Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Forget Swine Flu - beware the Blue Disease........

Players: Jon, Ian, Philip, Jayden, Tonio, James, Stephanie, Scott, David, Stuart, Barrie, Johan

A really warm welcome to 4 more newcomers tonight - Stephanie and Scott (a married couple), and David and Stuart (not a married couple). Also, a welcome return to Ian, who has had a baby and a haircut since we last saw him.

The early-birds this week were Jayden, Stuart and David, so they decided to sneak in a quick game of -

This was Jayden’s first exposure to the game, and he mostly seemed concerned about what was causing these deadly diseases to spread so quickly around the world (infected globe-trotting Antipodeans, probably….)
Not a lot else is known about this game, apart from the fact that there was no Medic amongst the selected roles, very few yellow cards turned up (rumours of inadequate shuffling were rife) and that the red disease became rampant in Asia and brought a swift end to the survival of mankind as we know it.
Jayden; Stuart; David – all lost.

A few more early arrivees meant that we could have a go at this quick bidding card game -

No Thanks
Philip picked up the first card, a 29, and along with it a hatful of chips. Scott was the first person to run out of chips (thanks to some aggressive play by his wife!) and found himself picking up unwanted cards for a couple of turns.
Jon had just 3 cards (in a run), and Philip’s big stack of chips nearly saw him through to the end of the game – but not quite! They ran out at a crucial moment in the last couple of rounds, meaning that he was forced to pick up a big number.
Scott ended with a huge number of chips – but an even huger score! Stephanie had managed to pick up several low-numbered cards in runs, and was able to combine these for a very low score at the end.
Stephanie 4 (15-11 chips); Jon 22 (24-2); Ian 35 (38-3); Scott 42 (71-29); Philip 54 (64-10)

James and Tonio (dressed in 'half-term civvies') had now joined us, and whilst Ian did a beer-run, the other 6 had a quick game of -

For Sale
This was Tonio’s second game of For Sale, but he still appeared somewhat bemused by the whole experience! 6-player For Sale seems to be all about the opening bid, as you are hoping that several properties have gone before the bidding gets back round to you again.
Tonio ran short of cash quite early, and was resigned to picking up some less desirable residences. In the second half, there were some quite narrow spreads of cheque values, but Scott seemed to be able to play the right card at the right time and romped home for the victory. The newcomers were making their mark!
Scott 58; James 48; Stephanie 41; Jon 39; Philip 38; Tonio 35

By now, the remaining stragglers had turned up, and so (after getting a bit excited and smashing a pint glass) we split into 3 groups, the first choosing some manual labour down on the farm –

Philip "the memory man" has written an unbelievably detailed session report of this game over at BGG, so rather than repeat everything here, go over there and check it out! Suffice to say, it was only Ian's second game, and Philip is proving to be a veritable guru of Agricola, scoring 50 and winning convincingly in his last 2 outings. Bring on the next challengers.......

The second group decided to build space ships from sewer pipes -

Galaxy Trucker (thanks to Tonio for info on this one)
James brought this space-trading themed tile-laying game to the table, and did a great job of introducing the game concepts. The first round is designed to help you get into the game, so once everyone had been shown the different types of tiles, it was time to go for it.
One of each card type was played and it became obvious that those battery cells were going to run out quickly, especially when you lose the cells if you are not carrying stock. At the end of the first round James had a modest lead and it was at this point that a very smartly dressed Barrie joined in. (It was agreed to give Barrie 15 points as a starting bonus).
James 20, (Barrie 15,) Tonio 12, Jayden 11
With Barrie having been given a very quick outline of the tiles and the general advice to ‘try to have a bit of everything’, round 2 was underway. It was clear that having missed round 1, Barrie was at a large disadvantage - only having double engines and double guns with very few batteries (that were lost to an early attack), and lots of loose connectors meant that his ship was reduced to about 5 tiles by the end of the round.
As for the rest of the players, their ships were much more impressive this time and Tonio managed to avoid having any loose connectors at all, meaning a strong and “good looking” ship (much like himself), allowing him to almost keep up with James.
James 51, Tonio 39, Jayden 22, Barrie 18.
By round three there were some issues with the rules - most of the group had forgotten the one that states that you can look at the piles of cards during the building phase. James then let everyone know (after a friendly nudge from Stephanie on the other table) that there was a rule about keeping two pieces in reserve on your board.
At this point it also became apparent that Barrie had not realised that you were allowed to use the tiles that others had turned over! This was a bit of a brutal round for Barrie and Tonio, who, possibly from being rushed in the building phase, ended up losing points due to ship damage, no stock and a poor placement in the race. James, on the other hand, was finding his feet and managed to extend his lead.
James 58, Jayden 30, Tonio 26, Barrie 16
The game could have finished there and James would have been the conclusive winner, but the decision was made to play on…
An early and vicious side-on attack succeeded in cutting both Barrie’s and James’s ships in two and they both lost a large number of resources. Barrie was left with no engines and was drifting through space for the rest of the game, whereas James, having very little in the way of defence, lost the little cargo he was able to carry.
Jayden retired early when the opportunity arose to board an abandoned station and leave his ship without a pilot (wise move) and Tonio was left to clear up all the baddies who attacked, and to keep the “Jennifer Lopez” (ample booty) all to himself. And the result of all this random space carnage? 
Tonio 92, Jayden 60, James 51, Barrie 5

Conclusion: Barrie is not a fan of Galaxy Trucker. Tonio would be happy to play again. (Jayden and James appear to have kept their opinions to themselves!)

The third group had decided to spend their time trying to cram a vast number of fantasy races into a very…..

Small World
This was new to Johan, and Stuart had only played 2-player before. David started off with Swamp Humans, which is a good combination for racking up quick victory points. Jon then brought on some Forest Ghouls, closely followed by Stuart’s Bivouacking Sorcerors, who proceeded to set up an impenetrable barrier next to Jon. Johan got a quick bonus from his Wealthy Tritons and set up camp along the coast.
Jon naturally declined his Ghouls straight away, and brought on some Fortified Amazons, which he used to stomp over Stuart’s Sorcerors, before they had a chance to use their special power. Johan started to attack the Humans, which resulted in David declining them and pulling out some Commando Halflings. They wiped out a few Ghouls, and set up their special ‘Hobbit Holes’ as a defensive line.
By this time, Stuart had wearied of his Sorcerors and had brought on some Beserk Elves. Their inability to be killed meant that he stuck with them right through to the end of the game, although this did prevent him from scoring from a declined race. (Maybe he had a ‘thing’ going for those happy, frolicking, slightly camp creatures……)
Johan took over the South-West region of the map with some Diplomatic Trolls, and used their combined defensive abilities to good effect . The final couple of turns saw some Giants, Ratmen and Wizards mop up a few extra points, but at the end of the game, Jon’s Amazons (several of whom were in the mountains) had scored enough points to earn him the victory.
Jon 98; Johan 85; David 78; Stuart 66

Although Agricola had finished on the other table, the 2 groups stayed the same, and the Small World’ers decided on a re-run of –

The roles selected for this game were – Stuart (Dispatcher), Johan (Medic), David (Operations Expert) and Jon (Scientist). Now with 3 healthcare professionals around the table (OK..actually 2 and a student), you would think that this team would have a fair chance of saving the planet...wouldn’t you....?
David assured us that we were playing the ‘normal’ game with 5 Epidemic cards. Turns out, we were actually playing the ‘Heroic’ game with all 6 Epidemics (not that it made much difference, as it happens). The blue and black diseases seemed to be the first priority, as there was the potential for multiple outbreaks, so the whole team moved in to do a swift clear-up job. The Medic was then sent off to the Far-East, where Hong Kong was proving to be the epicentre for more disease-related mayhem, with a dangerous number of red cubes entering the board.
2 Epidemics showed up reasonably close together, but apart from a couple of outbreaks everything seemed to be getting under control. Jon managed to pass a black card to Stuart, who cured the associated disease, and then there was a general move to the East to attempt to cure the red plague. This was achieved by Jon using his Scientist special ability, and then Johan floated around hoovering up most of the remaining red cubes.
David had moved to South America to set up a research station, but another Epidemic and a couple of outbreaks were starting to make things a little tense. Stuart was using his Dispatcher ability to good effect, buzzing the other players around the board to the hotspots. Jon and David managed to meet up in Bogota to exchange cards to enable David to cure the Yellow disease on the next turn, whilst Johan then met up with Jon in Europe to pass over a blue card to enable Jon to discover the final cure on his turn.
And so it came to pass – David cured the Yellow disease and pulled 2 cards from the deck. And of course – the second card was the 5th Epidemic. No matter, the only place in real danger was northern Europe, where 3 cities had 3 cubes. Jon was poised to cure the Blue disease and win the game on the very next turn. The infection cards were shuffled and what was revealed? Essen - resulting in a catastrophic chain reaction of blue disease outbreaks and the end of civilisation as we know it. So near, yet so far…..
Stuart, David, Johan, Jon – all lost (just)

Meanwhile, the Agricola players had decided to go back even further in time, to the...

Stone Age (thanks to Philip for this info)
The game began with Scott and Stephanie taking cards, Philip going for the hut and Ian on the tools, allowing Scott to take the field. Stephanie placed the reminder of her meeples in the wood spaces, as did Philip, forcing Scott to gather bricks to pay for his card.
The game continued with Philip trying to build up his population and picking up picture cards, whilst Ian built up his arsenal of tools and tool multipliers. Everyone was buying cards, often all 4 were purchased each turn, so it isn't surprising that the game ended with the cards running out.
Philip had purchased some expensive huts during the game (including a 7 Stone Hut near the end), and also collected a complete set of picture cards to finish on 165 points - and last place.
Stephanie and Scott finished in the middle (although their exact scores seem to have mysteriously vanished) - Scott had picked up all the Shamen cards and had 9 tribespeople at the end.
Ian, however, had all (or very nearly all) of the tool multiplier cards and 11 tools, emerging as the winner with a very commendable 202 points. So much for having the proverbial “baby brain” then…….
Ian 202; Stephanie ?; Scott ?; Philip 165

There were about 15 minutes left, Johan had departed, and both of the other tables were still going, so Jon, Stuart and David had a quick go at –

High Society
This game was new to both David and Stuart, but 5 minutes are all that are needed to get players up and running.
David picked up some early status symbols, but then also decided to take the hit with the “1/2” card, and the thief. Stuart picked up a “x2” and a couple of status symbols, but the addition of the “-5” left him a little short on points. He also forgot the ‘least money loses rule’, until he was reminded of it as he was about to flop down his last 2 remaining bidding cards.
Jon won a couple of auctions late on, and the game end occurred with just 2 other cards remaining. Stuart and Jon were equal on points, but at the ‘great reveal’, Stuart was found to have slightly less cash than the other 2, handing the win to Jon.
Jon 15 ($25k); Stuart 4 ($35k); David 15 ($21k)

And so, 4 hours, 12 players, 9 games and 1 smashed glass later, it was time to call it a night. Only another 7 days to go before the good ship IBG sets sail again - we'll be waiting at the dock for you....


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Isleworth Boardgamers have a baby............

Players: Tonio, Jon, Gareth, Barrie, Jayden, Julia, James, Johan, Philip

Well, the big news of the week is that Ian has had a baby boy - "James Henry Alexander" weighing in at 7lb 7oz. Congratulations Ian! We look forward to having you back with us when the sleep deprivation has started to wear off...

Tonight at the London Apprentice, we were back in the Riverview Room. No newcomers  this evening (for the first time in several weeks) but a good turnout meant that we were able to comfortably split into 2 groups for most of the evening...

For Sale
A few people arrived nice and early, so we got out this regular favourite. Jayden and Julia were new to it, and Tonio had watched one game before. One of the nice things about For Sale is that you can explain the first half of the game, play it, then explain the second half. This enables everyone to jump in and start playing really quickly.
There were some large spreads of property values revealed in the first few turns, and Jayden soon found himself a little short of cash. Philip also made some big early purchases, leaving himself out of contention for the last auction or two.
During the second phase, there were a few “oohs” and “aahs”, as it was discovered that putting down an ‘18’ value property wasn’t enough to prevent you picking up the void cheque! No-one appeared to be running away with the game, and when the final scores were totted up, it turned out to be a tight finish, which those few coins saved from the first round proving vital –
Barrie $48k, Jon $46k, Philip $45k, Julia $43k, Jayden $39k, Tonio $34k

Everyone had now arrived and we split into 2 groups, both choosing to play Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling games. The first of these being -

This was a first-time for all the players. The first fifteen minutes were spent setting up the colourful board which showed a map with seven cities connected by roads and villages, and learning that the objective of the game is to be the first player to place all seven of their palaces on the board.
Johan and Philip moved into an early lead, building new palaces each round. Gareth was not far behind, but due to bad planning managed to win no money for one round, which meant no building during the next one.
Jayden's governor card, which allowed him to go first in each round, was perceived by the other players (well, Gareth actualy) to be “not that great.” He might have held onto this card a tad too long as well, thereby reducing his scores in the first half of the game.
Julia collected lots of action chits from her governor and was given a few “helpful hints” by everyone else (ahhh – aren’t they a nice bunch…)
As the game progressed and the group became more confident, there was a lot more interaction – namely stealing governors from each other, which can really screw up a player’s plans. However, in the case of Johan, this may well have helped him win the game.
The game came to a close quite abruptly, so once it was evident that Johan was going to place his last palace, everybody went on a hasty final building spree. In the end, Johan and Philip had managed to build all seven palaces, but Johan won on the tie-breaker (amount of gold.) Gareth came in third place with 6 palaces and close behind was Jayden and Julia.
This was an enjoyable game which is likely to see the table again soon.
Johan 7 palaces (20 gold); Philip 7 (2); Gareth 6 (17); Jayden 4 (11) Julia 4 (10)

Meanwhile, the other group had decided to go exploring in Central American jungles -

James had brought this one along, and after only having played a solo game at home, was keen to try it out with real live opponents. Tonio had not played at all before, so he took on the unfamiliar role of student.
It has to be said that Tikal is a beautiful game to look at (hence the background on the IBG blog header), and is one of the games where the theme does help new players to understand the mechanics.
James started out by cordoning off some nice treasures, Tonio and Barrie began fighting over a fast-ascending temple, and Jon wandered around aimlessly, doing a bit of this and a bit of that.
Following the first scoring round, the players’ paths began to diverge a little. Barrie headed off down the side of the board, discovering a multitude of temples as he went. James split himself between following Barrie, and trying to nobble his own little corner of the board for some surreptitious temple-uncovering of his own. Tonio started to pick up a few treasures and Jon continued to wander aimlessly….
It was then that James pitched his first camp in a clearing right next to the nearest corner of the board, placing a ‘5’ level temple within easy reach. Unfortunately, he barely had time to peg down the guy ropes before Jon snuck straight in and set a guard on the temple. James proffered the opinion that Jon was still sore after the Small World / Dice Town incident 2 weeks ago, but, in reality, Jon’s memory barely extends to 2 minutes ago, let alone 2 weeks. Instead, Jon politely questioned the wisdom of building an early camp in such a remote area of the jungle (whilst Barrie chuckled in the background…)
Nevertheless, James continued to uncover temple levels and collect treasures, and at the mid-point, was a little way ahead of the pack.
During the second half, the jungle became divided, with Barrie on one side, and everyone else on the other, with a growing area of blank tiles and volcanoes in the middle. Barrie’s temples were rising fast, and he scored heavily in the third scoring, despite only having 3 non-matching treasures.
Tonio was quietly racking up the points too, after having set up both of his new camps, and also having the majority in a ‘10’ temple right at the entrance to the board (something he had been fighting with Barrie over for the whole of the game).
The scores at this penultimate scoring were –
Barrie 67; James 58; Tonio 58; Jon 55.
Whilst the final few tiles were laid, Jon pitched a camp in a seemingly innocuous part of the jungle, but right next to his expedition leader. Barrie had a very strong board position, but had also run out of workers to place.
The final scoring arrived and, going first, Jon placed another camp right next to one of Barrie’s ‘7’ temples, and moved in his expedition leader from the other side of the board. This contributed to a final round score of 40 points, leaving Barrie needing to add 9 points to his board position to achieve victory.
This is one of those occasions in boardgaming where you just have to take your time to maximise your score, and with a bit of thought, Barrie managed to work out a way to win back Tonio’s ‘10’ temple, which was just enough for the victory.
An incredibly tight finish, and a thoroughly enjoyable game.
Barrie 97; Jon 95; Tonio 94; James 90

It appeared that Maharaja was going to take a few more minutes to finish, so the Tikal crowd decided to fill time with this great little fish-eating game -

Hey! That’s My Fish!
This game takes about as long to set up as it does to play! As soon as a few moves are completed, several penguins have become isolated, which is either good or bad depending on the number of fish that they have become stranded with.
It was genuinely quite an even spread – which was borne out by the final scores –
James 27; Tonio 24; Barrie 23; Jon 21

Maharaja had finished quicker than anticipated, so that group decided to move on to an old favourite –

Not much information on this one, I’m afraid, except to say that Johan relied on a lucky final mine to score more than zero, and Gareth came convincingly last for the second week in a row. Jayden’s winning tally of 54 gems suggests that the disasters were a little bashful about showing themselves this week.
Jayden 54; Julia 36; Philip 32; Johan 28; Gareth 4

The two groups finally synchronised their games, and rejoined forces to finish off the evening with “the evil dwarf game”, aka –

Due to an error in reading the rules (step forward so-called ‘rules guru’ Jon…), there were 4 saboteurs in the first round, rather than the maximum of 3 - which might help to explain the relative ease with which the bad guys triumphed.
No such excuse in the second mine, but the honest dwarves were again thwarted, mainly due to Johan having numerous rockfalls in his hand, which he played with undisguised glee. (The highlight of this mine being when Tonio, in a state of confusion about who was a saboteur, suddenly piped up, "Am I the only one who doesn't have a clue what's going on....?!") 
It was during the third round that the infamous “not-such-a-sneak-peek” event occurred. Up to this point, every other card that James had picked up seemed to be a map card, and he had been mocked mercilessly for his ‘ultra secretive’ approach to looking at his chosen destination card. However, next up – Philip - who managed to make his examination of a destination card about as secret as the recipe for ice. Most of the people in the bar downstairs probably got to see what was on the card (although Gareth managed to somehow miss ‘the great reveal’….)
Anyway, despite Jayden slapping an early broken tool on Barrie (when they were both saboteurs), the evil dwarves prevailed for the 3rd time in a row – not a good night for gold-mining.
So, Johan and Jayden tied for the victory (and there really is no tie-breaker in this game), whilst “Map-Boy” James and “Myopic-Boy” Gareth, both being honest for the whole game, failed to score.
Jayden 6; Johan 6; Barrie 5; Philip 3; Julia 2; Jon 2; Tonio 2; James 0; Gareth 0           .

During the evening, Gareth had also been taking a few snaps to put on the pub website (trying to make us all look attractive, interesting, intelligent and fun at the same time...not an easy task!) However, one dropped camera and several failed shutter depressions later, Gareth's major learning experience of the night had been that if you want to be in the picture yourself, choose your photographer wisely.....

'Time' had already been called, so it was time to pack up and retreat back to reality for another week.

Same time, same place, next week..........see you there!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

And God created woman.....

Players: Philip, Daniel, Iain, Barrie, Gareth, Tonio, John, Jon, Johan, George, Mark, Jayden, Julia

Tonight we welcomed 4 more newcomers: Mark, George - who we had assumed was a phantom, but turned out to be flesh and blood (and darned good at Alhambra), Jayden and Julia (yes - a female! - it's official: boardgames aren't just for blokes!)
Unfortunately there had been a mix-up in the pub and we found ourselves downstairs in the conservatory, sharing the room with what can only be kindly described as a "family meal out". But despite this, we soldiered bravely on to play a plethora of fine games.....

High Society
After a debate about which tables to nab in the conservatory, the first 5 through the door had a go at this auction quickie. It was new to Mark, but (despite his final score) he seemed to pick it up quickly.
Daniel’s tactic seemed to be “pick up every card you can” whilst Barrie appeared dumbfounded at the level of the bidding (over $40,000 for one card). The 4th red card came out with still a few left unturned (including the Thief) and in the final reckoning, Barrie’s late purchase of the ‘9’ was enough to swing him the victory (although he was only $2000 away from elimination).
Daniel needed some higher maths to figure out the score from his multiple cards, which it turned out would have been enough to win if Mark had been a tiny bit more frugal with his bidding. Jon and Gareth were apparently saving up for a rainy day…
Barrie 10 ($23k); Daniel 7.5 ($34k); Gareth 7 ($50k); Jon 6 ($49k); Mark 4 ($21k)

Whilst this game was going on, George and our new Kiwi couple turned up, so Philip joined them for a couple of games of -

Dominion (thanks to Philip for info on this one)
Of the 4 players, George had played before extensively, Philip had played about a quarter of a game the previous Friday at Barrie's house, and Jayden and Julia were completely new to it all.
The first game was played using the set-up recommended in the rules for a first game, with fairly straightforward cards available. Philip went for the boring treasure strategy - buying Silver then Gold then Provinces with occasional other cards like Smithy, Militia and Market. The other three players invested mainly in Smithies, Villages and Moats, with Julia also buying Militia.
Philip was able to start buying Provinces before his opponents, and that quickly led to his victory, although George was close on his heels.
Philip 39; George 36; Jayden 18; Julia 11

The second game was played using "Big Money", with, as the name suggests, lots of money generating cards. Again Philip played for treasure, assisted by the helpful Bureaucrat. Markets were a common card between the sets and Philip bought several.
There was no Village, but its distant cousin, the Laboratory, proved very popular, with Julia buying about half a dozen and playing them in chains throughout the game. Julia also went for the Moneylender, trashing her Coppers, and the Adventurer instead of buying Gold, which led to her going through her entire deck at one point but only finding 7 coins, which she sensibly used to buy a Gold.
Julia and Jayden's engines competed with Philip’s for Provinces towards the end, while George's stalled, as he was getting unhelpful hands like Throne Rooms without any other action cards.
Again Philip was the eventual winner, having 10 coins with 2 buys in the final turn, allowing him to purchase a Province and an Estate. Not far behind were Jayden and Julia, who were tied for second place (ahhh….young love…). The second place was given to Jayden, on the assumption that money was the tie-breaker, but it is actually turn order - which Jayden still won on, as Julia went first.
Not quite sure what George was doing – after all, you even start with 3 points in your hand at the beginning of the game!
Philip 34; Jayden 27; Julia 27; George 6

Tonio and John had now arrived, and immediately decided to have a go at saving the world -

Pandemic (thanks to Daniel for info on this one)
Two rounds of this excellent co-operative game were played by Daniel, Mark, John and a long-suffering Tonio (whose claim all night long was "I'm definitely leaving after this pint... okay then, one more game!").
It seems that the details of this game are a little hazy, but as it was Mark and Tonio’s first time, it was decided to go ‘vanilla’, and play at the ‘normal’ difficulty level. This valiant disease control team seemed to be doing well, yet struggled to find cures and became stretched too thinly across the board to save the world from dying from mass outbreaks of The Red Plague.
Daniel, Tonio, Mark, John – all lost.

Only one thing to do – try again, but this time ramp it up a bit with –

Pandemic: On the Brink
This is the expansion to Pandemic, and includes, amongst other things some rather cute little petri dishes for storing the disease cubes in. Nice!
On this reboot, the team did slightly better and were primed to deliver the final two cures whilst inoculating most of Asia. However, once again they succumbed to a chain reaction of outbreaks on the other side of the world, and the population of the Americas died in a rash of Exploding Yellow Bubous.
With hindsight, maybe it would have been auspicious to invite Johan, our resident Public Health Manager, to have lent his expertise to this game? (Then again, maybe not, considering that the Dutch answer to most impending catastrophes is simply to build a dyke…)
John, Mark, Tonio, Daniel – all lost again.

Just as we were about to give up hope, the aforementioned  Johan had arrived in the nick of time to take the fifth seat to play -

In the Year of the Dragon
This disaster-management game was new to Iain, so Jon did the rules explanation whilst the others sorted out the myriad cardboard tiles and chits. This is a tricky game to get to grips with, as there are genuinely a number of different strategies that can be employed (as the final scores bore out), but Iain did a great job of hanging on in there!
From the very first selection of person tiles it was obvious what initial strategies were being employed – Barrie, Gareth and Johan went all out for positioning on the person track, whilst Jon resigned himself to choosing last in each Action round and took the more experienced person tiles.
After the usual 2 months of peace the first event was the Imperial Tribute – successfully negotiated by all without too much difficulty. A Mongol Invasion was quickly followed by a Dragon Festival (Johan’s favourite) – a fairly gentle start to the year. By this time, Barrie and Gareth had bought a couple of large privilege tiles, and Johan was spreading his palaces wide.
By the mid-game, a gap had started to open up in the scores, with Gareth in the lead and Iain and Jon lagging well behind. Although Gareth was raking in points from privileges and Scholars, by necessity he was neglecting his population, and was constantly seeing his people fall victim to Plague, Drought and Mongol Hoards.
Jon found himself recruiting several tax collectors in order to get enough money to have a choice of actions in the last few rounds. Iain had built some nice sturdy palaces , but unfortunately fell victim to a lack of rice late on in the game (2 droughts in 3 months).
Barrie had been scoring consistently throughout the game, thanks to his privilege tile and “Court Lady” (although his personal supply of coins and tokens were suspiciously close to the communal stash all game..) He had also maintained a reasonable population for the end scoring.
The last event was a Dragon Festival, and Iain just pipped Johan for the second largest stash of fireworks. Before the final scoring, the scores were Gareth 83; Barrie 77; Johan 70; Jon 62; Iain 51.
So it all came down to person tiles and monks, which was to be Gareth’s undoing. He only had 2 people left and no monks. Johan racked up a healthy 20 points and Jon 27 (thanks to 10 people left alive and one monk). However, Barrie’s 16 final points were just enough to clinch him the victory in what proved to be a very close finish.
Barrie 93; Johan 90; Jon 89; Gareth 88; Iain 68

The Pandemic group were planning on starting a game of Automobile, but after setting it up they realised that none of them had actually played it before, and agreed that they were lacking the necessary time, will and brain power to learn and play a complex Wallace game in the remaining time left. So, Tonio whipped out something from the opposite end of the gaming spectrum –

Bohnanza (thanks to Tonio for this info)
Tonio did a great job of explaining the rules (well, he is a teacher) and after an open first hand to establish play sequence everybody seemed to take to it very quickly.
It didn't take long for players to work out the value of beans, and there was much trading going on. John seemed quite fond of Wax beans and as it was pretty clear at one point that he was losing, people were happy to donate Wax beans and Blue beans his way. He then bought a third bean field, and started to rake in a few coins. By the end of the game, of course, John had closed the gap to the point where he came joint first with 18 points.
As a tie-breaker, the rules state that you count the cards in your hand – Daniel had planted all his remaining cards, whilst John had two left – enough for the victory. Tonio managed to lose at his own game yet again (you know what they say about “those that can - do; and those that can’t…..”)
John 18 (won on tie-breaker); Daniel 18; Tonio 16; Mark 14

Not quite sure of the sequence of events, but at some point during the evening -

Mr Jack (thanks to Daniel for this one)
Daniel and Mark played Mr. Jack twice, taking turns to be Mr. Jack. This was their first time playing this game. First time around Daniel used wily subterfuge to convince Mark to chase the wrong suspect and the game ended when he accused the innocent Ms. Stealthy, allowing the reprobate cad Constable Goodley to escape justice for his terrible crimes.
Daniel won; Mark lost

Second time around, they were both more confident about what they were doing and yet they both managed to completely fudge their moves – Daniel’s mistake was putting the last two suspects within distance of escaping the board, and Mark duly seized this opportunity to guide the venomous Dr. Gull to freedom.
Mark won; Daniel lost

The other 2 tables had now mixed up a bit, resulting in a full complement for -

This was new to Jayden and Julia, and George also claimed that he needed a rules refresher (yeah, right….) With 6 players, a long-term strategy is almost impossible to play for – it’s all about making the most efficient decisions when your turn comes around.
Gareth started the game by collecting the valuable purple tiles, Jayden was making a good fist of paying exact change for his buildings, and George seemed to be somehow breeding tiles of all colours in his Alhambra.
Julia demonstrated that she was going to fit in perfectly with the Isleworth BoardGamers, as she mercilessly mocked Barrie’s lack of walls early in the game. He then proceeded to take every tile that she had her eye on for the rest of the game – a nice retort.
For some reason, Jon was collecting a large hand of small change, which was useless until he picked up 3 tiles in a single turn (which he then couldn’t fit into his Alhambra…doh!)
George pulled ahead after the second scoring, and despite “doing a Gareth” (trying to innocently pay 11 for a tile costing 12) he remained well ahead of everyone else after the final scoring. Quite how he managed to get majorities in so many colours is still a mystery, but hats off to our newcomer for a worthy triumph.
George 110; Gareth 75; Jayden 72; Jon 50; Barrie 48; Julia 41

Meanwhile, the other 3 went off to explore life on a coral reef -

Reef Encounter (thanks Philip for this info)
Iain and Johan were both new to the game, and so Philip explained the rules. Iain had gone swimming the most recently so he was the start player (truly bizarre…)
Initial corals were formed, and soon all 3 players had a Shrimp on the display and Iain began to fix algae cylinders. He quickly built up a massive yellow coral on the board closest to him, which Philip failed to attack, instead choosing to nibble at Johan's coral (an activity usually reserved for Johan’s wife…)
Johan retaliated by attacking Philip’s coral, and so Iain devoured his in peace, earning four tiles. This more or less settled the game for him, especially as Philip was following his usual simplistic strategy of eating corals as soon as he could, to rush the end of the game. While this strategy worked in itself, in that he was able to end the game by eating his fourth coral, it was a dismal failure in terms of points, with Iain winning by a big margin.
Iain 26; Philip 15; Johan 11

And finally, the Alhambra crew decided there was just enough time for some gem-hunting -

This game never fails to hit the mark, and tonight was no exception. Julia and Jayden needed a quick rules explanation, but this is one of those games where you can pretty much hit the ground running.
Jayden proved himself to be a canny player (aka “big fat chicken”) by running early from the first mine and collecting a healthy amount of gems, whilst several players perished to the attack of the giant blue scorpion.
Poisonous gas accounted for a few intrepid explorers in the second mine, with Jon this time playing the role of cowardly custard. After the third mine, Gareth and Barrie still had no gems, although everyone else had been topping up their chests nicely, which necessitated some big-time ‘luck-pushing’ by the dynamic duo.
Unfortunately the 4th mine blew up before any gems had been discovered, so it was all down to the final foray. And just when the boys had their eyes set on a huge pay-day, the deadly serpent turned up for the second time, bringing an end to their adventures; their coffers emptier than a hermit’s address book.
The end result? A tie between Jon and Julia (although she seemed rather keen on some form of tie-breaker, as opposed to the usual ‘rejoice in your shared victory’ cobblers).
Jon 21; Julia 21; George 14; Jayden 11; Barrie 0; Gareth 0

And that brings us to the end of another night of fun and brain-training! Next week we will be back to our normal residency of the upstairs Riverview Room, so we look forward to seeing you all again up there!

         .    .

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The night of much dice rolling......

Players: Ian, Barrie, Philip, Gareth, Iain, Russ, Jon, James, Niko, Tonio

Attendance was in double figures again this week, and for the first time we were able to have 3 games going at once. After last week’s lack of finished games we went from the sublime to the ridiculous - there were 10 completed this week! So, without further ado, here goes…..

For Sale
The first 6 through the door sat down to this quick property-auction filler. The first few sets of properties had large spreads, meaning that no-one really wanted to drop out early and take the low-valued houses. However, with only $14000 to play with, you have to choose when to bid high, and when to cut and run. And with 6 players, the last player in a round may find that (if they’re lucky) 1 or even 2 properties have been taken before the bidding even gets to them.
James and Barrie managed to pick up a couple of the high-value properties, with a few bids going through the roof. In the second phase, Jon found himself the recipient of both zero value cheques (one of which he traded for the “12” property), although he still avoided last place.
For the second time running, this game produced a tie, with only 2 points separating the first 3, and the last 3 places. As a relative newcomer, Niko did the decent thing and helped Gareth avoid another last place.
James 48; Barrie 48; Philip 46; Jon 38; Gareth 37; Niko 36

By now, everyone else had turned up, so we split into 3 groups to play –

Small World
This game was new to Niko, but is easy enough to pick up and the game was soon underway. Jon’s Heroic Trolls set up a good defensive position, whilst Gareth’s Wealthy Tritons took over the North-west coastal region. James’ Flying Giants, as to be expected, took several unconnected mountain regions and Niko’s Diplomat Dwarves set themselves up between the Giants and the Tritons.
The first conflict took place after Niko had used his Diplomat power with James, and therefore attacked Gareth, who responded with some Stout Sorcerors. Jon’s Dragon-Master Skeletons then waded in and evicted the Sorcerors quite quickly, necessitating Gareth bringing on his 3rd race – the Seafaring Humans.
Whilst this was going on, James’ Giants and Underworld Orcs were happily raking in multiple points each turn, which helped to paint a nice fat target on his back. Niko had brought on some Ghouls (or ‘Girls’ as he preferred to call them) and then quickly declined them to adopt some Mounted Amazons (or ‘real girls’) to blitz through James’ Orcs in double-quick time, and score an impressive 16 points in one round.
Some final races were introduced to mop up a few late points, and it was generally felt that James had triumphed, until the scores were totted up and it was found that Jon had just pipped him to the post, with Niko again graciously preventing Gareth from propping up the rest.
Jon 88; James 83; Gareth 78; Niko 77

Stone Age (thanks to Philip for info on this one)
Ian and Russ hadn't played this before, so Philip explained the rules (and by the look of the scores, he did a pretty good job). Philip followed his usual strategy of breeding meeples at the ‘love shack’ and buying cards (cultures, shamen and tool-makers), and was able to pick up a few tools as well. Ian and Russ concentrated more on buying huts, though Ian also pursued the civilization cards route, collecting mainly green cultures. Russ picked up the best shamen though, and also a few hut multipliers.
Luck seemed pretty even between the 3 players with the dice, although Philip had the good fortune to pick up the 7th culture with his bonus card pick (Ian had bought up both copies of Pottery, so he couldn’t get the full 8). These 7 cultures (worth 49 points) turned out to be to be decisive in Philip’s winning score, though 30 points from shamen didn’t hurt any.
13 points between first and last is pretty close though, so the 2 newbies certainly held their own. (This game was played with face up cards, as per Philip’s usual method of play...more on that later...)
Philip 181; Ian 175; Russ 168

Loco! (thanks to Barrie for info on these 3 games)
Iain, Tonio and Barrie started proceedings with 2 games of Loco (the card version of the rather nicely produced "Quandary"), where Tonio led from the front as the trainer, coach and all round "Dad”. Tonio's a great guy, and he likes his food, but how he managed to get into such a flux squeezing in so many apologies in one game we will never know! Tonio - you did fine man... chill!
That said, even the most hardened, dead-eyed game player would have winced at the result of game 1, where Iain managed to end proceedings with the total score of 7 for all three players!! That’s just wrong…
Iain 3; Tonio 2; Barrie 2

After such a "marvelous” first game, the second one had to be better (and longer), and it was, although strangely with exactly the same result as the first – Iain winning with Barrie and Tonio tying for second place.
Iain 34; Barrie 29; Tonio 29

This group felt it was time to move on - so they did to -

Ticket to Ride: The Card Game
Same players, same table, different card game. After very apologetically showing the other players the ropes, and being asked if he could sing (?!), Tonio led a cool game of this mixed review classic.
Barrie seemed to sort of miss the point and failed to keep his route cards in his hand, or for that matter, bothered checking them, leaving his traveling fate in no-ones hands in particular. Ian and Tonio did rather better, and in the final summing up the scores were (unsurprisingly) -
Iain 123; Tonio 104; Barrie 55

Stone Age (main info from Philip, with 'help' from Barrie)
Ian and Philip stayed around for a second game of Stone Age, and were joined this time by 2 veterans – namely Gareth and Barrie (not to be confused with Gareth Barry - Manchester City and ex-Aston Villa midfielder). This time, Gareth and Barrie insisted on face down cards (as per the rules). Gareth pursued a single-minded tools strategy, reveling in his fetish for sharp implements, and never taking the Love Shack or the Field. Both Philip and Ian put a low priority on tools, allowing Gareth to pick them several turns running. Gareth combined this with great dice luck, rolling 6’s repeatedly, which allowed him to stock up with food and earn large numbers of points for huts while collecting civilization cards as well. Barrie had a more mixed strategy, with some tools, a little bit of ‘meeple-mating’ and a high food level. A big score using the”1-7” hut shot him into the lead at the mid-point; he also managed to roll four 6’s on one of the cards you roll dice for, giving everyone +1 food level, resulting in much whooping, high-fiving and general lovey-doveyness in his direction.
Philip maxed out with 10 tribes-people but spent much time feeding them and although he was collecting hut multipliers, he unfortunately built less huts than anyone else. He claims that having face down cards meant that he inadvertently collected the wrong type of civilization cards, including one on the last turn which actually decreased his overall points total! (Hmm…sounds like the type of excuse that one of his opponents might make…)
Ian had a fairly high food level and a few extra people, as well as several huts, allowing him to finish ahead of Philip and only a few points behind Barrie. Gareth however was the runaway winner, with a collection of tool multipliers accompanying his excellent score for huts (and not having Niko playing the same game and making him look good).
Gareth 145; Barrie 120; Ian 112; Philip 110

Dice Town
This was new to all except Jon, who had only played it 2-player before. It’s a light dice-rolling game where you have to collect higher numbers of dice in different playing card values, in order to earn a selection of bonuses. It’s quite interactive as there is a fair amount of card stealing and bribery (the corrupt ‘sheriff’ decides who should win ties and will take all manner of sweeteners).
As the game progressed, it became obvious that James was constantly picking Jon to steal cards from, and it turned out that he was still sore at Jon for identifying him as a target in Small World! (Note to all IBG’ers – don’t get on the wrong side of James early in the evening…)
Jon ran out of money early on, which really limits your options, whilst James collected a vault-full of the stuff. He also seemed to spend most of the game as Sheriff – seemingly enjoying the temporary power that this imbued him with.
It was also discovered during this game that Russ appears to lack the fine motor skills to successfully roll 5 dice from a small cup without spraying them all over the table and floor. (It’s just a good job that his day job doesn’t rely on good manual dexterity in order to prevent him killing people……oh - he’s an anaesthetist….) For some reason, that reminds me of an old Bill Cosby skit....
Anyway, James’ vast wad helped earn him the win, ending with nearly twice as many points as Jon.
James 35; Russ 28; Iain 26; Jon 20

No-one else had finished their games, so there was just enough time for the ‘Dice Towners’ to squeeze in one final game of –

High Society
Iain hadn’t played for a long time, so was reminded of the rules (several times). The cards came out in quite a strange order, with the majority of the status symbols appearing before any of the multipliers or ‘bad cards’.
Iain was spending money like it was going out of fashion, and needed to reminded of the rule about the poorest player being eliminated at the end (to no avail). Everything else was quite tight, and despite Jon picking up a “x2” for only $14,000 at the end, James still had enough points to win his 3rd game of the evening – a worthy achievement indeed.
James 20 ($29k); Jon 16 ($44k); Russ 8 ($34k); Ian 12 ($23k)

Small World (thanks Tonio)
Niko (identified as the experienced member of the duo, following his first outing earlier this evening) did a great job of explaining the game to Tonio and was apparently “very gracious.” Niko started with Alchemist Tritons and managed to control most of the board quite quickly, and accumulated a lot of VPs. Tonio began with Heroic Halflings, which, although sturdy, were unable to thin out the Tritons. Niko moved on to his second tribe, Flying Ratmen and all but wiped Tonio from the board – maybe a consequence of hanging onto the Halflings for too long. By the time Tonio tried his next tribe, the Merchant Dwarves (after considering Diplomat Humans and realising it would be a mistake in a 2-player game), it was all a bit too late. The fact that the Merchant Dwarves only provide 5 race tokens probably didn’t improve his chances much either.
Consequently, the result was a bit one-sided, but Tonio was keen to try the game again – and he’ll undoubtedly get the chance on another evening at the Apprentice.
Niko 112; Tonio 72

And that, as they say, was that. A veritable feast of gaming (and dice-rolling), where James showed his competitive side, Tonio was the all-round nice guy, and Gareth actually won a game!

See you all, same time, same place, next week....