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.....     .

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