Monday, 31 October 2016

Blundering along - how to be the best at being the worst.


Wednesday 5th October
 
Contributors: Daniel, David


Started the evening with Port Royal plus the expansion - I quite like what the new bits do, although they still don't do much to smooth out the sudden-death ending to the game. Five players is also still far, far too many. At one point I fell into the zone where I couldn't care less who won, just so long as somebody would bloody well bring things to a close, but up to that point it was as enjoyable as always.

Rather fortunately I did not end up with a seat at tiny epic playing time which seemed to go on for rather a while. Overheard from Paul about an hour into the game "Ah, so I think I get it now..."

Tom Juan started to set up World's Fair but had a grump that I would say demeaning things about his taste in games again (as if...) and so I was shoo'ed away to what turned out to be the ultra-mega cool kids table. As soon as Jon saw me sit down on the other side of the room he ejected himself from World's Fair and bounded across the room like an eager puppy to join us. The fact that we had Trains out on the table was purely co-incidental...
Trains had some expansion stuff in it too - don't know if it changed things much but at least it rewarded route building a bit more. Raj and Sarah were battling it out down one side of the map and so I used the opportunity of the open middle ground to build a big route out across the board, only coming to a halt when I ran out of steam with low income and high waste in my deck. 

Jon went for a cash-heavy strategy and eventually started to buy Skyscrapers, something which is usually guaranteed a shot at winning and in this case did not disappoint. While the rest of us were struggling to squeeze that final game-ending move from our decks he was buying into VP cards round after round and extending his lead. I had a vague notion of catching up with the rail depots that earned points per city but couldn't string enough cash together at one time to pick up more than two of them. Despite ending the game and having a stack of depots Raj rolled in late in third place, and Sarah was shunted onto the buffers at the tail end.
Next up was a welcome return for Nanuk (no expansions for this one), with Tomtoo joining us after finally escaping from the Tiny Epic Marathon. The lads were terribly ungentlemanly in abandoning Sarah to a solo expedition on the first few hunts, but she got her own back later on after dragging home a net full of polar wildlife. I mis-blagged on one occasion for a complete howler that gave Jon the winning margin, but who cares when we had a ton of fun and no less than four hunts going down to the wire on the final card draw.

I was then cajoled into a six player game of 7 Wonders, again with some expansion stuff, and again I don't know that it really made the game any different but it seemed to work okay. There were clearly some strategic options to focus more heavily on going after military or monuments, but some of it was clunkily forced into the game as 'build a yellow card or suffer a penalty'. I took great delight in deliberately tanking the group build in the final round after working out that I would be better off if it wasn't completed, so it gets a thumbs up from me simply by affording the opportunity to be a total dick.


But guess what? I collected a load of green science, built my wonder, and ignored military until the final turn for a quick swoop of ten points. Yeah, I won. This game is still the same.

No time for Happy Salmon - boo! - guess they need to make an expansion.


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James B and I arrived early and set up a two player Lord of the Rings, just as I was going through the rules for James as he had never played before Tom came in and made it three. So we set off on our adventure. Could we make it all the way to Mordor and throw the one ring into Mount Doom? No, no we couldn't. We did make it all the way to Shelob's lair before being overcome though. This was a mix of bad luck with the activity tiles and some bad rolling of the dice as well as a lack of preparation for future rounds.

James B, Sarah and I then played a quick game of Mamma Mia!. It's the perfect pizza, a topping of luck with a side of memory. Players throw ingredients into one big oven then put in their pizzas when they think there's enough ingredients to bake their pizza properly. Wait too long and someone else will use up the ingredients, place your pizza in too early however and there won't be enough ingredients for it to bake properly. By the end of the second round I had managed to bake all but one of my pizzas thanks largely to the miscalculations of Sarah and James rather than my own memory. 


I've never baked that many pizzas successfully that quickly before. It didn't take long to finish off my last pizza in the final round to claim victory. By the end of the game Sarah and James were tied on 5 cooked pizzas each. I always find it fun and this game was no exception, there was a fair amount of singing about pizzas as well as the game progressed laughWe then waited for the other tables to finish up and James B, myself and Tom went for a game of World's Fair 1893. A quick game with a mix of set-collection and area-control with a lovely theme and distinctive artwork (each card or most of the cards are different afaik). I managed to outscore both Tom and James by some margin in the first two rounds thanks in part to good timing with the ticket allocations and winning control in most areas just before the rounds ended. Tom came back strongly in the third round but I had done so well previously it wasn't enough to catch me. We rattled through this one in about thirty minutes or so and that included the rules explanation. I loved this one and will probably pick myself up a copy.

We moved onto Booty which is another 'I divide, you choose' game only this time with a Pirate theme. The starting player divides cards into different pieces, he then offers these to the other players. If they refuse then the starting player ends up with it. It's a balance of making the piece of pie just tasty enough that they want it but not too tasty so you don't suffer yourself. Just like with Shitenno I ended up taking terrible offers or making offers that were too generous. Because of this I ended up some way behind Tom who pipped James to the win.

I also played Klunker that was a bit like Bohnanza but with jewellery and a game of Rhino Hero where James B knocked the whole thing over.

 
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Wednesday 12th October
 
Contributors: Daniel, David

Only the coolest kids were around, just enough to get two tables on the go but probably still less people than were piled into Paul's car that same morning - was tickled by the ambition shown by David with cloths out on five different tables, unless he was planning a night of solo-only games.

Looks like David, James and Alex had been there for a while but with myself, Phil, and John (no, the other one) arriving we all jumped in on Fake Artist while we waited for the late comers to trail in. Richard and Moosie duly arrived and we broke into two tables, with dress-making in Rococco on one side and saving the world in Sentinels on the other.
After kicking butt super-hero style (and it was a tense finish - after looking like we would clinch the win the villain came back and hammered us almost into oblivion before Alex sacrificed himself for the greater good in a catastrophic blaze of glory) we then moved onto The Networks. 

Despite trailing far behind for almost the entire game Richard came back with a massive endgame move where he pretty much bought his way to victory - kudos for showing me an alternate route to dominating the airwaves!




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I've had Rococo for sometime but for one reason or another I've never managed to play a game of it. However this time I wasn't to be thwarted and I managed to convince Phil, James B and John to join me. Each player is an owner of dressmaking firm in 18th century Europe and start with five employees. By collecting raw materials, silk, yarn and lace, players make dresses and coats for those attending one of Louis XV's lavish balls. After a fairly quick rules run through, (I'm sure I've read the rules to this twenty odd times or so before I forgot them after not playing it), we started our decent into dressmaking that would end up taking us all night to finish.

I'm not sure why it took so long as it didn't feel as though anyone was particularly taking too long and there are a set number of turns, but for some reason it seemed to drag a little bit. Phil quickly cottoned (ahem) onto the bonus money provided by the fountain decoration which then allowed him to support musicians and other decorations. I meanwhile was trying to construct the perfect deck by deputing my apprentices and buying up more masters. James and John meanwhile were crafting dresses and fighting over the various ballrooms in the palace. 

Towards the last few turns it was obvious that James and I were out of the running, we had failed to score any major prestige points and were relying solely in the final phase. This put John and Phil about 20 points ahead before the final scoring. I scored well on the control of the various room bonuses and one of the statues but it was nowhere near enough to catch Phil and John. Phil won comfortably with John second, I followed in third with James coming in last.

The board looks great, the theme works well with the mechanisms and there's a nice mix of deck building and area control. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it hadn't taken so long. Hopefully next time the last few turns won't seem like an eternity.


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Wednesday 19th October
 
Contributors: Jon, David
 
The evening started with a 9 player game of Tempel des Schreckens. Anyone remember those days at IBG when we used to start every evening with a multi-person game like this? Happy days. Definitely need to try to resurrect this tradition...

Anyway, this game is a re-skin of Timebomb, but with the more palatable theme of Temple raiding, rather than the slightly dubious theme of terrorists blowing people up. Cue Secret Hitler comparison...

The difference is that there are always 2 'bad cards' to find, rather than the single one of Timebomb, which could potentially lead to a very short and anti-climactic game. It also plays up to 10, which was useful this evening.

On this occasion, the guardians of the tomb (we couldn't decide if they were the bad guys or the good guys) won, thanks mainly to John playing the 'bumbling fool', pretending not to know what was going on, whilst actually playing a very canny game. He won't get away with that one again anytime soon...


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James B, James' friend Richard and I played a game of Ra as we arrived slightly early. I called Ra every time it came around to me in the hope that James and Richard would use up their suns (bidding tiles) on lots that weren't more than 3 tiles. A risky strategy but it worked as they used up their suns allowing me to push my luck on the perfect lots hoping that no Ra tiles would come out and ruin it for me. Three turns of doing this put me in a comfortable position. I lost out badly on the end of game sun scoring, the monument scoring but scored well on everything else, particularity the Nile tiles. I won with Richard second and James third.

 

I also played Rococo again with Phil and Magnus who was new to it. Phil won this comfortably last week and I wanted to put in a better showing. I was again late to the fountain which set me back on money a bit but by the fourth turn I had managed to catch up. I also managed to pick up a few employee cards that allowed me to score before the end of the game which is something I neglected to do last week. Magnus quickly realised that the available prestige points that fireworks offered were too good to ignore and set about making expensive dresses which he then placed in the King's room, setting himself up for some big points at the end game scoring. Phil meanwhile was scoring prestige from various decorations and related employees that gave him decoration bonuses. At the end of the game Magnus won by about 15 points as I was second and Phil third. It came down to the fireworks and it makes you realise just how powerful a tool in winning they are.

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Wednesday 26th October
 
Contributors: Daniel, Tom, Jon

This was 'learning to count' night at IBG. We decided to split into two threes and a four so everyone selflessly sits down in two fours and leaves Tom and I stranded. Fine then. We made the best of it though and judging by Noel's "laughing on the inside" expression during their game we had the best of it last night

The Golden Ages was okay, sort of a lightweight and even more Euro-y take on Nations. Some of it didn't make much sense and it felt very much balanced for a full player count. I managed to leverage some combos in tbe early game that pretty much stomped Tom into the ground which I doubt I would have managed in a four player game. It played super quick though, would probably try again but preferably with more players. I've also added another designer to my 'direct mail after rating a game as being a bit shit' collection.

Avenue was brill, I wanted to go again straight away but the other tables were finishing up so only had the chance to play once. Kind of a mix up of Royal Goods, Trax, and Karuba, but far far better than all of those. It would benefit from wipe clean boards rather than a pad and, you know, some pens as well Raj...

7 Blunders was awesome, possibly the best experience I've had with this game evar. I won by losing which makes me both the best and worst player of this game, a title that I jointly hold with Raj although for very different reasons.
Also played Fabled Fruit at the start which was a bit dull if I'm honest. The game play is very procedural and there's kind of a ticket to ride thing where you might be better off gathering a ton of cards first then picking off the scoring that suits you as and when they become available. This is how I played and it swung a tight victory on a tie breaker with Tom, no matter what he may claim to the contrary. This might get better with some of the cards that come up later in the deck, maybe the first ones are too simplistic.

The problem I had with Fabled Fruit was that I barely had to think at all whilst playing. Because every action gave cards in some form or other I just went for whatever space was vacant until I had about a dozen cards and then, at my leisure, I could pick off whatever victory cards were vacant that I could afford. It just wasn't interesting to play and gave the impression that the variety of different actions are hiding the fact that it doesn't really matter which one of them you use if the goal is simply to accumulate cards in pretty much any combination. No matter, it wasn't bad just dull and maybe the actions that come out later are more meaningful. 

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Fabled Fruit was okay and certainly an enjoyable game to star off the night. I agree with Dan insofar as it had a similar feel to Harbour in terms of each action shifting matters incrementally forward but without the tension in the latter created by possible market changes.

However, it also seems a game that rewards repeated plays and therefore would be a good introduction to worker placement for families. I would happily play it again but may grow bored of it if we repeatedly started with the 1 to 6 cards.

By the way, I actually read the rules rather than making up a tiebreaker as I went (*cough* Jonathan *cough*) and Dan and I shared the victory as we both had no cards in hand at the end
Mafia de Cuba was pretty great actually. It was nice to try it as a non-Godfather but I still had a pretty key role as the first person to the Godfather's left (with the choice of placing a tile in the bag or not). Would like to play again lower down the turn order. It was nice that the Godfather managed to win again after he (David) managed to see past my ruse which sought to lay the blame for the missing diamonds being hidden under Raj's beanie. Even my realistic diamond sounds as I shook Raj did not manage to fool him. Jingle jingle!

After the shift from the European 4-3-3 to a more traditionally British 4-4-2, I got saddled with Dan. In terms of The Golden Ages, I buggered up early doors and it was a foregone conclusion by the end of the 1st Age. It doesn't help that Dan is a lethal opponent in any game with card combos. Look forward to trying again with more players and a less confrontational empire than those pesky Chinese.
Avenue is absolutely fab. Small box and a low rules overhead but with a lot of game. It was especially interesting to hear Jon recount how hi daughter managed a score of 100+ in their game earlier in the day! Dan and I felt slightly less smug about our scores of 45 after that. One to keep an eye out for as and when it makes its way over to the UK.

Rhino Hero was tremendous fun as always although it's usually even better with more.

7 Blunders rounded off the evening very nicely. Just a tiny tweak to the rules but, as Dan said, it utterly changes the game dynamics. It must be the first game of 7 Wonders that I've played where I see any science cards! Unfortunately for me, despite somehow not acquiring any military during the game, those pesky Science cards together with a few unwanted monuments saw me end up in joint third with Jon. Hilariously, Raj (the inspiration for trying the variant) is ironically as equally bad at 7 Blunders as he is at 7 Wonders. Jingle jingle!
 

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Fabled Fruit - as it's my game, I'm going to be biased and say that it's exactly what I was looking for in a family-weight, worker placement, set-collection game. However, I agree that you need to quickly start working your way through the deck of cards, as starting with the first 6 becomes stale pretty quickly.Power Grid:TCG - a 4-player game including PG enthusiasts Noel and Tong (welcome back after a zillion years away...) David was totally new to PG, and the ending probably caught him out a little. Again, this gave a real PG experience (if Noel's head-scratching was anything to go by), although it didn't play much quicker than the board game this time, due to some slightly hesitant (ahem) decision-making, that for once wasn't happening in Jon's corner of the table...
If you play this game in less than an hour (which you really should) then this is a winner every time.

7 Blunders - wow! surprise It's actually a real game! This variation makes you totally rethink your strategy for 7 Wonders - it's like playing the game again for the first time. Definitely worth playing this again... 


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Friday, 30 September 2016

Of poor taste and crazy crenellations




Wednesday 14th September
 
Contributors: Jon, David

Letter of Marque
Hmmm - it seems to get panned in reviews, but actually, it isn't terrible. Basically a bluffing game about sending treasure ships out to sea, some of which may be protected by cannons. Get points by retrieving your own ships and attacking other players' ships, which you hope are undefended. So, do you do the obvious thing and protect your highest value ships, guaranteeing a reasonable return, or do you bluff and protect your weak ones, hoping to slip the high value ones back into port before anyone notices?

As most of us were learning the game, we did a bit of both, and it turned out that Jon was the best bluffer, or luckiest pirate or something.

As Noel pointed out, it has the same feel as Skull but without the tension / "Oooooh" moments. Which reminds me - someone bring Skull & Roses to IBG again soon!

Railways of the World
Noel brought it along on the off-chance, and Phil jumped at the chance. Jon needed no second invitation so it was a happy threesome that sat down to the UK map. This has a propensity to be a little loose with 3 players, but there was a fair bit of interaction this time.

Phil took out 3 Bonds just to win the first start-player auction, due to there being a very juicy Service Bounty in a prime position in the Midlands. Noel joined him in this area, and Jon headed along the South coast for the whole game. The cubes weren't great for Jon, but he did have the area all to himself, and despite a very slow start, he started to pick up the pace later on.

Noel & Phil picked up most of the route bonuses between them, and Noel had soon shot off into a commanding lead. Jon ended the game as he was running out of viable cubes to deliver, but Noel's lead was unassailable, winning by 6 points from Phil, who was 1 ahead of Jon.

Always a great way to spend 90 minutes...


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I played the first of two games of Vienna, a quick (30mins) dice allocation filler. Think, a shorter leaner Kingsburg. Players travel around Vienna placing dice in ascending (usually) order and claiming the benefits of any location they allocate dice to. From money to victory points with special cards and characters adding other options. In the first game John pipped me to victory, his continual scoring of characters was enough to see me off. Sarah came a little way behind, there's not much time to catch up or build a little engine when someone is scoring regularly. It's over after 4 or 5 turns. I really enjoyed it, as it's so quick the pasted on theme and obvious choices don't spoil it. It also has lovely art by Michael Menzel. although the reverse of the board, Vienna at night is a cosmetic change only. Which is disappointing.

 

After that was The King is Dead, John, myself and Sarah played this whilst waiting for the other tables to finish up. It's a remake of K├Ânig von Siam. Players are competing for favour of the three factions fighting over control of Britain after the death of King Arthur and Mordred. There are 8 turns in which one of the 8 regions are fought over. Players only get 8 actions for the entire game which can be used during any turn. It's incredibly tight, knowing which faction to back and when to relinquish control of a region to an opposing faction. The small number of actions makes them all critically important with every action a really difficult decision. John won this one by backing the Welsh, which I also did seeing my hopes of the Romano-British claiming the crown diminish as I lost a couple of important regions. The Scottish, who Sarah backed, made a late play but it wasn't enough. It came down to who had the most Welsh followers and John won by 5 to my 3.
We also played a few games of Tsuro at the start of the evening. I much prefer this to Indigo which feels a lot more mean spirited, even if it's pretending not to be. As for Tsuro Philip and I played a few 2 player games where I managed to force him off twice. Not a lot happens in two player until the very end but the last few turns are worth it. Then Neil and John jumped in for a 4 player game. John was off first, with Philip and I off together leaving Neil to win.

At the end of the evening was a game of Codenames: Pictures with Neil, Noel, Jon and myself. My performance was, err, mixed as I directed Jon to the assassin in the second game and then gave some rather vague clues in the third game. I'll try and pretend it didn't happen although the game was nice, with plenty of pictures open to interpretation in more ways than the word version. 



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Wednesday 21st September
 
Contributors: Peter, Daniel, Jon


So we played The Pillars of the Earth and what's more there were five of us which meant we got to play the The Pillars of the Earth: Expansion Set! Now this is the best way to play this great game. With the expansion board there are a few more interesting options, and with five players the spots available are really limited and there is a real struggle to get the things you want. Five people is the sweet spot for this game. This game is ten years old this year, and at the time of publication was pretty revolutionary in the way it introduced Worker Placement into the gaming world, almost simultaneously with Caylus. Yet despite its age it still feels fresh, smooth and engaging.

The scoring started all fairly slowly as it often does in Pillars, but within a couple of rounds engines were starting to rumble and move up a gear. David got a little crushed by missing the potter, Tom was holding back before a MASSIVE last round almost took him to victory, Alex was investing in a ton of metal and doing wonderous things in the Cathedral with it, I had a stone thing going on (well, it is a Cathedral after all), and James was doing a little of this and that including some mean Carpentry. It as very close in the end with my many-game experience only allowing me a short lead over Alex and Tom very very close behind.

It was a real pleasure to play with four other engaged players who I think all enjoyed it. The sequel, World Without End, will be coming along next time I make it along. 


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So... Scythe. Phil raced into the lead by getting across the river first and occupying the central factory before churning out giant steam powered robots in short order. He looked like he was going to smash us all, but his plans ran out of steam after he squandered much of his power to defend against a massed attack from Richard. Left vulnerable, he took a right battering into last-place from both Raj and myself.
Despite Richard protesting for much of the game that he was struggling and was completely out of contention he was building a solid foundation and picked up the pace rapidly toward the end. My own plans were largely scuppered when Phil drew a card from the factory in the middle that allowed him to circumvent traditional action steps for some things; this hurt me because I was banking on piggy-backing him on the things he was now skipping and so I had to change my strategy half way through (grumble grumble). Starved of bonus resources I had to do things the hard way which required a lot of focus on getting my actions in the most efficient order. This necessitated dropping a couple of things that I was planning on doing, or at least putting them back.

Raj, being more familliar with the game than the rest of us, leveraged this knowledge to pound us into the ground with a very convincing victory margin. He took a big bite out of Phil toward the end that stole a pile of resources and allowed him to push for the endgame by not having to run the production action to get there. If the game had rolled on for a turn or two more we could have gained some of the margin back, but really it was a done deal.

So what do I think of the game? Every now and then, in the darker recesses of cable TV, I stumble across a show about making insane celebration cakes. Multi-tiered towering edifices of royal icing are set-off with crenellations, capstans, and even in some cases fjords, all topped off with a multitude of carefully shaped and coloured sugar sculptures. Scythe is the “Amazing Wedding Cakes” of the board game world, a crazy and convoluted treat that when you cut it open, like many of those concoctions on the telly, turns out to be nothing more than a simple jam sponge underneath.

Scythe starts off by smacking you in the face with all of its Stuff, and not just the plethora of physical playing pieces - there are panels, tokens, resource chips, trackers, and figurines all over the place that take an eternity to set up – but also with its unnecessarily dense gameplay. The thing that Scythe gets wrong for me here is confusing opacity with depth; overall it feels like one of those designs that is striving to be ‘the ultimate’ but ends up, as always, burying a good game under multiple layers of needless complexity.

Actually, the game that it most closely reminds me of is Western Town, which similarly had a very fine game at its beating heart that was swallowed by the hubris of the designer/publisher. Like Western Town, everything in Scythe feels like it has been fiddled, tweaked and stretched just for the sake of adding complexity when the core design already had enough depth and strategic challenge. In this case, less would have been more.

Next up was Secret Hipster, another take on The Resistance but with much stricter organisation this time around which gratefully limits the amount of silly baseless finger pointing.
One team are the Farages, determined to stamp out freedom and individuality, whilst the other are a bunch of liberal beatniks who will invariably mortgage their collective futures on the back of anxiety over tax hikes on soya-mocha-fat-in-a-cup and people with funny accents moving in next door. The leader of the bad guys doesn't know who is on his team, who are busily trying to install him into power just after the halfway mark in order to seize victory on a narrow minority. Hijinks ensue. Actually, my version sounds better than the actual game itself.

The most amusing moment for us was Richard's total obliviousness to me signalling to him that I was on his side - after he was forced to hand me two 'liberal' cards I immediately played one of them whilst declaring to the table that I had a choice between one liberal and one facist and of course I chose the 'good' one. It was a neat way of telling Richard, our secret Hincklepropf, that I was on his side whilst allowing us both to look like good liberals, setting up a potential victory with the trust that he could be safely trusted as Chancellor. So of course Richard says "no I didn't, I drew three liberals and gave him two of them!" and everybody at the table immediately distrusts both of us. I couldn't push my claim without denigrating the one person who I needed to get the vote in order for our team to win so had to play some mind-games with trying to look like I was targeting both Richard and Jon (our cohort in all of this). Geez, it's a wonder that we even got into power, but like all happy political stories completely the wrong person got the vote in the end.

Does it need the salacious Nazi 'theme'? No, it doesn't, it's the kind of really poor taste that has someone sniggering behind their hand about how daring they are whilst looking like a total insensitive dick. Couldn't give a shit if I never see this one again, despite the fun we had with it.


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First up was Coup: Rebellion G54. Always good fun this one, especially with some of the expansion roles which add some extra spice into the mix. This time, it came down to Phil & Jon duelling it out, with Jon managing to assassinate Phil at the last moment to be last man standing.

Next was Tom's copy of Cacao, played with Mauro, Jon & John. This is an inoffensive tile-laying game, where your workers are printed onto tiles that you place along with market and harvest tiles to score points. This felt like a fun, light game, that was moving along at a fair trot until you get to the last 3 tiles, which we were then able to place on top of other tiles that had already been placed. Cue 20 minutes of AP (especially from Jon...) as we tried to max out the possible scoring combinations.

Mauro ended the game on top, thanks to a timely addition of the most valuable market, next to an equally generous harvest space, which he was then able to hammer again at the end of the game.

I really liked the game up until the last few tile lays, and would happily play it again. Just need to make sure that the ending doesn't drag on so much next time....
Ticket to Ride: UK next made an appearance - this is the map where you must buy 'technologies' to enable you to lay all but the most basic routes. Mauro warned us at the beginning that he felt that one of the technologies (choose to take 3 blind cards each turn) was overpowered. It was decided to play with them anyway, but perhaps it was significant that the 2 players who managed to buy them (John & Mauro) came in first and second!

Tom probably bought too many technologies, which slowed down his route-building. Mauro used his card-drawing technology to accumulate an enormous hand of cards, and then build the 40 point line to New York. Jon did a bit of everything, but was frustrated with drawing unhelpful extra tickets from the deck. John, however, drew ticket after ticket, many of which were 'long' and most of which were in the areas that he had already built track - leading to an impressive victory.

Good map this one - maybe Mauro's warnings were well-founded - that technology may need a tweak (or omission) next time...

As for Secret Hitler - Dan has said it all. We had fun, but there really is no need to use this theme in any non-wargame. Too soon? Definitely....
 

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Wednesday 28th September
 
Contributors: Daniel, Jon

For some reason 'twas the night of the social deduction game for me - I couldn't stay for long but ended up sat in on four in a row after a quicky Deep Sea Adventure to start the evening off.
The first one up was Timebomb, one of James' manga games where you are cutting wires on a bomb. I had no idea who the two traitors were but both David and Noel seemed like they were OK and they trusted me when I told them not to cut my wires as I had the bomb so it worked out for us. David was pulling his 'poker face' throughout so I thought he was actually a traitor but I don't think that he was... can't quite remember though... it's unfortunately an instantly forgettable game.
Next up was Incognito, a game about running around Venice in funny masks (or masques in this case I guess), trying to find out who your partner is in order to complete your shared task to win. You do this by landing on other peoples pawns and asking them to hand you cards, some of which are true and others which are false, gradually building up knowledge of what roles everyone has (it's a bit like Clue/Mystery of the Abbey in this respect). The problem here is that my pawns ended up on the edges of the map and so I had an almost impossible task landing or being landed on, which meant that I was on the periphery of the game the whole time with virtually no involvement whatsoever in proceedings. Eventually David shook hands with James but had the wrong man as his partner and so I somehow won by default along with James.

As there is absolutely nothing to do during down time, and watching people hand each other secret cards is pretty far from a spectator sport, this rendered the game terribly dull and ininvolving. Actually, scratch that, this was one of the single most boring gaming experiences I have ever had, to the point where it was only the occasional insistence from Raj that I shake the weird three-boobed nun (sadly not a euphemism) that prevented me from nodding off to sleep. I can understand how it could be fun if you are in the thick of things but any design that can completely preclude one of the players through no fault of their own is failing in it's core purpose of providing entertainment. As of such, it's off over the rails and into the canals with ye.
I finished off with two rounds of Deception, one as the investigator with James as the murderer (so we were pretty much stuffed from the off - it does bear mentioning though that we learned a key difference between David and myself; I believe that love equates to a diamond ring, whereas David more closely associates it with panties...), with roles reversed in the second (I thought I was being clever by picking items that very closely matched things in both David and Raj's tableaus, only for James to have the perfect storm of clue cards that narrowed down on my clues so quickly and firmly it was a done-deal on the first guess). Finally I got to enjoy a decent game last night!


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After a quick Deep Sea Adventure (where David was the biggest a@&*$*# after gulping all the oxygen and then surfacing like freaky Seaworld orca), Jon, Paul & Amanda brought out the perennial deck-building favourite, Trains. 

This was a great example of different strategies being viable to win. Paul chose to build across the map, picking up a bonus route and muscling in on Jon's cities as he went along, whilst also trying to create a train-heavy deck. Amanda was a relative novice, and although she was scoring nicely on the board, she did clog her deck up a little bit with waste from unnecessary track building. Jon sat in a corner (of the map) and built a little but was focussing on accumulating as many trains as possible in an effort to build the much sought-after 6-point stadiums. His deck only revealed the necessary 11 coins once in the game, but he did manage to collect a number of lower value Towers to boost his score. And the final count revealed a dead-heat between Paul & Jon, with Amanda not far behind. 

3-player Trains really buzzes along, and the variety of cards and maps mean that this is going to keep coming out for a while to come...
Then it was 7 Wonders with the Great Projects expansion and 5 players. This is the ideal expansion - adds something new, a bit more interaction but without lengthening the game much.

Neil got aggressive, Raj & Noel got all scientific, James hedged his bets and Jon thought he was still playing Trains and just built structures for victory points. Only 5 points separated the top 4 players at the end, with Jon's erections just overshadowing Noel's cultured explorations by a single point. 


Another slightly older game that has legs - who says that we're all about the cult of the new..??? 



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