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.....  
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