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 fiancé) 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.....

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