Wednesday, 15 April 2015

At the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea

Players: Paul A, Soren, Peter, Paul D, Dan, Phil, Jon

With the particularly fine sunny weather it was a predictably quiet night for gaming at the Apprentice, although the downstairs bar was in contrast absolutely heaving with Chelsea fans. We continued the football theme upstairs amidst a developing SMS bromance between two of our regulars (how sweet). Join us as we recount an evening filled with square balls, cubist cubic cubes, beasts, dungeons, and naughty scamps in wetsuits.

Welcome to the Dungeon 

Wherein I proved that guts and glory do not always go hand in hand. I think we may have broken the game with five players, but I had the decency to annihilate both the Warrior and the Rogue in fairly quick succession to get the player balance back to four. I ducked out with the game balanced between Soren and Paul A, both with a treasure yet sporting a wound, and so will allow Paul A to enlighten us as to the means of the eventual victors magnificent triumph...

This anglo-ization of the provocatively named Dungeon of Mandom is great fun, although I'm in agreement that 5 players is probably too much. Soren got suckered into entering the dungeon multiple times but managed to trick his way through (with a healing potion) to eventually take the win. 

Peter would like to add...
Welcome to the Dungeon was so good I immediately bought a copy. And I never even got to fight. Great game. Soren impressively seemed to know just when the monsters were defeatable and deserved his victory.


Despite his recent rant against abstracts, Soren decided to bring along this abstract game about... erm... abstracts.Once again Paul A is on hand to tell us how it went...

Cubist has some similarity to Blueprints, in that you are rolling dice and trying to build shapes, except these are "cubist masterpieces" not "buildings". However it adds on sufficient complications and twists (a shared masterpiece, storing dice, buying special abilities) to make the game much more interactive and interesting. Enjoyed this a lot. Of course, Soren has immediately decided to trade it.

Peter also offers us his thoughts:  
Cubist was an interesting game. You build stuff with dice and building stuff is always an enjoyable activity in a game. But “Dice rolls sure are Assholes!” is most certainly true. My poor performance of 4 points vs Philip on 19 and Soren and Paul on around 12 must also have an element of incompetence thrown in, but the game is very satisfying to play however badly you play it. Paul spent a good deal of the game waiting for a 4 which he so desperately needed. Meanwhile I just enjoyed building a tower it turned out I had no chance of ever using. Dice rolls, they really are assholes.

Beast Bar (thanks Peter!)

Beasty Bar is particularly good when played in the advanced variant with reduced cards. That way it lasts around 20 minutes, just perfect. The intro game uses all the cards and runs a little long for its value, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Soren won on the tie break through some earlier strong Skunk action. Good Skunk action is always a benefit in Beasty Bar.
According to Paul A, this has a cracked out theme (animals tying to get into heaven) but is a nice if chaotic "take that" card game.

Deep Sea Adventure 

Paul A tells us that the Cubist table finished with a Japanese hipster game from PeterD that was called something like "Deep Sea Divers Sure Are Assholes". The premise is that you are divers, trying to scavenge treasure from below. The treasure gets better the deeper you go but you are all sharing the same air supply. (Economics, I guess.) So it's a strange kind of shared push-your-luck game. We were all sufficiently imprudent / dickish such that almost every diver drowned. Also very fun and would play very differently with different numbers of players.

Peter is again on hand to provide us with with some further insight, including the proper name for this game...

Deep Sea Adventure should actually have been given the name Paul gave it. There is meta-game stuff going on where you can cooperatively dive deep together, or you can screw your fellow divers by taking early treasure and using up the shared oxygen and watching the others dive deep with little chance of getting back. Soren opted for the latter strategy to great effect. Paul and I were diving down unencumbered by treasure, meanwhile Soren was taking every shiny thing he saw. The result: oxygen was running out fast but Soren was so weighed down by his treasure he actually ground to a complete halt, a sad death drowning under the weight of his haul. Paul & I had been too greedy, diving too deep in an attempt to snap up the high value stuff, but Soren’s great intakes of oxygen saw us die deep in the ocean.
So you’d think on the second and third dives we would have learnt. Wrong! The second dive played out just like the first.
By dive three Paul had the good judgement to be less greedy and turned around early enough just to make it back to the sub before the air ran out. And he was the only one on all three dives to get a diver back. Just the one. But enough to get his treasure home. All the rest of the glistening stuff is sadly lying on the floor of the ocean.
Most entertaining.

Time of Soccer which Jon proved that he can indeed make snappy decisions under pressure, although not necessarily good ones; Paul disproved the theory that sitting to his left is advantageous; and we once again got the end scoring wrong (although the end result would still have been the same)
This is one of those games that I want to like more than I probably really do, and it has a distinct whiff of a being over-designed. There is a lot of really clever stuff in there and it is most certainly the closest thing to a football management sim in boardgame form that there is, however there is also an awful lot wrong with it at the same time. Driving the cars around to buy stuff is convoluted, brain-burny, and has absolutely jack-all to do with the football theme. It's not that it's a bad bit of game design as it's good enough that it could stand alone in it's own right, it just doesn't seem to belong with the rest of the game; something more direct like simple worker placement or an auction mechanic could have been used in it's place to allow more focus on the part of the game that deals with building the team and playing matches. Fortunately there are variant rules that make this part of the game much simpler so I think I'll try those at some point and see how it changes things.
I don't think that the random element is too strong as a good team will generally beat a poor one despite the occasional upset, and in fairness we played with the neutral teams set to a really easy level when the game is likely closer at the finish when using much stronger neutral teams - this would then make it a real struggle to win matches which would considerably increase the direct competition between the players (there are bonus points and cash for winning things and so the team that starts to win seems to then go on to win everything in convincing style).

Jon has provided his thoughts on the first ever play of this game at IBG:

Hmmmm...let's start with the positives.
- It had a great theme - I'm always up for a football simulation boardgame, even if it does use the dreadful term 'soccer' instead angry
- Having the league and cup in one game is great - feels a little more like a proper season
- Playing a game - any game - with Paul and Dan is always a pleasure, and a great way to spend an evening

- The mechanics just didn't seem to gel with the theme for me - what was all that driving around one-way streets all about??? And trying to connect those icons on the players seemed to be an abstract mini-game all on its own.
- Deciding the outcomes of games by the roll of dice is ok, but there didn't feel like there was quite enough dice-rolling to even out the luck, or enough ways to mitigate it. Rolling no 5's or 6's three times in a row meant 3 lost games despite having the stronger team on each occasion. Then again, I'm a Liverpool fan, so I should be used to such disappointment by now....
- I think that the game is too long to get away with so much luck in it - 60 mins would be fine.

Anyway, overall it gave quite a good feeling of running a football club - I just wish it felt a little less like a euro with dice thrown in for good measure.
Fun evening though!

Also played this evening: Red 7

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: "So we never seem to get many abstract games out at the club on a Wed night... lots of Ameritrash (thanks Dan) and the obligatory 3 hour Euros... but I don't recall seeing the GIPF games ever, or games like Ingenious, Blokus etc... so here's a chance to ruminate on this and also suggest your favourite abstract game. What abstracts would you play...?"

John B: "I hate abstracts. If the designer can't be arsed to even try to make up a theme, I can't be arsed to play it. I give card games a pass, but I want theme in my board games."

Tomone: "I would disagree with John there (although I think that he may have tongue slightly in cheek). I'd rather play a game that the designer thinks that it can stand on its own two feet rather than have to justify by reference to a superfluous theme.
Have enjoyed my few plays of Clans.. Ponte Del Diavolo is good fun with my brother-in-law too. Samurai is excellent on IOS.
Personally would love to give The Duke a go too."

Paul A: "Abstracts always seem like a good idea to me ... but I just can't get them to the table. Maybe it's because they tend to be two-player. Maybe it's because after a hard day, there's an appeal to being a zombie-killer / gloomy medieval dude trading grain / whatever. Maybe it's because a theme is actually a useful thing to hang rules on, to make them more memorable. But these don't get in the way of many card or dexterity games.
It is a mystery. "

Soren: "Strictly defined, abstract games are two-player only with no hidden information and no randomness which are at least in pricinple solvable, so they are strictly one-on-one dick-measuring contests of who has wasted their life on internalising/memorising the most positions/moves which are ultimately futile when computers catch up to solve the game.

Anyway, Blokus is fun as a 4-player game, occasionally; and I also own and would not refuse playing Ingenious - if nothing else, to confirm that I still do not have a clue how to play this well."

Tasha: "If I wanted to play an abstract, I would play Chess.
Imho, it cannot be improved upon, and all 2-player alternatives in this vein are but pale shadows upon that greatest of games. "

Dan: "I wouldn't really describe what I bring along as Ameritrash, it's more family friendly light Euros and fillers these days. Then again, hanging labels on game types is highly subjective and I would say that some of the games that see regular play are arguably abstracts even though they are wearing a fancy dress for the evening. I would personally prefer to play an abstract over an abstract with a pasted on theme whistle"

James: "It's interesting that Through the Desert shows high on the ranking in the BGG list of abstracts where as similarly 'loosely' themed abstracts are not included eg... Santiago, Tigris & Euphrates, Taj Mahal... and, lets be honest, most of the rest of Reiner Knizia's output... a lot of the 2 player Kosmos range are also very abstract, Kahuna etc... but as they have a pretty board don't seem to be counted...

A good question would be to define what is an abstract game... Mr. Jack is quite abstract but not included whereas Hive is... I think China plays quite abstract...

Anyways, to answer the original question... I tend to find I play 2 player abstracts such as The Climbers, Aztec etc, but never really at the club... they're more an evening in kind of thing... "

Paul D: "I don't really have a problem with abstracts if the game really is good, apart from that I really really enjoy a good theme and any game without misses an opportunity to make it better. "

Jon: "Kingdom Builder is definitely an Abstract, but doesn't feel like one to me, maybe because of the modular boards, different scoring cards and expansions.
Apart from that, and despite the fact that I haven't played it in ages, Quarto! is a great abstract. Basically 3D noughts and crosses, but looks so pretty on the coffee table."

Peter: "Generally I don't enjoy pure abstracts as they are most often spatial games which is a type of game I personally have a sort of mental block on. Love card games though and they are essentially abstracts. "

Neil: "Abstracts. Mmm. Chess Natasha? I was the last one to lose when we played the posh Norwich school, is that good?
I like 'em, I like all games, nearly. Agree with Paul re themes but then I'd rather have an unthemed abstract than a space/fantasy/horror theme spoiling it for me.
I do believe that they offer a fine background for all games, being competent(ish) in chess, mah jong, bridge and others can only help, don't you reckon?
Funny that my highest ranked abstract is Rosenberg's Patchwork. Says more about the power of the designer than the game methinks. "

This weeks question: "Slightly different approach to this weeks question... but I thought it might be fun as everyone likes to make lists…

Rank the 10 games below from most to least favourite and feel free to add some comments to explain yourself.

• Dominion
• Ticket To Ride
• Kingdom Builder
• Machi Koro
• 7 Wonders
• Agricola
• Carcassonne
• Nanuk
• For Sale
• Small World

(and yes I have picked very different games, but all are amongst the most played at the club over the last few years, or well-known enough that most people have had a chance to play them)

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Going Postal in Andor

Players: Dan, Tomtoo, Gareth, Sarah, Paul D, Amanda, Jon, John, Noel, Alex, James II, Soren


Twelve players convened for an eclectic evening involving railway journeys, medieval squiredom, empire building, and... erm... the world's largest dwarf postal worker. Apparently he only rings just the once though...

Machi Koro Harbour (thanks Jon)
John and Jon were at a bit of a loose end at the beginning of the evening, and so a 2-player game of Machi Koro was decided upon. John had played once before, although not with the expansion, but MK is hardly Die Macher, so the game was soon underway.
Jon quickly built up a nice selection of 'single-dice' buildings, including a Cafe which leeched off John when he rolled a 3, and so he was able to take an early lead. However, John had started building 2-dice buildings, which put him in good stead when multiple dice were rolled. It was all getting quite close until John suddenly rolled a 12, and with a combination of 5 buildings that all provided handsome income on this number, he raked in 40 coins in a single turn.
Unsurprisingly he then built the airport, which would give 10 coins every turn that he didn't build, and the rest was Japanese dice-rolling history.
Machi Koro isn't half bad as a 2-player game - it's certainly shorter, although some of the cards lose their strength at lower player counts. Maybe 3 is the sweet-spot.....?
John won; Jon didn't

No Thanks (thanks Paul D)

 To start with a couple of games of No Thanks.

Sarah started well on the money front but took loads of high numbers in the hope to consolidate. Amanda took some tiddlers. Paul got away with one in the twenties and one in the teens. Dan got saddled with loads, but it didn't stop him giving advice to Tomtwo who rolled up for a look at what was going on. And there was some other stuff, but I remember Amanda winning the first game and Dan coming last by some margin.

Then we played again so that Tomtwo could join us and Dan justified his advice giving in the previous round by wiping the floor with us all. What can we learn from this? Don't get into an evening long poker game with this man. 

Seven Wonders (thanks Paul D)

Sarah started with the big guns, which rippled round the table to her right and she turned Dan from a peace loving hippy into a war monger via a willing weapons merchant in Tomtwo.
Paul based his strategy on his Hanging Gardens wonder which allowed him to play his last card in each era, but he ended up scrabbling for the money to pay for them to be built. Tomtwo and Dan both spread their considerable wealth around going for a balanced approach. Sarah continued to buy weapons and some purple and yellow cards. Paul went for the technology strategy, again because his wonder gave him an extra one at the end.

Dan took to spoils with his balanced approach, with the other three being relatively close behind.

Legends Of Andor (thanks Soren)

The kingdom of Andor was under threat of being overrun by baddies, so the king summoned his finest warriors - yes, as hard as it may be to believe, that was us, Alex the world's largest dwarf, James the archer, Gareth the wizard, and Soren the warrior.

Initially, we strolled around the lands picking up a few items and game rules along the way before a number of foes showed up. They were easily dealt with, but soon turned out to just have been a decoy and two other foes appeared right outside the king's castle with no way for us to stop them both from overrunning the castle. If just one more foe would reach the castle, we would be doomed.

Well, no problem, we handled the remaining foes and everything seemed to be under control - until suddenly the Andorian postal workers seems to have gone on strike, and the king demanded us to rush to one end of the lands to pick up a letter and to rush to the other end of the lands to deliver it while avoiding all the many foes who had popped up everywhere.

We seemed to be in trouble. Only possible way seemed to be to do a relay run. Alex went to single-handedly hold off some foes from reaching the castle. Soren rushed to pick up the letter and bring it back to Gareth, who in the meantime doped himself to the eyeballs on, presumably, Red Bull from the well, so that he could break the Andorian 7-hour working day regulations and rush through a narrow path cleared by James. Only one big foe left blocking a long detour through the mountains to the final destination in the woods. Gareth, James and Soren joined forces with little energy and time left and did succeed in defeating the big baddie, and Gareth managed to deliver the letter just in time with only a couple of hours (actions) to spare.

Hooray - we won.

Legends Of Andor is a good, co-operative, fantasy-themed, campaign/scenario-driven game that is not just the usual rehash of Pandemic. Interesting scripted challenges and need for proper co-operation. We all liked it and were all keen to play again immediately (the next campaign scenario), but real life plans had to postpone it.

To be conitinued...


Medieval Academy (thanks Paul D)

New to Paul and Sarah. Dan and Tomtwo, the seasoned academy graduate from previous games seemed to be going for the long haul with some royalty and charity points and a little on the dragon too. Paul started off by serenading the princess which worked nicely in the first two round, but then Sarah played every pink card she had and was unassailable here with the secret bonus points. Paul switch to try and tame the dragon and build up a big lead here, only to miscalculate Tomtwo's cunning as he was usurped at the last in this category, but Tomtwo had put all of his eggs in one dragon sized basket. Eventual totals revealed that Paul had come out on top, from Tomtwo and Dan with Sarah bringing up the rear, a result of too much time spent in the princess's tower.

Also played this evening:
Railways of the World (Jon, Noel, John, Amanda), Imperial Settlers (Dan, Tomtoo, and Sarah, no prizes for guessing who won), Discworld: Ankh Morpork (Alex, James, Gareth II, Soren), and a couple of games of Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards (pretty much everyone at some point I think!)

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 is your favourite artwork in/on a game...? If you had to select something to put in the Louvre (or the Tate) what would it be?”

Tomtoo: "Favourite artwork is a difficult question... Shadows of brimstone has some great artwork and drawings. Lords of Xidit just looks pretty with the amazing colours. Myth has a really unique art technique which I appreciate a lot and love. But maybe with a game that would look good in the Louvre or Tate, would be Fief: France 1429. The art looks like it came from the louvre. Probably because its a historical game..."

Paul A: "As for artwork, I'll perversely point out the board in High Frontier which is a thing of beauty and awe. And - once your brain grasps it - an incredible encoding of all the information you need to play the game that would otherwise require huge lookup tables.  Otherwise, I've always liked the slightly cartoonish "office noticeboard" look of The Manhattan Project"

Tomone: "Favourite artwork: Lords of Scotland. So iconic in its terribleness - it just fills me with nostalgia and good feeling. What a game."

Dan: "Good graphic design and thematic setting through art is a highly valued element in game production, so there is fortunately a lot of great art out there. Marie Cardouat's work on Dixit certainly deserves a mention for sheer inventiveness, and I really love how Adam McIver was so evocative of the fairytale Disney style with the card art in Council of Verona. Mateusz Bielski has done some really great stuff for Portal. But ultimately I'm going to cop out by favouring the GW run of 2000AD boardgames - Judge Dredd/Block Mania/Rogue Trooper - because the likes of Bolland, Gibson, Gibbons, and so many others just cannot be beat."

Jon: "In terms of best artwork, I find that Michael Menzel's artwork on the Stone Age board hard to beat. The detail is gorgeous if you ever take the time to look closely at it..."

Noel: "I like the map of Venice in San Marco, or any of the Railways maps, or indeed Middle Earth in War of the Ring!"

James: "However that doesn't stop me answering my own question... I'll split the answer in 2 as I like the look of a few dexterity games such as Fire and Aztec and some of the Gigamic games just look great. These can go in the Tate  
For the Louvre I'd offer 1960: The Making of the President that not only has cups of tea but also includes a cup stain from where the cup has been left on the board  
I love the cartoon art in Machi Koro. Finally I think the board of Tammany Hall is a masterpiece, providing both the full summary of rules as well as a place to play them... the perfect board ?"

This weeks question: "So we never seem to get many abstract games out at the club on a Wed night... lots of Ameritrash (thanks Dan) and the obligatory 3 hour Euros... but I don't recall seeing the GIPF games ever, or games like Ingenious, Blokus etc... so here's a chance to ruminate on this and also suggest your favourite abstract game. What abstracts would you play...?"

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Toshiro Mifune wants his money back

Poor Toshiro, all he wanted was six stout and sturdy warriors to help defend the poor helpless villagers, and what he got instead were a motley bunch with questionable competence, one of whom smelled suspiciously of bear. Read on...

Thanks Tom for the following reports!

Tumblin Dice

I was really quite shocked at how much smaller the retail version of this feels compared to Jon's home-made version. As a result, it's quite a bit more forgiving in terms of the lower regions - not that that stopped Paul from knocking me off the board three or four times. The negative scoring for the equivalent of "not getting past the ladies' tee" is good fun and I liked Tom 2's idea of a variant involving negative scoring for dice off the board.

The game itself was wonderful amounts of fun as always - improved no end by Phil's thesis work into random playing of filler/dexterity games. Helped that I won!

Tom 1: 110; Tom 2: 105; Phil: 90; Paul D: 71 (serves him right)

James says: FYI This was the smaller edition, there are 3 sizes available. Jon's version was made to the exact measurements of the largest commercially available edition.

Paul A says: My bargain basement copy of Tumbling Dice finally saw the light of day. I picked it up at the Game Expo last year for a massive £10. And while it doesn't meet the standard of Jon's lovely homemade version, it is certainly worth what I paid. Tragically however, my lack of coordination is not obscured by the smaller board. Clearly, I should stick to Phil Eklund games. 

Arctic Scavengers 

Very nice to have a game with 4, even though it was with Paul D, Dan and Tom 2 (kidding boys). It was decided to include the character cards and certain of the additional tools but not the buildings, as it was the first time around fro Paul and Tom 2.

The game was improved no end by references to DLT, the extended German family of Hunters named by their parents after boardgame designers and the Butcher's various ways of preparing dead refugees.

Despite Dan somehow managing to acquire two early Field Crews (the best contested resources by some margin), this simply drew him into the firing line of the saboteurs and snipers of Tom 1 and Paul D. Meanwhile, Tom 2 was quietly putting up with the others table talk, slowly but surely acquiring Thugs and Tribe Families to boost his final score.

In the end, Tom 2 triumphed by a surprising large margin with myself pipping Paul to the wooden spoon by one point. I simply ate too many of my team whilst Paul put his to work in the junkyard (the devil).

Tom 2: 40; Dan: 32; Paul: 28; Tom 1: 27

Samurai Spirit 

Have played this a number of times solo (using three Samurai) and it makes a really nice solo puzzle with a real thrill when you manage a win. Yes, this is a typical Bauza co-op - hard as nails. As it proved this time around, with Neil's defeat in the third round heralding the destruction of the last hut in the village. Tom 2 did get to become a bear though so all's well that ends well.

Personally, although quite thematic, I feel that six players is at least two too many when so many were new to the game. Would be interested to hear the thoughts of the others who took part.

Sushi Go!

To round off the evening, a game of Sushi Go, the copy of which had been thrown in my bag at the last minute.

A wonderful little filler which really scratches the card drafting itch. It works especially nicely with the full complement of five players due to the reduced tableaus and increased fighting over Sushi Rolls and Puddings.

This game was an especially close affair with only two points between all of the players!

Tom 1: 34; Dan: 33; Luca, James & Tom 2: 32 

And now for the evening according to James...

Definitely an Asian themed evening last night... during the evening I was either running a restaurant Wok Star, Sushi Go!, fighting as a samurai Samurai Spirit or creating kimono's Colors of Kasane...

To get the negative stuff out of the way I wasn't so keen on the samurai game... felt too long for what it was, probably due to the number of players. Although others might accuse me of sabotage, my bad gameplay was indeed unintentional (I personally would blame Neil for the failure, but that's often my default position anyways)... but the game coming to a premature end was not something I was too unhappy about. Nice idea, 6 players def too many... not on my shortlist

Wok Star 

This was a new game for me and Lucas, and was good fun, although pretty stressful experience trying to make sure we had all the right ingredients to get the recipes made within the 30 second time limit allowed for each food order... The game rules suggest 20 seconds is the default, and 30 for starters, which feels like a daunting prospect for future games. Somehow, and to be honest more by luck than skill, we managed to save the restaurant earning exactly the required $40 in the 4th round... I'd play this again... but not when I feel like a relaxing evening.

Colors of Kasane 

This was also a first, and a long overdue first as I've had this since Essen and been itching to get a game in... an interesting set collecting game with shades of Bohnanza... it worked really well. Enjoyed this a lot and just a shame it doesn't play 2 as I could see this getting far more games this way. Great components, some good push your luck tension, over in 20 minutes... I'd certainly be looking to get this in again another week. As to the scores, I think Paul won this one... not sure... I'm much better at remember scores when I won

Sushi Go!

Lastly, to complete a week of all new games. I've already played Sushi Draft but this adds more to the game. managed to lose by a point to Tom, but if I allow myself an extra 2 points to cover for lack of experience I can pretend I won...

And thanks to Paul A for the following reports:

Then onto a game of the classic, Ra! It was very Ra-like, although scores were surprisingly tight. I think Neil took this by 2 points, having assembled a devastating large collection of monuments. And I saw a single flood in the entire game (sob).

Finished with the (new to me) Colours of Kasane. Like many Japanese hipster games, it combines an impenetrable multi-coloured exterior, with pictures of doe-eyed kawaii maidens and interesting quirky mechanics. I liked it although I suspect that experienced players would have a much different game to the one we had. 


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: Let's find out a few back stories here, so time for a one of the big did you get into gaming... ? What was the trigger to bring you into the gaming hobby ? Who do you blame for losing years of your life to moving cubes across a piece of cardboard..?”
It's a long one this week so you might want to grab a cuppa first!
James: "I'd always been into games, as a kid I had copies of Spy Ring, Go For Broke, Railroader, Careers anda flight game called 'Go' that I can't find on the database... but then as I got older I never beyond the standards such as party games (Balderdash, Scattergories, etc) and in my student days a lot of Monopoly/Risk/Diplomacy... I still remember visiting the 'double-6' club at Rathbone Place back in 1996 for a birthday evening playing Loopin Louie etc with friends.

Fast forward to 2009 and I think the combination of playing the Xbox 360 demo of Ticket To Ride, stumbling across a copy of Settler's at a car boot, and then seeing how much more was out there via BGG made me realize that my concept of games was not aligned with what was available... from here the only remaining step was an email from Gareth inviting me along to the Isleworth club and here we are today...

Now I have a house full of cardboard, an aversion to anything being scheduled for me on a Wed evening and a whole new group of people I call friends What's not to like !"

Dan: "I've been a gamer all my life. My first experiences of 'proper' gaming were the Judge Dredd game and Samurai Blades/Cry Havoc with one of my brother's friends when I must have been eight or nine. I remember trips to the original GW store in Dalling Rd Hammersmith back when they were still importing and rebranding designs and therefore had a broader range of games. One time I very nearly picked up a crayon rail game (Dragon Rails I think) but was persuaded not to by my brother who sensibly pointed out that you had to ruin it by drawing all over it while playing. I wonder if my tastes would be any different if I had started off on economic train games rather than wargames and nascent ameritrash.

It wasn't long before I discovered the joy of little plastic GW space soldiers in my teens, although I was mostly into sculpting and painting with them than tabletop battles, preferring to play the GW line of 'specialist games' instead. I then took a break altogether during my college years totally due to being so incredibly studious and attending every lecture, so let's scotch any fallacious rumours about mostly being drunk, chasing tail, and other less salubrious activities.

About fifteen years ago a friend who worked as a juggler in a traveling circus (no BS!) came home from a tour of Germany with a copy of Settlers, and my interest in gaming was rekindled. Over the next few years I went head-first into Eurogaming, discovered cheap deals on and bought far too many rubbish games, then fell out of love with Euros and in love with full-on Ameritrash. I had just got back from living in Cyprus where I had started what must be the islands first and only game club and was pointed in the direction of IBG when the Feltham club suddenly folded after the first meetup.

Since then I've played more regularly than at any other time, with my tastes mellowing to a broader acceptance of design styles; closer in fact to my earliest experiences of gaming.

And they all lived happily ever after, or something."
Paul D: "I've always been into playing games as a kid, but they were mainly kids games. I've got really good memories of loads of games, including Shing Shang, Intrigue, Push Ups, Othello, Plumb Crazy, Cluedo, Monopoly, Microdot, Cul de Sac (recently repurchased for me by Jimbo - thanks mate) and probably a whole host more.

Then I only played games when back at home for Christmas when my Mum would ask if we wanted to play this Sherlock Holmes title which really wasn't too good, but I still enjoyed it.

In my 20s and 30s I used to have some mates who'd get together for weekends away, when we'd go walking, camping, biking, but in the evenings we'd often play cards (mainly '500' if anyone's interested - which is a very fine game. And one day one of of them bought Settlers of Catan and I followed the well trodden path of falling in love with the kinds of games we now play via Settlers. We then got together on evenings just to play Settlers, and got various flavours of that. That lasted for a long time, and then we slowly expanded the collection to include Tigres and Euphrates, Ra, Pandemic, Ticket to Ride and so on. Then I moved to London, was pining for more game time, so I looked and found IBG just down the road. That was a little over 4 years ago. And I've loved it ever since" 

Tasha: "I've also been a gamer all my life. I remember organising a load of Risk games with my friends at primary school... graduated to Axis and Allies at secondary school... and then Diplomacy at University, where I got involved in that hobby, from which there is no escape. I was at University when the modern board games hobby as we know it was born, with Puerto Rico etc.

Pity I couldn't have a passion for something more lucrative, like sovereign risk or differential calculus. Whatever. Gotta roll with it. " 

Peter: "The big post-kid gaming revolution came for me with the German invasion of the late 80s when that gaming nation invented "German Games", which by the late 90s becaming "Eurogaming". Just Games in London would have a small import section which was irresistible: Hoity Toity, 6-Tage Rennen, Die Macher, Wildlife Adventure, Kremlin were found lurking there at the birth of today's scene. Finding English rules was often the challenge.

I've just noticed that Die Macher is game number 1 on the BGG database. Maybe that masterpiece was an inspiration behind BGG?

Will see you at Tringcon tomorrow (today?). Hope to make Isleworth next week (8th)."

Noel: "A 2009 Christmas playing Monopoly every day with my in-laws sparked memories of games I played as a kid - Cluedo / Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs / party games and I started a nostalgic google. Found BGG shortly after that and the amazing list of games that are now available. Settlers and TTR were ordered and within a couple of years an Ikea bookcase was full!

I stalked out the brilliant IBG blog for about 9 months before encouraging Tanya along to a Wed games night. A game of Traders of Genoa with Scott and Keith and Chinatown with Jon, Vicky and Maynard in the first week or two were really enjoyable and welcoming to 2 newbs and IBG has been a great place for making new friends and playing some fun games ever since. "

Paul A: "How I got into gaming? Some time around when I was 12, a few boardgames found there way into a local newsagent. I got fascinated with them, and eventually badgered my parents into getting me one for a birthday. It was Blitzkrieg, and my father was a saint for actually playing that huge, lumbering monstrosity of a wargame with me.

Over the years I drifted into miniature gaming, roleplaying and other permutations. Eventually, I started hosting weekly gaming nights at my place, and that ran for nearly 10 years. We all had eclectic tastes and worked well together, dabbling in CCGs for a while, going through a burst of Eurogaming, diving into RPGs and wargames. Then I followed work to the UK. Academia makes it all too easy to just do nothing else and regular gaming left the menu for a number of years. I finally vowed to make gaming a regular part of my life again. And here we are. "

Tom: "In terms of IBG, it was all thanks to a chance visit to the Apprentice where Louise spotted the notice referring to a certain board game club every Wednesday night. Despite ending up walking an hour from Isleworth station due to my own terrible sense of direction, I was hooked and my shelf space hasn't been the same since.

As a young lad, I do recall loving my games of Ravensburger classics such as Journey Through Europe and Enchanted Forest and constantly trying to get my Dad to commit to a game of Risk. But then, I've always been a gamer of sorts - many an hour was spent in front of my computer playing Lucasarts classics such Sam n Max Hit The Road, Day of the Tentacle and Indiana Jones & The Fate Of Atlantis or getting halfway through the latest Final Fantasy. "

Neil: "My historical gaminess was indulged by my parents buying us a game each Christmas. We had the usual Monopoly, Cluedo, Game of Life, Sorry! Halma, Newsdesk, and played a ton of chess and card games. Also fortunate enough to play Escape From Colditz in those days, usually solo, and the whole of Subbuteo, Subbuteo Cricket, Subbuteo Rugby, and Football Express too.

When Mrs Hora and I hooked up at school I was still playing lots of cards and Bridge too. We played Scrabble and Boggle, and, because of her linguist bent, also bought several games on trips to Europe, Das Malefiz Spiel, Inkognito, Mah Jong through a French/Vietnemese friend, as well as 221b Baker Street.

In 2005, working from home with far too much time on my hands - somethings never change - I found the geek and signed up, getting into Carcassonne: The Castle, Ticket to Ride, Memoir ’44, Quoridor, Hive, Pandemic. ’Twas only in 2012 that I discovered the IBG, stumbling into some of the loveliest people you could ever wish to meet. I wonder what ever happened to them? As for the rest of you weirdos, thanks for taking over my parents’ indulgent responsibilities. "

Soren: "I played all the classic children/family games as well as the Danish/Swedish Derby horse racing, share holding, betting game tiredlessly as a kid.

In the mid-late 80s I started playing Risk, Illuminati, Hacker / Hacker II: The Dark Side, Nuclear War, RoboRally etc. with a group of programmer/hacker (Trilogy/Paradox) friends. As well as, of course, Settlers Of Catan which seemed to be bought by and played in every home in Denmark back when it was released."

Gary B: "Life as a single child (well, I'm not technically a single child but my sister is 9 years older than me and I have no recollection of playing games with her) meant little in the way of boardgames for me. There was the occasional family game of Exploration down the caravan and basic family card games such as Kings at meet-ups. I also remember once playing Escape from Colditz with a friend and loving it. I put it on my Xmas list and behold my Aunt bought me the wrong version (there was another much inferior version with a light blue box!)

Childhood did include an obsession with all things Subbuteo however - tragically my parents sold all my Subbuteo (70 teams, cricket, rugby, even the 5 a side) at a car boot sale for £25 while I was at Uni! I've never properly recovered, though Ebay has helped....

I bought a copy of the 2 player Carcassonne for my honeymoon holiday to the SW of France in 2003, which my wife and I played. But it then sat gathering dust on our return. She is no gamer. Children arrived and so did UK holidays once more. One walk around a cold windy rural town resulted in a perusal of a 2nd hand shop and the purchase of a copy of Narnia Risk Junior. When I tried to play it with my 5 year old, we could not make head nor tail of some of the rules. It went back in the box! A couple of months later, bored at work, I decided to try a Google search for some answers to those pesky rules! I was directed to Boardgamegeek, required to register to download some updated rules by the designer himself and a whole new world opened up....

Unrestrained purchasing, and rather less playing, has ensued....

First, it was quite a few co-op games to play with the children (Forbidden Island, Flashpoint) then some fun card games (Loot, Archaeology etc), but it quickly became clear that playing boardgames just with the children was not going to scratch the itch on its own. More googling, blog discovered, email sent (to Gareth who hadn't yet been replaced following his desertion...)....

BTW I think I first came along in spring 2013, two years ago. My first session was with Canadian Barry, Woody and American Sean (all now gone?) playing Tinners Trails and then London - both since purchased). I gained the impression that most of you had been gaming together for years so I have been shocked to see how many stalwarts only proceeded me by a year!

Obviously I now attend Richmond regularly and Isleworth rarely (due to family timings more than anything), but I still feel I can pop along whenever an opportunity arises and find friendly faces to game with.

And I feel privileged to have contributed a few efforts to that wonderful blog... "

Jon: "In terms of my journey into gaming, I grew up playing the usual games with my family at Christmas - Cluedo, Monopoly, Boggle and The London Game. My brother then got Risk, which was great, except that World Domination was the only victory condition, meaning that it went on for ever sometimes.

At university, for some reason, I picked up Axis & Allies, which was a nice step up from Risk, but still required an investment of time and other wiling participants.

It was then basically party games all the way, until about 2004, a few years after we were married, when some friends invited us for dinner and they brought out Settlers of Catan. I was instantly hooked, and when another couple mentioned a game called Carcassonne, the slippery slope had begun. I discovered BGG, and my first purchases were Carcassonne, San Juan, Bohnanza, Tikal, Attika, For Sale, Lost Cities, Battle Line, Jambo and Caylus.

Can you remember those days when you thought that as soon as you had 10 games in your collection, that would be enough? Sigh...... shake

Anyway, in 2007, I met Barrie and Gareth in a pub in Richmond, and 2 years later, we formed the Isleworth Boardgamers. Since then, there has been much cube-pushing, even more spy-accusing, the odd car trip to Germany, the making of many friendships and even the acquisition of a god-child for me. And no more opportunities to pass 'Go' and collect £200..... "

DLT: "Gaming for me started with video games which I still love. In between some collecting warhammer and playing the traditional monopoly and clued. Around my first year of uni I started to play warhammer again and lotr risk. After nonstop playing of these 2 games i wanted more. So I bought zombicide. I was hooked. I loved it. I had to get more and play games I've heard of but never played. So I bought more and started to really enjoy the hobby. Helped that my classmates loved it too. We played it too much.
Now. At the end of uni I've developed my tastes of games and enjoy all types. My collection has now grown and just want to play more. And to help with that I have the lovely folks at isleworth

This weeks question: What is your favourite artwork in/on a game...? If you had to select something to put in the Louvre (or the Tate) what would it be?”

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The one where things are back to business as usual

And so our trip down memory lane is complete, and the details of the past few weeks have been sketched in and plastered over with the usual modicum of misdirection, mistakes, and downright porky-pies. We are back to the present day, unless you are reading this in the future of course, in which case here is an old post about what happened many centuries ago when Apemen still believed they ruled the world...

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

What more is there to say about this game? It was new to Paul A, fun was had by all, my bonus card strategy failed to fire as I couldn't get the rooms I needed to really make it work. Paul A made tremendous use of sleep rooms in a way I've never seen before, effectively building his own little bed & Breakfast, and Andy scored an eye-watering number of bonus points on downstairs rooms after going for an unusual money-heavy strategy in the early game. Andy 120-odd, Paul A 90-something, Dan 80-and a bit

Paul A’s take on events: the first time for me on this one. I'd stopped by a demo table at Essen, watched it for a while and left unimpressed. Unfortunate, given that I really like Suburbia. But CoMKL is a bit less obvious than Suburbia, and I suspect that a lot of the strategy concerns good use of room-completion powers and careful pricing. Well, anyway, that's my explanation for losing so badly. Like this one a lot.”
7 Wonders
Once again the green cards showed their worth, but it was Paul A's powerful deployment of three guild cards that secured a very narrow victory. Andy went heavy on military in the early game but lost the advantage towards the endgame, and Dan exploited markets in the early game to very quickly complete his wonder before relying on free builds on green cards for most of the rest of the game. Paul A, Dan, Andy, scores were around 50 points each with only a point or two separating each of us.   
Paul A’s take on events: I may finally be getting the hang of this one. I think doing it with three players may lead to a slightly different sort of game, given that you'll see most cards twice.”

River Dragons
Sort of an extra-cute simpler version of robo-rally, the object here is to place stones on the board and then to place wooden boards on top so that your meeple can cross the pond in the centre of the board. The snag is that you have to pre-program blocks of five actions at a time and the interactions between the players frequently makes things go horribly wrong. Sometimes one of your naughty opponents makes a dragon rise up out of the water which cancels your turn. Or, your just as naughty other opponent steals one of your planks just as you are about to step onto it. Or, both of the little tikes do both of these things at the same time.
I'll admit that I am totally rubbish at these sorts of games and was predictably, and hilariously, awful in this one. I suffered the ignominy of failing to even take a single step off my starting island and inadvertantly handed the game to Andy through what can only be described as "a dick move" that prevented both myself and Phil from doing anything for a whole turn when either of us could have instead held Andy up and given ourselves a chance at winning.
If you want a fun programming game with pretty components and a charming theme then try this; if you want a ridiculously unpredictable game where everything goes completely tits up, then try this game with me :-)
Andy made it home safe and (relatively) dry, Phil was left stranded in the middle of the lagoon, and Dan wisely stayed at home far away from these madmen and their strange antics.

Port Royal
While we waited for the second showing of Castles to conclude, two of us passed the time with Port Royal. Phil took the honours in this best of three for this "always a pleasure, never a chore" game. I think it works better as a two player than with a bigger table, although each game reached a point where it was inevitable that one player was going to win on the next turn regardless of which cards came up.
Phil 2, Dan 1

Thanks to Paul A for the following report:
King of New York 
when I first played this King of Tokyo sequel, I was a little underwhelmed. There's nothing exactly wrong with it, but it seemed on first blush to have complicated the original game system for only minor gain. And when considering the powerups, it seemed that the original had consumed all the good ideas.
On this occasion however (which may have been my fourth game of it), I began to warm to it. I still think there's a bit too much fussy stuff, but the pace of the game has stepped up. There's more interaction between monsters (especially those outside the centre) and you can't leave anyone alone or they'll chip away at buildings, accumulating VPs. In any event, there's no point in just recapitulating the base game, so why not play with the formula?

Thanks to Noel for the following reports:  
As James stood at the pile of games auctioning for punters to roll up, roll up he could have been forgiven for wondering if anyone was coming to play boardgames at all tonight. Agricola was given a resounding cheer by two IBGers (no prizes for guessing), Noel was nearly roped in for that inaugural game but was more excited about Chinatown the negotiation classic and Luka, James and Rachel were all keen to get involved.
Noel helpfully warned Rachel and Luka that James was not to be trusted at negotiation games. Luka didn't need any encouragement to believe that as he knows James well from work... A bit of faffing around the 3 rules that exist in the game as the correct number of cards to hand out was decided and the frantic negotiations were off. James helpfully started a 5min buzzer alarm to limit each round which pushed things along really well. Luka had a 4 block site from his first successful negotiation with Rachel and Noel gave up 2 restaurants for some prime property and a complete set for him. Luka managed to get these 4 build but the remaining 2 restaurants would fortunately elude him for the rest of the game. Noel completed a Seafood resturant and Rachel opened a Tropical Fish emporium. All was well in Chinatown, except for James Sad Dim Sum place which was a bit tatty and small and always blocked when trying to expand. The master negotiator tried but every way he turned Luka and Rachel stymied his progress, particularly when rachel blocked in his Dim Sum 'Palace' to make sure it would never reach full size. Noel actually turned out to be James most willing partner and a few exchanges for equal benefit were performed.

At the end of the developing and negotiating Noel had cracked the Million pound celing and won by 70k from Luka with Rachel 50k further back and James eating a soggy Dim Sum all alone.
Noel 1010k; Luka 940k; Rachel 890k; James 860k

Castle of Mad King Ludwig II 
This was started at about 945 and although expertly taught by James it did run on a bit as it was everyone else's first play. Noel had beautiful Gardens and a completed living room bonus multiplier which scored really well. Rachel had a well placed network of activity rooms and utility rooms. James, an underground dungeon and Luka multiple small food rooms. At the end of the normal scoring Noel was a good bit in front, but as the bonus cards were turned Luka pulled in 33 points and pushed into a clear lead. Everyone enjoyed it and all keen for another play!
Final Scores: Luka 1st; Noel 2nd James 3rd Rachel 4th.


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: “Is there any game (or games) that you're itching to play... either it's too hard to find, takes too long, to complex etc... What's the game that you've had on your bucket list for ages but you've never actually had a chance to play?”

Dan: "Huh. Between last weeks question and this weeks, I'm starting to wonder if I'm in the right hobby. I guess the closest I can get to an answer this week is that I would have liked to have played BSG a bit more than I have. But I only like it five players with just the base game so fat chance. Still, I feel like I got enough out of it not to be champing at the bit for another game. "

Noel: "3 months ago your question would have had an easy answer - War of the Ring (second edition), sitting on my shelf unplayed.... But since then I've had two brilliant (if maybe a little long (5-6hr shake)) games with little bro, 2 Free Peoples victories and even some paints have been ordered surprisesurprise! Straight in with a 10/10- great game. So now its maybe Space Hulk or Twilight Struggle again.."
James: "I have several 'bucket list' games at the moment, for different reasons but most tend to be longer games that I never get to fit in on a Wed... Die Macher - The **first** game in the BGG database, generally considered one of the games that started it all... No idea if I'll like it but I feel almost obliged to try it once. Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island - Need to play this and see what all the fuss is about... waiting for Jon to set this up on a Wed again whistle Descent: Journeys in the Dark - Another big box, sitting on the shelf un-played... want to keep this as I'm sure my boy will love it when he's a little older... but then also not sure if Mice and Mystics might not provide the same experience for less than half the real estate... on this topic I'd also love to try other FFL big boxes such as Starcraft, Twilight Imperium III... but the amount of time required feels daunting... Risk Legacy - Not just 1 game but feels like it needs to be arranged over several months... Been sitting on my shelf for 2-3 years now... taunting me about not getting played... ....anyone ? "
Paul D: "The game that I've been wanting to play forever is 1989. Well for a year or two at least. I also fancy Primordial Soup. Like the theme of both, although both hugely different. "

This weeks question: Let's find out a few back stories here, so time for a one of the big did you get into gaming... ? What was the trigger to bring you into the gaming hobby ? Who do you blame for losing years of your life to moving cubes across a piece of cardboard..?”