Wednesday, 22 October 2014

What year is it Noel...?

Players: Paul I, Tom II, Tom's friend, Neil, Philip, Dan, Natasha, Andy, Jon, Paul II, Noel, Tanya, Gareth II, Tonio
A fine turnout of gamers, old and new tonight. After his fleeting visit last week, it was fantastic to see everyone's favourite bearded, pseudo-Italian maths teacher joining us for a 'proper' session this week - with the promise of further attendances to come. Hooray! He even suggested that he might bring Adios Amigos along again (which Jon was excited by - as long as 'quick-draw Dan' doesn't play...)
There was also a rare visit by Noel's much better other half, which occurred as a result of a mix-up with dates on a Michael McIntyre ticket. No need to go into embarrassing details here, but suffice it to say that Noel and Tanya did manage to get the correct day and month for the gig, however....
Tonight was the first session post-Essen, and with Neil and Philip both turning up there was obviously going to be some new fare on offer (although grouchy-Jon insisted on playing something old and comfortable anyway...)
Early arrivees Jon and Paul set up a game of 2-player Sobek, but with Gareth and Tonio also turning up it turned into a 4-player game instead.
Jon shot into an early lead after the first 2 rounds, but then found himself the target of some bash-the-leader tokens courtesy of Gareth. Which meant that a large final-round haul of points by Tonio catapulted him into a winning position. Paul and Jon had promised to allow Tonio to win some games, as a means of encouraging him to come back to IBG more often, but I'm afraid this game had to be chalked up as a genuine victory, rather than a gimme....
The only thing about this so-called 'filler' was that it took ages to play (at least 45 mins), despite several encouraging cries of 'let's play speed-Sobek...'
Oh well, still a fine little game...
Tonio won; Jon 2nd; Gareth 3rd; Paul - way behind...
JamSumo (thanks Neil)
With the longest filler in the history of the club underway I gathered Dan, Tom
and Tom’s friend, sorry never introduced and I neglected to do so too, for the finger flicking fest of JamSumo.
In the Jam element you flick dice from a plinth with the objective of sinking it into the central hole of the board. Each player has six dice and these begin with a value of 4 each. As soon as one player has sunk all six then the rest add up their pips and the more of those you have the worst your efforts have been.
Sumo does the opposite really. You begin on the same level of the board and all dice begin on 3. You flick one of your die and must hit an opponent’s die or yours is removed. You’re trying to keep your dice on the board and scoring positively for remaining pips as soon as one player has been eliminated from the board.
It’s simple, fully interactive, beautiful and more than a little amusing. I love it!
The Castles of Mad King Ludwig (thanks Philip)
My second game, with me explaining the rules (although I had some help from Neil, who you'd have thought wouldn't want to explain them again after doing 9 hours straight at Essen). Other players were Arturo, Andy and Natasha.
The initial line up featured an underground room which no one could buy, so I naturally bought some stairs, and when I became Master Builder, listed the room at lowest price (it had accumulated 2000 coins by then). Unfortunately for me, Arturo managed a decisive combination by completing his foyer, taking stairs as a bonus, and completing a yellow room for an extra turn, allowing him to purchase the underground room from under my nose!
Meanwhile Andy had started with a Corridor which meant he could play and complete the Sewing room in one purchase for a net 10 points. This started a trend of Activity room collecting which kept him ahead on the scoreboard for most of the game.
Natasha focused quite deliberately on Living rooms and bonuses for Living Rooms- those he managed to complete scored many points, although it is tricky to complete them all. Arturo was more into Food Preparation and Sleeping Rooms. I picked up some of all rooms except Activity Rooms, with several Utility Rooms allowing me to collect several private Goals. I built a fair number of Corridor-Rooms, although not nearly as many as in my previous game.
Public Goals were most sleeping rooms (Arturo), most Activity Room square feet (Andy), most Underground room square feet (me, with Secret Lair and Venus Grotto) and most square rooms (Arturo).
Much to my surprise my Private Goals allowed me to squeak a win at 150 points, with Andy and Natasha close behind on 140 plus and Arturo only another 10 points behind them.
Stone Age (thanks Neil)
In the midst of time I used to hold down a job. Part of that involved selling
banking products to complete strangers and thus I had intense training in the arts of negotiation, influencing, assertiveness, product development, presentation skills, customer services and communications. Since zapping out of things in 2010 I’ve tried to leave as much of that behind as possible, let everything go, be a laissez-faire exemplar. No more.
After having five consecutive Christmas Days last week the exhilarations made me forget the severest toothache I’ve ever had and thus make my way to the Apprentice with a small selection of crackers. That I left myself open to playing Stone Age - as reasonable a game as it is - was gross stupidity on my part. I have lived, I have learned. No more.
The game passed me by somewhat. Inner turmoil pulling me around other than to pick up a few huts and some green laden cards. Paul in his first game scored very well indeedy. Gareth was tooling up and did some other stuff. Jon was commiserating with Brendan Rogers whilst stocking resources to hut up late in the game.
Gareth beat Jon by 1 point and I was about 7 or 8 further behind.
Kingdom Builder (thanks Paul)
As we were in the year 2014 not 2015, we were blessed with Noel and Tanya's presence. Tonio also graced us with a rare appearance, and so it was just like old time as Paul sat down to play Kingdom Builder with them.
Noel is usually a Kingdom Building fiend, so Paul knew he had his work cut out if he wasn't in for a trouncing, and so it turned out.
The victory conditions were Families (3 points for each settlement in the quadrant with the least settlements - meaning you need to get as many down as possible and make sure they're as evenly distributed as possible), hermits (1 point for each distinct cluster of settlements) and workers (1 point for each settlement next a castle or special hex).
The special ability hexes that we were working with were the harbour (move a settlement to water), the tower (add a settlement to the edge of the board), paddock (use a horse to jump a settlement two hexes), and an expansion which had two different ability hexes, which allowed a hex to be added to forest, and a really interesting one which allowed you to place a boat on water (with a real little wooden boat) that counted as a settlement, sail the boat three hexes along the water or remove the boat for future placement somewhere else.
The family and hermit points at stake meant that saddling up with the paddock was essential, and within the first few turns, we'd all broken in a steed and claimed this ability, which should have meant that no one got stuck in one area, although throughout the game Tonio's stallion refused to take the obvious path and so he did feel hemmed in for a lot of the time, meaning that our Italian friend suffered by only claiming few family points.
Conversely the other three managed a very even distribution, with Tanya scoring twenty four and Noel and Paul twenty seven points each for their evenly spread out tribes.
Noel was first to get all of his pieces down and had scored well in all respects and was neck and neck with Paul, scoring more on the workers but less on the hermits, and at the final count up, Paul was one ahead before the castles were counted. Tanya was a little behind, and Tonio was left bemoaning his stationary horse.
Whilst Noel had placed next to four of the five castles available, Paul had managed all five, courtesy of a sail up the river in the penultimate turn to a hex next to a castle that was otherwise completely surrounded by Noel's settlements on land. This gave Paul a narrow four point victory.
Final order (scores forgotten): 1st Paul, 2nd Noel, 3rd Tanya, 4th Tonio
Coup: Guatemala 1954
After a successful first outing last week, this game was brought to the table at
the end of the evening for some more bluffing fun.
Gareth agreed to play, but just as it was starting he enquired 'Is this like regular Coup then?' When the answer returned in the affirmative, his feelings of disappointment were obvious to all, although I'm not sure quite what he was expecting....
Tanya was the newbie who was treated kindly in the first game, and consequently won it.
Before the second game, Gareth saw something shinier across the room, so departed the Coup-ers, leaving just 4 to bluff and assassinate each other. The second game included a couple of interesting roles - the Army, who allows the user to assassinate a character from each other player, and the missionary, who can be sacrificed when needing to lose a character, allowing a replacement to be taken in it's place.
Noel took an early bath, after incorrectly accusing Jon (again!) but Jon followed suit after Paul decided that he was a more worthy target of a coup than Tanya. So it turned into a head-to-head, from which Tanya triumphed courtesy of the United Nations, which allowed the peace-keepers to protect her until she accumulated enough wealth to call a coup. Nice.
This game is definitely going to see many more plays at IBG (although probably not by Gareth...)
Also played tonight was Dan's new copy of Imperial Settlers, Nanuk and something else which I didn't see. A great evening's gaming - thanks to everyone who turned up!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Coup - and not a lot else....

Players: Dan, Paul I, Paul II, Alturo, Jon, James III (or Jim), Andy, Soren, Tonio, Tom, Tom II and Tom II's mate...
Despite the absence of our intrepid Essen trio, our latest recruits more than made up for them not being around. And even Tonio turned up for a bit (ie the 'bit' before anyone else turned up...)
Sorry for the total lack of any reports this week - life events seem to be catching up on me...
Games played tonight were:
Coup: Guatemala 1954
Soren had brought this along after buying it from the designer at London on Board. And Jon was so impressed, that he immediately bought Soren's spare copy. This has all the usual Coup goodness, but with 25 different roles to choose from. In other words, 25 different ways to kill James...
Here's a brief summary:
For those who have played Coup before, this game will be instantly familiar - yet deliciously different. Games are still played with 3 copies of 5 different roles, and the winner is still the last man standing, but this time the roles are selected from a pool of 25 different ones, guaranteeing that each game will be different from the last.

Each game will have a 'Finance' role (think Duke), a 'Communication' role (think Ambassador) a 'Force' role (think assassin) and 2 special roles (think Contessa or Captain). Because there are so many roles to pick from, the 'counter-actions' have been simplified enormously. Many of the roles cannot be simply blocked by producing another different role, but a number of them can be blocked by another player claiming to have the same role (like Captain - Captain in the original game). Rikki has posted a list of the roles elsewhere, so I won't bother going into detail here.

This new version feels slightly more 'thinky' than the original, which I find can start to feel a bit scripted after numerous plays with the same group. Because each game will likely be played with a different set of roles, players have to consider how these roles might interact, and therefore what the most effective strategy might be. Don't get me wrong, this is still a quick game, full of bluffs and plenty of interaction, but it can't be played on auto-pilot in quite the same way as the original sometimes can.

In short - this is a total hit for me. I loved the original Coup, and this is more of the same, but with so much more variety. The artwork is great, the theme interesting (I won't go into detail about whether or not it makes light of a politically sensitive historical situation) and the box is functionally small.

If you liked the original Coup then chances are that you'll really enjoy this too. If you weren't taken by the original game, then CG54 is unlikely to change your mind on that one, unless your main beef was that the original didn't have a great enough variety of roles...
Small World - Paul and Alturo joined Jon for a classic 3-player game. As always, it's as much about pointing the finger at the perceived leader as it is about anything else. And Jon proved to be the master of misdirection, although only by a few points from Alturo.
Also played tonight was Greed, ? Sentinels of the Multiverse, Epic Spell Wars and Splendor.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The one without many reports....

Sorry for the lack of any reports this week - but thanks for Neil for his contributions to give this blog some substance...

20th Century
It’s by Vladimir Suchy, Czech Games, it’s no 877 on the Geek, and the cover looks like a naff jigsaw drawing. Chris had mentioned it and so I’d signed up to join him playing his mate, James’s copy.

It’s got several auctions although coins and science to bid with are very tight. Then there’s some tile placement for the towns and cities and connecting rail tracks you’ve won. Each tile depicts some countryside with a town or two/three and comes with some waste that you need to get rid of by owning a recycling centre or two (or eight if you’re James), plus a worker to activate one of the towns. Each of which produces coins, science or victory points in various combinations.

You can then grab a little bit of technological assistance, a bridge, train to help your workers move, or some flower-power parks or lakes, or other industrial units. Finally in each round you bid on the catastrophes; not collecting more waste or pollution. It was here I suffered badly, oh well!

The other two fought out an intense land building regime having way more tiles than me. I thought their collections of waste might hold them back but they’d managed that very tidily.

Scoring comes at the end of each of the 6 rounds and these can differ increasing replayability. The others commented that with four the competition impacts big time, their way of telling me I’d hardly been involved(!), which was factually true. It was tight at the end, James had been about a dozen points up from the first round but couldn’t quite hold Chris off.

I think there’s a decent game in here. I can imagine it would be tighter with more players. My problem was I fell behind early on and had no idea how to get back into the game. Would certainly give it another go.

Final Scores; Chris - 140, James - 137, Neil - 96.

The Little Prince
Not sure about this one. It’s all a little bit too cute and I think I may have grown out of twee unless it involves listening to Belle & Sebastian. It was new to both Chris and James although on Chris’s ‘lookyoutlist’ for Essen so was happy to try and explain a few of the rules I’d remembered. Actually, it was this or Fleet and do I not like that!

So, we started building our planets, mainly by picking anything but the scoring tiles which is daft really, you have no idea what you’re collecting that might score for you. Never mind.

James picked up elephants and suns liberally, Chris looking at stars and me goats, trees, roses, goats, coffins, snakes, and goats, but no lampposts, oh no.

Once we began picking up the scoring tiles things began to make more sense, and we’d all been doing ok with our white sticks. Chris and I managed to avoid giving James too many trees although he was way ahead on volcanoes. I stubbornly refused trees before realising I had no tree scoring tiles anyway. Damn. Scoring was close with those volcanoes impacting big time.

Final Scores; Chris - 58, Neil - 54, James - 52.

A pre-Essen Essen purchase. I’d pre-ordered it as you do and the designer said

Neil, you’re in Sunny Hounslow I only live in Ealing come and get your copy, I’ll put the kettle on..

So off I went and picked up a beautiful wooden board and four sets of six dice, even being able to select some black dice to replace the green so that there wasn’t a horrible clash of canary yellow and green in the components. The coffee was perfect too. Gavin, the designer, then took me through a couple of rounds to explain how it plays. Plenty of flicking dice, much interaction and aggression can be useful.

The board is a square chunk of wood with each corner having a lip that can hold your 6 dice. There’s hole in the middle of the board through which a die can fall. In the ‘Jam’ element of JamSumo you place one of your die on the corner lip, 4 pip facing up, and try to flick it through the hole. Each player does this with his 6 dice until one of them has got all through the hole. The dice left on the board score their face value as negative points. Any unplayed or dice knocked off the board score 4 each. Play as many rounds as there are players and see who’s scored the least.

In the first two rounds I showed the boys how it was done getting rid of my dice both times, them scoring low in the first round and high in the second. By the time the final round was done Chris had things sorted and James and I both scored high. I’d just held on from Chris though, 
12 - 13 - 18 for James.

You then switch your 6 dice to a 3 and stack them against the lip for the ‘Sumo’ element. This time you flick one of your die making sure it hits an opponents die attempting to remove their dice from the board. You score positive points for all remaining dice, scoring the face up value.

This is where the aggression comes in and where my children have fallen in love with the game. James set off well in the first round with me being blitzed off. Chris and I managed to get back into it in the next round and so all to play for in the final round. This is where Chris suddenly discovered he has no flicking ability whatsoever. James mentioned his years of flicking Subbuteo players around and I naffed up. James walked it, 12 - 10 - 8.

I love this game, and you know how I feel about dexterity, dice, and that stuff.

Other games played tonight were:

7 Wonders, Intrigue, Settlers of Catan, Nanuk and Splendor.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Keystone Boardgamers...

Players: James I, Neil, Noel, Jon, Amanda, Dan, Gareth I, Gareth II, Alex, James II, Philip, Chris, Alturo
A good crop of gamers tonight, including a welcome re-appearance from Alex and James.
In terms of games, tonight saw the return of an old favourite, which also produced one of the most incompetent displays of spying in the history of the western world…
Pinguin Party (thanks Neil)
Never underestimate the power of the Knizia. This game is so simple and yet played with four it's so difficult to get all of your cards down. Chris, Alex and James II joined me for four high pressure rounds.
 The first round I decided to show them how to play the game. I managed to get out first time with the others collecting a number of penguins each. With Alex anticipating his monstrous roast pork dinner he managed an aberration of second round collecting an unhealthy amount of the penguins, as well as unhealthy question as to whether penguin would be nice to eat or not. I'm pretty certain it wouldn't be good but hey it must be worth trying.
 Round three saw Chris realising he was stymied immediately, and I managed to follow him pretty swiftly too. Alex had disappeared for his meal so Gareth II stepped onto the ice and played a good round although James had another consistent low scoring round too.
 The big finale. I managed to deal myself only two colours of penguins and so had no chance of getting them all down. Gareth crashed big time too and it was tight again between James and Chris. With the former taking it. Good, cool, fun.
 Final Scores; James II - 12, Neil - 13, Chris - 14, Alex/Gareth II - 17.

An early evening appetiser for the first to arrive. Gareth was the first to challenge Amanda's Ambassador - incorrectly as it happens. Jon got to 7 coins but decided against a Coup in favour of a cheeky assassination at Amanda's expense. He didn't believe her assertion that she had the protective Contessa at her disposal - but she did, and so Jon also lost a character.
After Gareth Coup'd Jon's second character there were all 3 Dukes on show, necessitating the use of a proliferation of captains instead.
It came down to a shoutout between Gareth and Amanda, but as she had snuck an Assassin into her portfolio, there was no competition and Gareth perished before he could initiate a Coup. Good fun stuff - we must use the expansion next time...
Amanda won; Jon, James, Gareth I, Alturo - didn't 
Snowdonia (thanks Noel)
With Dan's arrival, Noel moved from network building in USA in Trains to laying track in Wales by joining Chris, Arturo, James and Neil at the Snowdonia table. This was James' copy which has had a few plays at the club but was new to both Arturo and Chris.
 After a good rules through from James, with particular emphasis on judging the pace and finish of the game which is always difficult to pick up until a few plays through. Much to Noel's disappointment, Arturo (sitting to Noel's left) was the randomly selected start player and the first 4 players picked up the resource spots. However, there was a nice card left and Noel picked up that and repeated the same move for the first few turns, without getting any resource.
 James and Arturo picked up early trains that allowed them to encourage a 3rd worker out of the pub. Neil selected a card that granted a final bonus for getting the surveyor to the end of his ambling and in the same turn Noel grabbed the start player marker with the intention of starting to accumulate some much needed resource. However, with the card restock the 2nd surveyor bonus card came out so he used his first player action to take that to avoid Neil having the double bonus. One for the team..maybe...but probably just one for extra bonus points for Noel as he also pushed on with the start he had already made with the surveyor.
 James cleared plenty of rubble with some bonus cards to hit these bonuses, Arturo played lots of coal to gain repeated use of his 3rd worker (no easy jokes about the (in)efficiency of Spanish builders here) and Noel completed a balance of track building, rubble clearing and picked up the train that grants 9 points but no end game bonus. As Chris and Arturo completed out the track building to finish the game, Noel with cards and bonus aplenty was a good bit ahead in the final scoring.
Noel 125, Neil 98, James 87, Chris 77, Arturo 73
A pre-game substitution occurred, with Dan arriving, taking Noel's place, who defected from trains in America to trains in Snowdonia.
This was new to Gareth and Amanda, but they were familiar with deck-building, which helped. This was the first play of the NE USA expansion map, which has a large mountain range down the middle, and a nice row of points-scoring cities along the top. Amanda took the SW corner, Gareth the SE, Jon the NW and Dan - a la Noel - joined Jon in the NW...
This game moved at a pleasingly swift pace, with turns coming round quickly. With Dan doing a nice job of blocking Jon out, Jon was forced to save up and buy the expensive rails card which negated any extra building costs. This eventually paid off towards the end of the game when he was able to build across the Northern edge fairly cheaply.
Gareth had managed to build track up through a number of cities but had failed to add any stations. Realising that he was falling behind, he was tempted to buy up a couple of piles of cheap cards just to end the game, but was persuaded to keep going and buy a load of station expansions instead.
Amanda was being left to her own devices and was starting to build up a nice board position, although was accumulating a rather ominous pile of waste to go with it. Jon had secured enough high-value trains to give him some effective buying power - picking up a few Skyscrapers - and was able to buy up the 3rd pile ending the game. This was obviously a rules error, as it is in fact 4 piles that need to be completed, but as the 4th pile was only 1 card short of being depleted, it was calculated that it wouldn't have altered the result.
The final scores were very close, and had Gareth majored on stations a bit earlier, he might well have been in with a shout himself.
Jon 27; Amanda 24; Dan 22; Gareth 18
Terra Mystica (thanks Phil)
Four players, two new to the game. Alex dominated the cult tracks as Chaos Magicians, in his own little corner of the world. Gareth won largest area with his Swarmlings. My Dwarves scored quite a bit by Tunnelling: James' Nomads failed to find a scoring formula.
Philip 94 Gareth 90 Alex 84 James 73.
No Thanks (thanks Noel)
Chris had the top idea of getting a game of No Thanks in while Coup finished. Noel, Philip and Neil signed up. Noel picked up a couple of big scoring cards early but lots of coins to ease the pain. Neil was always keen to pick up cards to stop others adding adjacent cards and Chris was waiting patiently to complete a mega chain from 12 to 19 that didn't quite come off. 5 minutes later and one odd vegetarian meal later(Phil)  all was done,
Noel 41*; Phil 49*, Chris 63*, Neil 65*. (*ish) 
Council of Verona
Amanda had picked up this game recently, but was reporting that it had fallen flat for her, despite a number of attempted plays. 'Did you have the poison expansion?' asked Dan and Jon. 'No' came the reply. 'Aha - prepare to have some fun then.....'
4 rounds were played. After the first round, Gareth opined that it was a bit random. 'Maybe - but notice that only Dan and Jon, the experienced players, have scored so far....'
Gareth and Amanda subsequently picked up points in the second round, and despite a massive 8 points from Gareth in the last round, Jon had scored just enough to keep himself ahead.
Never have 2 tiny wooden cylinders made such a difference to a game...
Jon 13; Gareth 10; Amanda 6; Dan 5 

The Resistance
It seems such a long time ago that this game used to end the evening at IBG almost every week, but it hasn't seen the light of day for many weeks. And so it was a very welcome return for several old-handers (James, Noel, Jon, Gareth) some newbies (Chris, Alturo) and a floating voter (Neil). And a memorable return it was...
With 7 players there are 3 spies, making it very difficult for the good guys to succeed. And in this game, the spies were Gareth, Neil and (of course) Jon.
1st round - Neil chooses Chris to accompany him, and the mission passes.
2nd round - James chooses Neil and Chris, as well as himself, but unfortunately makes such a song and dance of the fact that Neil or Chris could fail it and blame him, that it immediately heaped suspicion in his direction. It did of course fail, and James was subsequently pilloried for being a suspected spy.
3rd round - Alturo then chose the mission that required 2 failures, and chose the previous 3 players to go on the mission with him. No failure cards were played, so the mission succeeded.
4th round - Noel was bemoaning the fact that everyone had agreed to all the missions going ahead, resulting in very little information being gained regarding Gareth, Jon or himself. He himself was believing the general suspicions regarding James, who in turn was pointing the finger squarely back at Noel. For some reason, Noel picked Neil and Gareth to go on the next mission, which was an absolute gift for the spies. They could easily fail this with either 1 or 2 fails, which would heap suspicion on Noel and almost guarantee a final mission victory.
And so the mission cards were revealed, one by one - pass.....pass.....and.....pass! By some moment of keystone cops incompetency, neither spy had chosen to fail the mission and so the good guys had won the game. Jon threw his hands up in horror, bemoaning the lack of basic intelligence shown by his fellow-spies - whilst James and Noel chuckled loudly long into the night.
Less a resistance victory - more a spy suicide - but they all count. Whatever, it was a brilliant return for fantastic game.
Noel, Alturo, Chris, James - won by default. Neil & Gareth - should be shot. Jon - bemused.