Wednesday, 25 November 2009

"I...Have...The Power.......(Grid)"

Players: Scott, Steph, Philip, Ian, Gareth, Daniel, Russ, Toby, Tonio, Stuart, David, Jon, Jayden, Julia, Maynard, Vicky

It was great to have newcomers Maynard and Vicky with us for the first time. Toby also joined us again, and it was nice to see Julia taking a week off from her debating class to make an appearance (apparently, playing board games was more interesting than debating British politics....)

As is becoming the norm, several people were in by 7pm, and so there was a chance for some more animal antics -

Frank's Zoo (thanks Gareth for this report)
The first five gamers that turned up at the pub agreed to try this highly confusing card game once more. Scott, Gareth and Steph had played it before, albeit incorrectly and Toby and Ian were newcomers. This was the fourth attempt at Frank’s Zoo and hopefully (with the helpful explanation of the rules from a BGG'er in the Netherlands) it would finally be played how Doris and Frank had intended!
Basic rules were explained by Gareth to Toby and Ian. The first round was then played to set up positioning. Scott got rid of his cards first, then Steph, Gareth, Toby and finally Ian.
Gareth then went on to explain the more complex nuances of the rules regarding the lions and hedgehogs. The teams paired off with Scott and Toby, Ian with Steph and Gareth playing solo. The concept of which animal outranked another that caused Barrie so many problems last week was an equal conundrum to Toby. Ian was the first to go out with two lions. Closely followed by Gareth and Toby both with hedgehogs. Then Scott with two lions and finally Steph with no lions or hedgehogs.
Scores were totted up and Scott and Gareth were now in equal first with 11 points, then Steph on 8, Toby on 7 and Ian at the back with 6.
For the final round Gareth paired off with Toby, Scott with Ian and Steph on her own. It was close finish with Scott and Ian chipping out their cards for first and second places, but Gareth who went out third managed to get 4 lions and some hedgehogs, Steph went out fourth also with a hedgehog and Toby last.
So it was all down to the final scoring - 
Scott 19; Gareth 18; Steph 14; Ian 14; Toby 7

Meanwhile, more early arrivals sat down to try out a few games of -

After a 2-player game last week, it was time to try with more players for this abstract tile-laying, path-building game. In this first game, Jon showed his (slight) experience by heading for a corner all by himself and letting everyone else self-destruct (actually David was helped on his way pretty early by Stuart…)
Jon won; Stuart 2nd off; Tonio 2nd off; David 1st off

Vicky and Maynard, a newcomer couple, had now joined us to make the numbers up to 6. The question on everyone’s lips was, “Are they lovey-dovey or will they fight tooth and nail?” That question was quickly answered as Maynard slapped down his second tile in such a way that it sent his SO off the board into instant oblivion – a true IBG move! Maynard then continued his rampage by taking out David’s piece, but then succumbed himself, leaving Jon, Tonio and Stuart to run rings around each other. As it happened, they all ended up surrounding the final tile, for a 3-way tie.
Tonio, Stuart, Jon – all won; Maynard 3rd off; David 2nd off; Vicky 1st off

This final game saw Vicky last a little longer, but Tonio and David did not. Stuart and Jon danced a fandango together, but ultimately wound up dancing around a single tile which led to their demise. Meanwhile, Maynard had cordoned of a lovely 6-tile section of the board to himself, and casually ambled about, waiting for everyone else to perish.
Maynard won; Jon, Stuart 4th off; Vicky 3rd off; David 2nd off; Tonio 1st off

A third group had now arrived and set up a quick game of -

For Sale
Not much is known about this one, except that Julia had apparently become highly excited when the scores were totted up, thinking that she may have won, despite holding both blank cheques! (Maybe she thought they really were "blank cheques" and she could choose the value?!) As it turned out, it was a very tight finish (as often happens) with Philip just pipping Daniel and Jayden to the victory.
Philip 56; Daniel 55; Jayden 54; Russ 45; Julia 41

6 intrepid souls now decided that there was enough time to fit in a game of -

Battlestar Galactica + Pegasus Expansion (thanks Daniel)
The cast - David (Chief Tyrol); Stuart (Starbuck); Tonio (President Zarek); Toby (Leoben); Russ (Admiral Cain); Daniel (Ellen Tigh)
Destination - as most of the table were unfamiliar with the Pegasus expansion it was agreed to finish the game under standard victory conditions rather than to play the New Caprica endgame.
A full complement of six with a Cylon Leader onboard. Although clearly nobody was going to trust Toby, the player numbers meant he drew from the friendly agenda deck and Leoben threw himself so whole-heartedly into the human cause that nobody doubted his intention to guide the fleet to survival.
As always jovial accusations of toasterhood quickly flew around the table, by general consensus Tonio was declared the most Cylon-looking person at the table and Daniel the shiftiest, however both players worked hard for humanity’s cause and the first few turns passed without major incident. It even looked possible that the entire crew might be human (for the time being anyway).
A massive Cylon attack started to build up culminating in a toaster boarding party landing on Galactica. Some quick thinking and good teamwork saw the infiltrators swiftly shot down, then the fleet jumped to it's first destination. Eyebrows were raised at Admiral Cain's choice of taking the fleet to a barren planet and the manipulative Ellen Tigh helpfully chose this moment to point out some other items of suspect behaviour on the part of the military leadership. However it didn't further Daniel's own credibility much when he then suggested the benefits of throwing the Admiral out of the airlock "just to be on the safe side" and fingers of accusation began pointing at him instead of Russ.
With the fleet becalmed there was some urgent repairwork undertaken on both Galactica and Pegasus led by Chief Tyrol while the fleet waited for it's second jump - this time to a much more appreciable destination. By now Ellen's soapboxing on the merits of flushing the senior command into space were gaining popularity but before she could bundle the hapless Admiral into the airlock, Cain outed herself as a 100% red-eyed Cylon. Russ admitted that the threat of losing both his reveal power and super crisis card forced his reveal, as well as encouraging him to choose the better destination second time round in an attempt to establish his Humanity. He then slyly handed his unrevealed loyalty card to his power crazed rabble-rousing neighbour.
Justified by Russ' reveal, the Ellen Tigh witch hunt swung into full gear when the next skill check confirmed that one of Tyrol, Starbuck or Zarek must be the second skinjob. The evidence was tenuous yet damning and seized upon by IBG's version of Oliver Cromwell who seemed determined to throw the entire crew into the void. Starbuck was first to be sent to her doom and Stuart flipped over his loyalty card to show his Cylon origins - surprising both Russ and Daniel as the loyalty card Russ had passed over was therefore a third Cylon card, making one too many in the game - ooops! Both Stuart and Russ had been Cylons from the start so Ellen was declared to be Human after all.
With both Cylons revealed and hitting Galactica with some heavy crisis cards things began to get a little fraught with resources dropping too quickly and the Destiny deck being seeded with fistfuls of Treachery cards. Fortunately Toby was able to use Leoben’s special ability to even up the Destiny deck a bit (or so he kept claiming). When David, now promoted as Admiral Tyrol, chose a weak destination for a jump there were questions as to whether there might have been a fourth Cylon card in the loyalty deck.
Some good moves from Tonio, who as President Zarek had gotten comfortable in the President's office and not needed to move for the length of the game, saved the fleet by bringing the power of the Quorum into play at key moments. Ignoring Cylon taunts and syrupy tactical 'advice' being offered by Stuart, some judicious dishing out of executive orders to players hard at work in the engine room onboard Pegasus enabled the fleet to move quickly toward it's final jump and only just made it to safety before resources ran out.
Result - Humans win.
(Toby revealed his Agenda card and only just missed out on joining in the win - he needed Morale and Population to be within two points of each other but a late battering on Morale just snatched the win away from the Cylon Leader.)

Whilst BSG was playing out, 2 other groups formed and decided to immerse themselves in the Power Grid universe, the first group opting for the original -

Power Grid (thanks to Gareth for this report)
After playing the Brazil map at the weekend, it was decided to try the new Spain and Portugal map tonight. There were five playing and it was decided to exclude the pink region of the map, which was unfortunate because it had one of Gareth’s favourite cities, Barcelona in it (he loves the Gaudi Architecture apparently…)
Everybody had played the game before so no rule explanations were needed, just a run-through on the differences for this map - the restriction on uranium in step 1, the forced introduction of the 3 large wind plants and players in Portugal only cannot bid on Nuclear plants.
The game started off slowly in the first few rounds with all the players being evenly spread around the board. By the fourth round, Philip, Steph and Scott had built 4 cities each, closely followed by Ian on 3 and Gareth behind on 2. Steph then built 3 more cities to initiate step 2 of the game. Gareth and Scott held back while the other 3 players continued to increase their number of cities.
By step 3 it had evened out again with Steph and Philip on 11 cities and Scott and Ian on 10, Gareth was now well behind on 7. In the final couple of rounds more power stations were bought for the end game and Scott just moved ahead of Steph and Philip, building and powering 17 cities to their 16, with Ian and Gareth fighting for fourth place.
This map has more expensive links than others, which does seem to slow down the speed of expansion on the board although the restriction on uranium and forced wind turbines did not appear to have much effect on the game.
Scott 17 cities; Steph 16 (148 Elektros); Philip 16 (139); Gareth 15 (138); Ian 15 (134)

The second group opted for Power Grid's newest incarnation -

Power Grid: Factory Manager
This was new to everyone except Jon (2 previous plays) who quickly found out that this is not the easiest game to set up and teach. However, the game eventually got under way, with only a few hiccups (as Julia seemed to constantly forget what her workers were for…it’s a good job that her loving husband-to-be was on hand to gently remind her each turn…)
A certain groupthink definitely developed in his game around bidding for turn order – there were no bids over 1 for the first 4 rounds, with many tiles being won with a bid of 0. Jon tended to favour being first in turn order, whereas Vicky seemed content to go last and pick up the big discounts.
Jon decided on putting in a computer in the first round, that did nothing for his production, so was a little cash-poor for the next couple of turns. Everyone else started ramping up their production and storage capacity, and factories were soon being expanded to fit in the vast number of machines being bought (as few workers were being expended on bidding.)
Maynard and Vicky seemed to be quietly building quite efficient little factories, whilst Jayden had a few “Oh” moments, as he realised that ripping out outdated plant was going to be necessary.
Julia gave off the convincing air of someone who didn’t really know what they were doing, and seemed to be buying very little each round. No-one was running particularly high-energy units, and as the energy price didn’t rise much during the whole game, this wasn’t really a factor.
All too quickly, the last round arrived, and the final few machines were bought and installed. The scores were totted up and it was a genuine surprise (at least to her fiancĂ©) that the dark horse of the group, Julia, had triumphed convincingly, increasing her production and storage capacity in the last round, which when added to her ‘savings’ proved to be more than enough for the victory.
Julia 268; Jon 247; Maynard 239; Vicky 212; Jayden 191

After a couple of retirements, and a little debate about what time was left, the 2 Power Grid groups decided to gather together for what is turning out to be the IBG large-group filler of choice –

Whilst Jon did a drinks-run, someone else explained the rules to the newcomers. A total of 7 players led to the possibility of there being 2 or 3 saboteurs in each mine, although as it turned out, there were always 3.
Gareth appeared determined to suspect that every move of Jon was suspicious, and as it turned out, this was well-founded, as he was a saboteur 3 times running.
During the second mine, tools were being broken in an apparently random fashion, although the ‘piece de resistance’ was Julia managing to convince several people that Vicky was a saboteur, when in fact she was the evil one herself. So much for the ladies sticking up for each other….
With the saboteurs having won the first 2 rounds, they looked in good shape for a 3rd victory, until a sudden surge towards the line saw Maynard discover the gold, and take the pick of the rewards. Having twice been a successful saboteur, and then finding the gold in the final mine, he romped away with his second victory of the night – he's certainly one to watch out for at future games nights!
Maynard 11; Jon 6; Ian 6; Julia 5; Gareth 4; Vicky 0; Jayden 0

And with the BSG game finishing just before 'time' was called, that was it for another night.

Tonight was "farewell" to Julia, who is very shortly returning to the land of many sheep in order to get married (to Jayden....not a sheep...) and settle down. I'm sure that she will take the memory of her Factory Manager victory with her...

Hope to see the rest of you - same time, same place, next week - for more boardgaming shenanigans.....

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Terror by the Thames........

Players: Tonio, Stuart, Jayden, Barrie, Gareth, Philip, Scott, Roy, David, Jon, Ian

11 gamers this evening, including a welcome to newcomer Roy from Guernsey, who was making a one-off appearance whilst visiting friends in the area.

There were a number of early-birds through the door, who decided to kick the evening off with a (not so) quick game of -

Frank's Zoo (thanks to Gareth for this report)
This was the third attempt at Frank’s Zoo, with IBG'ers having previously had more than a few problems understanding what appears on paper to be a relatively simple card game. A smaller group of five tried it tonight - rules were quickly explained to those unfamiliar with the game and the hands were dealt.
Play was quick and Jayden was first to get rid of his cards, followed closely by Gareth and Scott. Barrie who was playing for the first time was having problems with the concept of which animal outranked another, but to be fair, most players had had this problem on their first game (well, that’s what they told Barrie, anyway…)
When the scores were totted up for the first round, Gareth took the lead with 7 pts after capturing three lions. Jayden and Scott were equal second, with 4 pts each, Barrie was on 2 pts and Tonio had yet to score.
In round two everyone partnered off, which caused some debate about just how old some of the players were. Scott was solo (which he played to his great advantage), Gareth paired off with Barrie and Jayden with Tonio. Gareth then made the terrible mistake by playing three lions as a starting hand which were quickly captured by Scott with his Elephants and Mosquitoes . Play continued with Scott finishing first, then Jayden, Tonio, Barrie and finally Gareth. Therefore by the end of round two Scott had a commanding lead of 17 to Jayden’s 10, Gareth’s 8, Tonio’s 6 and Barrie’s 4.
As others gamers were now starting to arrive at the club, it was agreed to play just one more round. This time Gareth played solo, Scott paired up with Tonio and Barrie with Jayden. Scott finished his hand first, followed by Jayden and then Barrie who picked up a couple of lions at the end. Gareth came in fourth and Tonio last, but he did capture three lions in the process.
A fun starter game to get the brain warmed up before moving on to something more in-depth.
Scott 21; Jayden 16; Gareth 14; Tonio 14; Barrie 13

Frank’s Zoo was in full swing, so Jon persuaded Ian to have a go at this quick little abstract game. It was played with the variant of having 2 pieces each, and choosing which one to move on each turn.
The board is still quite large for only 4 pieces, and it does take a little while for them to come close to confrontation, but there is still some interesting choices to make about whether to play defensively or aggressively.
Initially, Ian kept both of his pieces close together, whilst Jon kept one by the sidelines, and sent the other on a skirmish mission. Following a number of back-and-forths, one of Ian’s pieces ended up off the board, and his other was only 1 tile away from one of Jon’s. Although Jon could have placed a tile to send Ian’s second piece into oblivion, the ‘no suicide’ rule prevented him from doing this. Consequently, Ian was able to send Jon’s first piece to its doom, and with no useful tiles to play, Jon’s second piece followed in quick succession.
This is a little different to the normal IBG fare, but could be a really fun experience with the full complement of 8 players.
Ian won; Jon lost

Maharaja (thanks to Gareth again)
This was the fourth play of what has become this month’s ‘game of the month’. Jayden, Barrie and Gareth were all familiar with the rules, but Tonio was new to game. Gareth quickly ran through the basics, while Barrie and Jayden set up the board.
The Character cards were distributed randomly, with Jayden getting the lowest number, allowing him to place his houses first. The first few rounds were fairly evenly matched, with Jayden, Tonio and Gareth each winning a scoring round. Gareth then slumped into decline, only picking up 9 gold in three rounds, allowing Jayden and Tonio to increase their leads. Barrie was a slow starter, generally messing up Gareth’s game plan with a knowing smile.
Mid-game, a missing piece was lost under the table. Tonio, whilst searching for it “accidentally” brushed against Jayden’s leg, resulting in much eyebrow-raising and a few well-chosen comments from the other side of the table. (The fact that Tonio, whilst taking a photograph, was later to describe Jayden as “very attractive,” did nothing to assuage the sarcastic remarks…)
Anyway, the game continued with Gareth trying to make a valiant recovery by winning the last three scoring rounds, but to no avail - Jayden had hoarded too many Action Chits from the Yogi character. This allowed him to finish the game with ruthless efficiency.
Gareth apparently rates Maharaja as an ‘eight’, and Tonio rates Jayden’s legs as a ‘ten’.
Jayden 7 Palaces; Tonio 6; Gareth 5 (27 Gold); Barrie 5 (9)

Although Philip had valiantly set up Agricola, there weren't enough takers (as everyone all too clearly remembered last week's marathon session...), so the consensus was -

Power Grid: Factory Manager
Although Russ wasn’t around, Scott had brought his copy of this game, and rounded up newbies Ian and Philip to join ‘veteran’ (1 play!) Jon. Scott did a good job of doing a concise rules explanation, whilst Jon passed the Mensa test of putting out all the machines on the board.
This game played out quite differently from last week. Scott and Jon started off by buying some computers to reduce their power output, whilst Ian and Philip concentrated on improving their production and storage capacities. Ian began by bidding on the highest number turn order tiles (with the biggest discounts), but by round 4 had realised that this left him with less choice in the machine market. Subsequently he took the lowest value tile in the last round.
Jon had quickly increased his storage capacity to 11, but was struggling to produce enough goods, as very few production machines were making it into the market. Scott was quickly developing his production and storage capacities, and at one point had a zero power output (later discovered to be an error – power always has to be at least ‘1’ – sorry Scott!)
Philip was quietly constructing a nice little factory, whilst trying to keep a lid on his power consumption. A few inefficient old machines were thrown out of a few factories, to be replaced by shiny new models. Not many seasonal workers were hired (in contrast to last week’s game), but only Ian seemed to suffer from the odd manpower shortage.
In the last round, everyone managed to ramp up their production output, and there was genuine curiosity about who was going to come out on top. The scores were totted up, and Scott was found to have triumphed over Jon by 8 Elektros. However, a quick recount by Jon found that he had miscounted by 10 (slightly worrying as he had been playing banker all game), and therefore had actually pipped Scott by a measly 2 Elektros, with Ian and Philip coming in creditably close behind.
This game was much quicker than last week – about 1 hour 15 mins, which felt much better. Ian remarked that the game was ideal for accountants – which probably isn’t far from the truth – so we expect him to wipe the floor with his opponents next time he plays!
Jon 244; Scott 242; Ian 224; Philip 210

War on Terror (thanks Stuart for this info)
This was Stuart and Roy's first time playing War on Terror whilst Dave had played it once before (but a long time ago). A quick run-through of the rules and everyone was up to date with how to take over the world.
Dave started with his settlements in the Americas and Antarctica, leaving Stuart and Roy to go for Europe, Asia and Australasia. Secret messages were exchanged between Stuart and Dave, stating that Dave would leave Stuart to take over Asia and Australasia, and Dave would have the Americas and Antarctica.
Stuart soon kicked Roy out of Asia, leaving him alone in Europe, by which time Dave had conquered the Americas and Antarctica. Everyone was buying terrorist cells in their rounds as a deterrent to be attacked, but all the players were too nice and only a few actually made it onto the board.
Roy was the first "Evil" player but the Axis of Evil was spun a total of 4 times with everyone having one go as the balaclava-wearing terrorist (Roy had it twice – he seemed to like it…)
The end of the game came about quicker than expected with a very unlikely win for Stuart (who claims to never win anything), but not before Dave and Roy had conspired to attack him with nuclear missiles - a plan narrowly thwarted by Stuart playing his last two cities giving him the final 2 victory points needed for victory.
(Postscript - Stuart actually tied for first place in Tobago 2 weeks ago, so don't believe his "never wins anything" bunkum...) 
Stuart won; Roy and David lost.  

The Capitalists and the Terrorists had now finished their respective games, and after a brief consultation (and a couple of departures), the remaining 5 decided to roll a few dice in -

Dice Town
This was new to David and Roy, but takes mere minutes to explain (and one round to become clear). Jon avoided his mistake from last week and avoided stealing cards at the beginning of the game – he left that dubious honour to Roy, who was also rolling Full Houses like they were going out of fashion.
Scott spent much of the game as Sheriff, constantly uttering, “I don’t care who wins the Queens, as long as you promise not to steal from me…” David got in on the general card-pilfering himself, whilst Stuart avoided picking up any cards, and spent much of his time mining for gold.
The bank was robbed consistently by most players (but often with a single ‘ten’) and when the gold mine eventually gave up its last nugget, the scores were tallied.
Amazingly, it turned out to be a 3-way tie between Jon, David and Scott, and it was assumed that as Jon had the sheriff, he would be the winner. As it happens, the tie-breaker is the player with the most property claim cards, but as Jon had the most of these too, he was able to claim his second victory in succession.
Jon 27; David 27; Scott 27; Roy 21; Stuart 20

There was just time to join up with the Maharaja crew for a very enjoyable, and long overdue game of –

This was a first game to a few players, but the ‘old hands’ soon filled them in – especially with the most important “this is how you know if you’re a saboteur” information!
In the first mine, 3 saboteurs emerged (Barrie, Gareth and David) but they were not strong enough to thwart the brave, honest dwarves. The second mine was started by Roy, who immediately placed a ‘T’ junction. Jayden promptly broke his lamp – an early accusation that was worthy of the mighty “I haven’t got a clue what’s going on” Tonio. However, as it turned out, Roy was an honest (if slightly suspicious) dwarf, whilst Jayden was in fact a saboteur (along with the aforementioned Tonio). Regardless, the honest dwarves triumphed again.
The final mine was characterised by Gareth looking at a destination card and then promptly forgetting which one he’d looked at. This wasn’t helped by Jon also mis-remembering this information, and advising Gareth wrongly as to which one it had been. How the honest dwarves again found gold is a mystery, but they did, despite the best efforts of Scott, Stuart and Jayden to prevent them doing so.
When the dust had settled, Gareth had just pulled ahead of the pack to snatch the win. Stuart had somehow managed to miscount the number of nuggets on his 3 cards, and apologised for inadvertently ‘cheating’. Except that he had miscounted downwards – which made him both bad at arithmetic and rubbish at cheating at the same time.
Gareth 6; Roy 5; Barrie 5; Tonio 5; Scott 5; David 5; Jon 4; Stuart 4; Jayden 3

And that was all we had time for this week. Time enough for Jon and Stuart to both "miscount" their scores, for balaclava-wearing gameplayers to scare off the locals, and for Jayden to vow to keep a closer eye on our resident Italian from now on.......

More of the same next week...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

"Are we nearly there yet.......?"

Players: Scott, Steph, Russ, Ian, James, Barrie, Gareth, Philip, Tonio, Martin, Daniel, Jon, Rob, Stuart, David, Jayden

A record turnout tonight, as the IBG'ers hit 16 (including a welcome to first-timers Martin and Rob), and together experienced some new Essen '09 releases, as well as a few old favourites.
Amongst the evening's highlights - Barrie forgot his games cloth, Tonio forgot his roots, and several players forgot that the pub does actually close.....

The first 6 through the door did some swift furniture re-arranging, and then set up -

Frank’s Zoo
After last week’s ‘learning experience’ it was decided to have another go – with Stuart, David and Philip needing to be filled in on how it worked.
Jon was somehow unable to lay a single card for the first few times round the table, whereas James was slapping them down with glee. However, he was soon left with just 1 card left, which proved more tricky to get rid of. Gareth and David played all their cards first, at which point James was finally able to lay down his elusive final card. Jon failed miserably to play all his cards.
After the scoring, James was found to have had a veritable pride of lions in his hand, which elevated him to first position. Jon had accumulated a couple of hedgehogs, which left him with a minus score.
As there were moves afoot to start some longer games on other tables, Frank’s Zoo was halted after only one round, making James’ victory and Jon’s humiliation null and void.
James 8; Gareth 6; David 4; Philip 3; Stuart 2; Jon -1

Russ had just returned from Essen, and brought with him several shiny new games. The lure of “it plays in just an hour” led us to -

Power Grid: Factory Manager
First off, this is nothing like Power Grid, except that the money is in ‘Elektros’, some of the graphics are similar and there’s a fair bit of maths involved. The idea of the game is to buy and run a selection of machines, robots and computers in the most efficient way in order to accumulate the most wealth after 5 rounds.
It does take a couple of rounds to get a handle on what’s going on, but the mechanics aren’t overly complex. Russ (having played several 2-player games) did a good job of explaining the rules, but even so, clarity is only achieved through actually playing the game. He also claimed to “not have a clue” about how to win the game……yeah, right!
Initial bidding for turn order was cautious, as no-one (except Rob) wanted to overbid so early in the game. Players also appeared to be experimenting with a variety of strategies, although everyone seemed to form the same opinion that labour-saving robots were a ‘must buy’.
James had invested early in some clever computers, which saved him in power costs, whereas Jon was single-handedly doubling the carbon emissions of Western Europe. Russ was ensuring that his production and storage capacities were even, whilst regularly replacing his plant with more efficient models. David carefully considered his every move…
And so it came to the last round – Jon had brought down his power output, and appeared to be running a completely automated operation, but at the expense of production capacity. James had almost managed to max out on his production and storage, giving himself a very large income. David had snuck up on the rails and also appeared to be running quite an efficient factory, whilst Russ obviously knew exactly what he was doing, with some very effective upgrades purchased in the last round. And as for Rob – he made every move with a big smile on his face, but was running his factory about as efficiently as British Leyland.
The end result was that Russ did “have a clue”, James could definitely have a second career as a Factory Manager if his latest job interview goes pear-shaped, and Rob did the decent thing and came last in his first game at IBG.
Russ 283; James 236; David 227; Jon 192; Rob 163

On another table, back by popular request, for its third play in four weeks was -

Maharaja (thanks to Gareth for this info)
Both Philip and Gareth had played in the previous two games and Barrie once before, so strategies were formulated early on. For Stuart it was his first play so Philip quickly explained the general rules while the other two set up the game. The rules were then no longer needed and the game flowed smoothly with little down time, all in all taking around 90 minutes from start to finish.
Gareth made use of the 1st Governor for the whole of the game. This allowed him to build the first palace in four of the cities giving him a healthy supply of money when those cities were scored. Barrie set up extensive links around the perimeter cities of the board giving free movement for himself and a ready supply of taxes from the other players (3 gold in one round). Philip collected the extra action tokens from the last governor throughout the game, giving extra flexibility when needed.
As ever the game came to a speedy conclusion with Gareth being the only player this time to place his final palace. Barrie and Philip drew for second place with five palaces each and Stuart came a valiant fourth. 
Gareth 7 Palaces (10 gold); Barrie 5 (13); Philip 5 (13); Stuart (10)

Just as 3 tables of 5 players had settled down for some serious gaming, Ian arrived. Daniel graciously gave up his place at Maharaja and together they were whisked away to magical faraway lands -

Tales of the Arabian Nights (thanks Daniel for this report) 
Ma'aruf (Ian), the Cobbler of Cairo, took the fleeing of his wife quite literally when angering a Djinn who spirited him away to the far off island of P'an P'an. Completely lost and with an arduous journey ahead he wandered further into unknown territories. Seemingly unable to leave vengeful spirits alone, Ma'aruf was frequently ensorcelled and was magically aged into an old man.
On spying a way to quicken his journey home he conspired with a mischievous cohort to steal a magnificent flying statue - and was promptly unseated by his conman companion whilst airborne. Fortunately, some jagged rocks broke his fall and the now crippled cobbler somehow found his way across the oceans to Africa. It was here that he had a narrow escape from some bloodthirsty brigands who wanted to chop his hands off for trying to rob them.
The much humbled traveller finally found a way to break free from the chain of curses and sorcery that had plagued him and finally set course for home.
Meanwhile Ali Baba (Daniel) set off at a brisk pace to discover the fabulous continent of Asia. Maybe it was the influence of the forty thieves but he seemed intent on robbing or beating everyone in his path, being cursed and scorned by all and sundry, until the outraged populace of Su Chou finally declared him an outlaw.
Fleeing his fate, he headed back home to Arabia, despondent at his lack of fortune. However, on the way he had many religious epiphanies and followed a rumour all the way to the deepest part of the African desert where he discovered the fabled City of Brass.
Humbled by that mysterious city’s inhabitants, Ali Baba's fortune changed and he started out on his final journey home laden with many fine treasures that he acquired during his adventures.
However it was Ma'aruf who first found his way to Baghdad where the fantastic stories of his arduous journey saw him borne aloft by admirers and declared the Sultan's favourite.
Ian (Ma’aruf) won; Daniel (Ali Baba) lost.

There was much eagerness to break out the new expansion for Agricola, so 5 brave souls sat down to what proved to be a loooooong game –

Agricola : Farmers of the Moor (thanks Scott)
From an outsider’s point of view, the facts as we know them are:
- This was Jayden’s first experience of Agricola – (he deserves a medal)
- It took up a lot of table space (see photo)
- The players were almost physically thrown out by the barstaff at the end of the night.
Following last week’s report, Scott has completely outdone himself this week, writing an ostensible thesis on this game. The full report is over on BGG, but notable and quotable highlights were:

- "Tonio weighed up his options and was never sure what to do"
- "I guess it was the New Zealander in Jayden that drew him towards the sheep."
- "Martin continued his abuse of improvements and even got a grill to cook some horses, although this practise soon stopped when it hit home that each of those horses were worth a point and they should be cared for, not eaten."
- "Tonio pottered around his farm, 'Cutting Peat' and apologising to Pete for doing so, getting slightly confused when Steph mentioned her 'Moor' tile, “What more tiles?” he wondered. Steph was slightly confused in return, thinking that Tonio was Irish (don’t ask me where that came from...) Tonio explained that his common accent was due to living in Hounslow and not wanting to sound too posh for fear of getting “shanked” - which perked up everyone’s interest in our game of Agricola when that was shouted out."

In summary “A frantic, unfinished, fun-filled, action packed game of Agricola”, which Steph won comfortably, despite her lack of livestock.

Following their fantasy adventures, Ian and Dan came back down to earth to join Gareth and Barrie to try out a recent purchase of -

Formula De Mini (thanks to Gareth)
Gareth and Barrie have both played the full game a number of times so it was good to compare it against the lite version. The narrow 2 lane track was selected to make the game more exciting which it achieved admirably. Rules were quickly explained to Dan and Ian and then the race began.
Everybody took two cars and it was decided to go for a two lap race which lasted around 90 mins. Positions were rolled with one of Gareth's yellow cars taking pole position. Then they were off - and the carnage started.
By the first corner collisions were occurring thick and fast, and racing chits were being handed in at a rapid rate. Dan and Gareth took an early lead and Barrie was the first to lose a car to an engine blow out. Dice were rolled and corners were missed or overshot at regular intervals to the cheers and boos of the players.
By the end of the first lap the field started to spread out. Gareth’s second car had moved from eighth to second place, closely followed by Barrie’s surviving blue car. By now Dan's leading green car had skidded off the track taking the final corner in fifth gear and everybody was pulling into the pits for life-saving repairs.
Ian took the somewhat suicidal decision not to repair his second red car that was bringing up the rear. Consequently this overshot the next bend on the second lap, leaving the twisted remains of the car on the track. By the end of the game Gareth had a comfortable lead and took first and second place followed by Barrie and then Ian. Dan unfortunately didn't manage to get either of his cars home in one piece.
A fun game for all, which resembled more of a stock car race, than Formula One.
Gareth (1st and 2nd); Barrie (3rd), Ian (4th); Dan (wiped out!)

Power Grid: Factory Manager’s “just an hour” turned out to be “just over 2 hours” (which to be fair, should be considerably shorter next time), so it was decided to finish off the evening with some lighter fare –

Stuart had now joined in for a 6-player romp through the gem-filled mines. During this first game, David played the “get out early and post a reasonable score” tactic, whilst Jon and James appeared to be inseparable in both their decision-making and their stupidity – failing to leave the first 3 mines in a timely fashion.
The last mine was revealed, and Russ found himself on his own at the end, quitting at just the right time in order to overtake David by 3 gems.
Russ 29; David 26; Stuart 25; Rob 22; Jon 15; James 15

Russ took over driving the mines, and immediately proved to be about as disaster-prone as Philip last week. This time, Jon decided to abandon his Siamese twin, James, and make his own decisions about when to run (which turned out to be worse than the last time). David again turned-tail and fled early, and again racked up 26 gems.
In the last mine, it was now James’ turn to be left on his own, and despite his previous tendency towards self-destruction, he ended his adventure at just the right time, again overtaking “steady Eddie” David by 3 gems.
James 29; David 26; Russ 24; Stuart 21; Rob 20; Jon 12

There were 15 minutes left, so just time for some property development –

For Sale
This game was played exactly as it should be – fast and furious (unlike the game of Agricola going on at the next table). Not a lot to say here, except that when the dust had settled, the result was incredibly close, with only 2 points separating the top 3 players.
This time, David avoided being pipped at the post, and did a little ‘pipping’ of his own. All in all, a fun way to round off the evening.
David 51; Stuart 50; Jon 49; James 45; Russ 37; Rob 32

And so, an evening of building factories, crashing cars and eating horses was over (apart from the unfinished game of Agricola still going on, and on, and on...)

See you next Wednesday for more of the same.....     .

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

No more Mr Nice Guy.............

Players: Jayden, Ian, Gareth, Steph, Scott, Barrie, Stuart, David, Philip, James, Tonio, James

12 players tonight experienced the inaugural use of our new playing cloths, and also witnessed Jayden choosing to wear shorts on the coldest evening of the year so far. It was also the evening that Tonio finally revealed his true colours…

7 players arrived in good time, so gathered around a pristine new cloth to have a try at -

Frank’s Zoo
Gareth produced this strange little trick-taking card game, and proceeded to explain the rules. Now, this is where things started to go slightly awry, as it soon became apparent that Gareth only knew about half of the rules. Jayden had apparently played the game before in the dim and distant past, but did his best Manuel impression when asked to clarify the rules – “I know naaarthing….”
Anyway, the game had already started with the full complement of 7 players, and apart from the odd question or two (“What do these lion symbols mean?  How do I get rid of my mosquito? Who the heck is Frank?”) it was moving along at a fair pace.
At one point, Steph asked to see a copy of the rules, even though they were in French. Everyone assumed, therefore, that she can speak French. She can’t.
By this time, the first round had ended, someone had finally read the English rules about how to score, and Jon got out his abacus. It was universally agreed to play one more round (complicated further by now playing in pairs), but at least everyone kind of knew what they were doing by now.
During this round, after staring at elephants, mosquitos and hedgehogs, Tonio came out with the rather surreal comment –“This game is making me feel hungry....” Hmmm - remind me never to eat at your house, Tonio.
At the end of the second round, Jon exchanged his abacus for an Excel spreadsheet and totted up the scores. Thanks to being paired with Scott in the second round, and having a handful of lions, Jon triggered the game-end condition of scoring 19 points. Gareth came last (serves him right for not reading the rules to his own game properly...)
Having said all that, Frank’s Zoo is actually quite a fun little card game and seems to work well with 7 players. Hopefully it will get played again soon.
Jon 19; Tonio 13; Scott 12; Jayden 12; James 10; Steph 9; Gareth 4

Whilst this was going on, 5 other eager gamers had turned up and started off with a couple of fillers-

For Sale (thanks Barrie for the info)
David and Stuart were new to the game, but the mechanics are very simple so it was quickly under way. Cards seemed to come out for round one (and two for that matter) with groups of similar values for each flop. i.e. all the teens in one, all twenties in another, then a one-off ‘random all over the place.’
Barrie thought he had won this one, until Philip gently reminded everyone that the change from round 1 was added to the total of the cheques won in round 2, which brought David and Barrie to a tie.
David had been a bit of a dark horse - he kept quite a low profile and it seems that everyone was surprised that he ended with so much money – everyone except David of course!
David 60; Barrie 60; Ian 52; Philip 45; Stuart 43

Diamant (thanks again Barrie)
Again, this game was new to David and Stuart. Phil was a ‘total horror’ (Barrie’s words!) at revealing the cards, with at least 2 mines exploding without any real gem-hunting taking place (gas, scorpion, rock-fall, explosion, 4 gems, snake, 7 gems, BANG)!
The 3 lessons learned from this game…1) With Diamant, the more players the better; 2) Keep an eye on the quiet one (i.e. David) who again did really well; 3) Never let Philip anywhere near the deck of cards…
Philip 32; David 24; Stuart 16; Barrie 15; Ian 6

With the gaming 'hors d'oeuvres' polished off, it was time to move on to the main course, for which we split into 3 groups of 4. The first group opted for -

Castle Panic
This was new to everyone except Stuart, but the simple rule-set made it very easy to get going quickly.
Things did not start well for the castle-defenders, as a number of ‘add extra monsters’ and Giant Boulder tokens were drawn early on. This resulted in some very quick tower destructions, and an element of panic setting in. At this point, David came over and uttered a rather telling “Wow - 3 towers gone already!”, and then retreated again.
However, everyone appeared to be getting into the co-operative spirit of the game, and cards were being traded willingly. Gradually, the defenders started to get on top, and were helped by a couple more Giant Boulders missing the towers completely.
Tonio had managed to slay a couple of boss monsters, and Stuart had a good round by taking out 3 trolls in one go.
And so, despite the early panic, the castle had survived (just) with only 1 tower remaining, with the title of Master Slayer going to Tonio.
Tonio 15; Stuart 13; Jon 10; James 8

Meanwhile, over in 16th century India...

Maharaja (thanks Gareth for this game info)
After a one week break Maharaja was tabled again. This time there were four players, which did not cause any major changes to the game but it did mean a reduction in the number of available routes between palaces.
Barrie was the only new player to the game and rules were quickly explained. It was decided to auction the governors at the start which took out some of the random element early on in the game.
Things moved quickly and everybody was building at a rapid rate. Philip took an early lead and a better understanding of the game allowed strategies to take shape. Barrie managed to build two palaces in one round and Jayden hoarded action tokens which proved valuable later on.
There was little downtime for the players and lots of interaction, as governors were exchanged in most rounds, but it proved a difficult game to plan ahead in. Towards the end, Gareth lost out due to the governor track being re-arranged twice, so his high scoring cities were not visited by the Maharaja.
It was a close final round with Jayden just taking the lead from Philip and Barrie. A good second play of the game with plans to bring it to the table again next week.
Jayden 7 palaces (16 gold); Philip 7 (8); Barrie 6 (15); Gareth 6 (11)

And on the third table, it was time to power-up the USA -

Power Grid (thanks Scott)
This game was played on the USA map, and was new to both Ian and David. Scott has produced a very fine blow-by-blow account of what happened, and should be checked out at BGG.
Hats off to Ian for winning at his first attempt - not sure quite how easy the 'young marrieds' were going on the newbies, but I'm sure that being IBG'ers, they were behaving very sportingly(!?!) It seemed that Scott needed just one more round in order complete his masterplan - maybe next time....
Ian 16 powered cities (17 total); Steph 14 (14); Scott 13 (14); David 12 (12)

The Power Gridders were surprised at how long they had been playing for, so, after not being able to find Frank's Zoo (which may have been a good thing) they settled on a trip back to ancient Egypt.

Ra (thanks Steph for this report)
David was the only one not to have played before (4 out of 4 tonight) and Ian was tasked with the rules explanation. The first round went quite quickly with lots of little auctions. David picked up mostly monuments with a civ and a couple of pharaohs. Scott had a few pharaohs, a couple of monuments, a civ and some nile tiles with a flood. Steph was quite similar to David and Ian had a feast of most items but no monuments at this point.
The second round continued in a similar vein to the first, and Ian increased his lead in pharaohs and civilisations (and was the only player to score positive points for the round.) Steph was left on her own at the end, with two ra tiles left to be drawn, but her gamble to continue didn't pay off, with the last ra tile ending it too soon for her.
In the third and final round, Ian caught up some ground with the monuments, and lots of niles/ floods were coming out the bag, as previous rounds had been quite dry. Steph did well with civ's and niles while David and Scott took most of their points from monuments.
Despite losing 5 points for having the lowest sun-tile total, Ian had racked up enough points in previous rounds to win quite comfortably.
Overall a very good night for Ian with 2 wins, Scott and Steph stuck in the middle and David coming last in both games - but he was new to them all and his opponents showed no mercy…..

Back on table 1, the castle-defenders decided to try this new 'treasure-hunter' which our very own Arthur Daley had recently picked up on e-bay -

This game is another with some really nice components – statues, palm trees, huts, All Terrain Vehicles. Again, the rules are fairly simple and James did a good job of explaining them concisely.
There does not appear to be a lot of long-term strategy here, as it seems to be about simply getting in on as many of the treasure finds as possible. However, the game length (about an hour) is just about right for this weight of game.
After the 2 curse cards came out quite early, James suggested that 1 was shuffled back into the treasure deck, to reintroduce the ‘push-your-luck’ feel to the treasure collecting. This was a good idea, and definitely adds something to the gameplay (except that it backfired on James, who seemed to be a magnet for curses throughout the game.)
When the treasure deck ran out, the scores were totted up, and there was a tie between Tonio and Stuart. Stuart had more amulets left at the end, but the official rules make no provision for a tie-breaker, so a tie it remained.
Stuart 31; Tonio 31; Jon 17; James 8

With 45 minutes remaining, there was just time for the Tobago crew to squeeze in this fun dice-roller -

Dice Town
This was new to Tonio and Stuart, but the game takes barely 5 minutes to explain, so it was soon underway.
Tonio managed to grab a couple of juicy ‘5’ property claims in the first turn, which Jon then proceeded to steal off him. James also managed to pick up some cards, and Jon, in the spirit of fairness, stole off him too. Stuart had no cards, and thereby avoided the general ‘thiefdom’.
Unfortunately, these acts painted a nice fat target on Jon’s back, and James and Tonio spent the rest of the game stealing from him at every opportunity. Evil Tonio (as Sheriff) even ignored some juicy bribes from Jon and sided with Stuart who had offered nothing – twice!
Stuart spent the late-game robbing the bank at every opportunity, and ended up with more than half of the cash in the game. The end was triggered when the gold mine was exhausted of nuggets, and despite having the Sheriff (and most of Jon’s cards), James did not quite have enough points to overhaul the jubilant Tonio.

With an hour left after Maharaja, Gareth suggested -

Lost Cities: The Board Game (thanks Gareth for this one)
Both Gareth and Barrie had played this game a few times last year but only with three players so it was a good opportunity to try with four.
The rules are fairly simple: laying down cards in numerical order, to move explorers along five tracks representing expeditions and collecting treasure along the way. The further you move along the track the higher your score. If you don’t move out of the first 3 squares you receive minus points and also your main explorer doubles your points for the expedition they are on. Replenishing cards is random and there is quite a lot of pushing your luck deciding on whether to start an expedition early or wait for a run of cards allowing you to progress further.
The game play is quick and two of the three scoring rounds were completed by the time last orders were called. Jayden won his second game of the night, closely followed by Gareth. A nice medium length family game and not too taxing for the end of the evening.
Jayden 290 gold; Gareth 275; Philip 220; Barrie 170

And so, tonight, Tonio officially lost his “Mr Nice Guy” tag, and simultaneously won 3 games (well, 2 and a tie) on the trot. You’re the Maths teacher Tonio – can you work out a correlation? Also, Jayden wore less clothes tonight and won 2 games. (Please note – this is not a strategy we would like to see widely adopted at IBG…)

All in all, a fun night of gaming, enhanced further by the fact that the £60 kitty came in with a 2p profit! See you next week.....  
      .     .

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

"Hey dad - that's not the optimum move for Agricola.........."


Congratulations once again to Ian on the birth of James Henry Alexander Roberts - another boardgamer in the making!