Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Should I stay or should I go.....

Players: Barrie, Ian, Jon, Gareth, Philip, Russ, James, Daniel

A warm welcome to our latest newcomer, Daniel, who had the decency to come last in one game (and helped make Gareth last in two others), and so will be even more warmly welcomed back to the group next time.

The first 5 through the door had a quick go at this great little auction-based filler...

High Society
This was Daniel's and Russ's first attempt at this game, which resulted in some rather over-zealous bidding by Daniel at the beginning of the game. Russ took the thief very early, and was then unfortunate to only see high status symbol cards get turned up for several turns. In the end he found himself bidding on the '4' card, which he instantly had to turn in along with the thief.
Gareth went on a mid-game spending spree, leaving himself with little purchasing power towards the end, whilst Ian seemed determined not to win a single card all game! Daniel was on a very healthy 16, but was then forced to take the '1/2' card (as a result of having less cash than Lehman Brothers at this point).
Jon was fortunate to pick up a '2x' for only $25,000, and the game ended before Ian could pick up any more points with his wodge of cash.
The final reckoning saw Daniel eliminated with only $6,000 left, and Jon sneaking the victory with that final purchase.
Jon 12; Gareth 7.5; Russ 4; Ian 3; Daniel 8 (eliminated)

By now, everyone else had turned up, so we split into 2 groups - the first group choosing 18th century farming, the other choosing Gareth-bashing.....

Agricola (thanks to Philip for info on this game)
This game was new to James, so Barrie taught him the rules whilst Philip set the game up. It seems that James was thrown in at the deep-end, as he didn't get the luxury of playing the 'family game' before being presented with the myriad of potential card combinations on offer in the more advanced version. Having said that, he still beat Barrie....
If you want an in-depth description of how the game played out, then check out Philip's comprehensive session report on BGG. For the purposes of this blog, though, we simply raise the question of how Philip could possibly score as many points as Barrie and James put together. Avenues of further enquiry could be:
1) Barrie taught James the rules. (In the 18 months that the Isleworth Boardgamers have been meeting, Barrie has never taught the rules of any game to any player...)
2) Philip set the game up (or set up Barrie and James...)
3) Barrie always gets distracted by the wild boar (and shouts "Wild Boar" at the top of his voice whenever they appear...)
You pays your money, you takes your choice.....

Small World
Whilst Agricola was being played on the other table, the remaining 5 broke out this recent remake of Vinci (which Daniel had played before).                                                       Gareth got us underway with some Underworld Sorcerors, which couldn't use their special ability on either the first or second turns, as there were no single active race tokens available to conquer. Jon set up camp with the Bivouacking Halflings, and Daniel flew in with some Flying Ratmen. Ian's Wealthy Ghouls were next, and then Russ's Stout Orcs came and went quickly. Ian scored a healthy 13 once his Amazons entered the fray, whilst Russ went 1 better with some Dragon-Master Tritons.
After his success with Elves last week, Gareth tried to recreate this scenario - but failed, needing to rely on some Swamp Wizards to pick up a few final points. Daniel and Ian seemed intent on having their own private battle, leaving Russ's Mounted Humans to ride unapposed across the board. Jon declined his Halflings too late to get a third race into play, by which point, Russ's Tritons had all but seen them off.
In the final reckoning, Russ had indeed stormed away with the victory, although it was very tight for second place (but not last place...)
Russ 93; Daniel 80; Ian 79; Jon 78; Gareth 62

There was still much ploughing and fence-building being done on the other table, so it was decided to take a trip to Ancient Egypt...

A new game for Russ, but after a quick rules summary, he jumped straight in like a pro. Ra always seems to pack a lot into an hour or so, whilst the rules are incredibly easy to learn and teach. It has a nice little 'push-your-luck' element, when a player is left alone at the end of an epoch, which set us up nicely for Diamant at the end of the evening (more on that later...)
Anyway, in this particular game, Ra tiles were very sluggish in coming out during the first Epoch, so much so that it ended before all 10 could be drawn. Disasters and flood tiles were also conspicuous by their absence, leading to some good Pharaoh totals, and civiisation bonuses. Russ picked up most of the Pharaoh bonuses, whilst Jon opted to take the 2 point hit each round and concentrate on something else (shame he didn't ever really decide what that 'something else' actually was....).
Ian started of with a nice bunch of monuments, and Gareth continued on his mission to make Daniel look good.
By the end of the third Epoch, Ian was left on his own to hoover up even more monuments (the chants of "Ra!" from the other players failing to materialise the much longed-for sun god), leaving him with a full set of 8 different ones plus a couple of triple-duplicates - 25 points in all.
Ian 46; Russ 34; Jon 34; Daniel 25; Gareth 23

It was 10.30pm - enough time for the whole gang to reconvene for a couple of quick games of -

A full complement of 8 made this a fantastic way to round off the evening. It's amazing how the group psychology can be so intense in this game. When the '13' is turned over as the second card in a mine, leaving 5 gems available for the first person to run, you can almost hear the cogwheels turning - "If I run now, I'll get 6 gems total - not a bad return. But what if anyone else chooses to leave - I might only end up with 2 or 3 gems. But I'm sure that nobody else will be that chicken so early on..."
So what happens? 6 players all decide to cut and run at the same time, netting a measly single gem each and leaving the mine wide open to exploitation from the 2 remaining brave adventurers (in this case, Ian and Russ). Of course, next time that situation occurs, everybody is wondering if anyone is going to be so stupid as to make the same mistake again, resulting in no-one leaving to pick up the ample booty (hereafter known as "the Jennifer Lopez") on the way out.
No-one could catch Ian after his early jackpot. After picking up 6 gems in 1 mine, Daniel uttered the fateful words - "At least I won't be last now" - an anti-prophecy which only failed to be fulfilled due to Philip omitting to count his gems before returning them to the pile.
Ian 34; Russ 30; Gareth 18; James 13; Jon 11; Barrie 11;
Daniel 10; Philip ??

It was during this second game that Philip decided to adopt the somewhat unorthodox method of indicating his decision to stay or go by extending alternating hands in quick succession, in a surreal emulation of the lightning hands of the Karate Kid. This strange decision-making process appeared to confuse Philip himself more than anyone else, although it may have bemused James to the extent that he somehow failed to secure a single gem.
This time, however, there was a much closer result, and Gareth won back some pride by chickening out early in nearly every mine and ending 2 gems ahead of the 2 Daniels (Daniel the newcomer, and Philip "Daniel-San" Thomas) for the win.
Gareth 18; Daniel 16; Philip 16; Barrie 14; Ian 14; Russ 14;
Jon 7; James 0

And that was all there was time for. Except to mention that James did his very best Arthur Daley impression in flogging some second-hand games ("only one, careful, lady, German owner....")

Roll on next Wednesday....

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