Wednesday, 22 July 2015

We had a right time of it..

Me for a few weeks following Dan's marathon stint, RESPECT of the highest order. His thought process was fascinating. I love finding out what makes people tick and Dan is a great case study. The way he plays is always impressive, the speed of his insights scary! I recently hosted a learning game of Andean Abyss with Dan. What a game. Thankfully it comes with a run through of the game which we tagged along with to learn various new mechanics and intricacies. That Dan sussed it all out quicker than me was a given. That he was able to supplement my learning was invaluable, cheers fellow!

Anyway, thought I'd spend some of the blog looking at my week's gaming. Following only my second visit to the club last week for 2015 it was nice to log my plays on the Geek. I'd enjoyed Sons of Anarchy and it was great to get another play of Fresco as well as learn Too Many Cinderellas. I managed to get some thoughts down on Sons of Anarchy for the blog, a useful exercise as my amnesia kicks in so quickly nowadays. 

Thursday and time to spend some time with Josie, my 12yr old. She doesn't mind humouring her old man with some gaming from time to time and she asked if I fancied playing Chateau Roquefort, but of course! Get your mice scurrying over rooftops for cheese, this is perfect for youngsters. She thrashed me in the first game but revenge was mine in the second, mainly because I was able to hijack her mice and off the roof they tumbled, good fun. Also decided to order some more Artscow baggies as Fresco badly needs one.. as if the 101 I've already got weren't enough! Made the order up with Race for the Galaxy baggies and some personal ones.

Friday, and I had Tom over during the day for some gaming. He'd asked me about what I'd fancied and so Fantastiqa got it's first outing. The rules had been pretty heavy but once you get playing the game they all make sense and it's really rather straight forward. Ultimately a deck building race game there are some interesting mechanics and the artwork/theme is impressive throughout. Next up was his Kingdom of Soloman. A worker placement, area control/influence/enclosure, network building treat, this turned out to be very impressive. Tight, some interesting decisions to be made and plenty of interaction as well. Has gone on the Hora wishlist! For our last game we played the BGG Card Game and Tom also enjoyed it, see below for more info.

So, a good day Friday all in. Over the weekend I added some more games to my Essen geek list, up to 40 items now. As it happened I also booked the ferry for my third sojourn. Super group this year with James, Jon and Paul D joining me. Also confirmed the hotel as we're returning a day earlier than we did last year. Bring it on!!

Also over the weekend I'd unpacked my copy of Aquasphere from last year's Essen as James had invited us over for games and it looked as though we'd get a chance at this Feld at long last. As it was Jon realised his family were away and so he could have people over to keep him company. James got swindled into giving me a lift over - more alcohol allowed - and we were joined by Noel too. Monday's games kicked off with Isle of Trains which I like a lot. Then a peach of a game of Railways of the World as I prefer to call it, the England and Wales map. It was a belter of a game with James beating me by 1 point, the others going for interaction rather than victory. We then sneaked in a play of 7 Wonders including the Cities expansion and I was crap but never mind. Another good evening's gaming!

On Tuesday I took delivery of some promo cards that feature Joel Eddy, a video reviewer on the Geek who I'd supported on kickstarter. There were four cards and one enters my collection as part of the Viticulture/Tuscany game. Another will go to Mr Williamson as it's for Fleet - not a game I ever fell for in three experimental plays! - and another to James as it's for Alchemist, although I guess he'll be trading that on pretty soon. The final card is for Mage Wars and it's yours if you ask of it! I also received a kickstarter game that I had almost given up on. It was supposed to be delivered last November so to receive anything was a bonus. It's called NGo: New Global Order and I think that I have lost any interest in the thing! It arrived in a tube and has a load of 3-D plastic pieces that are of poor quality but that's nothing compared to the card deck, have produced better on my £25 printer.. ah, the joys of kickstarter. Could well be one of the worst campaigns I have backed. Never mind, it's only money! After dinner had a quick game of chess with Basti. I'm still useless at endings but managed to win regardless. Must get him to play more over the summer.


The week finished Wednesday with a play of the Polish Ark of Animals with Josie. Quite a nice tile grab of a game. Load up that ark but be careful, the herbivores will eat the grain, the carnivores the herbivores and you have to balance the ship too, naturally. On the way to IBG I stopped in at Lakeside where our friend Philip has been sectioned. He looked okay but was far from being himself. His concentration has been badly affected by his meds but at least he's calm. It's very sad to visit him and I feel as if he's in for a long period of recuperation. His bipolar illness has hit him very hard this time, especially such a long time after his last episode some 10 years ago. I was grateful to everyone at the club to take my mind off his predicament for a while. Will be visiting him again Monday though.

Right. IBG stuff.. This week saw another good attendance with a newbie, Philip from Narwich, and a returning face from aeons ago, Raj. Welcome returns also for TomTom and John. Then the usual rabble were there too: James II, David, James, Jon, Dan, Paul Agapow, Philip and Rachel.

And a right old mix of stuff hit the tables, all featuring a plethora of cards with only two exceptions. Let's see how it all took shape shall we?

Much to the horror of the cynical Agapow the BoardGameGeek the Card Game was first up. Neil introduced and taught this sweet set collection filler to James II, David, Tom and Phillippe. Everyone starts with 4 games in their hand and each turn sees them either taking a new card or playing cards into their tableau.  That the cards feature board games we all love, on the whole, makes it a good addition to a collector's collection!

Before taking an action you my trade a card with an opponent although all negotiations we had lead nowhere. Then it's action time. You can take a face-up card from one of four on the table, possibly having to 'buy' it with another card if it's marked as 'rare' or 'favourite', or thrifting it blind from the draw deck, or holding a maths trade for it: each player gives up a card from their hand and one is added from the deck, then each in turn select one to keep.

The alternative action is to play cards into your tableau which is the only way to score. You can either  playing matching types of games, Family, Strategy, Abstract, etc., or a collection of different types. The former scores by squaring the number of cards, the latter in the triangular number sequence. And that's it. 80 cards, the end card gets shuffled into the final 10 of the deck and off you go..


Our game featured plenty of maths trades with everyone cautiously holding onto their hands for many rounds. Eventually David chose to reveal his strategy placing down a nice set of Children's Games which he followed with a Family Games Set. Tom placed a couple of sets too, Strategy and Abstracts I think they were, before Neil managed a 6 card set of Customisable Games. James and Philip then both put down full 8 card Collections but despite a few more bits and bobs being played it was down to me to place another 4 card set of Children's Games and a 4 card Collection, making hay before the game's sudden end hit.  

Much to Paul's derision all agreed it played way better than they had expected, hurrah!! Meanwhile, on another table, Paul tells us more:

'I lead off by teaching a host of IBGers Deep Sea Adventure, a.k.a. Deep Sea Divers Sure Are Assholes. It produced exactly the result one would expect: reckless dives to dangerous depths, timid turning-about and egregious endangerment of other players. Most of us died multiple times, sinking into the firmament with our treasure, but it was glorious fun.'

Next up for me was Imperial Settlers. A game I collected for Dan at Essen last year and managed to get the illustrious designer Ignacy Trzewiczek to not only autograph but also to draw one of his infamous cows on the rule book! I have to say I'd avoided it purposefully to date but having now given it a go it was another great experience. I really can't give you much detail here. Dan certainly showed us how the game ought to be played but we all got it after a couple of rounds. Certainly up for another play of this some time.

Jon Wooden; Trains. They're inseparable! So here he is to report on the latest round: Phil had played twice before, and didn’t take too much persuading to try to hone his skills further. Rache had never played before, but is gloriously optimistic about most things, and David had played Dominion so had no problem picking it up.

The 3 newer members of the party were very excited about playing on the board, that they instantly started laying track and building stations like some gung-ho 19th century American pioneers. All of them picked up a route bonus, and were happily wending their way into each other’s territory, picking up city points as they went. 
Jon had opted for the ‘lay track into the remote locations in a circumspect manner whilst trying to collect enough booty to buy a juicy stadium or two along the way’ strategy, which was stymied slightly by the speed at which the game was likely to end.
Indeed, Rache ended it by laying her last track, and when the points were totted up, it was very close, with Jon and David tying for first place having pursued very different strategies. Great game!
David 38; Jon 38; Phil 34; Rach 30. 
Back to ace reporter Agapow:


'Orléans with James, John & Tom. As I've said before, Orleans is a curious experience for me: it contains almost everything I hate in a game - point salad scoring, building stuff to build stuff, a weird resource subsystem that barely interacts with the rest of the game, stuff and stuff and stuff ... but it's a game that I enjoy immensely. Paul "Boardgameguru" Lister once praised another game by saying that even if you lost, you felt that you'd achieved something. Orleans gives me that feeling. Moves fast & good fun. 


Over on another table they all looked pretty glum until I realised why. Here's Mr Wooden to take us through Gloom.
This game has an innovative mechanism of using see-through cards that can be laid on top of one another to modify their scores. This should definitely be used in other games. The game itself is not so much of a game, rather a story-telling experience, where players play cards on their own and each other’s families in an attempt to make themselves as miserable as possible, and others as happy as possible. Characters are systematically killed off, and when one player’s family is entirely RIP then the game ends and scores are totalled. The fun of it is in the storytelling – explaining how your brattish 8 year old daughter was somehow chased from the park by poodles, only to end up turning the corner and being eaten by a bear. Or how a daring circus-performer became hideously deformed, only to overcome all odds to find his true love and get married.


The game went on too long (it transpired that an expansion had been added to use a fifth family, but each family should have been reduced to only 4 characters as a result) but it was a fun experience nevertheless. Jon ‘won’ – but Phil’s storytelling was up there with Roald Dahl…

Following Imperial Settlers was the ever brilliant Council of Verona. Opting to keep Romeo but also Rosaline, whose agenda is to keep the lovers apart, I thought I might be able to scupper everyone else's plans and spring her late taking 4 points and winning. I managed to do the latter just fine, collect my 4 points. That at least three others outscored me meant I felt even more of an idiot than usual! Top game.

Time for another pint then back upstairs for Saboteur, one my children's faves. Being dealt a saboteur card was no surprise but discovering that James II was the other one with only three turns having been taken meant it was going to be difficult hiding my role for long. That the four 'goodies' all sat in a line meant they had plenty of time to construct a useful tunnel. 

Added to that the map cards all came out early and two of the confirmed where the goal was early too. Then Tom came in with cave ins clearing the path and victory was complete for the goodies, bum!

King of Tokyo (thanks Jon!)

So long since I last played this, and it was such a fun experience that it made me want to get a game in much more often. There were the usual shenanigans and much ‘advice’ was offered - mainly “You definitely want to roll lots of claws to attack Jon / James (delete as appropriate)”

As it happens, Phil was knocked out early, James got close to 20 points and was then taken down, whilst newcomer Philippe stood tall in Tokyo, destroying Rache and Jon with a final flourish.

Awesome stuff – definitely a game that needs an IBG resurgence…..

My final game of the evening was another run out for Too Many Cinderellas. This is simply ace and just when you think you know what you're doing your choice of Cinderella gets 'mullered' for want of a better description. Tom, Dan and Philip all got an early win and then Tom and Dan were up to two each before I decided I really must buckle in and took the next two 'frames' on the trot. The decider went to Tom, poor old Prince Charming, fancy ending up with him!

Not a lot I can tell you about the tile laying fest of Carcassonne between Tom and James, I guess one of them won, oh yes indeedy!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A Farewell to 'erm's

Players: James, James II, David, Phil, Gareth, Sarah, Dan, Paul D, Paul A, Andy, Neil




I'm in a particularly reflective mood today, most likely caused by this being my last turn as blogmaster after six months of my particular brand of hot mess marbled with cold indifference. Looking back at my previous rambling prefaces there is a common thread of sorts, one where I rather introspectively attempt to unearth the driving reasons behind all of this; why I indulge in this hobby, and why I find myself in the recreation room of a local pub every Wednesday night instead of chanting lewd epithets from the terraces of a sports stadium somewhere, or even simply downstairs giving my brain cells up to Bacchus halfway down the umpteenth cold pint. As you can see, this hobby has become such a fundamental part of my life that I'm not even sure what normal people get up to on their midweek evenings, or even if whatever it is makes them any more normal all the same. 

I've attempted to touch into some topics that question the motive forces behind Why We Play; from questioning our foibles and dividing opinion on game design and the associated mentality of hanging labels on everything (rather appropriately putting things into boxes), through to more sensitive subjects such as the impact of the collecting mentality driving a rash of lower quality, dissatisfying, products, or common attitudes to 'outsiders' in contrast to our general easy readiness for inclusivity and acceptance.



So what is it about this hobby that attracts our interest and brings us together? I've seen many eloquent postulations on the subject, pointing out that it is fundamentally a highly social pursuit, that we come together due to high-minded and lofty desires to better ourselves and to test and be challenged on an intellectual level. So many of these arguments sound like a clamouring for justification; people seem to often be slightly embarrassed about what they get up to, and these highly conceptual reasons are bandied around as if they bring credibility to the hobby when all that is really needed is honesty. 

After six months of navel gazing I have come to a simpler conclusion.

We play because we like it. It's fun and that's enough, no reason or explanation required.


The Capitals
 


Gareth collared me from a seat at what shall be quietly known as "The Extreme Biker Mayhem Table" to make up a table of three and this is what we plumped for. Phil wandered in and was ambushed into making it four which stretched the play time out a bit but at least we had a few laughs on the way.  
It would be easy to brush this off as Suburbia with some extra bits but, well, that's precisely what it is. Gameplay is very similar except in this one you have a lot more to manage and balance, with resource tracks for several elements of your city as opposed to the simpler two-stage economy of Ted Alspach's "box of hex". Otherwise there is the usual rigmarole of tiles that activate when you build them, others that trigger off other buildings in your tableau, and something completely different with tiles that you power up in order to activate them; although you can also send tourists to these tiles instead of energy which creates the uncomfortable inference that visitors to your concrete eyesore of an industrial wasteland are either being kidnapped into slave labour or bundled into the furnace at the power plant.
Having played this a couple of times I was quite far up the learning curve, which I think is fair to describe as a bit of bitch, at least to get over the first big hump and then it's fairly simple when it all clicks into place. But you've got to learn how the game all fits together before you can really start to implement any form of strategy, and the rather dense amount of symbols on the tiles creates an entry barrier to the game similar to that experienced with Race for the Galaxy. 
Sarah started to put together some good combinations that would allow her to create a steady stream of residents and workers (which need to be kept close in number as unemployment has a negative impact), but at the cost of slowing her infrastructure to a crawl. Phil raced ahead on the culture track which enabled him to kidnap attract victims tourists to his town of museums and statues. Left with little choice in the first couple of rounds (I was third or last in player order at the beginning) I played the long game by selecting tiles that would give me building bonuses throughout the game, a solid start on infrastructure, and a solid step forward on the population tracks. My cash economy was wrecked and delivering me handfuls of negative VP chips but I felt I would be able to easily brush off what appeared to the others to be a poor start. That's another thing about this game that people sometimes struggle with - you start off losing and it keeps getting worse until you somehow turn a corner and begin to erode your negative score. Gareth... was doing his own thing, it looked like he was focussing on a strong cash economy but then he abandoned it after a couple of turns and started chasing culture before switching again to emplyment, as if the game was a platter of cardboard tapas.
As the game progressed Gareth changed track again, moving into the energy business in a race with Sarah to build bigger and better power stations. Phil lost momentum on the culture track and was flummoxed by stagnant population levels that kept the negative points flowing in. Meanwhile, my quiet game began to pick up pace and some complex combos I had built allowed me to ramp my cash right up to the top for VP bonuses in several consecutive rounds, which also enabled me to regularly afford first or second pick. I used this position to gradually improve each area in turn and to get a full set of purple bonus buildings into play for some big scores. 
At the end it was a runaway victory with eighty-some points, Sarah was second with a couple of dozen points and the other chaps just about managed to clear into positive point scores.



Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem (Thanks Neil)
 


So, the pinky bikers of James II took on David's Chinese dudes and Neil's Mexicana gang. It's tough in town, life affirming decisions about whether to go after the lolly, the dope or guns, and then maybe have a bit of gang warfare on the side.

At its heart Sons of Anarchy is a worker placement game where you can fight for the options. The town is full of useful buildings, and each round there are one-off options available too. You're constantly churning the resources to try and win with the most cash. There were some obvious places to go each round, but also a bit of bluffing and negotiation too, "Yeah, I'll leave this whorehouse to you but I want some dope to do so."

James's effeminates got hammered several times while David and Neil looked out for each other. Neil spent a bit too much money early on while David was busy discreetly stockpiling. A final round showdown between James and everyone else lead to him dropping behind. David stymied Neil with a sneaky ploy to stop him selling too many guns, but he'd already won it in fact: Chinese Biker Dudes victorious! I enjoyed the game play and it was a pretty tight design too. The banter was great, a superb experience.  




Evolution



With Gareth and Sarah heading off home, I coaxed Phil into a quick two player game of Evolution, the second play of the evening for this game of gluttony where the only thing that matters is how much food you can stuff into your bag. So, it's a bit like Supermarket Sweep except without Dale Winton (or Guy Fieri if you're reading this in a more Western timezone). Although Guy Fieri is considerably less camp than Dale which loses some of the 'knowing wink' fun of what is fundamentally a terrible idea for a TV show. Then again, Guy does have an irrepressible natural charisma, managing to sound upbeat and excited even when faced with an obviously terrible mound of greasy deep fried fat smothered in barbeque sauce. I'm spending too much time talking about daytime TV shows and not enough about the actual game here; anyway, my greedy dinomals were out-scoffing Phil's for most of the game, and when I lucked across the one-two-three sucker punch of intelligent pack-hunting carnivore scumbags in hand it was rude not to tear up his innocent grazing herds for a couple of turns until he could respond. 
The final score was heavily lopsided. I'm still on the fence of thinking that I like this game but some of the combos just seem so broken, as if the stakes keep escalating without a natural overlap or ending. It's easy to get a march on your opponent and then hammer down on them, and by the time they can react you're already moving on. In this game I couldn't be stopped even when Phil managed to second-guess me several rounds in a row, blocking my carnivore attacks but resulting in starvation across the board as I simply picked off the smaller morsels and allowed my population to thin slightly each round. The Jury remains out for me on this one I'm afraid....
  

Also played: Greed, Fresco, Too Many Cinderellas



IBG Q&A
On our Boardgamegeek guild page James has initiated an open Q&A session with a new question each week. Feel free to play along at home, and even if you are not a regular IBG attendee you are more than welcome to join in with your own answers!

Last weeks question: "What's your favourite sports based board game...? Is sports a theme you like to play? Who's the worst sport at the club at losing?"
Neil: "Favourite sports based game.. Subbuteo, Subbuteo Rugby, Subbuteo Cricket, Football Express, and Owzthat! Played mountains of each as a nipper. Modern games and sports based: none that I've played so far, very sad. Must be scope for loads of interesting games I'd have thought.
Who's the worst sport at the club.. there's certainly a few candidates who are very keen to win but I have to say that I can't think of any really bad losers [Woody]."


John B: "My two favourite sports games are racing games, not something I am that interested in, in real life. Turfmaster, which is fantastic horse racing game and one of my top ten games of all time. Fantastic fun with 7 or 8 player. (It will play less). And Thunder Alley, such an innovative and brilliant racer."

Paul A: "Best sports-based game? Leader 1 by a country mile. It's a clever, neat engaging game with novel mechanisms that actually simulates the sport well.
I have an affection forThe Really Nasty Horse Racing Game as well, but it's more about psychology than the sport. "


Soren: "The best sports games are definitely Leader 1: Hell of the North (a significant improvement on the already great earlier Leader 1 and Giro d'Italia: The Game versions) and Race! Formula 90. Both games really capture the essence and feel of the sports. The gameplay in both games is all about advanced resource management and positioning and timing and offer real strategic depth."

James: "No love for The World Cup Game ? I always feel this should be played more than once every few years when there is an international football tournament on and everyone remembers it !
I'd be up for a game of leader on by the way if someone wanted to bring it in... I did have a copy of this Giro d'Italia: The Game once, but sat unloved and unplayed for 2 years so it's gone. I do still have the card game though Giro D'Italia Card Game - anyone know if this is any good ?"


Dan: "Subbuteo would be the all time king of sports games, I don't think anyone can argue with something that is a hobby in it's own right to the extent of there being a regular world championship.
Modern sports games seem to mostly be racing games of one type or another which are often hamstrung (geddit?) by being roll & move with some additional bells and whistles, and the cracks do show. Either that or they try to 'Euro-ise' them into resource management sims which just feels a bit off.
Very rarely do sports games actually communicate any feeling of the sport itself. Horse racing games come close I guess, but then they are games about gambling rather than sport. I tought Time of Soccer made a good fist of emulating a football management pc game but there were too many elements that were gamey and overall a bit shit. Plus again, not really bringing to life the sport itself.
Although it's not based on reality, Blood Bowl: Team Manager has a nice aspect of recreating just the highlights of pivotal games from a season of sport, a really neat idea that adresses another one of the main issues of sports games; that they often take longer to play than the actual sport itself. That would probably be my personal pick although it's way down my list of favourite games. I played the heck out of second edition Bloodbowl as a teen, and I guess it did actually feel like a sport of some sort was going on."


Paul D: "The game which I remember that feels the most like the sport is subbuteo cricket. Subbuteo football is good and I pined after subbuteo rugby but never managed to play it. But cricket was the best, even though I'm not a huge cricket fan.
I kinda had fun with Time of Soccer and it came close to being very good, but more of a game and less of a sport.
Race games are probably the easiest to simulate as a board game, Resulting in lots of them. I enjoy Ave Ceasar - simple but works well. Does chariot racing count?
But I love the idea of good sports games, so would be happy to try any that come recommended. "




This weeks question: "What is your favourite auction game? Is there a kind of auction mechanic you like/don't like...?"
 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

No Frills, no spills, no shills

Players: James, Alex, David, James, Paul A, Jon, Tom, Dan, Noel, Gareth, Sarah, John B, plus a mystery man who swept in like a moonlight shadow, he passed on worried and warning lost in a riddle that Wednesday night, caught in the middle of a desperate fight.

 



No fancy ruminations on the hobby this week I'm afraid; with the holidays approaching time is short but Paul and Tom have supplied us with plenty of reports for what was played.

Peloponnenennes (thanks Tom W)



Jon triumphed in Peloponnes by a point after realising that he could use the last ditch tempest to eliminate a 1 point tile but secure the grain needed to feed one of his people (worth 3 points). Great game as always. Eight rounds but definitely NOT eight decisions *cough* Noel doesn't know what he's talking about *cough*



Nations: the dice game (thanks Tom W)


Nice to see that Dan has forgotten the game of Nations: The Dice Game that he was involved with for an hour - and even won. Personal highlight was James identifying Dan as his only competition - just before his large army of dice failed in the final era, allowing me to leapfrog over him into 2nd place thanks to building that ancient piece of crumpet, Lady Liberty herself. Still enjoying this greatly - easy to explain and to grasp, difficult decisions and a brisk play time. I've also fallen back in love with dice rolling too. Who knew that'd happen!?


Sushi Go! (thanks Tom W)



An absolute belter - 7 Wonders without the bullshit as Paul so succinctly described it. A well placed pudding in the last round allowed me to share the pudding spoils with Gareth and secure me a one point win over [man who hadn't seen before but Dan reliably informs me had been an attendee a number of years beforehand - but has nevertheless left off the attendee list *deep breath*)



Madame Ching (thanks Paul A)



Madame Ching was an Essen release that I skipped over and heard few praising the virtues of. But it's of that one-hour, light-but-not-too-light, medium-strength sort of game that goes down well, i.e. a typical JohnB joint. Actually, I feel this undersells it, as there is some quite clever mechanics in the game, with you balancing how far to push your expedition with getting more (but cheaper) rewards, and collecting special cards to dick over other players. So, a success.


People say Romans, they go The House 


Paul A: "I attempted a random strategy in Romans Go Home!, but Gareth won anyway. That is, the game is bullshit, but I have a ready-made excuse."
Tom W adds: "Agreed that Romans Go Home is bullshit but if you play with a light heart and a quick hand, it can be a lot of fun watching your best laid plans blow up in smoke. It also has a similar appeal to Limes in terms of seeing the vastly different ways that the players play a very similar set of cards."



A Fake Artist goes to The London Eye (thanks Tom W)



Fake Artist - hmmm. Think that 10.15 start was a bit early for me. Also, am beginning to think that everyone drawing individual clues isn't the right way to go and it needs to return to each player drawing just one line in a bigger picture. Avoids situations like David had when he had to guess the London Eye when given the Thames, House of Parliament and the Gherkin to boot!!! 







Also played: Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Suburbia, Great Fire of London, The Speicherstadt



IBG Q&A
On our Boardgamegeek guild page James has initiated an open Q&A session with a new question each week. Feel free to play along at home, and even if you are not a regular IBG attendee you are more than welcome to join in with your own answers!

Last weeks question: "to keep things topical... What games can you propose for a summer theme'd game evening..."


James: "I'll start with a copy of Sun, Sea & Sand that I think we played once at the club a few years back... not a bad little game around managing an island resort and attracting visitors... but for some reason it was a one-hit wonder at the club..."

Soren: "Titten Ärsche Sonnenschein"

John B: "This one looks like a bundle of laughs: Letnisko"

Tom W: "Neil has Letnisko - not a bad game all told. Perhaps Steam Donkey - building attractions in sunny Blackpool, Southend and Eastbourne! "

Dan: "How about Sun, Sea, and Sand? ninja"


This weeks question: "What's your favourite sports based board game...? Is sports a theme you like to play? Who's the worst sport at the club at losing?" 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

It's what Aristotle would have wanted...

Players: Tom, Jon, Noel, Alex, James, David, Gareth, Sarah, John, Raj





Good old Aristotle, now there was a fella who was the Sheldon Cooper of his time. He really loved everything to be in it's place and had little time, and more than a few scathing words, for those irksome misguided louts like Plato with their crusty old notions of the ephemeral beauty of chaos and the purpose of discovery over creation. 
Just like that classic divide (bear with me here, I'm taking quite a leap) there is a commonly held belief that a game that begins with symmetrical starting conditions will be an even contest, the implication being that asymmetry in game design throws everything into a spin and a fair and equal start allows players to match wits on an equal basis. But as soon as the first move is made, the game transforms into an asymmetrical position due to the ungovernable nature of the choice of move that the first player decides to make; without knowing precisely what each player is going to do next there can never be full symmetry throughout the game. Depending on how delicate the complex interacting elements of a game may be, this can lead to issues where the ‘wrong’ first move can effectively put a player out of the game, or hand an inevitable victory to another (consider the scripted opening moves in Peurto Rico for example, or making a poor opener in Chess).
When a game begins from an asymmetrical position the individual goals are clearer, particularly if each player is also working toward different victory conditions or are scoring VPs in unique ways. Each player has a certain amount of breathing space in which to develop their overall strategy as the circles within which they are encouraged to push their activity are less likely to overlap until such time as the game builds up momentum. The choices they make, and how well they respond and adapt to the game state, will still create challenges and opportunities that take each individual game into new directions, but it strikes me that a game that starts off from an uneven position is more likely to provide fair and even play than one where everybody starts at exactly the same point but become unequal the moment the first playing piece is touched.
I'll leave you with a couple of pertinent quotes to ruminate on...


 "There is no exquisite beauty... without some strangeness in the proportion" Edgar Allan Poe

 "Don't confuse symmetry with balance" Tom Robbins


7 Wonders (thanks Noel)

Jon, Tom, Alex and John were very kindly holding a seat open for me at 7 Wonders as I arrived late.

This was my 3rd/4th game of 7W and I managed to win for the first time but I think more due to the good fortune of getting 4 or 5 hands in a row, through ages 2 and then 3, containing the Science card that chained off the cards I'd already built, rather than any particular clever strategising. The science cards combined with a free science from my Wonder gave me 3 full sets of Science and combined with some simple blue cards was enough to win.

7w is a strange one for me, I appreciate the simplicity of the drafting system and the whole thing is enjoyable as an activity but Im not sure about the game here...it seems just too difficult to influence other players, particularly those not directly adjacent. To do so, you really need to know exactly which blue and green cards (in particular) they have already built and then which free builds they would be entitled, but this information is buried in the bottom corner of their cards and not accessible to anyone other than their neighbour and even then with some difficulty.

So everyone should rely on the neighbour not passing on cards that will help opponents, but to do so would stuff up their own game and so everyone then generally just concentrates on their own tableau ...and so it feels a bit like playing glorified patience, hoping your chaining cards show up. ... though maybe thats just the way I play (usually poorly but this time my cards came in!)

Still very enjoyable company and table banter though!



Kingdom Builder (thanks Jon)

Another superb game of KB with newcomer Raj and Alex, who hadn't played before either.
Mission cards were: Hermits (Build lots of separate settlement areas); Fishermen (build near water); Ambassadors (build next to opponents) and a 'task card' which gave 5 points for any terrain area filled entirely with your settlements.
Noel and Alex both picked up 2 'desert' special ability tiles (lay an extra settlement on deserts) and Alex also snagged Stonehenge (lay a 4th settlement), which meant that he was laying 6 settlements each round. Jon had opted for the Crossroads tile (as had Noel) which allowed them to pick up 2 terrain cards instead of one and choose between them.
Raj was feeling his way along, but had quickly picked up the concept of how to place settlements to your best advantage.
Alex soon declared his enjoyment of the game, opining that it was a 'less confrontational version of Carcassonne.' At that moment, Noel dumped a settlement deliberately in Jon's path, denying him at least 5 points in the process - less confrontational my a***!!
Suddenly - out of nowhere - Alex ended the game. Noel had a few settlements left, Raj had a few more and Jon had 16 - nearly half his stock - unplaced!
However, it's not how many you've got, but where you place them. Everyone had scored a dozen or more points from Ambassadors, with Noel just inching ahead. Citadels scoring was negligible, but Jon had done ok with Hermits and Fishermen. Noel had also scored heavily for Fishermen, and had done well enough elsewhere to leave him with a comfortable 10 point victory.
Jon looked down at his massive pile of unused settlements with sadness - so many potential points lying forlornly on the green baize.... <sigh>
Noel 61; Jon 51; Alex 45; Raj 41



Also played: Elevenses, Kingsburg, Nations: The Dice Game, Machi Koro Harbour



IBG Q&A
On our Boardgamegeek guild page James has initiated an open Q&A session with a new question each week. Feel free to play along at home, and even if you are not a regular IBG attendee you are more than welcome to join in with your own answers!

Last weeks question: "Who are your favourite game designers, and/or the ones you consider are the ones to watch in the coming years?"

 

Paul A: "I don't really "do" favourite designers the way some do, but I realised a few years ago that Friedemann Friese had made a lot of games that I thought were really interesting. I don't like all of them, but there's a lot of inventive stuff there. And, of course and to James' horror, Phil Eklund is cutting his own groove. His creations are not always user-friendly, but they're always interesting. And with Pax Porfiriana, I feel he may be becoming more accessible."


Tom: "In terms of favourite designers, I would certainly list Herr Knizia. Of course, he has produced some dreck but when he's on form no-one can hold a candle to him. I shall forever have a man-crush on Rudiger Dorn if only for Jambo. Marcel-Andre Casasola Merkle is underrated. Tom Lehmann is a bit of a genius. Say what you like about Stefan Feld but anyone with Arena: Roma II, Notre Dame and The Castles of Burgundy on their CV deserves high praise.
I think that the Harding brothers (Sushi Go, Elevenses, Cacao) are ones to watch for the future. Gerhard Hecht is another one whose games I keep an eye out for. It will also be interesting to see what Mark Chaplin comes up with away from the Revolver formula which is basically 2 player nirvana."



James: "I'm not sure I've become a fanboy yet of anyone in particular... Kramer and kiEaling games are always worth a peep, Bausa also, and the 2 brands seem to be on a roll recently... Shouldn't forget Seiji Kanai and Hisashi Hayashi..."


Dan: "I don't follow the work of any particular designer but there are a few whose work I have unwittingly gravitated toward.
Recently I have really enjoyed output from Ignacy Trzewiczek and Ted Alspach. I have no idea who designs for Oink games, but Deep Sea Whatever and Fake Artist have warmed me somewhat to hipster games even if the other ones I've been subjected to were terrible. Equal parts awful and amazing, certainly one to watch.
I think that Corey Konieczka has done some wildly inventive things, not just as a designer but also as an editor/developer, although much of his work has been hamstrung by the FFG 'bigger, louder' methodology. Phil Eklund is the mad genius of boardgame design, not particularly accessible but becoming moreso especially as he has finally recognised the merit in hiring a proper graphic designer for his titles.
I want to like Knizia more than I do, I think he is a great puzzle designer but feel that many of his games are repeating work he has already done before. Then again, Carc: the Castle is probably my most played game ever and I have undoubtedly played his games more than any other designers, so I like some of his games even if I do find his total output a little suspect. "



Paul D: "I'm less swayed by a designer than some might be, although it might tell me what type of game I'm going to get myself into and let me decide if I'm in the mood. And if I've LOVED a game then I'm likely to look at anything in front of me from a particular designer, but as some have stated, some blow hot and cold (step forward Mr Knizier - I agree great puzzle designer, and sometimes these work brilliantly as games, sometimes not).
So I'd certainly look at a Jason Matthews game, but I might be wary that it'd take a long time to play it and therefore it might not be for every session. Same for Anand Gupta who I heard has just been released from a restrictive agreement allowing him to put more games out now.
Same goes for Stefan Feld - if I'm in the mood for a semi-meaty salad of points then I might go for it, otherwise not.
I do seem to like most games by Donald X Vaccarino, but they're more varied so I wouldn't be so sure. "



Jon: "Designers? To be honest, I don't pay too much attention to who designed a particular game, as games designers don't generally equate with authors / musicians / artists, where you have a better idea of their particular style or output. For instance, I don't think that you'd ever know that Kingdom Builder was designed by the person who came up with Dominion if you hadn't been told.
And when someone does produce very similar games in style, such as the good doctor Knizia, or Mr Feld, then they tend to get lambasted for their lack of creativity anyway.
(I'm such a grump these days...... )"



Neil: "Designers.. love 'em! At least I think I do... over 100 games from Wallace, Knizia, Kiesling and Kramer, Feld and Rosenberg would suggest I probably do. Blimey, if someone's designed something good and enjoyable it'd be daft not to have a look at something new they've come up with.
Find it amusing how Martin Wallace seems to tinker with his designs, how Rosenberg generally sticks to his favoured themes, how different Feld can make scoring points, points and points.
There's then another thirty or so designers I look at religiously, they need to have three or four games I like to qualify for monitoring!
Saying that, it's still nice to find a new designer or a game by one I hadn't enjoyed anything by previously, hell there's some great games out there ain't there!?!"



This weeks question: "to keep things topical... What games can you propose for a summer theme'd game evening..."