Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Playing nicely at IBG

Contributors: Daniel, David

A quiet night with only two tables on the go, but plenty of fun had by all!

An early start with Show Manager for myself, Tomtoo, David, and Raj, meanwhile Tom got his Dragon Eggs out at the other table to occupy the later arrivals while we finished up.

Tom and David seemed to be trying to outdo one another for the theatrical equivalent of a Golden Raspberry, both managing to attract a critical savaging and first night closures with their debut productions. Raj looked like a early bet with a tremendous performance of Moonlight that wowed audiences in the theatre capital of London, but financial struggles meant that he was unable to repeat that success and went into a slow decline. I coasted into a comfortable win by being the bridesmaid in the biggest scoring cities and raiding the coffers from smaller locations where the point spread is less brutal.
Noel brought along Vegas Showdown and it would have been rude to refuse a game, so we settled down with the two Toms. Stone Age or something was on the other table, could have been Mombasa/Caylus/Cuba/etc. I really cannot tell just by looking these days.

Noel went straight for the mantle of Slot King with row upon row of shiny one-armed bandits, and Tomone managed to resist the urge to turn his casino into one giant food hall this time around with a more balanced build. Tomtoo fell in love with lounges, later bringing in some restaurants to feed the corpulent slouches infesting his premesis. I competed for a short while with Noel on Slots before swagging the first Table Games tile that came up, which took me in another direction. Noel ended up coasting to a very comfortable lead and spent the end game adding Lounges to keep his score moving forward - in retrospect we could have been more competitive against this but were all so wrapped up in angling for the bonus tiles that we wanted that he rolled us over, like a true Casino boss oughta.

Screwage, bluffing, guile, and more screwage in Intrigue, which then spilled over into No Thanks! I managed to play the temporary alliances in Intrigue against each other pretty well I think; Despite screwing Tomtoo over very badly in the first round I got him onboard with Team Dan by then offering an Olive branch while the other guys were kicking him while he was down. In response, Noel and Tomone formed an uneasy alliance that fell apart with some careful prodding; it was particularly flaky as Noel didn't do himself any favours by adding plenty of 10k notes to his hand while only handing out 1k ones in his bribes, and Tomone seemed determined to burn bridges on every side. With a smidgen on cajoling I got Tomone onto my side, ditching both Noel and Tomtoo into exile in the process, setting myself up nicely in incontestable positions. The hammer dropped in the final round - as the last player to make appointments I kicked Tomone out of my tallest tower to even out my opponents earnings in the final round, preventing anyone from lurching ahead with their final income. At the final countup I was ahead by some margin, my realtively low earnings throughout the game allowing me to fly under the radar with the strong final positioning giving me a massive payday that sealed the deal.

No Thanks! ended up being almost an extension of Intrigue, with enmities from the previous game encouraging cards to be passed purely for the sake of dumping a bad score on someone else. I picked up two cards fairly early that were around twenty odd points each then eventually fluked into connecting them together in the last couple of turns, once again coming from a seemingly untenable position to swipe a sneaky victory.

Noel was then coerced into Magical Athlete against his will, not sure if he's recovered from the expereince yet. Making a correct guess with the prophet was pivotal in keeping me on a winning streak, then we finished up late with a round of Epic Spell Wizards (Raj replacing Noel for this one - I don't think we could have got away with getting him to join in on this one), it did it's thing with a tense finish where Tomone managed to hold on tightly for several rounds despite being right on the edge, ending in a grind of single-card spells that should have been strong enough to finish things off but always seemed to fall just short.


The game on our table was A Council of Four, Phil, Raj and I had all played this before a month or so ago, so thought we would give it another go now that we knew how to play. Last time I did incredibly poorly so was out to make amends this time around. Both Phil and I went for the same opening moves of building in the two blue cities and claiming the early victory points and related bonus. I was luckily enough to beat Phil to this by a single turn which then allowed me to link a number of cities and claim a few of the extra bonuses. Raj meanwhile was working towards the larger city objective and scoring well from his connections. At the end it was a race between Raj and I, my early move putting Phil a bit too far behind to catch up. When it came down to final scoring I had just managed to pip Raj to the win by a single point thanks to the various end of game bonuses. I enjoyed both games of this even with a few of the production issues it has a nice balance to it. After that we played a quick game of Meteor. A bit like Spaceteam but with a lot less shouting and musical chairs. The objective is to destroy 7 meteors before they hit earth, working together as a team to construct and launch rockets. There's a lot of communication required as you only get 5 rounds at 1 minute each but we still found time to destroy all the meteors with time to spare. We did play the easy version though and I can see this being a lot of fun and more pressured with five or six players.

I ended the evening with a couple of games of Council of Verona. Raj won both games and the second game was notable as I ended up with a hand of 'move' cards which swung the game this way and that laugh

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

It takes two Baby...

Contributors: Jon, Neil, Paul A 

I was wrapped up in a cosy twosome with Neil for most of the evening, we started wth a game of Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small.

Neil picked up 3 new tiles, looking to max out on some nice points for filling them up. Jon picked up two of his own, but stupidly placed one on the wrong side of his cottage and so was never going to be able to build over it.

Jon picked cows to breed, Neil took the horses, and they both took plenty of sheep and pigs (although not enough to get big bonuses.) Near the end, Neil had obviously got his eye on a building that could be built for free if he had 2 of each type of animal, and would then give him 4 extra animals to boot. But Jon was wise (for once) to it, and took the last cow to prevent him getting it. As always, the end comes incredibly swiftly, and the count up revealed that the points for Jon's buildings (cottage conversion and stables) helped him pip Neil to the post. Great game!  


Following that loss I couldn't resist getting 7 Wonders: Duel out. I managed to beat Tommy teacher last Friday, narrowly avoiding a military wipe out and rather fancied I'd remember more rules than Jon might. Age I passed cagily with us both getting an early wonder. Going early for science cards I managed to pick up a progress token as the first move of Age II which allowed me to build the Wonders for 2 less resources. Just about my next move chained the building of my remaining three wonders in one turn and I think we were both convinced it was game over.. having three extra turns one after the other must be the prefect storm.

We played it all out, Jon picking up more and more civilian and commercial buildings and money, me avoiding further military losses and still picking up the science cards. And there we were, at the end of Age III with Jon turning over the penultimate card, a face downer, and it's a science card which he has to take and leave me with the final science card to ensure a scientific victory with a collection of 6 of the 7 science cards. We decided to add up the scores to see by how much I'd conquered him in normal play..

Well, blow me down, if he wouldn't have beat me, and quite comfortably too. His civilian and commercial cards and the guild to score for the latter had wiped out my advantage in science and progress. We was shocked! Flipping balance in this game must be calculated to about a thousandth of a decimal point, amazing.


Paul, Tom, James and I played Skyway Robbery. It's a steampunk themed game of assembling teams of skilled experts & equipment to pull off heists (e.g "I defeat the Tesla coil with my engineer"). I think we all felt the same way: it carries the theme well, is colorful and had some interesting mechanics but takes far too long and is too dependent on luck (e.g a lucrative heist shows up and you have just the right gear to solve it). 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Sun, snow, and intergalactic imperialism

 Contributors: Daniel, David

I arrived later than usual last night and despite James' best efforts to prevent me getting involved in any gaming, the two Jo(h)nnies graciously made a spot for me at TTR: Nordic.

After some initial confusion over the difference between ferries and tunnels (no idea how Jon has managed to make it across the channel so many times in the past on his way to Essen) we got into the swing of things pretty quickly. John and Jon were both trying to run long connections down the length of the map, so while I was struggling to pick up any Locos (which I desperately needed to even get started on my routes) I amused myself by blocking their paths here and there. Things eventually opened up for me and I got so carried away with grabbing additional route cards that I completely forgot what the endgame conditions were. Eyeing up the heavily depleted pile of carriages next to me I asked Jon the fateful question and the penny dropped that I had gone ahead and picked up a hefty route that I couldn't hope to complete - oops!

Despite my disruption through the mainland, John managed to find a more circuitous connection, something which made the difference in being able to score two 20+ point routes. This was more than enough to swag a comfortable win, with Jon's late game acquisitions from the stack of route cards proving a mixed bag that left him around ten points off the boil. I was lagging quite far behind with the 36 point deficit for my incomplete route only mitigated by having the 'most routes' bonus card.


We were then joined by Dani for Machi Koro with all the things mixed in. Dani went down the route of hoarding loads of cash and quickly buying into the expensive landmarks like the Airport. As the rest of us were going for the more mean-spirited cards this turned out to be an excellent strategy as he was able to avoid the worst of any impact from this. All the way through he looked a dead cert to take the honours, however Jon was keeping pace with a flush of income from his stack of cornfields despite having earlier declared them as a useless purchase.

There was to be a twist in this tail though, as Dani's empire was built on mortgaging his way to supremacy and in what should have been the very last turn the bailiffs finally came calling. Left impoverished after their visit he was unable to purchase his final landmark despite it's ridiculously low cost, tantalisingly short of cash after being Scrooge McMoneybags for most of the evening. This left the way open for Jon to snatch victory, with the rest of us a landmark or two short of the finishing line.


Next up was Roll for the Galaxy, wherein I was completely foxed by the addition of an expansion and provided the kind of rules explanation that James would be proud to give. It's a fairly straightforward game when you do get going but boy is it convoluted to begin. After a slow start everybody managed to click and it was interesting to see how we all took very different routes. Dani quickly set up a production engine and began to crank the handle very early on, bringing in a consistent stream of VP tokens and cash. It looked like another unstoppable juggernaut was in process, but as it was fairly slow moving there was breathing space for the rest of us to catch up.

John was piling dice into his cup like there was no tomorrow, which meant that he was able to piggy back on pretty much every action due to the large numbers he was chucking every turn. Maintaining that size of population required a lot of cash so despite the versatility of his pool he was accumulating VPs at a slower rate than he might otherwise have been able to achieve.

Jon eschewed the advice of his homeworld setup, which was encouraging the collection of red dice for a rampant militaristic conquest, and took the hard route to spreading his empire to new worlds with lots of exploration and settle actions along the way.

I had a very tight economy with a relatively small number of dice compared to my opponents, but what I did have was the ability to use cash to make my conquests cheaper. Along the way I picked up a couple of blue worlds with matching dice and so started to piggyback on Dani's actions to churn those for a decent handful of VP chips. Most of my game was focused on getting a 6 point development into play, something which eventually won me the game - except that it didn't as I forgot to include the base value of the development in my score at the time (blame it on habits from the card game). It was tight though with both Jon and Dani on 35, John on 34, and me on 30/36.


James B and I arrived early with Philip turning up just after so we started with a game of Patronize. It's the AEG re-print of the Japanese original and another game set in the tempest universe, although that doesn't add anything other than a series of characters no one has heard of or has any interest in. Although it's quick and effectively a simple trick taking game it has a convoluted scoring system and requires a bit of experience when it comes to timing. Knowing which cards to protect, when to steal and when to pass is all important. It was a one sided game where I dominated from the first turn to the end. Having played it a few times I knew exactly when not to win tricks and when to steal. This allowed me to rack up a pretty big score of 83, James B came second with 64 and Phil last with 50. It's a bit wonky to start with but once you've played it a few times it really turns into a nice game.


After that was a game of North Wind with Karolina, Magnus, James B and myself. A surprisingly thematic exploration game with wonderful components. Large cardboard ships and various upgrades and wooden good tokens that fit snugly onto your ship. Each player is attempting to fulfil contracts at three different ports, the first player to complete 8 contracts wins. The first quarter of the game is Luck driven, learning where certain resources and events are and then exploiting them. However once you've upgraded your ship the luck element is almost completely negated and it's then a race to beat the other players to the contracts, knowing when to ditch or sell certain goods is key. I started quite slowly, as last player the contracts I was aiming for were completed by the others before I could get to them. Magnus meanwhile raced into an early lead by beating pirates and delivering pirate captains to face justice. I managed to complete a few bonuses such as having a full crew and completing a contract in each port that allowed me to catch up towards the end. James B steadily completed the harder contracts whilst Karolina dominated the wine contracts. At the end Karolina managed to pip Magnus to the win by completing the last few contracts as well as the bonuses. So Karolina won with 8 cubes, James and Magnus were on 6 and I ended on 5.


We then moved onto The Grizzled. I'm not a huge fan of co-ops but the artwork and theme were enough to tempt me and I wasn't to be disappointed. This is perhaps the most fun I've had playing a co-op, but as I don't play that many take that with a pinch of salt. It's set in the trenches of WW1 and each player is a French solider. The mission is to survive by relying on each other for support whilst battling the never ending horrors such as shelling, mustard gas and various traumas. Each round a player becomes the squad leader and leads a mission into no man's land. The objective is to complete missions safely, if you succeed the cards are discarded if you fail the cards are added back in. In our first game we were totally demoralised from the very first mission, Magnus was rendered mute for most of the game and James B was a tyrannical leader who refused to give up command and who continually made life hard for us. So it didn't take long before we failed, the never ending battery finally killing our morale. In the second game we failed again but came within a whisker of winning it, we unfortunately ran out of support at the crucial time. I thought it was great, a real challenge, which makes me want to play it again.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

In the future we'll all be carrying baggage on the Moon

Contributors: David, Jon, Peter

The first game was one quick round of Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper with James, Neil, James B and myself. We made it through about two thirds of the deck wondering why no one was playing Victim cards that matched the colour of the evidence cards in game before Jon turned up and explained that you can meld any evidence cards once any victim has been played and that the evidence cards don't match the colour of the Victim. We could have been there a while longer before we figured that out laugh

After that was Port Royal with Magnus, Peter, Philip and myself. Only Peter had played before but it seemed simple enough to pick up. Both Peter and Philip went for a strategy of buying Pirates so they could control the ships being drawn which then allowed them to buy the higher priced cards and claim contracts. I meanwhile went for the luck of the draw that failed badly as I went bust at least four times. Pushing your luck with no pirates isn't the greatest strategy. In the end Peter won with 13 points compared to Philip on 10 and Magnus and I on 6. 

After that was half of Android, the game is dripping in flavour text and background, the sort of game you could spend half the day playing. However we only had two and bit hours and some of that was a rules run-through and grappling with a lot of different parts. So we only made it to the half way point before calling it but it's definitely something I would love to play again now we know how to play it which should speed things up. As for the game I spent most of the time on the Moon, gathering clues and completing my story in a positive way despite a huge amount of bad baggage. The others in the meantime were completing the conspiracy, laying down contracts and gathering evidence on earth. My favourite moment came when I played a card on James that forced him to spend a full turn moving to a location to fulfil his duty, something I don't think he appreciated laugh By the time we called it Dan was leading with 38 points with Raj and myself a close second and third. Philip was fourth and James was on 3 points laugh so it was all up for grabs.


As alluded to above, my favourite moment of the evening was hearing the increasingly frustrated remarks from the Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper table, and on closer examination, discovered that they were trying to play the unfinishable game. That is what you get, ladies & gentlemen, when James gets to explain the rules.....

We then got to play one (which turned into two, as no-one else was near finishing their games) games of Pandemic Legacy: Season 1. Still in January, we tonked the game when Jon handed a squillion cards to Paul in one go, who then cured not one, but two diseases in a single turn! What a guy... (or actually, Cecily Petri-Dish, as his character has been named... kiss )

Moving into February, we were excited to find out that we could now XXXXXXXX XXX XXX X XXXXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX and more importantly, that meant that we could XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXX and XXXXX X XXXX XXXXXX!!!

But - we still lost! To be fair, it was an unlucky draw of a card that caused so many outbreaks, rather than James's poor personal hygiene standards, so it was a bit gutting. The only consolation? We're getting our money's-worth out of it.....

Then we played Pairs - Paul lost - and Too Many Cinderellas, that James won by default following the introduction of the random card at the end, which stuffed both John and Jon. I'm sure we've never played with that rule before (although Dan claims otherwise.) Good that pure random luck and chance gives James a chance to win something every now and again though.......


After Port Royal the inside of the Stockpile box saw the light of day (not strictly true since it was dark outside, more, saw the half-light of an English pub).

The two John's and Magnus invested in some Electric Company which I just ignored for the whole game. Round after round the share price of Irritating Electric, I believe it was called, just rose and rose as the cards fell its way. Shares split and doubled in price again and again. Meanwhile, my Appalling Automobiles company went bust just as I bought the shares. So, in the end John B won closely followed by other John, closely followed by Magnus, not closely followed by me. It is a good game with loads of hidden information giving it great entertainment value, and it gives me complete freedom to blame the cards for my poor financial record. However I have now played this twice and come waaaay last both times so my excuses may start to wear thin.

Kingdom Builder followed and we choose to play the new House Hurling Expansion. Here the idea is to randomly hurl the houses around the floor of the venue you are playing in. This must be done one by one. The card draw between hurls allows you to admire the pictures of flowers, desert, grassland and other landscapes whilst you are hurling. Marvellous stuff. Magnus beat us, followed by the Johns and last of all me. I prefer the base game.