Wednesday, 11 November 2015

A Rinky Dink time at IBG

Contributors: Daniel, Paul D, David

 Another balmy November evening, we'll be turning up in short sleeves and flip flops one of these nights, and another big crowd with four tables on the go at one point.

I kicked off the night with a few rounds of the future game of the year (tm); Soren played a much better game of it than I did but left the door open for my final rock to cruelly bump him out of his winning position. Still loving this one.

Then a great deal of dithering was had over which games would be played, eventually settling for Inhabit the Earth, Burgle Bros. and Caylus. Some last minute stragglers came through the door but I have no idea what they got up to.
Burgle Bros was intense with thoroughly deserved italics. There is a multi-level dungeon tower block in which your adventurers spies are trying to steal three precious items whilst avoiding the traps alarms and roaming monsters security guards. As you progress the guards begin to speed up, and triggering alarms sends them on a bee-line to your current location (which you sometimes want to happen to prevent them going to a place you want them to avoid). The tiles that make up each level start off both random and blind with the risk that entering a tile without first of all peeking at it can sometimes cause catastrophic reactions, which Tom's nose-dive off a balcony can attest to. You have three evasion tokens which are effectively 'lives'; you lose one each time you are 'caught' by a guard and everyone loses the game if someone is caught without any tokens left.

You also have to explore most of each level in order to be able to collect the treasure so there is a tense game of cat-and-mouse as you try to keep everyone out of the guards path while gradually opening up as much of the map as is needed.

I get the impression that higher player counts make the game harder as there is more chance of being caught by the roaming guards with four movements between each of your turns, and we spent the last few rounds trying to avoid losing rather than productively chasing victory. Eventually we failed on the final floor a good few turns short of being able to collect the last of the treasures and make our escape from the rooftop.

It also turned out to be quite a long game when I think it might be more suited to filler or short game length; it was enjoyable though and I'll play it again.

Royal Goods did it's thing again; Dom picked up the game very easily and put in a good show, but Tom took the win leaving me frustrated at being a single assistant short of matching his score (darn lack of yellow cards, grumble grumble).

We then had a couple of rounds of Fake Artist played the proper way - a single shared picture and not allowed to remove your pen from the paper. Highlights were the world's weirdest looking Duck, James' "no, no, you go first" moment as the fake artist, and the fact that neither Sandra or her sister appear to have been in a pub before despite beer pretty much being invented in Germany and, erm, them sitting in one at the time. 


Tom, Alex, James III and I also played a game of codewords at the start. Love this game and the challenge of coming up with words to tie two or more other words together (not ever wanting to settle for the easy way out with just one answer). 'Lemon' and 'Egypt' were two that I struggled with on Wednesday, and 'sharp' almost did it... but not quite (James wasn't visualising the top of a pyramid in the same moment as me).
I joined the Burgle Bros game with a bit of trepidation as I have seriously fallen out of love with cooperative games in recent times (as my snooze during Robinson Crusoe and badly hidden Scowl in Sentinels of the Multiverse show). I find that it's very difficult to either avoid the alpha gamer scenario or avoid a scenario where one person isn't holding the others back and they try not to be the alpha gamer, but you can tell that they want to get on with things in 'their way', or even just let one player do things because they really want to even if it isn't best for the game. But I liked the artwork and the 'heist' theme so took the tentative step. (BTW - I felt that the theme was great and came through naturally, and I'm not sure that a dungeon is the appropriate 'default' theme for games of this genre - or at least I hope not).

AND I REALLY LIKED IT. Maybe because it was the first play for us all, it seemed to be very balanced in terms of player input, but I think that it was actually a very well thought through, well themed game, in which I felt like I was creeping around a building trying to avoid guards and look out for my buddies and escape with the goodies. And yes I also felt the intensity that Dan mentioned. There were many times when we thought we'd had it cracked and were just about to get away with it, but then someone took an unnecessary risk, fell through the floor, or triggered an alarm that we didn't expect so the guard came rushing in. I liked the combination of puzzle, coop and theme so much that I'd even play it again. Thumbs up from me.


After a bit of umming and erring myself, Jon, James III and Alex decided on a game of Caylus. Even though it's been around for some time now I've never had the opportunity to play it until now. A great worker placement game with resource management and some player interaction. Jon had great timing utilising and maximising the King's Favour to take a sizeable lead whilst Alex played a longer game by concentrating on buildings and attempting to control what was being built. Whereas James and I went for a mixed strategy that didn't really pay off. In the end Jon won comfortably, James pipped me to second place and Alex ended last, although a couple more turns would have seen Alex's strategy pay off but unfortunately he ran out of time.

The high point of the game was convincing Alex that I wouldn't move to Provost and encouraging him to move it up to prevent James from activating the Gold Mine only for me to then stab him in the back and move it up further to prevent him from activating a big resource producing building. Thankfully there was a table between us laugh

It's a wonderful game and something I would happily play again.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Nope, not THAT sort of Curling

Contributors: Daniel, David

Three tables on the go last night, let's see if I can remember as far back as, erm, fifteen hours ago...

Lots of sitting around chatting until some bright spark said "Hey! Let's actually play a game?" and off we went with Royal Goods. It's funny in that it seems to require a lot of explanation in order to get a game going, but is really so compact and simple that it moves pretty quickly once you do get underway. Jon surprised himself by almost winning despite a very slow start and accumulating a massive hand of cards (thus dispelling his initial fears of only drawing two cards per round and not being able to produce or build anything as a result), but the joint honours went to Peter and Tom. Meanwhile, David, Raj, Alex, and James exploded some Kittens in 'that' Oatmeal game.

Next up I was off to Tracey Island yet again, with Tom, James, and Alex joining me in a comprehensive smashing of The Hood's mischevious machinations. We had an early game wobble with three consecutive space missions and Thunderbird 3 stuck in space due to John Tracey not only being a character in play but also last in turn order! It took some judicious planning and burning up of bonus tokens in order for Tom (playing John, our space hero) to prevent us losing the game before the first full round was over. After that we held the game in check without any real risk and motored on to an easy win.

Then the highlight of the night with the inaugural IBG mini all-comers World Championship Tabletop Curling event, or, err, IBGMACWCTCE. Tom strode ahead into the lead with a series of quick wins before James, the consummate Curling-sharp, stepped up to the plate claiming that he didn't really know how to play before totally owning both Tom and myself with a calm, measured performance. However, Tom once again rose to the top by knocking James off his pedestal with some startlingly aggressive play (it's not Billiards Tom!), and began to refer to himself as unbeatable. Despite, or maybe because of, Tom's mis-timed braggadocio, I then hit a golden streak where I simply could not be shifted from the table. We played many many rounds, mainly due to the constant calls of "just five more minutes!" from Jon and Paul, and this game just does not get old. Game of the year, I tells ye.

Some people then went home and, after slipping in a quick game of Codenames, we were left with CVlizations on one table and Medieval Academy on the other. For Medieval Academy we used the alternative boards for the tournament and it really is different; far more strategic as you have to consider the impact of playing both sides of the combat as well as maxing your position on at least one side. It also only resolves every other round so the rewards are much larger. I like this alternate board very much and I'm curious to try some of the other variants now. Other games? Jon and Paul played something about German Trams a couple of times, and there was a long game of something beige that strangely didn't look much like a Eurogame (I'm sure David can provide more details on that one?) Plus there was more Curling action between Jon and Paul, who looked like they were actually playing the game properly and with due consideration as opposed to our smash-up tournament earlier in the evening.


Started the evening with a game of Exploding Kittens with myself, James, Alex and Paul. You play a limited number of cards from your hand before picking up a card from the deck, if you pick up an exploding kitten you are removed from the game unless you use a defuse card which you start with or can steal from others. There's very little in the way of choice or actions to affect the game and it comes down to luck of the draw. I have the same sort of feelings towards this as Love Letter or Fluxx, where I like them as two player games as they are quick, pointless and fun. However when you add more players they aren't so much fun and they take too long.
As Royal Goods was still going strong we started a game of Codenames, Paul was the caller on my team and Alex was the caller on James' team. At one point I guessed Bugle for his clue of Dog, for some reason I read it as Beagle without thinking laugh. Despite my dimwittedness we still managed to comfortably beat James and Alex ninja

After that Raj and then Gareth turned up, I believe Royal Goods was still going on so we played another game of Codenames. Gareth joined my and Paul's team and Raj joined James and Alex's team. This was a thorough pasting as we guessed every clue Paul gave us as James and Raj struggled with some of Alex's cryptic clues. It really is a lovely game.
By the time we had finished the other table had wrapped up as well so we split off into three tables. Raj, Myself, Peter and Gareth started a game of Mercante. Each player controls a merchant house that has it's own unique ability with the objective of buying goods via auctions and then selling onto the open market. It's a straight forward trading mechanic, buy low sell high, however players can play event cards that can affect the price or even close certain markets. These they stay for a number of turns in the calender before they are bumped off by newer events. Raj and Gareth were dominating most of the early auctions and making tidy profits whilst Peter and I were going for the long game, hiring more agents and collecting more contracts. 

However Raj was unstoppable, reaching 80 crowns (one of the win conditions) about halfway through. We were all too busy concentrating on our own actions to really throw a spanner in the works and Raj was making vast profits from selling luxury goods at inflated prices. I fear my rules run through was a bit scatter gun so it took a while to get going although it looked like everyone picked it up quickly despite my best efforts blush The auction and trading works well with the event cards throwing in a bit of player interaction and theme to spice things up. However the Merchant House cards can tend to dictate on how you end up playing.

After that Alex and Peter headed home and we settled for another game of Codenames, with Tom, Dan and Raj on one team and Gareth, myself and James on the other. This was another clean sweep by us as we managed to guess all of James' clues quite easily.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Hit and Run reported at IBG

Something untoward seems to have happened in the timestreams last week as the details of the evening of the 21st have been completely wiped from existence! Probably the work of some meddling kids or damned scientists... however, James has instead regaled us all with a picture book of Neil's Essen experiences and the various restraining orders he has collected as a result. Fortunately, whatever it was appears to have been only temporary as we are back with this week's exploits:

Contributors: Tom, David, Jon, Daniel

Between Two Cities kicked off the evening. I would play again but frankly would prefer to play Greed, Fairy Tale or 7 Wonders if want quick drafting fun and any number of other city builders. Perhaps 7 was just too many - think that 5 might be a sweet spot for this as have better idea of what everyone is doing. I had no clue what Paul and James were up to. Also, there was a distinct absence of "hate drafting" which this type of game really needs.

After some time spent staring at the plethora of games available, James stuck his oar in and suggested Baseball Highlights 2045. Dan and David took up the call. I've played before and love it but wasn't sure how the Hot Pepper game for 3 would work out. It was pretty good with three (not the greatest play count for a directly confrontational game) but with Dan pulling his sulky face, we quickly skipped out on the playoffs declaring the game a tie between me and David. A wonderful game nonetheless.

David then suggested the old classic, Family Business. A surprising amount of fun - lots of take that, swearing and self-destructive grudges (some carried over from BH - that'll teach to cancel my home run!). Again please. Dan won at a canter but at least I managed to bury David's Murder Inc before he wiped me out.

We were joined by Tonio and Magnus for a game of Dark Moon. First time with 5 at the club and it hasn't disappointed yet. This time, I was infected and quite frankly new boy Magnus was having a stormer as the commander, rolling positive results like a boss. In the meantime, Dan was constantly accusing me of being infected - the man could see into my very soul! Luckily, David was equally transparent as a fellow infected so, with the game moving more and more in favour of the uninfected, I chose to reveal my true colours and issue orders to David so that he could declare himself Infected and hit hard with an infected action. At which point, he oohed and aahed before taking dice! Had I misjudged the situation so badly? Nope - once the uninfected had canted to an easy win, David showed us that he was in face infected. Unfortunately, he was infected with plonker-itis which was not to my benefit whistle

To finish off the evening, Good Cop Bad Cop. This really sang as a deduction game - especially due to the fact that if you declare yourself to be on one team then you draw the fire of everyone on the other team. As a result, you have to play your cards close to your chest when the game itself forces you to reveal those same cards if you want to take a meaningful action. Highlight: Dan shooting me despite my constant entreaties that I was on his side; I was but he didn't seem to care. The honest cops won both games - a triumph for good over evil all told.

EDIT: Another highlight was Magnus identifying David as "him with the glasses and hair". As opposed to Dan (no hair, no glasses), Tonio (no hair, glasses) and me (hair, no glasses). We were a veritable Guess Who. 


Started with a seven player game of Between Two Cities. I rather enjoyed this although I can see it playing better with less people. I liked how you have to balance both cities and your neighbours have a vested interest in helping your city score well. It's also fast enough that you don't really notice the flaws. Would happily play again. (It also sounds like we dun goofed with the scoring)

After that myself, Dan and Tom moved onto Baseball Highlights: 2045. It took me a little while to grasp how runs were scored but once I figured that out I think I played a fairly decent game with enough screwing over the others whilst also scoring my own runs. Managed to catch Tom after his early breakaway although my pinch-hit luck helped. Would be something I would play again.

Then we moved onto Family Business. The version I have is bit ugly as it's long in the tooth now but it plays well and quickly. As Tom says there is lots of screwing people over and picking on the weakest as grudges are held and scores are settled. Plays well with more but was fun with three.

After that was Dark Moon with Tonio and Magnus joining us. It was my second game of it and I don't think I fared any better than the first. This time I was one of the infected and thought I would risk not revealing until the very end even though Tom set me up perfectly for it. It turned out to be a terrible decision laugh although in my defence if two of my rolls had been negative the outcome could have been very different. Also Magnus rolling big positives and dominating as Commander didn't help the infected cause. Even with my poor decision making I had more fun with this than Battlestar Galactica last week. There are a lot more opportunities to screw things up and it's a lot faster.

To end my evening was a game of Good Cop Bad Cop. Dan was forced to reveal himself as an honest cop early on and then looked at my Agent card through interrogation. So we knew that two of us were honest and it was just a matter of weeding out the bad apples from the other three. Unfortunately this lead to some collateral damage as Dan shot Tom laugh and then we convinced Magnus to turn his gun on Tonio. In the end it turned out Tonio was the only bad cop and the good guys won the day.


We also played Between Two Cities, this time with 5 players (me, Tonio, Carolina, Paul M and Magnus). This is cute mash-up of a puzzle / drafting / semi co-op game, which plays quickly and is highly inoffensive. Other people have commented that there is no 'hate-drafting' angry (true - but do we always have to hate each other, Tom? Can't we sometimes just all get along nicely together in the happy, flower-filled fields of gaming paradise that we inhabit...? kiss ) And also that it doesn't play well with 7 (probably true, especially as the only real interaction with other is in terms of the amount of industrial units that you own.)

All in all, plenty of fun, which Carolina won handsomely, and I came equal last (although I scored identically for both cities, making me the most balanced individual in IBG.

Oh - and Paul D had managed to get 2 out of the 6 scoring rules wrong in the previous game, which we corrected for our game. shake  It's tough being a perfectionist.....whistle 

And we also played 'LXM' - a prototype designed by Paul M himself, set in the heady world of insurance (general consensus - including Paul - good effort, but probably needs to go back to the drawing board with this one...)

And finally, the ubiquitous Trains. Carolina was new to it (although had obviously played a shed load of Dominion before.) We used the Germany map (as Carolina's home country of Poland was on there - although she disputed the geographical location portrayed on the map.)

And given this 'home country advantage' she proceeded to wipe the floor with Paul M and myself, storming to a 12 point victory courtesy of some nicely used Temporary Timetables (draw 2 more train cards from the deck)and enough cash to buy several shiny new Stadia (6 points each). Next time we play the 'Norfolk' map...... shake


Tabeltop Curling - I'm calling it now as the best game of Essen '15, even though it's actually six or seven years old which speaks volumes about the poor limping specimens brought back this year. Actually, Royal Goods is okay, but it's only a filler - surely we can do better than this chaps? It looks like the year of tat so far. thumbsup

A tale of two Toms - It's tough to decide which of the two Toms I was sat between was the most preferential. On one side, I had a Tom who was completely under Tonio's mesmerising spell, and the one on the other side was clearly little more than Paul's lickspittle. Despite the uphill struggle I was facing I managed to crawl into not last place, which is always a fine ambition. As a final ranking of the two Toms I can only say that Tom is one man's Pepsi, whilst Tom is another man's Coke. I understand there was also some sort of game being played too, but crikey it was a bit bland and tiresome once you got past the gimmickry of fielding two semi-co-operative tableaus. thumbsdown

Batball Highlights 2015 - I still have absolutely no clue as to what was going on in this game. I played some cards and this made some pegs go round and round; sometimes they went an extra space, but not always, for reasons that are still unclear to me. Apparently I won some of the matchups but I don't know how, and Tom tried to physically strangle me twice which is always a good sign that I'm doing something right whistle thumbsdown

Family Business - Tom and David were too busy taking out their frustrations on one another, and like all good peacemakers I encouraged their enmity, allowing them to grind each other down to almost nothing before stealing the advantage to stamp them both down whilst they were woefully vulnerable thumbsup would play again.

Dark Moon - David wins the award for most hapless villain of the year, as well as a Golden Raspberry for his acting prowess; he was still naively, and hilariously, trying to convince us of his innocence well past the point of the rub, but completely unable to hide has disappointed sad face after roling only positives on his dice. Meanwhile, Tom was sat next to him performing histrionics of Shatnerian proportion, and all this on top of the infected managing to convince Commander Magnus to release David from quarantine even though we knew who the bad guys were from pretty much the first round. thumbsup

Good Cop, Bad Cop - "It's nothing like The Resistance, honest" says Tom, and he was right thumbsup this is absolutely llight years better than any of the turgid old shouty finger pointing games of the past. More of this again please!