Wednesday, 20 July 2016

IBG gamers prove they are just big kids at heart



Contributors: Jon, Daniel



Ticket to Ride:Pennsylvania

OK - this was supposed to be TTR:UK, but as we were setting it up, we realised that it only took 4 players and we had 5. No-one seemed overly-keen to bail out, so the board was flipped and Pennsylvania it was. This is the 'stock' map, where each time you claim a route, you have the opportunity to take a share in one of a number of companies. Majority of shares at the end of the game score points.


Highlights: 

- James cannot count. Up to 5. Period. 

- It was about 3 turns into the game before we realised that TomToo didn't really know how to play vanilla TTR. He came last.

- Tom1 and Jon annoyed the heck out of everyone with their Madonna impressions everytime someone said "Two Blue". Funny though, in a juvenile sort of way....

- The spread of scores at the end was huge. 200 down to 100. James won, after keeping and completing all 5 of his starting tickets, which also attracted the globetrotter bonus. Well played sir!



Adventureland

With Karuba playing on the other table, this other Haba release also got an airing, with Paul, Jon, TomToo and James II as the protagonists. We played the third scenario (get your adventurers into cities by game end, or suffer potentially massive minus points).



The end sneaks up on you in this game, and with Jon taking his final turn, he had 5 Adventurers in no-man's land, which multiplied by the number of Fog Monsters still at large, would have decimated his score by 30 points. He therefore spent his last 2 actions killing 2 Fog Monsters, netting him 14 points for the kills, a 7 point bonus for killing the most and reducing his minus points by 10.



After all this carnage, the scores were totted and were incredibly close, with only 5 points between the 4 players. It turned out that Jon's final battles had not been in vain, as he won - just. 



Paul and TomToo were fairly lukewarm about the game, but Jon is keen - especially as a family / gateway game. May have limited appeal at IBG though... :-(



7 Wonders

Could we fit in a 5-player game of 7 Wonders including a new expansion into the last 45 mins of the evening? With OAP's Jon & Paul being 2 of the players? You betcha (and with time to spare!)



The new expansion was the Great Projects (comes in the Babel box), which allows players to contribute to a joint building in each age, that will give bonuses if successfully built, and penalties to non-contributors if not. It seems to fulfill my rules for a good expansion - doesn't add too much complexity or extra time, but tweaks the base game enough to make it interesting. In fact, it turned out to be a game-winner for TomToo, who picked up 4 bonus tiles in the last round, each worth an extra 6 points for his Science. This resulted in Tom's 6 Science symbols being worth a mahoosive 50 points in total - catapulting him into a convincing winner's spot.



Everyone pointed fingers at each other (but mostly Jon) for letting him get away with it, but it shows that this expansion has introduced another nice subtle way of introducing interaction between all the players, not just your immediate neighbours. 



The regularity that this game is hitting the table is meaning that the game-time is dropping like a stone, and with 3 interesting expansions (Cities / Babel Tower / Great Projects) to choose from, this could run and run.....


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So, Karuba, and it seems like Haba's 'thing' at the moment is to move to bigger and far less yellow boxes in their latest range. Their trademark high production quality is still in full swing both here and in Adbentuereublandelandthat other title failed to convince me that there was enough going in to the actual gameplay to justify the step up in format and I was keen to see if Karuba would be any different. It must be good if it got a Spiele nomination, right?

In this one you are laying tiles to create four pathways from one side of your board to the other. One player draws the tiles and everyone else has to find the same matching tile, yet despite the regulated tile draw and same starting positions everyone inevitably builds out in unique ways. This also unfortunately leads to a problem where the game takes far longer to set up than to play, what with having to sift through dozens of numbered tiles either before or during play. There are a couple of gentle twists that attempt to elevate this beyond the most basic level of tile-laying; one involves having to discard some of the tiles you draw to move pawns along the pathways and the other is bonus point gems on some tiles that you can pick up by landing a pawn directly on them. There is also staggered scoring for the first pawns to make it home, so it's often not worth competing on a colour track where your opponents have already stolen a march on you.

Karuba is streets ahead of Adventureland but still seems to be lacking just a little something. Like that other title it is feathery light to the point of being barely more than the standard fare Haba produce for the toddler end of the family gaming market, and I'm left wondering what their direction is here. If, with the bigger boxes fixed at a higher price point, they are looking to take a bite out of a more mature part of the market then I have to make the same point I brought up a few weeks ago: simple rules and rinse and repeat play is fine for a kid's game, but the contents of these two games simply don't justify the scale or price point of the bigger boxes that they come in. Compare Karuba to another family friendly tile-laying game that we all know and (mostly) love, Carcassonne, and it just doesn't feel close in terms of challenging you through it's gameplay in the same way. Maybe it's the lack of direct interaction, or the heavy lean on stricter rules for placement and having to sift through components.

Karuba is so light that when you see Rudiger Dorn's name on the box you can't help wondering if he gave up halfway through designing something else and decided to shunt it in Haba's direction for a quick payday, assuming it would end up in a small yellow box at pocket money prices. That's not to say that it's a poor game, far from it in fact, it just has the aire of an unfinished project that is gasping to escape it's souless implementation.

A welcome and long awaited return for Paperback, or "Scrabble you can with a shit vocabulary" as I like to think of it. I made a bee-line for cards that would increase my draws and quickly nobbled the first bonus card as a result. 

Tom managed to grab a handful of double letter cards and began to spew out his typical sixteen syllable thesaurus mangling words. Despite the grandeur of his garrulous gabble my short and sweet high money cards were paying better by the letter and allowed me to hoover up the scoring cards by the handful, including one of the big ten cent ones. At the end I had scored a magnum opus against Tom's potboiler novel (five stars from three reviewers on Amazon though!), meanwhile James (who was also playing, or at least he claims so) was content just to scribble in the margins.

 








Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The one where David made a lot of noise in a short space of time.



Contributors: Daniel, David, Jon


A rowdy game of the old classic Pit was underway when I arrived and despite how tempting it was to join in I instead settled into a slightly more refined game of Deep Sea Adventure with Jon, James, Paul D, Paul M, and Milda, the latter two having their first go at this perennial favourite.

Jon and Dawsey raced ahead in the first round with their prudence paying off as the only treasure hunters who made it back with some loot, while James and Moosie started to catch up by just scraping through on the last dregs of Oxygen on the second dive. It looked like a lost cause for Milda and myself, with both of us stymied by chucking high numbers on the way down and snake eyes on the way back up (not to mention Milda's determination to pick up every shiny trinket she encountered - ahh, that first game of Deep Sea Assholes...)


However, tables were to be well and truly turned as the shortened treasure trail enabled us to grab some of the stacks at the bottom and provided an easier route back to the boat. While everybody else quickly ran for safety our deep-diving tactics paid off - at the final counting Milda had picked up a massive 35 points on that one dive and I just pipped her to the win with 37 that I likewise collected in that single haul, the other chaps knocking about in the teens and twenties.

We then broke off into two threes playing Glen More and Ra (plus something else?) and a six-top adventuring into a haunted mansion in Betrayal at the House on the Hill. 


After David got his chopper out and bashed Philippe over the head with it, we transitioned to a different kind of bloodshed in Blood Bound which is some kind of 'Vampire Masquerade' style hidden role game. We were split into two teams with everybody knowing which team one of their neighbours was on and the objective to slaughter the opposition leader, stabbing the wrong person resulting in a loss. Cue political satire here if you will. 

For some reason we all took a liking to attacking David on spec and had to pull up short before inadvertantly tanking the game unecessarily early. Each time you get attacked you have to reveal a piece of information about your character (no I don't know why either, I think 'because game' is the reason), so everyone is destined to get a shanking at some point. Eventually, we figured out who everybody was at which point it became apparent that the blue team had a slight advantage and were guaranteed to win... so we stopped playing... erm...


I'll be kind and say that this one probably needs a big table of ten or more (if you can find that many people who are into Vampire fan-fiction) where it takes longer to figure out who the leaders are and maybe some additional character powers can mess with people's heads... but I think this will still fall down to whichever team's leader has one more life point left than the other at the point of reveal and constantly end in a bust.

More Happy Salmon ridiculousness followed this, then I sat down with the two Toms to play Valeria, which is really just an activity wrapped up with some pretty pictures. It's a total rip on Machi Koro except this game is tilted so that everybody collects far more resources as the dice are rolled around the table. As a result there is very little tactical edge in which cards you decide to buy into your tableau, and with even fewer and less interesting decisions to be made you just roll dice and pick up stuff until you run out of stuff to pick up. Someone eventually throws their hands in the air and yells "woo" at all the victory points they have accumulated. Total shite. This really ought to have spent a lot more time in development before being dumped onto Kickstarter.

Realising that this was one of those occasions where we were taking part in an activity rather than playing a game, I abandoned ship and allowed Phil to take over my spot so that I could go and play Legendary: Aliens with James instead. We set up in what passes for 'easy mode', using objectives and characters canonical to the original movie with two 'drone' cards in each objective deck, and as a result it was a bit of a cakewalk if I'm honest. We encountered two face huggers along the way which were dispatched with ease and toward the end were able to wipe out pretty much anything that came our way while we kicked our heels waiting for the big bad to appear. Think we need to dial up the difficulty quite a bit for the next time we play and introduce some of the 'advanced' content with the Weyland Yutani 'traitor' and the Alien player involved.

San Juan and Coup:G54 were also on the go at the end of the night.



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The first of my noise creation came with Billionaire, which is a nicer looking variant of Pit. Along with a small bell came a lot of shouting, in the midst of which Philip made and then lost a fortune and Philippe continually added to his winnings. After much shouting and grabbing someone won and it must have been Philippe.

Then came Betrayal at House on the Hill, I was relatively quiet during most of this until Tom triggered the haunting and I became the traitor. Facing insurmountable odds...ok everything was perfectly laid out for me....I managed to chop Philippe with an Axe and haul his lifeless corpse into the Chasm to open the gates of hell, all the while being chased by a knowledge draining statue. Victory came with the last roll of the dice and at which point I decided it was appropriate to make more noise just to let the others know I had won. This wasn't a great haunting, the rest of the players were effectively ruled out of the game and everything was laid out for me to grab victory.

By this point I had used up most of my energy on a quick game of punching, slapping, tickling with Happy Salmon and I was more restrained for the following game of 7 Wonders. A great game where Paul pipped Jon and I to win by 60 points to our 57 by being the only player to build science and score nicely from it. I should also mention that Paul and I were the only players who did not build any military and were happy to co-exist (there's probably a life lesson in there)


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After Milda's first experience of IBG a few weeks ago, where she found herself involved in an evening-long game of BSG, it was nice to see that she actually returned! And as a reward, she was asked to choose which game she wanted to play, which turned out to be Glen More. Jon & Paul were her co-gamers, neither of whom had played before.

Glen More is a nice little mid-weight Euro - not particularly complicated, but with plenty to think about. It has echoes of Alhambra, with its tile-laying mechanism, and a nice little 'choose a tile from a pathway, and whoever is furthest back on the path keeps going until they overtake someone' mechanism.


Milda was a little taken-aback that the game played very differently to how it did when she played with her husband (no comments about the OAP nature of her opponents required, thank you Dan...) as players built more tiles than she was used to. Paul ended up taking his time to build the most efficient tableau of Scottish landmarks (and when I say 'take his time', I mean, enough time to allow Jon to visit the bar, return with a drink, converse with gamers at other tables, return to his game, to find Paul still taking his move. OAP indeed....) Jon came second, and a bemused but happy Milda came third. Glen More - certainly one of the best Scottish-themed euros out there....



Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The thrill of the hunt




Contributors: Daniel, David

San Juan and Deep Sea Assclowns with Philippe and Tomtoo, then a couple of rounds of Codenames. Deep Sea was amusing in that absolutely nobody brought back even a single treasure due to everybody starting on the heavy breathing every time anyone looked even remotely likely to make it back to the boat. Andy's Codenames clue of "Street" was fabulous seeing as there were two cards labelled 'Wall' and 'Bond' right next to one another; unfortunately, neither of these bloody cards were ours and he was trying to hint at something else entirely. Despite a catastrophic start in both games the trinity of James, Philippe and Tomtoo won both games handily (we blew up on the assassin in the second game but they would have cantered to the win anyway).

We followed all this with a spanking new (and probably KickStarted I'm guessing) game of Sneaky Alien Battleships (probably not the real title, which I cannot remember). In this one you track your movement in secret with the twist that everyone is moving in secret. Some areas on the board require you to draw a card which will do one of three things - either you will be quiet (meaning you don't have to say anything about where you are), you will have to report your exact location, or you can report any location on the board. This leads to all kinds of hi-jinks where the other players can't be sure whether you really are where you say you are or you are yanking their chains, a little too opaque in this area I would say. Players are divided into two teams, fleeing Humans and rampant Aliens intent on devouring them as fleshy treats, and of course nobody knows exactly who is on their side.


Tomtoo went too far in protesting his innocence and was mercilessly hunted down by his own side for looking too Human, resulting in him having to sit out the rest of the game. Meanwhile I confused the heck out of Tomjuan, convincing him that I was everywhere other than the bee-line I was making for one of the escape pods. Not sure how you quantify winners and losers in this game, but as both Phillippe and myself were the only ones to make it off the beseiged base I am going to count that as a victory for us. Quiet in all Sectors!
Good Cop Bad Cop was next, I nearly shot Paul in error but avoided doing so as I felt it would be a dick move to take someone out of the game after only one turn; when Andy later switched the roles belonging to Jon and myself it turns out I probably should have done it anyway. C'est la vie.

A little flurry of Fake Artistry followed, in both games the fraudlant finger-painters flummoxed their foes, but on neither occasion could they work out what the blooming heck everybody else was trying to draw - ahh, the sweet feeling of winning due to the incompetence of your opponents was in the air.



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James B, TomToo and I began the evening early with a game of Shitenno or 'Shite-No' as James likes to call it, making it sound more like a blaxploitation movie from the 70s. Anyway the game is about Japanese generals competing for control of various Japanese provinces. Each round the first player gathers that years selection of troops and money and offers them to the other players in order. If he makes an offer too worthless the others can decline and he'll end up with it, if he makes it too good the other players will accept it. There's a really fine balance between dividing up the perfect slices of cake so that everyone is a winner. TomToo won this one comfortably by maximising the bonuses for overall control on over half the provinces. I followed up in second having wasted a couple of turns due to James offering me a worthless slice of cake and me foolishly accepting it and then James ended last.
Next was a game of Trains using the Trains: Nagoya Map with Jon, Paul, Philip and I. It was quite a tight map with a lot of mountains and other obstacles. Jon started at the top right cut off by a large mountain range, Paul position himself right in the centre of the map whilst Philip and I chose different corners at the bottom. I went for a strategy of building as many stations as possible early to try and make it more expensive to move into cities near me whilst working towards one of the easier bonus routes. Philip went straight for completing as many routes as possible and completed a couple whilst Jon pipped me to one of the routes as well as buying a lot of the victory point cards. Paul meanwhile built up a lot of cities and also collected quite a few victory point cards. It was quite a close game but Philip managed to win thanks to his routes with Jon a close second and Paul a close third. I was then about 10 points behind. I scored well on the board but not well enough with the cards.
To end my evening was 7 Wonders with 7 Wonders: Babel. I play a lot of 7 Wonders and it was nice to see an expansion that changes the way you play and creates a bit more interaction with your neighbours. The tower of Babel has three face up pieces at any one time that changes various conditions in the game, such as not being able to utilise the market cards, or military losses giving out two -1 tokens instead of one. At the end of the first round Philip played the tower piece that compounded military losses that really hurt Paul and I as both our neighbours went down the military route. I worked my way back from this setback by building as many civic buildings as possible, it wasn't a planned strategy it just so happened that no one else was building them and they kept coming around. Paul meanwhile went for science which didn't pay off quite as well as I believe Jon was putting them under his wonder and discarding as many as possible when building his tower pieces. At the end Jon won by about 8 points with me second, Philip third and Paul 4th. My last wonder level allowed me to copy a neighbours guild, only Jon built a guild and it gave me a grand total of 1 extra point. I should have chosen the other side...


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

It's game time at... uhm... now where was it again? Thingummy... ahh...




Contributors: Daniel, David

My abiding memory of the 29th was the full and fruity embracement of the 'slow method' in boardgaming terms as I finally broke my duck with a first game of Kingdom Builder. It was ironic that Jon and Paul started the game debating who was the oldest between the two, as they then went on to play like two old biddies who were queueing for their pension at a closed down Post Office. I have a tendency to play fairly quickly so I'm used to minding the time between turns, but the point when Tom fell asleep on my shoulder finally prompted me to enthusiastically encourage the chaps to oblige us with a slightly more hasty approach to proceedings. At least they both remembered to put on their trousers before leaving the house, so there was an upside.
We were scoring for connecting hotspots on the board and some other stuff with getting cubes into organised lines, but the connections were clearly the biggest opportunity so that's what I went for, figuring that I'd naturally collect some of the other rewards as a by-product. I made a bee-line for some bonus tokens that allowed me to put down extra cubes, and later on added another that let me leap one of my existing pieces into a new space which was handy as I was running out of cubes fairly rapidly and wanted to stretch out to one last connection point. At the end my estimation of the value of the scoring cards proved correct as I totally crushed it - can't remember the exact scores but there was somewhat of a noticeable gap.

Overall it's a fairly simple and abstract game where you stick cubes into boxes and score points for making patterns, with some additional fluff that fortunately elevates it from it's somewhat uninspiring roots and prevents it from becoming murderously tedious. It reminded me a lot of the early style of Euros when they were in their heyday, kind of a big puzzle that you all add stuff to as you go, and not a lot of interaction beyond the occasional moment where somebody goes in a spot you were hoping to grab. I don't know if it's something I'd seek to play multiplayer - think I'd rather sit down to TTR for this sort of thing, which works on similar principles and which I think is a lot more engaging than this - but I do understand why it's popular and might even get this on an app at some point.

We had some piscine flapping at some point which was doubly fun due to Tom's broken fingers, yet another bash at Council of Verona, and a late game of Machi Koro to finish up (I'm going out on a limb here but I'll say that someone named Tom probably won one or more of these).



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James B and I started the evening with a game of A Duel Betwixt Us. A two-player card game about duelling Victorian gentlemen. Each player works their mine with an allotted set of miners (including a zombie one, because zombies!) to create, Iron, Silver and Gold Ingots which are then used to create various weapons and armour that are played in front of each player. At the end of a players turn they can choose to start a duel, if you aren't lucky with the draw you can often lose the first few duels with no chance to build any weapons. There's also a sneaking suspicion that whoever goes first is guaranteed victory. Will need some more games to confirm but it feels as though first player gets the ball rolling and there's no way of stopping it.
After that was a game of Deep Sea Adventure with Dan, Jon, Paul and I and which was missing the dice so we used regular dice in a way that still confuses me, albeit I'm easily confused. I think I managed to win this one by being a coward, that's all I can remember, and that Paul always got stranded too far down.

Next up was a game of Bruges with the Bruges: The City on the Zwin expansion with Gareth, Peter and I. I thought it was wonderful, 165 character cards that each have their own artwork and abilities. Players build houses, hire characters and build canals whilst gathering as much prestige along the way. You have to think on your feet a bit and strategy goes out of the window depending on what characters turn up as well as various character combos. I think Peter won this with Gareth second and myself last. I gambled on the plague on the third round and lost about seven workers which didn't help. It's a great game and I would happily play again.
The other table had finished as well by then so Dan, myself, James B, Tom and Philip moved onto a game of Council of Verona. I can't really remember what happened apart from James B won the first round due to Philip moving player markers between two characters. I then think James B won the second round due to another similar mix up.

To finish my evening was a game of slapping, tickling and finger swirling, we also played a game of Happy Salmon