Wednesday, 15 June 2016

This would never happen with a Kindle




Contributors: Daniel, David, Jon

A cozy night with double Tom for me, after a brief bit of Salmon related palaver we progressed from maniacal fish to magical tomes with The Big Book of Madness. It's one of those co-op games that throws a seemingly insurmountable challenge at you with a ticking clock in which to beat it, a design choice which can often go wrong but in this case is fortunately handled well. You are doing a little bit of light deckbuilding in gathering colur cards (elements) in different values from one to three and using these to cast spells which will banish the bad guys who have been summoned from the titular magical book. All pretty straightforward, however things are spiced up a little by also being able to spend those element cards on learning new and improved spells that will allow you to do increasingly awesome things. You can also park cards in reserve for other players to use, allow them to take actions out of turn, and burn cards from your discards - the latter being very useful when you pick up madness cards which are, in effect, wounds/trash in other deckbuilders with the added risk that having nothing but these cards in hand is an instant loss.
It plays quickly and is very straightforward, with enough of a challenge to not simply be a walkover. After being crushed the first time we went in again straight away, this time focussing more on increasing our powers than defeating the monsters, and smashed our way to victory. Definitely worth another play, although I suspect the feathery lightness of it all means that it won't have more than a handful of plays before it starts to fell a little rote.

We followed up with some gentle holidaying in Tokaido plus the expansion. It was a pleasant game as always  - I built a massive lead during the game with my bargain-hunting shopper monk, but in the final counting Tom Juan had leveraged the end-game scoring mechanisms from the expansion content to rapidly catch up. It all ended in a narrow one point victory for me with Tomtoo caught dawdling on the scenic route. 

Tom Juan then insisted that we suffer through Romans Please go Away, finshing up with a full game (gasp) of Council of Verona.

.....


Myself, James B and his friend Richard arrived early at 6 to get in a game of Devil's Run: Route 666. TomToo turned up just in time to make it four. It has just been kickstarted and it's a post-apocalyptic race along the Devil's Run with a Mad Max theme. We all started with one car and one bike each, although it felt unbalanced. *edit* I had a quick chat with the developer of this and feel the game we played wasn't a true representation of the final product. it sounds as though there are a lot more rules and scenarios that haven't been released yet that makes the game play properly. Hopefully we'll see this at the club again where I can have another bash at it.*After that was a game of Troyes, one of my favourites. It was an incredibly close game with everyone working on a similar strategy and competition for places was tight. I worked on my usual strategy of filling the activity cards with my workers and utilising the yellow money/victory point Activity Cards as often as possible. Towards the end I realised I wasn't going to score well on any of the secret characters so resigned myself to last place. However when it came down to scoring James won with 38 whilst Richard and I were tied on 34. Lovely game and looking forward to the upcoming re-print so I can pick up my own copy.

After that was a quick game of Sushi Go, James B kindly picked me up a copy of this from the bring and buy at the expo as he knew I enjoyed playing it at the club. Nothing bad to say about it, it's quick fun and I love the art work. I'm interested in what Sushi Go Party! will add when it's released.

To finish the evening was a game of King of Tokyo, a fun enough roll and keep dice game with a monster theme. It plays fast enough that you don't realise that there's not much game here. It was the copy I picked up last week in a charity shop in new condition for £10.


.....




A 5 player outing for Railways of the World. Jon, Noel, Neil, Phil and Paul decided to try the Europe map, which is always cosy with five! A service bounty in the first set of cards meant that Neil bidded highest to start in Spain. Noel went to northern Italy. Jon went into western Europe with Paul piggybacking along for the ride. Phil decided to stay out of trouble and went straight to Russia!

Jon ignored his usual tactic of taking as few bonds as possible, and spent the first few turns racking up huge debts to ensure that he did not get hemmed in.
Neil decided that Spain and Portugal were lovely places to stay at this time of year and spent the whole game without coming out of that area. He also never delivered a cube more than two links. He also came last.


Noel was also largely uncontested as he built up into Europe and down into Italy, picking up a couple of major line bonuses on the way. Phil build down out of Russia into Europe as well as going into Turkey. He nearly ruined Jon's plan of completing the most valuable major line bonus from Paris to Constantinople, but John was able to take out yet more bonds to just get there first. Paul was trying his hardest to interfere with everyone's plans!


Jon had managed to get the city of Prague all to himself after taking a card which refused entry to any other players-he then added a number of cubes leaving him with several four point deliveries in the last round of the game. As the game concluded Jon was ahead on the points track but when the penalty for bonds was counted up Noel had sneaked a victory by two points. Phil and Paul weren't that far behind. Neil was still topping up his tan and enjoying the sangria...


Four player kingdom builder with two expansion boards in play. This time Noel was unable to execute his usual strategy of picking multiple special abilities that added extra settlements, although he did have a nice boat to sail around....

Phil and Paul made good use of abilities that allowed them to choose from two terrain cards, whilst Jon had a good selection of bonus tiles, allowing him to manipulate settlement placement as well as adding extra ones.
Jon brought the game to an end and had managed to score good points in most of the 4 scoring categories. This was enough for the victory. This game plays out so differently each time, I'm sure it's not going to grow old any time soon.



Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Needs a snazzy title and pic



Quite literally so...


Contributors: Daniel, Peter, Jon, David


A busy old night, four tables on the go and jam packed with all kinds of games. Milda, Paul M, Gaz and Shaz spent the evening referring to one another as carbohydrate preparation kitchen appliances in an all-night bash at BSG.

We had Blood Bowl: Team Manager followed by the bi-annual appearance of The World Cup Game on our table; Tomtoo insisted that I show him the proper way to play these games so it was only fair of me to thrash him in both... BB:TM was a bit of a one-sided affair as my team, the Chaos Bastards, stomped, stamped, poked, gauged, and relentlessly flouted the regulations to a solid victory.

The highlight of the evening though was the tit-for-tat rivalry between myself and Pleco James in the World Cup Game (2002 tournament) that resulted in China knocking Brazil out of contention in the group stages with a magnificent three nil victory. We even tried our best to get them all the way to the final stages, but alas they were knocked out in a close second round match against Belgium. It all started when both James and I found ourselves with only one decent team each, caught up in the same group with onother two of James' sides. Eschewing the opportunity for a a gentlemans agreement in letting Brazil and Turkey coast through to the second round, he instead decided to go for the throat in an attempt to dump me out of the competition. Anybody who has sat down to a competitive game with me will know where this was headed next: after Tomtoo decided to join in by helping China get a couple of goals ahead against Turkey I mercilessly used every opportunity and resource to bury Brazil and Costa Rica, with the hilarious result that China came out as group champions with Turkey a comfortable second.

After the group stages were resolved, James and David had to make a move so we split their remaining teams evenly and carried on. I somehow ended up with teams in both the final and the play-off and as of such the second best highlight of the night was Magnus, having resigned himself to losing the final, playing a total dick-move card on Tom simply so that my other team Sweden (Magnus' home country) could come third. Turkey ended up lifting the cup for those that are interested...

.....


Animals on Board started it all off for Jon, James, Neil and myself. I seem to remember Jon and Neil attempting to be "big on Gorillas". But I may be wrong as all the animals in Animals on Board look alike. I believe Jon's (or was it Neil's?) animals made a break for Noah's Ark at the end which meant his ark dwindled. I kept my 100% record in this game and managed to win.

Imhotep followed. There is a lot in this game for 30 minutes. Decisions decisions. Really there are only 3 options and they are all very straightforward but it is amazing how challenging those simple decisions become. I again maintained my 100% record. This time for coming last. James won with ease.

Finally Guilds of Londonwith Phil coming on for Jon. It is a fairly fiddly thing first game as you constantly have to check what the icons and cards do. This was my second game and by your second game it all becomes second nature and the game feels a lot smoother. James was streaking ahead with his plantations and Guilds flipping in his favour throughout the game. However in the end I managed to overtake thanks to a raft of game-end scoring cards. Like any game with game-end scoring cards which can be drawn throughout the game, there is a fair amount of luck if you manage to draw a card which exactly matches your strengths. So it was with me - I got lucky. I'm liking this game a lot more with this play and hope to get a few more in before the new Essen season destroys anything that went before it.

.....





Animals on Board
Always fun to play one of James’s games that he introduces by stating – “I’ve played this at least twice before, and have got the rules down pat.” Also fun when said game has only got about 3 rules. Absolutely hilarious when another player questions the main rule about scoring, only to discover that James has it all wrong (again). Snigger.
Anyway – it’s a bit like ‘Piece o’ Cake’ (I cut you choose) but with animals. And animals, if you happen to be a rhino or hippo, that look very similar. Nice mechanisms, but no-one (apart from Jon, whose score completely bombed) managed to collect the magic number of 3 animals, which seemed to be the point of the game. And because you couldn’t see what other players were collecting, it made it difficult to split up the animals into meaningful groups.
Hmmmm – so much hype – such nice pieces – but it didn’t grab me too much, mainly because of the hidden (but trackable) info and the luck of the draw. But it was worth it, just to play with ‘rulesmeister’ James…

Imhotep
OK – now I am partial to games which I would class as ‘super-fillers.’ Genuinely 30-45 mins (or less) in length, but leave you feeling that you’ve played something much meatier. Step forward Agricola: All Creatures Big & Small, or San Juan or even Paris Connection. Imhotep definitely fits this category. Only 3 choices of what to do each turn, plenty of meaningful decisions, and opportunities to screw over other players, if you’re that way inclined…
James won this one by a country mile, having picked up several bonus cards which paid out increasing amounts as more blocks were added to certain areas.It feels a bit like Medieval Academy (another excellent super-filler), with the different scoring ‘zones’, but without the card drafting. But if does have lovely chunky wooden cubes, which you actually build stuff with (well – sort of). A worthy SdJ nominee and straight onto my wishlist….

Kingdom Builder
Paul, Noel and Jon couldn’t bully anyone else into joining them for some settlement-building action, so 3-player it was (which works fine with KB – it’s 2-player that pretty much sucks!) Having said that, Neil was leaning over from his game of Guilds of London almost constantly, so maybe he would have been better off joining the party……?
1 expansion board was in play, which gave rather a nice bonus of moving a little ship around the rivers, allowing a neat way of crossing into otherwise remote locations. Combine this with the basegame special ability of placing settlements on the water, and a powerful combo was possible. Only Paul managed to get one of both of these, with Jon and Noel having to settle for one or the other.
Paul got himself a bit hemmed in at the start, while Noel went for his usual strategy of getting the bonus tiles that allowed him to place extra settlements each turn. This meant that he was placing 6 settlements rather than 3 for most of the game. Consequently, he finished the game at a point where Paul and Jon still had several settlements to place – although his last turn wasn’t overly productive in terms of points. Unfortunately, Paul had failed to score in several categories, and after 3 scorings he had only 4 points – surely a record! Jon had managed a large joined up area, and had also been the only player to score the bonus for 7 settlements in a diagonal row, which was enough to allow him the marginal victory by a couple of points form Noel. Really fun game, which plays quickly with 3 players – good stuff!

7 Wonders
The 3 amigos stayed together (with onlooker Neil still casting an interested gaze their way every 30 seconds or so) to play 7 Wonders with the ‘Cities’ expansion (which is pretty much obligatory with Jon’s copy now…) 3 players is great, because you interact with every other player (as opposed to simply your neighbours, which is one of the complaints against the base-game with higher player counts…)
Paul had a Wonder-board that enabled him to avoid battles for a couple of Ages. Jon then bought the same ability in the second Age, which left Noel effectively fighting himself for one Age (no inappropriate comments about being from Northern Ireland should be added here….)
Paul & Noel both chose to pursue scientific discoveries, whereas Jon went for a mixed strategy, including blue ‘points’ buildings, as well as sneaking a third Age ‘double military’ victory over Noel. However, this wasn’t quite enough, as Noel had a useful Wonder ability to copy one of Jon’s Guilds, which netted him enough points to pip him to the post.  

Poison
Say what you like about Mr Knizia, he does know his Maths (that’s MathS plural, for our transatlantic readers, not singular as you incorrectly like to call it….) Poison is a simple card game, where you have 3 suits, place them in 3 piles, and try not to go over a total of 13 in any of them. However, the numerical values of the cards are designed specifically to make this darned difficult, so a game that is easy to explain, can be a real head-scratcher to play.

Jon, Paul & Noel played 3 rounds, and as far as I can recall, I won. It might have been Paul, who was definitely ahead at some point, but was hindered by an awful lot of poison in the last round, but it certainly wasn’t Noel, who wins more than his fair share of games anyway.


.....


As well as The World Cup Game the other game I played was New York 1901. I convinced Phil to give it a go, Magnus joined shortly after then Noel came in to make it four. It's the second time at the club and it played a little differently than usual. There was almost no blocking of each others lots or any active attempt to fight over territory. This meant it was more of a solo affair as we built up our skyscrapers unhindered and each of us managed to build a legendary skyscraper which was surprising. The win therefore would come from one of the bonuses which Phil managed to score and sneak a win over Magnus (iirc) as I managed to share two bonuses with Noel and Magnus and thus gaining no points. I think it's a bit more interesting when players fight over lots and it's more of a challenge.



Wednesday, 1 June 2016

There can be only one... or maybe as many as nine...


 Something is very wrong with Google image search.

Contributor: Daniel

Gazza, Shazza, and Philazza got in an early start with Drakon. The rest of us started to file in and seemed content just to hang out and chat until we hit critical mass and started playing games.

John B settled in for a long night with a five player bash at Millenium Blades, a game about playing the game of playing a game. Yo Dawg. It involves wads of money instead of individual notes, which is odd when they could have just used higher denomination notes, and even odder when it's used to simulate buying cards for a CCG which is more likely done via PayPal in the first place. It's supposed to help the players feel like they have loads of cash which is not really 'in theme' with people who spend all their money on CCG cards, unless they are aiming for wish fulfilment here. Can't wait to see the dice game version of this one.

Up at the other end of the room Dan, Tom, and Phil joined me for a slightly less muted evening that began with Mag Blast, from which point Tash and Tom will henceforth be known as the two jerks - Jerk One and Jerk Two - for concentrating their efforts in blowing me up on the first turn. The upside was that I then had the time and freedom to fling abuse at them for the rest of the game, cementing my place as Jerk Three, or big daddy jerk if you please.

Anyway, we then played Quartermaster General, a game about running a supply chain network which is a welcome change from my day job of running a supply chain network. I was handed the double threat of commanding both the UK and US, and Jerk One donned his hirsuite Stalinesque moustache as my dodgy Russian allies. Phil put on his slightly smaller moustache as Hitler, and just like Christian Bale aiming for an Oscar nomination he then piled on 300lbs to also lead the Italians. Jerk Two carefully avoided any racial stereotypes as the Japanese, completing the axis powers triumvirate.

We had fun, although I suspect that most of that came from the company rather than the game itself. It's a card driven game which means that you're at the mercy of whatever cards you have in hand - if you don't have a card that lets you have a sea battle then you can't have one despite how huge and impressive your massive fleet of battleships may be. If the US draws the card that lets them build out rapidly into the Pacific then that’s great – unless of course it comes toward the end of the game when they are blocked from doing so, in which case it is completely useless. In terms of actual strategic decision making there is not a lot going on as you are pulled by the capabilities of whatever cards you have drawn from your deck; and as all the decks are unique and personal there are no surprise challenges in your capabilities. Your deck is shaped into the way you are supposed to play your faction, so that’s the way you play it.

It feels like it’s supposed to be a closely weighted tug-of-war where either side can sneak the victory by having the stars aligned with just the right card in hand to let them score an extra two VPs at some point in the game that tips the balance. What actually transpired in our game was that the Allies totally trashed the Axis scum because we drew those pivotal cards right at the start of the game. The UK was squatting in virtually unassailable VP-earning locations in the far reaches of the commonwealth - it took Phil’s Italian army most of the game to make their way to India, which they then held for all of two turns before being wiped off the map, and nobody got anywhere close to Australia – and Jerk One played an early card that prevented the Germans from earning VPs in Ukraine which stunted their ability to catch up. So we crushed the opposition by having the good fortune to draw just the right cards to allow us to do so – yawn, yawn.

It’s also annoying that the most rewarding part of the game, sharing information on capabilities and discussing actions with your allies, is forbidden in the rules. Telling people what they can or can’t say during a game is generally a stupid decision, particularly so in this game given the way that it scales for different player counts – I was playing both the UK and US so was I supposed to handily forget what was on my cards between turns? What if it was a two player game, or solo? Despite this dumb-ass rule and the lacklustre strategic element, we had a lot of fun playing it. I’d definitely try it again, just doubtful that the game being too procedural won’t leave enough going on to keep it interesting.

Next up was the highlight of the evening, a titanic struggle for the ages as Phil and Tom matched wits in what will be referred to with future reverence as the Rivals on the Isle, or maybe the Griever on the River. With their brows set in manly furrows, the two opponents sneered and growled across the table (either that or they are just coming down with colds). Each raised a hand and then, with steel in his voice, Tom attempted to out-psyche his opponent. “Rock!” he cried, then once more in an excitable tone “ROCK! Go for rock!”

Phil calmly returned a cool impassive gaze, completely unruffled or simply not paying much attention, perhaps distracted in the moment by solving some unimaginably complex equation with the raw power of his mighty intellect or thinking about hanging out the laundry when he returned home later that evening. Not to be dissuaded, Tom upped the ante further by narrowing his already knotted brows to the point where he was squinting down his nose. This time he spoke in barely a whisper, “Rock, I tells ye, go for rock”

Then, the moment came. The choice of tactical decision weighed heavily on their shoulders, a labyrinthine conundrum that could not be solved by simply clefting it in twain with pure mind-power. Should Phil follow the obvious lead and go for rock, or should he double guess Tom’s puny attempts at mind games and double bluff. Unless, of course, that’s what Tom wanted him to think, in which case should he double-bluff the double-bluff and double-bluff himself by doing exactly what Tom wanted him to do but secretly didn’t want him to do. Inconceivable!

With this huge pressure hanging over the combatants they raised their fists to their highest reach before bringing them forcefully downward, crying out in harmony as if some ephemeral release, almost religious in nature, had occurred between them.

“Ro!” they cried, before raising their gnarled and lumpen hands once more. Down they came again, faster and harder than before, with another cry that reverberated the very walls around them.

“Sham!” they yelled, rattling screws loose in the furniture, two arms once again quivering the air with the raw energy pulsating all around this very spectacle. Finally they swept down again for the third and last time, the mighty roar shaking the foundations and creating a sonic boom so deep that people in the next town mayhaps felt slightly uneasy for a brief moment.

“Bo!”
“Phil, you pillock, why didn’t you pick rock?!?”

And so closes this chapter on Tom’s incredible victory, a bittersweet ending as he then announced his intention to immediately retire from formal competition with a one hundred percent win record. A true legend in the annals of rock-paper-scissors. Pay-per-view highlights with detailed expert analysis will shortly be available online, wherin the great many questions you no doubt have will surely be answered.

After that we played Exploding Eggs & Empires, a short filler that plays well but which was not to my taste. It was a bit like 6-nimmt mixed with Brave Rats, or a bit like Romans Go Home according to Tom – one of those games that’s a bit like other games and not at all like itself, but unfortunately is a bit like other games that aren’t very good. I admit that I switched off fairly quickly during this one and started playing random cards in the last two rounds with variable results - minus twenty something the first time and plus thirty something the second time, which was the highest score of the round and more than I got when playing with proper intent. The dodgy stumpy-legged generic fantasy artwork and nonsensical setting feel a little bit desperate in begging you to overlook the gameplay. No, I don’t think I’ll be playing again, but others seem to like it so I expect to see it continue doing the rounds.


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Isleworth Boardgamers reach for the skies






 

 Contributors: Daniel, David

Another bijou night of gaming. Plico James was showing us all how to breeze to an easy win in Deception again (I'd love to play Poker with him someday), then we split into two tables.
Soren and Phil joined me for a three player bash at Android. Phil still likes it, Soren hated it, and I totally crushed them both as Bioroid Floyd 'master of unlocking the conspiracy'. 


A funny moment was that virtually all the points the Soren scored came from me connecting social favours up to score 4pts each, particularly as circumstances meant that I ended the game without any favours myself. 

Phil focussed heavily on gathering evidence on the murder suspect, and when tokens began to pile up into a cardboard ziggurat on one of the suspects they immediately became a target for the hit-squads and were taken out of the game. Fortunately, he was able to find a way to change his suspect card, however it wasn't to be as I had already thrown a couple of purgery tokens down on my target along with a juicy alibi that was destined to fall apart in the courtroom.

Then Raj replaced Soren for a couple of rounds of Spell Wizards, silliness and crudity for a few minutes to wrap up the evening.

.....


James B and I were there quite early so played a game of Carcassonne with Carcassonne: The Tower expansion. I think the expansion is great for two player games, it prevents one player from playing farmers early and dominating the game as there is always a way of removing each other's meeples. This does lead to smaller cities and quick scoring which James was doing to build up a small lead. It was quite a close game for the first half up until James used his last tower piece. After that I was able to start playing farmers and running interference on his meeples as I still had 5 tower pieces left. In the last few turns I maximised farming and finished a couple of large cities that had laid dormant due to previous tower removals. When it came to scoring James made 97 and I was on 186 or thereabouts. After that was a game of New York: 1901 with Raj, James B, Peter and myself. I picked it up a few days ago as I was looking for something similar to Ticket to Ride and the theme was appealing. It looks fantastic and they obviously went all out on production quality. As for the game play, players compete by building skyscrapers in a small district of New York. On a turn players can take a lot card and then optionally build on their land or they can demolish one or more of their existing skyscrapers and build in its place. On top of this are bonuses for controlling certain streets or building certain types of skyscrapers. 

There's a certain element of tetris as you try and fit skyscrapers into position as well as trying to grab all the land around your existing skyscrapers so you can build much larger ones later on. James B managed to stop me from doing this a few times by grabbing plots of land right in the middle of my planned construction areas, Peter and Raj meanwhile were busy getting most of their early skyscrapers built as well as securing future land. Towards the end it was obvious it was between Raj and Peter for the win and it would come down to who would score best on the bonuses. When it came to scoring Raj won by 5 points ahead of Peter with myself about 20 points behind and James B a bit behind me. I really like this one and will bring it next week if anyone is interested in trying it out.

The next game after that was Palazzo. Back from a time when Reiner Knizia made some great games. I would put this up there with Medici and Ra. It's a bit ugly and bland but has a simple auction and building mechanism that works well. The objective is to construct the grandest palace with the most windows using the same type of material to score the most points. As there is only three types of material and four players it meant that there was a lot of competition for the same types of building. Peter won comfortably, ahead of James whilst I came in just behind in third. Raj meanwhile was unlucky to have quite a few negative palaces still left in play as the game ended which pushed him back into last place.

To end the evening was a game of Jane Austen's Matchmaker, I convinced Raj to play and James B was keen to play again, he must love the theme more than I do. Interestingly Raj referred to the romantic courtship as attacking, which he did quite well, as he launched a series of unsuitable cads against my defenceless ladies. I was struggling to offload my useless and penniless gentleman whilst James was trying his best to catch Raj. It wasn't to be, Raj won with a landslide of heroines, whilst I ended last with James one point ahead of me.