Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Come on, let's Twitch again, like we did last summer

Players: Paul A, Peter, Dan, James, Andy, Tash, Jon, Noel, and Bryan.

Last weekend I found myself wandering amongst the meadows of Kent, a fair and lovely setting I'm sure you'll agree. A nearby body of water caught our eye and so we spent ages circling round country lanes until we finally wound up at what turned out to be a bird sanctuary beside a reservoir. Finding ourselves amongst a bunch of friendly Twitchers I asked some innocent questions about a hobby that I barely understand. To my eyes a bird is a bird, so I was intrigued to find out what is so special and captivating about the wildfowl at this location that made it worth traveling long distances to spend hours on end apparently doing not much other than sitting around and looking at them for a bit. 

Boy, did I open a can'o'worms there. 

Apparently these aren't just any birds like you might be used to seeing at home in your garden or street, these are special birds that require an educated hobbyist, rising above the common ranks, to properly understand and appreciate. I'm sure the intentions were good, but I did feel a little silly for asking and the intangible barrier that now existed between us made me feel uncomfortable and, it has to be said, a little unwelcome.
Funnily enough, the experience instantly made some parallel connections into our own hobby. How many times have we read or heard that some games are fit only for people who are new to the hobby, and are not played by 'real' gamers, even sometimes loathed and ridiculed; or that enthusiastic newbies should be kept away from some other games for their own good, in case their heads explode or they accidentally miscount a points salad and rip open a portal to another dimension in the process or something (I'm not quite sure as I don't quite follow the logic myself). It made me stop and think about the barriers that are sometimes put around our hobby with the best and most well meaning intentions, but which may instead drive people away or give the wrong impression that we aren't the normal, everyday people that we are (well, most of us anyway...) Fortunately we have little worry of uncomfortable social situations at IBG as we successfully welcome another new gamer, Bryan, into the fold, and discuss our favourite 'gateway' games in this week's Q&A.

 Ye Olde Undersea Sons of Bitches (thanks Peter)

 Deep Sea Adventure provided the usual thrills and spills. Despite having played many times I still rarely make it back to the sub but tonight I succeeded twice. Alas it was not sufficient to beat Paul who I believe made it back with a level three treasure. Quite something.
Paul A was the most selfish diver, pushing everyone else back down into the briny sea by stepping on heads in his rush to get back on the boat.  Peter was a close second with Andy and Dan barely making it back with some rusty old trinkets.

Love Letter

A rare outing at IBG for this popular micro game to fill a bit of time as we waited for No Thanks to finish up, new to Andy but still confusing to the rest of us as it was some strange Samurai variant with unfamiliar names on the cards. Like many games with broad appeal, the simplicity and direct play that make it so accessible also causes it to grate with many and I think we added Andy to those ranks as he didn't seem too impressed after his first ever experience of this. Still popular with the rest of the table though!
Dan won, with Paul A, Peter, and Andy managing to deliver one or two letters each.

Pax Porfiriana (thanks Peter)

It was good to get Pax Porfiriana back to the table again. I was well-rusty so my thanks go out to both Dan and Paul for their patience with explaining the rules to me. Dan impressively nearly won twice: once with Outrage (with defeat saved in the nick of time by Paul who Outraged my factions and saved us from Dan's majority), and then with Loyalty when I managed to buy the topple card moments before Dan was going to succeed in a Loyalty revolution. Meanwhile Paul & I were making the most of an abundance of income-generating ranches and mines. And with both of their troops maxed out in ability, thanks to some handy Partners, conflict was light and unrest minimal. With the last topple card gone Dan was completely broke and his mass of Loyalty was no good to him. So at that point the game was abandoned with me just marginally ahead on cash over Paul thanks to a benign set of income generating mines, mainly in the US. Thank for the game, it was most enjoyable. We must play it again soon...before I forget the rules again.  

 Ed - "As an addendum I feel obliged to point out how well both Paul and Peter closed me out of the game - right from the off I picked up two newspapers that would allow me a very quick and cheap move for either a Loyalty or an Outrage victory and strangled my economy to push for it, but they both kept the regime in a flux of anarchy and martial law while buying three of the four topples from the 16-spot as soon as they could. 
Paul looked like he might be in scope for a quick push to a Revolution victory in the early game, or at the very least to force me to flip my Hacendado in support of the revolutionaries which would have completely scuppered my chances for a Loyalty victory, and so I diverted some of my efforts into closing this avenue off. This slowed my game further as it meant that I missed the first topple which was a sterling opportunity for me to invite a US invasion and to take the game; when it dropped off the end of the exchange Paul played some orange cards onto Peter to block any further viable attempts on Outrage and so I switched focus to kissing Diaz's butt with a Loyalty-strong tableau. However, for at least eight rounds in a row I was either a couple of money or an action short of victory, or had the topple taken before it could come back to my turn. So frustrating, yet I loved every moment of it!
Both Peter and Paul were going for a cash heavy long game and I very nearly put us into a depression to wipe the tableaus clean but too many Bear cards followed into the exchange to make this a viable strategy as I would have damaged my own position more than theirs.
I would also note that Peter is being quite modest in his description of being 'slightly' ahead. With by far the biggest stack of money and a strong tableau of well guarded ranches and mines his cash victory was inevitable; as Paul put it, Peter could either accept our capitulation right then and there or take the win after 45 minutes of slow burning income-building card play later, and so we called the game in order to regroup with the other table that had just wrapped up at that point"

TTR: Marklin 


Not much is known about the events of this game other than some fateful words from Bryan transmitted to us via Noel: "Cheers for another fun night. Bryan was the first night newbie, enjoyed TTR Marklin and asked the fateful... 'So where do you get hold of these games?' at the end of the night... Welcome to the slippery slope"

The Beige Game (thanks Tash)

I'll have you know that the game with the beige board did not just have a beige board. Oh no. It also had beige cards. AND it had a set of components in GREY. AND the most terrifying of all possible cards in that game was the devildevildevildevil BELL TOWER devildevildevildevil

SO EVIL is this BELL TOWER that noobs are recommended to play without it!

(I will let James explain the actual game of Firenze which was really quite fascinating actually, thank you very much, so there.)  

King Up
It's been a really long time since we last saw this game at the club so it was great to have this candidate for 'game most begging for a Game of Thrones retheme' back on the table. There is a castle full of backstabbing hooligans who are all desperate to sit on the iron throne and every so often some fool will make a play for it and be thrown out of a nearby window. All the players have a card with a list of wannabes that they can score points on and some voting cards that give them only two shots at vetoing a candidate for kingship. Hijinks ensue as everybody jostles for the best scoring positions while the bodies pile up in the castle moat, unless everybody hilariously mistimes their bluff by voting 'Yes' in the first round which we managed to do in the second game. We played three games and it was fun, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you what the scores were.

Also played this evening: No Thanks, 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: "2 games are generally considered to have done more than any others to push the gaming hobby we all love...

Carcassonne... and... Settlers of Catan

Which side are you on ?

Paul A: "I slightly prefer Settlers to Carcassonne, but it's a tough battle:
* Carcassonne is by far the more elegant and clever design. Pick up a tile, put down a tile.
* But in terms of "the hobby", Settlers is the clear winner. It boosted the eurogame into the public eye, restarted the genre and has sold 18 million copies. No contest. " 

James: "For me I think I prefer Carc... just because I find myself playing it far more than Settlers that needs 3 and takes 3 times as long. My 8 year old loves Carcassonne, and my parents even have a copy of their own... I did try to introduce on of the variants (Carcassonne: Gold Rush) at Christmas though and it was resounding failure... serves me right for trying to be clever...
On the iPad I've probably played both more than any other game... the implementations are flawless... but over a table Carcassonne wins.
Also the small modular expansions are much easier to bring in for Carc while the expansions for Settlers are chunkier and generally change the games quite dramatically.
So +1 for Carcassonne " 

John B: "I loved Settlers back in the day (The 90’s), but I have never been that keen on Carcassonne preferring Alhambra as a tile laying game.
Nowadays I would rather not play either of them." 

Dan: "Out of the two I would go for Carcassonne, it's dead simple and the abstract design allows people to play their own game. I find that Settlers can be a bit flaky as it largely depends on people playing the game as they are supposed to, i.e. trading and bashing the leader. As soon as someone paddles against the stream it can go a bit wrong as the trading helps to mitigate the uneven resource spread in the early game. Regardless of personal tastes, Carc always delivers whereas Settlers can be a bad experience simply because of the starting setup or the way the game is played." 

Noel: "Team Settlers for me. Not really that keen for a game at the club but has been the perfect 4 player gateway for us and lots of friends. Though I have an unplayed Catan Histories: Merchants of Europe if anyone interested in a game (that might be a good one for Wednesday)" 

Jon: "Definitely Carcassonne for me. Easy to teach and learn. Some interaction without being too aggressive (unless you want to be! arrrh ) Traders & Builders / Inns & Cathedrals are all you need of the expansions.
Settlers is still ok (and we've just started playing with the kids) but I always get taken unawares by how long the game can go on for - too long for a gateway in my opinion. TTR:Europe has taken over from Settlers as our alternative to Carcassonne...) " 

Tash: "I don't know anything about gateways for children. I can only speak to the teenage and adult hobby.
Settlers for me is the better game and the better gateway.
Not sure about the love for Carcasonne. Imo, it's just another tile-laying snoozefest which relies (like so many tile games) on you pulling the better tiles at the better times - or, more to the point, not pulling the worse tiles. There's no strategic element, there's no battle of wits, there's no moments of sudden excitement/tension and there's no direct interaction between players. I am not sure what other kind of game it is a "gateway" to.
Settlers has its flaws (for instance, every expansion ever made for it) and frustrations (those damned dice, and needing 3 other people) but it does have meaningful choices and strategy and interaction and moments of terror and market economics and probability. The best part about it is that after a while you can "master" it, and that encourages you and gives you confidence to go out and find a deeper game. And it is a gateway to any number of games because of its variety." 

Paul D: "I enjoy carc and settlers. I like settlers more as a game to spend my time playing and I'm always willing to overlook its flaws as I have enjoyed it so much over the years. But I think carc is a better gateway as settlers is okay if you've got The right set of players but it's still too complex for some. And Ticket to Ride is better as a gateway than both of them - that is the ultimate gateway game. " 

Peter: "I am also in the TTR camp as a gateway. Tense and exciting and very easy to teach.
Of the the other two, Settlers drives more tension and I find gateway gamers get quite a buzz from this if they are on the verge of their ten points and it becomes a race for the final point or two. That adrenalin is very addictive and will often sway them into asking for another game. Carcassonne lacks that dimension. " 

This weeks question: "We have a concept for games felt to be a waste of cardboard..."ferry fodder". This dates back to a trip to Essen when traveling back on the cross channel ferry Jon decided that most of the games I'd picked up from Japon Brand should be ditched overboard rather than completing the journey... *

So as we all like lists... what 5 games would not survive a crossing of the channel if you had a chance to dispose of them en-route... devil

* Obviously this was before Jon discovered Machi Koro and Trains and realized that he actually loved Japanese games... how times change

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Bell Tolls for the Picture of Mad Dogs and Englishmen By Edgar Allan Oscar Coward

Players: Paul, Paul, Paul, Jon, John, John, along with Dan, James, Gareth, Sarah, Noel, and Andy, all of whom had the decency to turn up with their own individual names.

Subtitle: "A thoroughly confusing book. Or was it a play?"

The subject this week is subtext, a pertinent time to discuss this with the welcome return of Dixit to the table. This game is often shrouded in confusion as one man's blindingly obvious clue is a dense impenetrable cloud to everyone else, especially when the proceedings are complicated by our customarily misleading rambling. It is a game very heavy on subtextual meaning as you attempt to link two things together, a picture and a phrase, in a way that will be obscure to most, but crucially not all, of the other players.  

This makes me wonder about the subtle ways in which we communicate during other games. Overtly discussing strategy is common form in Co-Op games, except for oddities such as Hanabi - also played this week - where there is strict regulation of what can and can't be said (yeah, right, like those rules aren't begging to be bent - and a great example of when we use subtext with all the grace and subtlety of a hundred kilo ballerina); but in competitive games we still try to influence others albeit through more subtle means. We try to decipher what strategy our opponents are attempting to exploit by observing their play area, the actions they take, and the things that they say; using this information to influence our personal strategy whilst at the same time attempting to obfuscate our own efforts as much as possible. The more complex the game and the more refined the strategies are, the deeper the platform is for indirect manipulation, unspoken bluff and guile.

The thought that this is leading to is the bigger question of why we play games, something that has been an ongoing consideration of mine for quite some time now. We have the obvious reasons of social connectivity, shared interests, etc. but I think that there are some deeper elements of social interaction involved that make the activity an interesting way to spend time.

I feel a future question of the week coming on...

Arboretum (thanks Jon)

I didn't play, but I watched Paul, Noel play with John B who was teaching the game. Seems like a nice hand-management / set collection card game with a spatial element (planting trees to make paths through the arboretum).

- nice art and novel theme
- Paul takes longer than Plato to think
- Noel only likes one type of tree
- John B won on a tiebreak

 Kingdom Builder (thanks Jon)

Paul A opined that using an expansion for KB was an 'aberration'. So we played with one anyway.
As always, a very cool game, which plays differently depending on which scoring cards and which special abilities are in play.
On this occasion, Paul D pipped Jon by a single point thanks to a profitable last move of the game, leaving Jon to moan about how few flowers and deserts he had seen all game.
Paul D 54; Jon 53; Paul A 45; John 43

In his defence, Paul A notes the following: "So why would you take a clean, elegant design like Kingdom Builder and screw it up with special "objectives" and "missions" and other twaddle? So Jon could like it? Anyways, I remain baffled as to how good I am at this on the tablet, but how poor I am at the physical tabletop version. Must be the company."

The Hipster game for Hipsters called "Don't spill the cards!" (thanks James)

Design Town is an interesting Taiwanese game, with a deck builder mechanic ivolving 2 sided cards which you could flip at a certain cost to access additional bonus's... Quite fiddly as it was important to always keep the cards the right way round... tricky when shuffling etc. Gareth romped home to victory (I think)... I do remember doing absymally though, I'd like to blame the game, but I suspect it was my (lack of) strategy... the juries out for me on the game... may need to play again to confirm my opinion
Paul A would like to add "as with many Asian hipster games, an initially confusing experience that started to make sense only as we ended the game. You might look at it as a mini Card City or Machi Koro, with a bit of push-your-luck to it. I'm not sure this has a huge amount of play to it, but it was fun enough and I'd certainly play again."


A three player game between Gareth II, Sarah, and Dan. Gareth built up some Influence very quickly  and dominated the first two ages in the early game, but then his engine stalled and Dan pulled ahead by stealing Influence cards and competing some of the secondary goals that brought in additional dominations. There was a tight tussle for many rounds with the players digging into the deck for the 10th age until the deadlock eventually broke in Gareths favour.

Firenze (thanks James)

Great game - Noel, John and myself played, and basically Noel wiped the floor with us, collecting ooodles of bonus's and shooting into an early lead that only seemed to get bigger... A rematch is required.

Baseball Highlights 2045 (thanks James)

Just a 2 player game this one as only John and me know the rules to baseball... had to make sure I wasn't the NY or Boston teams... luckily John had all the expasions already so I could play as SF. V simple game really with each game lasting the time it takes to play 6 cards which involved advancing your own base runners while blocking your opponents. The first 3 games were a warm up to determine home advantage in the World Series... the deck building element was nice as after each match you were able to 'hire' a new player to your squad... early on these didn't impact much but as the game progressed your whole team started to consist of the new signings rather than the starter cards.

So I managed to sneak home advantage in the WS, and then, somehow, walked away with a 4-1 win from the best of seven.

I really liked this... but I suspect given the theme it's going to next to impossible to get this played... Still would recommend this for anyone into sports games, it's worth a try.

Dixit (thanks Jon)

A welcome return!
Dan insisted that everyone gave clues that were longer than one word.
Jon mistook Edgar Allan Poe for John Donne in his clue, except that no-one noticed as they were all just as illiterate as Jon...
Noel sways between 'Mr Obvious' and 'Mr Obscure'....
Jon won by an urban mile.....  

Happy Birthday (thanks James)

A final couple of games before hometime, and this was a good variant on another game that John brought before 'Crappy Birthday'. Players select gifts (apples to apples style) for the 'selector' who then picks the best and worse gifts... first to 6 (?) wins. Simple game, but lots of fun trying to mind read others... Dan won both games, which is slightly disturbing if he knows us all that well.

Also played this evening: Ninc Kegylem (or No Thanks to the uninitiated), Two thirds of a game of Airships, Hanabi, and a two player game of Agricola

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: "I have a friend who loves Monopoly... I'm very keen to get them into a game of Agricola but I know this is too big a leap in one go. Create a boardgame path that takes my friend from Monopoly to Agricola in, say 5 games (or whatever works for you) and share this below."

Gary: "1. Machi Koro - you are still rolling dice and still acquiring buildings and it is still a bit of a luck fest, but it is much shorter, more engaging and there is Some strategy in the cards you take
2. Ticket to Ride - just to prove that not all board games need dice! You are also trying to second guess what your opponents may do.
3. Stone Age - OK this one does have dice! But it introduces the concept of worker placement and the idea that having more people (actions) comes with a cost - feeding them - and it does have those comforting dice!
4. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small - bit of a cheat, I know, but it would introduce some of the fundamentals of Gric, without the feeding pain or family growth agonies.
5. Agricola - boom. Fact is nothing is going to prepare you really. If you want to be prepared for the feel of that first game, try staying up all night doing mental puzzles and see how you feel - that is how mentally exhausted you will feel after your first game of Agricola!
Alternatively, just tell them to go away and play 20 games on the iPad and then come back and play it. By that point, it will all finally make sense... " 

Paul M: "The answer to the question is a question: what kind of person loves monopoly? I'm not sure I've ever known a game of monopoly to finish before everyone gets bored. Almost as bad as mouse trap which holds the children's attention for less time than it takes to set up!!! " 
Tasha: "Paul has hit on the question that unlocks a way to answer James's enigma.
Gary has gone with the dice-rolling element of Monopoly as a jump-off, but there are other elements to explore - cash management, trading, acquisition.
1. First earn their trust. For Sale In the early game, you buy assets with a limited pool of cash. There is some luck which makes the choice not-so-hard. In the late game, you torture your opponents with your assets. There is some luck. OMG it's the best of Monopoly, delivered in a delicious short burst.
2. Next, introduce balance and knock out some luck. Catan This time, you start with some assets and skip straight to the part where you roll dice to see whether those assets pay off. There is some luck. Then you use those assets to trade with other people to make sets. Make enough sets and you win. OMG it's the best of Monopoly, plus, you actually get to play with other people.
3. Next, let's learn about workers: aka moveable assets. Stone Age We learned about how dice rolls make your assets create resources in Catan. Stone Age is the same - but your assets are not fixed on the board, but moveable by you: workers. Each turn you decide, afresh, what they make. But, ah, the scarcity! The ruined plans! More workers are better, but, I need to feed them! Gah! We also learned about how sets of resources buy VPs in Catan, at fixed exchange rates. Now let's vary those exchange rates, via cards, buildings and multiplier rewards.
4. Let's kill the dice and get some multiple currencies going. Puerto Rico Time to step things up and get rid of the crutches. Puerto Rico is a step back, in that the workers have temporarily disappeared. But your job choice is similar, except it forces you to think about how your choices directly affect everyone. PR also teaches the tableau concept, and other techniques you need for Agricola: You need money to survive; and barrels/colonists/buildings to do things; but focus too much on those - and you'll end the game with no VPs. Oops!
5. Remember: games are fun. King of Tokyo: Power Up! We are nearly ready to play Agricola. But there are three reasons to play this first. (a) It teaches about how cards can appear and be amazing, or dreadful, and definitely make a game asymmetrical (and sometimes feel unfair because of that). This is v important to know if you are going to enjoy Agricola. (b) It also reminds you that games are fun and not just like going to work or school. (c) This game should now feel "a bit silly" to your player, because the randomness of the dice plays such a big part, and their choices not so much. This will hopefully stop them feeling nostalgia for simpler games of luck when the Agricola train hits them in 3.... 2.... 1...."  

Dan: "Step 1: Play Monopoly with them. It's their favourite game after all and there's no room to be a dick about it. You like to spend time with your friend so does it have to be about you? Start off by showing them the correct rules as it's likely an absolute certainty that they don't play it correctly.
Step 2: Show them your games collection and ask them to choose something, anything, they like the look of, and then play it with them. This notion that gaming is a dark art that people have to be led into gradually is complete BS. If they don't have it in them to enjoy complex games then playing Ticket To Ride first isn't going to make them any more likely to love Agriocola later.
Step 3: If they don't choose Agricola then stop being a whining pussy about it, you've always got Wednesday nights to get in a game.
Step 4: If they decide that they like tabletop gaming then invite them along to IBG!

Paul M: "(Tongue in cheek mode activated)
We need to take a step back here.
How long has this person been a friend? Monopoly is a game which divides the world into two: mostly people don't enjoy it while a small proportion do but complain that no-one else wants to play it with them. Is it the case that this monopoly-phile has recently wangled a friendship with you just so they can get a game of monopoly going? Are they the type of friend who'll be there when you need them? I think not.
Secondly, as Dan explained, Monopoly is a game which no-one plays properly. Should we be encouraging play of a game where the rules are ignored or even deliberately misread? Should we encourage play of a game which defines why some people call it bored-gaming? I think not.
I say - save yourself the cost of two postage stamps a year (that's right they won't invite you to their birthday party as that's for their real friends so you'll have to post that card along with the Xmas one) and simultaneously improve the quality of your friendship group.
(Tongue in cheek mode off) " 

James: "No meta-answer from me... being non-meta is the new meta.
So the first game is simple... Chinatown... not only as it's one of my favorites but it fits the theme of Monopoly and also improves on the negotiation tenfold... very beginner friendly as well. Easy win.
From Chinatown we move to El Gaucho... time to show that dice are not just for moving... but can be far more flexible in games... not a lot of overlap with Agricola on the mechanics, but there are lots of cows
Let's now mix a few of these thing together and also introduce some gaming history and bring out CATAN 3D Collector's Edition... ok, I don't have this fancy version, but what a way to impress a newbie... yeah Monopoly has a little silver boot... so what, I have 3d sculpted mountains ! Here we bring back negotiation, add some dice, some spacial planning on the board, card management... there's a lot going on in Catan.
From here we're almost there... Time to zone in on the core mechanics of Agricola and introduce some worker placement... time for Lords of Waterdeep... Dan's favourite game as I recall... good job Dan's not playing though as we don't want to put anyone off. This gives us all the remaining tools for Agricola... worker placement... resource management... in a very beginner friendly package... just hope they're not put off by the D&D branding on the box... I should really put some tape over that.
...and here we are at Agricola although as I still don't know the rules chances are I'll ot actually get around to playing this with my friend... so would plump for a game of Twilight Struggle instead as it's better

This weeks question: "2 games are generally considered to have done more than any others to push the gaming hobby we all love...

Carcassonne... and... Settlers of Catan

Which side are you on ?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Three plus three is twelve

Players: Gareth, Sarah, Jon, Dan, Paul D, James, Dan II, Andy

Another great night, a lot of fun was had with prancing parades, crafty Cathedrals, delirious dreams, and trans-Asian trading. We also witnessed the undersea equivalent of Bungee Jumping, which has to be a first for IBG if not the world.


Ahh, I remember that bit of Alice In Wonderland so well, when all the core characters decide to clone themselves ten times over before forming a long orderly line. And who says that filler games don't have theme? A bunch of us played this to get the evening started, scores ranged from terrifically wonderful to hilariously bad but the eventual victor is sadly lost to posterity.

Marco Polo (thanks James!)

Ok, so it did play in just over an hour with 2 players on my first game... wasn't expecting this to be a 2 hour game with 4...

Apologies out of the way, Andy, Paul, Natasha and myself all dived into one of the hot games of the month, from the designers of T'zolkin a lighter, dice worker placement game about exploring the far east and bagging camels (no, that' not what you think that means Jon)...

This games most striking aspect are the unique player roles. When Dan heard about the dice element he was skeptical about the luck element in the game.... however one of the player roles gets to pick their dice results rather than rolling... a natural fit to cover Dan's skepticism... Paul could avoid the costs for using already selected actions, I gained additional resources from the market and Andy had an extra dice for the game... very powerful abilities. This feels to me like one of the key motivators to reward additional games and the roles will require different approaches each game.

So as the the game itself, turned out to be an interesting journey... I jumped out to a commanding lead mid-game due to completing lots of contracts due to my easier access to resources. Dan and Andy were both exploring while Paul seemed to be specifically targeting certain cities. In the last 3rd suddenly Dan scored like a zillion points in 1 turn and we ended up neck and neck.. Andy and Paul were struggling to keep the pace, I'll admit I'm not sure the extra dice ability is as good as it sounds.. but haven't played the game enough to really know for sure. Right at the end I managed to turn in a few more contracts and ended up ahead by about 8 points or so... but it went from feeling comfortable for me to a nervous last few turns... trying to max out points at the end is quite a brain burner.

For me I enjoyed it although not sure how the others felt... I think there's a risk that you can be limited in options towards then end which doesn't help... Paul got a bit stuck this way. Dan and me took totally different routes to scoring and were close, which is promising for future re playability... as I already said, I'm not sure the extra dice gives enough of a benefit, but maybe I'm wrong... felt like Andy wasn't able to do much with his advantage.

I think the game though is really solid... and easily the best new game this year (post Essen)... wouldn't surprise me at all to see it up for some of the big awards later this year



 Two plays of this long-absent but much welcome game of un-co-operation, general confusion, and pictures of spiders. The first was a two-player endeavour between Jon and Dan with Jon playing two investigators, which plays surprisingly well as there is a stronger unspoken dialogue between the ghost and the investigator. It's definitely much easier to be the ghost without people interfering in each others interpretations of the dream cards (not mentioning any names here *cough*spiders!*cough*). A fairly easy victory all told with only one refresh of the dream cards.
Paul joined us for the second game with Jon taking over spooky duty, once again we got right to the end but with only one opportunity to guess we chose the wrong suspect.

Deep Sea Shrimpy Bungee Jumpers Are Ok!

This one is fast becoming a club favourite as an end of evening game; veteran James took a tactful approach plunging not too deep and quickly coming back up with a single treasure in hand. Everybody else went crazy like a bunch of bag-ladies with brand new shopping trolleys and found themselves struggling to survive with any treasure. Both the Dans did some remarkable undersea bungee-jumping, diving down only to immediately come back up empty handed. I managed to acquire only a single level 1 artifact for all my troubles which was decried as the equivalent of shrimp fishing in this game. Revealing our tiles at the end of the game it turned out to be an ex-shrimp that had climbed up the curtain and joined the choir invisible. A rather tragic end to the night, but I shall forever treasure my brief moments with "Bubba" and remember him always.   

Jon mentions that he only realised halfway through the game the reason why everyone was rolling remarkably low totals with 2 dice, and why he could ever roll more than a total score of 6 - there were only the numbers 1-3 on each die.... "Despite this, I think I might have won the game with a remarkable final desperate dive. But I might not have. Who cares - it was fun anyway!"

Also played this evening: Catan: Germany Edition

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: "Imagine you're standing in the upcoming election on behalf of the Board Game Party.... what would be in your manifesto ?"

James: "To start this off I'd make it an offense for any other activities to be arranged on a Wed evening that could conflict with club night...

Also, any company found scheduling meetings on Thursday mornings at 9am, or similar will be fined severely... "

Neil: "Tighter controls at ferry ports: all Japanese to be tested thoroughly before being allowed entry.
Moratorium for mythological, fantastical games: hand them over to any council dump during the month of June. After that the police state will hunt you down and you will be convicted.
The rebranding of The Monopolies Commission to 'The Feld Academy'.
A new structure of education taught completely through board games: History - Through the Ages, Geography - Ticket to Ride, Sports - Subbuteo, English - Council of Verona, Maths - from 6 Nimmt and For Sale through to advanced Feld, etc, etc."

Paul A: "If you elect me for the Boardgame party, I will ensure that truth in advertising is enforced for boardgames: piles of miniatures can no longer be called "theme", those launching Kickstarters will be forced to admit if they have no idea what they're doing, game manuals will have to meet minimal standards of English and comprehension. "

James: "Prior to any game of Small World there will be a referendum whether Jon should be gagged for the duration of the game.
If I'm elected I'll also pass a law that permits upto 1 incorrect rule to be acceptable when covering new games for the first time...
2 incorrect rules would go on record, but not result in any further action.
3 incorrect rules - you're out ! (...or forced to proof read the next Phil Eklund game...)"

Soren: "I would tax empty space in game boxes - that should sort out both the economy as well as the housing shortage."

Dan: "So if we vote for James he has to throw himself out of the country?
My ticket is the same as the one I had in my recent abortive bid for the world presidency, which is the promise of free Beer, discount balloon rides, and a two-day working week for all. Like any good politician my steering wheel only does u-turns though, fair warning!

Tash: "Vote for me and I will:
1. Increase productivity and wealth exponentially across the Dominion by holding massive numbers of Festivals.
2. Refocus our Trains industry on its true #1 priority: efficiently disposing of toxic waste
3. Skyrocket national wealth by producing vast quantities of much-needed Indigo thanks to our new forced labour "colonists"
4. Give everyone in prison a chance to escape if they can reach the car park and then roll 20 or more on 4 dice
5. Outlaw the use of Wet Nurses and Chamberlains in the farming industry, as an anti-competitive practice "

Jon: "Vote for me and I'll abolish:
1) All cube-pushing games over 1 hour long...
2) All fantasy-themed games (special dispensation for Small World)...
3) All space-themed games...
4) Cards with too much text and too many icons on them...
5) Any Japanese game... except Trains... or Machi Koro... or String Savanna...
6) James... "

This weeks question: "I have a friend who loves Monopoly... I'm very keen to get them into a game of Agricola but I know this is too big a leap in one go. Create a boardgame path that takes my friend from Monopoly to Agricola in, say 5 games (or whatever works for you) and share this below." 

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Wo ist mein Luftschiff-Kapitän Hut?

Players: Paul A, Sarah, Gareth II, Dan, Andy, Jon, John

  I must confess that the recent predeliction for SteamPunk themed everything has gone right over my head. Slapping a few cogs and a pair of swimming goggles on a pirate hat just doesn't excite me a great deal, but thank god for variety so I'm greatful that it exists as a thing even if it's not one I can personally get into. That sense of diversity in personal experience is a running theme for this week's blog, both in James' question of the week and in the games we played; Small World has recently been revealed as the Marmite of boardgames at IBG with equal amounts of lovers and haters, there is an ongoing debate about whether CoMKL is really better than Suburbia or just newer, and Machi Koro delivers a mixed bag of of warm fuzzy love and scratchy heads. Join our compact septet this week who crazily eschewed the opportunity for an all-night 7 Wonders marathon for castles, balloons, and faraway lands - it's all a bit like going to Disneyland, except with a few more firing squads thrown in.

Coup: Guatemala '54 (thanks Paul A)

We started by introducing Sarah to Coup: Guatemala 1954 and the pleasures of a game that's all about lying. The random selection of cards turned up an interesting combo in the Communists stealing from the rich, the Church stealing money from everyone, the CIA quietly taking income and the radio station in for good measure. It got down to a situation where I was was pretty sure what everyone had ... and couldn't do a thing to stop John winning. (FLIPS TABLE)

Castles of Mad King Ludwig (thanks Paul A)

Then onto The Castle of Mad King Ludwig, and some strange castle were built indeed. There was a bonus tile for downstairs rooms but such was the rush for them that I missed out entirely and settled for building many music rooms for a personal bonus, while Jon studied every new tile with the intensity of a man trying to unify string theory. High scores all around, so we may be getting too good at this game. 

Machi Koro Harbour (thanks Jon)

 Chosen whilst Dan was visiting the little boys' room (or else he would probably have vetoed it...)
This one played out beautifully, with a great mix of '1-die' and '2-die' cards coming out. Jon focused on building a solid '1-die' engine whilst Andy quickly moved on to 2 dice. Dan and Paul traded coins via their various cafes and other nefarious establishments.
Andy built his Airport relatively quickly, following a massive windfall from his Veg Market, and never looked back. Jon was within one major landmark of equaling Andy's achievement, but, in reality, was miles behind. Paul and Dan - also ran...... 


After the lightweights had cleared out it was left to Dan and Jon to keep the flag flying with a welcome return of this dice/tableau filler. The first game saw an early rush from Dan to build Airships before Jon got his factory into action and took back the Airship token. Dan struggled to get red and black dice into hand making it very difficult to bring the game to an early close. His clear lead began to rapidly erode before completely disappearing, but securing a couple of VP scoring elements started to balance things out again. Jon started to build elements of the Hindenburg to keep his score moving forward but Dan swiped the final Airship required to end the game. Totalling up the scores it was very close, however Jon's late rush on production saw him clinch the win.
A second game was set up amid some musing on how the game very rarely seems to end with construction of the Hindenburg. This time Jon got his production into gear much more quickly and held the silver Airship for most of the game. The regular Airships were proving tricky to acquire and after Jon built the first stage of the giant Luftschiff Dan went directly for red and black dice, then proceeded to build the remaining stages in quick succession. And so it ended up as a comprehensive victory in a very short game rather typically with the exact thing we were discussing as never happening in this game.
One game all then, and a nice way to round off the night!

Also played this evening: Small World

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: "We all like to win, but what games do you play, that you love to play, but could care less about winning….. (obviously for Paul, this is every game… else he’d never turn up )"

 James: "I'll set the ball rolling on this with Bausack... you might end up with a pile of rubble in front of you, but while it's standing I think everyone is enjoying the process of constructing their own little piece of modern art and feeling that it should be in the Tate. "

 Gary: ""Could" or "couldn't" care less? I'll assume the latter... In which case, any game I play with my kids! In fact, I prefer to lose when playing with them as they invariably have a better time if they win and are more likely to want to play again...
The only other games I didn't remotely care about were ones I just wasn't enjoying and wanted to be over! Thunder Road and Battlecon come to mind!"

 Peter: "I agree with Tash re Agricola. My aim is to hit 30 points. If I do that I am satisfied and always have great fun building a farm. Same goes for Caverna, Le Havre, Ora and Labora... All the Rosenberg classics. Dominion also, build a satisfying engine and buy lots of shiny action cards instead of boring money and vp cards even if you know it will lose you the game...far more entertaining. Phil Eklund games where the story is intertwined with the strategy similarly: Greenland which we played last night is really about being in the game and surviving the simulation rather than playing well or winning. "

Paul A: "High Frontier on the top of the stack. The sheer feeling of achievement when you manage to land on Mars / slingshot around Saturn / die screaming as you plummet into the Venusian atmosphere outweighs any small consideration of "victory".
It is, of course, pointless to try and win Tales of the Arabian Nights, so you may as well sit back and enjoy the story. For something more gamey, many of the old classics offer an imbalanced but fun time. For example, Source of the Nile offers a rich and strange tapestry, as players traipse around Africa, get lost, suffer attacks from natives, marry a comely native girl, get attacked by animals and die horribly. It seems unsporting to try and win. "

 Dan: ""Couldn't care less about winning" applies to pretty much every game I play, so the focus for me is always on the "love to play" aspect. I find this question to be heavily linked to both of the previous weeks questions as it asks us to touch into why we choose to spend our precious time playing games instead of any other meaningful activity we could be doing instead.
Games for me need to either encourage plenty of above the table interaction or to be evocative of the thematic setting, preferably both. If I feel like I am accomplishing something, whether it's building a farm, raising an empire, or simply following a virtual beings extraordinary life, then I'm doing an activity that I can find fun, even if there isn't a great deal of Nanuk/Diamant/Apples level interaction going on with the other players.
But I also get bored quickly laugh so I turn over games fairly rapidly if they don't entertain. At the moment I guess it's most probably Castles of Ludwig and Imperial Settlers that I like to play and I'm looking forward to Thunderbirds arriving in the summer. I'm starting to get a little bored with Sentinels as it's kind of collapsing under it's own weight, but I have played some games recently with just the base game characters that were a lot of fun and reminded me of how good a game it can be.
I like Medieval Academy too, and would love to play Android again sometime. Arabian Nights is fun but it should really be a paragraph gamebook as the actual game and board are a complete irrelevance. I liked both Mysterium and Paperback, both of which seem to have come and gone quite quickly from the club's game table. And oh Pax Porfiriana, in the context of James' question let me write you a love letter for your wonderful blend of theme, mechanics, and back-stabbing douchbaggery. Eklund may come across as having eaten to many of the funny toadstools but he got it together long enough to put that one together. "

 Jon: "Sorry - I don't understand the concept.........."not winning????"  
OK...OK...I'll answer the question if I have to......
I must admit, my default position is 'competitive', but there are some games which are more about the experience:
1) Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective - I guess you don't technically really 'win' this one, and it's a co-op so probably doesn't count anyway, but I love the game as an experience as much as anything else.
2) Coup - I love bluffing games, and this one is quick and fun - who cares who wins....?!
3) Railroad Tycoon - hmmmmm - I love this game so much, I'd like to think that I don't care if I win or not, because the pure joy of playing it is enough. But then again, I often play against Noel, and I can't help feeling a pang of discomfort if he pips me by a point or two.... shake
4) Tumblin-Dice - who cares if you win - as long as you can knock one of James' dice off every turn..... devil
5) Tammany Hall - who cares if you win - as long as the interminable torture ends as soon as possible cry (not that I'm scarred by my one play of this game at all.......) " 

 Tash: "Er... I vote for Agricola
Folks are talking about how the theme of games they love helps them enjoy themselves, irrespective of the result, which I totally agree with in very many cases. This chimes with the Agricola thing "for beginners / intermediate players" - where the abstracted VP process makes it hard to even see (let alone care) if you're winning.
But there's also the "for intermediate/expert players" side of Agricola. In this case, your cards simply might not be as good as the next guy, which basically means your ceiling is not as good as theirs. So you can theoretically play perfectly and lose (although if you played perfectly I imagine you probably would not lose...!)
Now some gamers hate that element of things. "I was doomed from the start". But I enjoy games where it's about beating the odds - or making your odds count (whether you know the odds or not). There is something intriguing to me about the idea that you are not running an even race. As a Diplomacy player, perhaps my attitude is unsurprising.
I guess that another game that does this for me is Poker.
I am no expert, but I do know that, in Poker, once you reach a certain level of accomplishment, the most important thing to do is play right - rather than always to win.
Rudimentary example:
You have AA; the other guy has 72 off
You bet heavy before the flop and get called
The board comes A 7 2.
He goes all in, so do you
The cards come 7 7 and you lose.
The chances of that are minimal, you have the guy utterly dominated, and you played right. That is play to be happy about (although obviously it is frustrating to lose). By contrast, the guy who walks away with all the money can be relieved - but can he be happy with the way he played?
It is obviously rewarding to be both those guys - but I would rather be the guy who plays right and lost that time... than the guy who plays wrong and won that time.
[Of course we would all want to be someone who plays right and wins... should that person exist... presumably]
Perhaps that is a peculiar way of looking at gaming? I don't know. "

 Paul D: "I think that my default position is exactly the opposite of Jon's and much more in line with Dan. I like playing games a lot and would much rather play and enjoy than play and win. Quite convenient, me being me and all. However if the win happens, which lets face it is a rare occurrence, it does feel quite nice if it was the result of a well laid plan coming together. And if it means that Jon or James haven't won, it is kinda satisfying too. "

This weeks question: "Imagine you're standing in the upcoming election on behalf of the Board Game Party.... what would be in your manifesto ?"