Wednesday, 2 December 2009

"Run for your life!!!........(you chicken)..."

Players: Stuart, David, Maynard, Vicky, Ian, Philip, Scott, Gareth, Barrie, Daniel, Jon, Tonio

Good to see that last week's experience of Factory Manager hadn't put off Vicky and Maynard, who joined us again, and, despite having a prior engagement, Tonio just couldn't resist turning up for the last hour...

We were sharing the Riverview Room with a few unsuspecting couples this week, but after some quick table re-arranging, the gaming started -

The first 4 through the door gave this little abstract another run for its money. Gareth was new to it, but a quick 30 second rules explanation and he was up to speed.
David decided that his previous failures at this game were due to being too defensive, so he began by hunting down Stuart and sending him off the board into oblivion within a few moves. Gareth was being pretty much left alone to become acclimatised to the types of tiles available, but inevitably he was drawn into confrontation with the 2 remaining players.
However, everyone managed to stay alive just long enough that they all finished up surrounding an empty space, which resulted in a 3-way tie.
Jon; Gareth; David – all won; Stuart – 1st off

Vicky and Maynard had now arrived, so Stuart and David cornered them and persuaded them to have a shot at –

Pandemic: On the Brink
Almost nothing is known about what went on at this table (as I suspect that all players quickly tried to erase the proceedings from their collective memory banks) except that they managed to fit in 4 separate games, and on each occasion failed in their quest to save mankind from destruction.
Apparently the first game passed in the blink of an eye, whereas by the 4th attempt, they at least got    close(r) to victory. Maybe a little practice is in order……
Stuart; David; Vicky; Maynard – all lost 4 times in succession!

Daniel had also arrived, which was the perfect opportunity to have a go with Gareth’s copy of –

Dominion: Intrigue
The base set wasn’t available, so all cards were taken from the Intrigue expansion. This was everyone’s first experience of the expansion, and it was decided to pick a random selection of decks (although not using Barrie’s iPhone App which he was frantically brandishing about). This may not have been the wisest idea, as the final scores testify, but it did give quite a good flavour of what Intrigue is all about.
Gareth started by choosing to pick up a number of Saboteurs, which was quite an aggressive card, causing Daniel and especially Jon to lose a number of their more valuable cards. Eventually, Daniel became fairly immune as his deck consisted of mostly low-value cards anyway!
Money was very tight, as there were hardly any ‘extra buys’ available and very few coin cards. The advantage of Jon losing so many cards was that his deck got reasonably thinned out, which (combined with the “+3 cards” ability of the Torturer) enabled him to eventually get enough treasure in his hand to pick up a couple of Provinces.
The game ended with 3 decks running out (Stewards and Pawns had been quite popular) and Jon was the only player to have picked up any worthwhile Victory cards.
Jon 18; Daniel 7; Gareth 4

Dominion: Intrigue
It was (sensibly) decided for the second game to use a pre-determined set-up from the Rulebook, and it was thought that “Best Wishes” sounded nice and friendly!
This time there were no Saboteurs, but there was a Torturer again, which was used by both Daniel and Jon. When targeted by the Torturer, Jon chose to pick up Curses which he hoped to be able to trash with his Trading Post or Upgrade, but it never seemed to quite work out! He also picked up a few Nobles, which helped to boost his final score.
Gareth decided to have a go with a rather nifty Wishing Well and Scout combination, which effectively allowed him to rearrange the top of his draw pile and then “guess” which was the next card to come up. This enabled him to put more treasure into his hand and start buying the Provinces up.
Daniel decided to collect several Tributes, which were very useful for picking up multiple goodies each turn.
This game concluded with Gareth picking up the last Province (by which point, everyone’s decks were pretty full.) It was a tight finish, but Jon just pipped Gareth, having disposed of enough Curses to just keep him in front.
Jon 44; Gareth 40; Daniel 25

There was a determination amongst certain IBG’ers tonight that the following game definitely would get finished –

Agricola: Farmers of the Moor (thanks Scott for the report)
After the last attempt at Agricola with a full complement of 5 players and the expansion with occupations, people were a little scared off from trying it again and it had earned itself a bit of a bad reputation. However, this time it had been planned to play in advance, was limited to 4 players and got set up early so it could definitely be finished this time round.
As usual, Scott has produced an excellent commentary on how the game played out, which is published in all its glory here - it's well worth a read.
A couple of comments of note this week were:

"Barrie made a quick grab for family growth without room" (surely a warning to any prospective parents out there...)

"Ian completed his grain engine with a clay oven purchase and with all of that food could take the 'family growth without room' space twice to get up to the full 5 people, even asking 'can you go above 5?' Answer - 'No, you can’t - that’s crazy talk!' " (Obviously one man's 'crazy talk' is another man's 'creative accounting'.....)

Overall synopsis from Scott:
"I thought it would be much closer in the end (and it was between Phil and Ian) but I had more of a lead than I had expected. I guess the horses do add quite a lot and I kept up with Phil in points for cards and bonuses.
Barrie, unfortunately, held back on the early rooms and I think suffered as a result and maybe the played occupations weren’t as useful as they could have been. First games with Agricola (base game or expansion) are very punishing though and it takes at least a game to get comfortable with everything, so in that respect Ian did very well - but then he usually does..."

After consulting Barrie at the Agricola table (“we’ve nearly finished - only 4 rounds to go!”) the 3 musketeers decided that this gave them about an hour to have a bash at –

Small World
Gareth started the game with some Alchemist Ghouls, which he declined whilst strong, enabling the Ghouls to continue attacking and scoring points. Jon’s Stout Giants headed for the mountains, and then swiftly declined too, making way for some fortified Sorcerors. Daniel went on the rampage with some Pillaging Skeletons and quickly started picking up points.
A combination of Jon’s mountain-hugging Giants and defensive fortifications painted a nice fat target on his back fairly early on, so he was soon beaten back by the combined weight of Daniel’s Skeletons and Gareth’s newly-acquired Flying Ratmen. These Ratmen were racking up quite a few points in conjunction with the declined Ghouls, until some Mounted Trolls entered the board courtesy of Daniel, setting up their Troll’s Lairs as they went along.
The end of the game was nigh, so Gareth chose the Wealthy Elves for their instant bonus, finally saying goodbye to the remnants of the Ghouls. Daniel’s remaining skeletons were replaced with some Underworld Humans, which made good use of their bonus coin abilities at this stage of the game.
Jon’s Giants were all but wiped out, so he chose some Forest Halflings to conclude the game with. Their “Holes in the Ground” were useful in making a barrier to help protect his few remaining Sorcerors from attack, whilst holding onto a couple of forest regions helped to increase his score.
As seems commonplace with games of Small World, the result was genuinely unknown until the coins were all revealed. It proved to be a very close finish, with Daniel’s extra bonuses at the end just tipping the balance in his favour over Jon, with Gareth not far behind in 3rd. This game always seems to provide an enjoyable experience, and packs a lot into 45-60 minutes.
Daniel 102; Jon 99; Gareth 89

After failing dismally to save the world, the Pandemic group decided to also have a shot at –

Dominion: Intrigue
Again, we have no details to share with you about how this one played out (a few reporters appear to have taken the week off...) It is known that David had played before, and that they probably also played with the “Best Wishes” set-up.
For a first game, the other 3 players seem to have done really well, as Dominion is one of those games which does take 1 or 2 plays to ‘click’.
David 44; Stuart 32; Maynard 27; Vicky 18

Well, tonight we learned that you can fit a whole game of Small World into the time it takes to play out the last 4 rounds of Agricola, and so, joined now by Tonio (who just couldn’t stay away for a whole night), the 2 groups merged to do a spot of gem-hunting –

After an evening of head-scratching and brain-aching, this game is such a great release – minimal decision-making, with groans, cheers and laughter a-plenty.
Last time it was David that played the role of Chicken Licken (as he was cheerfully reminded of, from across the other side of the room), running at the first sign of trouble, and consistently finishing in second place. This week, Gareth took up the mantle, and ran at the first sign of absolutely no trouble at all.
There were others who chose to be much braver, but an unfortunate run of disasters saw them leave the mines with decidedly emptier carts.
And so it came to pass that Gareth (plus smug grin) proved that occasionally the coward can triumph over the brave.
Gareth 20; Barrie 12; Tonio12; Scott 9; Ian 4; Daniel 2; Philip 1; Jon 0!

A second adventure began, but this time several other players tried to jump on the “leave early and get rich quick” bandwagon, resulting in the wheels coming off that particular strategy.
At one point during the game, a barmaid appeared in the doorway to the Riverview room to be confronted by 8 grown men sitting round a pile of cards and plastic gemstones, chanting loudly, “GAS, GAS, GAS…” She beat a hasty retreat.
It was all quite close going into the final mine, and after several early departures it was left to Philip and Jon to play Indiana Jones, whereupon the gems started to rain down. Jon finally opted out, with Philip picking up a few scraps on his own. His eventual departure proved timely, racking up a very respectable 29 gems, which was more than enough for the victory, and a feather in the cap for heroic explorers everywhere.
Philip 29; Jon 20; Scott 14; Daniel 12; Gareth 11; Tonio 5; Barrie 2; Ian 1

And so ended another fine evening of gaming, and despite being punctuated by a rather disconcertingly expensive round of drinks, it seems that a good time was had by all.

Remember that there is no IBG games session next Wednesday (9th December) - instead we are off to a local curry house for the inaugural IBG Christmas meal out.

So - we reconvene in 2 weeks time. Au revoir until then!

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