by a reasonably comfortable margin.
This is a great little game (in a bullet-proof box) which gives several interesting decisions each turn, and which looks like it will scale well from 2-4 players. All in all – a hit! (well – with Jon anyway…) (Ed:  And me despite my dreadful performance.  Have even snagged myself a copy!)

Jon 48; Gary 33; Lucas 31; Tom 25

Chinatown (thanks Jon)

Four players looking for a game, and after much debate and ‘veto-ing’, Chinatown was the mutually acceptable choice. And then Lucas was persuaded to stay and join in too.

This was James’ original German (Alea) version of the game – not very pretty, but functional. It also contained some random event cards, but more on that later.

Dom had a dream start, being dealt three adjacent lots in the middle of a block, along with three identical ‘6’ value tiles. Therefore, he did not need to do much negotiation. Jon started a ‘4’ value Nursery, whilst both James and Jon had 2 x ‘6’ value Radio Shops. But would either of them hand them over to the other? Andy started with a bit of a mish-mash, as did Lucas, and Andy waited a couple of rounds before committing to placing tiles on the board (which probably led to his downfall).

At the beginning of the second (or was it third?) round Jon needed a fourth Nursery tile to complete his set. James was given one in the tile draw and immediately began excitedly negotiating with Jon (Ed:  which we could hear word for word from across the room!) – waxing lyrical about how much it was worth to him. Jon let him rant on for a good minute and a half, before calmly explaining that he himself had also been given a Nursery in the tile draw, and therefore James’ tile was excess to requirements. Priceless.

This was almost as funny as last week during Libertalia, when James played the Parrot, and then chose to place his replacement character right at the head of the line, expecting a fine haul of booty. However, in his excitement and haste, he had failed to realise that Jon had played the Brute, which immediately killed off James’ newly placed character. Oh how we chuckled (Ed:  any more embarassing James moments, please send on a postcard to IBG Blog Editor, Under Kew Bridge, Kew).

Anyway, returning to Chinatown, Dom had succeeded in creating a set of six tiles, and was raking in the cash. James had soon joined him, following some dodgy wheeling and dealing. Jon had completed a couple of ‘4’ sets, and Andy had finally achieved a board position. Meanwhile Lucas was mumbling bad words under his breath in French...

The final round arrived, and as usual, there aren’t quite so many deals being done, as everyone can calculate the value of each deal pretty accurately. The dust settled, the cash was counted, and as expected, Dom had come out on top, although not by as much as had possibly been expected, with only $8k separating the top 3 players.

The difference with this version of Chinatown, however, was that there was an ‘event card’ turned over each round which gave bonuses to certain tiles on the board (eg $1k for each ‘5’ or ‘6’ tile on the board). The trouble was, there were 9 cards, and only 6 were used in the game. This meant that there was an uneven payout for each tile, which introduced a rather unwelcome random factor into the game. For instance, due to Dom’s initial tile draw, he happened to be collecting the ‘6’ value tiles, and these paid out rather handsomely in the middle of the game. However, there was less of a payout for the ‘3’ tiles, as their bonus card did not get drawn. Jon benefitted from the ‘4’ card being drawn in the final round, although it could just as easily have been a ‘no payout’ card. This would have been a huge swing of cash, which had nothing to do with the negotiations or skill of the players. I guess that’s why Z-Man took it out of their reprint!

But never mind – it was still a great game!

Dom $114k; Jon $109k; James $106k; Lucas $88k; Andy$ 76k

Suburbia

Dan had brought along his current game of choice, Suburbia, and with me also anxious to have another game and Paul also a willing participant, we had quite the menage a trois ready to experiment with the expansion.  Jon did briefly flirt with us but having gorged himself silly on the Suburbia app instead opted for a different kind of city planning in Chinatown.

As the game was set up, I idly mentioned that I had trumped over Dan in three of our previous four outings.  This was contested by Dan to his inevitable folly!

With goals welcoming expansion in business (blue), a brevity of residences (green) and an overall plethora of zones (most non-lake hexagons), we were off!  Paul spent a good deal of his initial cash on a Law Office which breaks ties in respect of any Goals, basically securing him the green Goal from the outset.  The problem was that he had blown all of his capital on this tile, meaning that he was constantly fighting throughout the rest of the game to push either his income or population beyond 4 on his tracker.  Taking into account that both mid-term goals rewarded high income streams, he was also unable to benefit from either mid-term benefits.

I on the other hand had both of these goals in sight so with a one-two combo of Fancy Restaurant (+3 income) and Slaughterhouse (negating the negative income if any further restaurants were built), I was on my way.  Unfortunately, thereafter, matters become somewhat hazy.  I've become a bit of an idiot savant at Suburbia - entering into a form of fugue state where I can see what best benefits my city without quite understanding why.

Dan, on the other hand, knows exactly what he and other players are doing but this has the opposite effect of stifling his play as I and Paul regularly go off script.  Dan was helped by an early Casino which prevented him losing any income if he crossed a red line.  This didn't stop him from uttering at some stage "Tom must be cheating!" upon seeing my double figure income and population tracks.

By game's end, my huge population growth had finally pushed my income into catastrophic negative figures but as it was the last turn there was no effect on my population.  This left me ahead of Dan (who despite his best efforts hadn't been able to haul in my early lead) and Paul languishing well off the pace.  Only goals to go and my victory would be confirmed.

The residence goal went to Paul, naturally.  Then, the business goal (but I thought that Dan had a blue strategy running - never mind).  Then the hexagon goal!  Paul was now 18 points behind me and had overtaken Dan.  I revealed my secret goal - most grey buildings - which thankfully I had secured by acquiring a late EPA Office.  15 points to me.  Paul revealed his - also worth 15 points!  I had triumphed although Paul pointed out that had he chosen his other secret goal at the start, he would have triumphed as it provided 20 points!  What an incredible game to which the expansion adds untold riches.

Tom: 1st  Paul: 2nd  Dan: 3rd

Greed (thanks Paul)

Dan scarpered when Greed was put on the table - surely says something about his generous spirit being threatened. That left two in Tom and Paul who were actively looking forward to a bout of selfishness. Both questioned if the game would work with two.  The lowest number that either had tried it with previously was three and the dynamic would be quite different, as each drafting deck would return every other round.  (Ed:  this was especially considering how badly Sushi Go works with two and the fact that Antoine Bauza is currently working on a two player only version of 7 Wonders)

Paul started off by playing the action to get just as much money as the player to his left. That'd be Tom who played the Thug which gives money, only to have to pay back more at the game end (Ed:  Oh, Generous Jenny.  Not so generous of spirit this time around).  After this Paul went on a Thugfest, laying down tough guys for the next four rounds, including one to take extra cards for all of the keys he'd laid, which totalled four.

In the meantime, Tom started to get some money in and put down a holding or two.  Then Paul played the card to replay each of the abilities from the Thugs already in front of him, so he took another four cards and also stung Tom for some of his hard earned cash.

Undeterred Tom continued with a balanced approach playing several holdings, some thugs and some nifty actions, and so gained cash, bonus markers and was still building by the time the last cards were played.  But it was too little, too late. Paul's early Thugs and late holdings gave him the win, and allowed him to claim the title King of Greed.  (Ed:  Too little!?  I guess so.  Shouldn't have let you take The Ritz!)

Scores: Paul 220, Tom 170

Both players agreed that it was actually a very good game with two, much to their surprise. It gave more control and turned it more strategic, instead of banking on slightly more luck when a player gets to draft from each deck every few hands. Well worth another play like this.  (Ed:  You're not wrong, Paul.  I loved it.  Just a shame that Queen have plonked such an outrageous price on the game!)

Win Lose Banana

With Paul having departed after his Greed triumph and the Chinatown possee disbanding at the same time, Tom, Dom and Jon sat down for a relaxed chat.  Whilst chatting, Tom pulled out his copy of Flowerfall (acquired for a steal at UK Games Expo) and began undoing the shrink on the cards only to discover that included not one but two of his grail game, Win Lose or Banana to which the only player count is three!  Incroyable!

Jon upon hearing about the game's complicated ruleset was incredibly excited to play, as was Dom.  Essentially, there are three cards:  Win, Lose or Banana.  The cards are shuffled and dealt out following which the player who holds the Win card announces that fact.  The Win player then has to determine which of the other players holds the Banana.  If he gusesses right, both the Win and Banana players win.  If not, quelle horreur, as the Lose player triumphs!  It's basically The Resistance in one minute.

So the cards were dealt.  Jon announced himself as the Win player.  As I was holding the Banana, I entreated Jon to choose me.  Dom bluffed by enquiring what sex the Banana was.  Stupidly, I did not riposte that bananas do not have genitalia but instead said that it was a girl, pointing at Jon's win card as proof.  The battle was lost.  Jon picked Dom, only for Dom to reveal the Lose card.  Dom had won.  After Dom's lap around the room had finished, Jon deemd WLB s worthy of throwing off a ferry (a la Lost Legacy) as a gift to the God of Games, the mighty Manatee.

See, Jon.  This is what happens when you keep not bringing Mayday! Mayday! on a Wednesday!

Dom - Won; Tom - Lost;  Jon - Silly Banana

Flowerfall

After the agony and the ecstasy of WLB, the Jon Wooden Trio opted for the atual game that I had chosen before we got sidetracked, Flowerfall.

Essentially, a deck of cards, each player is provided with an identical set of 12 cards, each with the same back.  The only difference in the cards is the colour of certain flowers which denote that player's colour.  Larger terrain cards are placed on the table and (after shuffling their respective decks) each player drops the top card from their deck onto the table which a view to controlling each discrete green area with their coloured flowers.  Points for each area are determined by the number of generic green flowers (of which their are several on the card backs, giving players an interesting choice each turn of increasing their control or points).

The rules are a small double sided sheet and naturally the first question was whether the players were obligated to aim for the terrain cards at the outset, as opposed to creating their own small fiefdoms.  It was unviersally agreed that fiefdoms were out of the question.  I then naturally completely missed both terrain cards with my first drop and watched as the card flipped before ending up in front of Dom.  A fine start.
The game soon developed into a back and forth as areas were developed, overtaken and quashed by each subsequent drop.  Dom was having real trouble due in no small part to his unfortunate knack in covering his own cards.  This meant that a back and forth was developing between Jon and me.  Jon, however, couldn't grasp control of the key are with his last drop, leaving me as the winner.

This has been sat on my shelf for three months and don't I feel the fool.  An incredibly fun little filler - I'll definitely be bringing it along next time.

Tom 14;  Jon 7;  Dom 0

Nations (thanks Neil)

What Gazza said...
"If you could [do the write up] as I'm home alone with children this week so without downtime at work to write reports! I know the scores in Speed Nations were Dan 49, Gary 34 and you were in the 20s if it helps... and that you and I essentially ran out of stone in the last couple of rounds so couldn't achieve very much... and that I was proud to end up the most civilised empire by the fact that I finished with most heritage (even if that isn't the aim of the game...!)"

What he means by all of that is: the children will be placed firmly in front of tv/xbox/playstation/cardboard box and told to entertain themselves all day while he studies the Nations forums to work out what the hell it was that Nasher - ta! - did to accumulate all those points.

The definition of 'Speed Nations':  rules run through in eight minutes; Dan reminds Neil and Gary we're playing at speed, they play at speed; Dan takes all the minutes saved by pushing Neil and Gary into sub-par actions and takes as long as he jolly well needs to find THE perfect move.

As Gary suggests both he and I ran out of fuel, as well as time, and thus I let Nasher have even more time in the final two rounds in which to seek perfection. Gary played the conscientious objector role and so Nasher went a warmongering. Gary's heritage - his two children tied to something in the lounge as I write - is secure and peaceful.

Do I mention that the game came out again at the weekend, Philip and Dan were superbly taught by myself into a tight finish between the two of them. I was still congratulating myself on the rules run through to bother playing myself and finished with 18 points - hell, you start with seven!! Dan pipped 'Pip' as he likes to call him, by three points.  I'm glad I did mention this as it explains why I can't remember enough of either game to tell you who played which nation even, confusion reigns/rains...  (Ed: that's what you get for spending your free weekend playing lots of lovely games instead of writing up your report!)

Final IBG Scores; Dan II - 49, Gary - 34, Neil - 25.