Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Goodbye 2010...........

Players: Scott, Gareth, Barrie, Tonio, John B

Just 5 IBG'ers managed to sneak out between the Christmas and New Year's festivities, with Scott's presence making him, by my reckoning, the only 100% IBG attendee of 2010. Such dedication deserves an award of some kind!

Actually, in my absence, the award was to write up what happened during the gaming this evening, so big thanks to Scott for his stoical contributions once again...

Pinguin Party
A quick three player game between Scott, John and Gareth to start off the night, with Gareth’s shiny new copy. In brief, Gareth was devilishly evil and conspired to kill the other penguins to save his own, but it was close after three rounds where he just managed to empty his hand at the end.
Gareth 5; John 6; Scott 7

Saint Petersburg
With the addition of Tonio we had a go at Saint Petersburg for something most people knew. Tonio was the only newbie and was fortunate enough to be given advice, partly to help Tonio get up to speed and partly to stop Gareth running away with getting all the nobles like he usually does. In fact Gareth had trouble getting lots of nobles and switched to VP buildings before the end.
Everyone was trying to maximise everything but Tonio had ignored green money cards in favour of Orange Noble ones to also get him lots of money, this paid off in the end with the most different types of nobles as well.
Tonio 60; Scott 52; John 49; Gareth 40

7 Wonders
John kept the scores for this but there was another game in which Scott failed miserably again (hopefully this isn’t the start of a new trend) and John reigned supreme. Gareth did pretty well at his first game of it while Tonio and Barrie both seemed to provide much trouble to Scott who sat between them.

To round off the night we had a quick game of Pirates, the rules to which being fairly simple of grabbing the pirates sitting in front of other people and trying to pay them as little as possible when you board a ship. Tonio and Scott spent much of the game recruiting each other’s pirates with Gareth and John doing similarly. Barrie would just ransack anyone he could.
Ultimately Tonio and Scott were not taking the best ships leaving Gareth and John’s little partnership to flourish, with a drawn out end game as no-one wanted to let someone else take the final ship when they wanted the prize for themselves. Gareth got the chance in the end though and was just enough to push him over the edge and win.
Gareth 78; John 70; Barrie 62; Scott 66; Tonio 59

As usual, Tonio was beaten at his own game, and deservedly so for locking up all my pirates....argh!!!

And that's the last gaming session of 2010. It's been great to see all the different faces that have turned up to the Isleworth Boardgamers in the last year, and we look forward to seeing many more in 2011.
I'd like to send out a big thank-you to all the IBG'ers who give up some of their time each week to write up reports for the games that we play. Looking back over the last year, it makes for a fascinating catalogue of game experiences, with certain IBG'ers developing their very own 'game personalities' and even catchphrases...
And I'd also like to thank those of you who are regularly looking in to this blog from further afield (in some cases, much further afield!) Our flag counter tells us that our blog has been visited over 6000 times by onlookers from more than 55 countries worldwide - so if you're one of them, thanks for looking in and feel free to leave us a comment any time!
So to all gamers everywhere - happy boardgaming, and a very prosperous and peaceful 2011 to you all......

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Merry Christmas from all at IBG!

Players: Jon, Scott, James, Jeff, Gareth

Only 3 days before Christmas, but 5 IBG'ers had obviously done all their shopping and had enough time to kill to fit in a few board games....

Not much else to say by way of an intro, except that Scott had a pretty bad cold, which undoubtedly affected his game-playing ability, and James turned up late after having gone all the way to central London just to pick up a copy of ArgghTect! I'm guessing that there will be much head-clubbing fun going on in the Sinden household this Christmas.....

Jeff and Gareth were the first to arrive, and had a go at one of Jeff’s new acquisitions –

Magnum Sal
No report, but from an observer’s point of view, the board looked pretty but small, and there were a number of tiles and the ubiquitous wooden pieces. Other than that, I have no idea at all what the game is all about!
Gareth 118; Jeff 107

Scott and Jon were the next to turn up, and the only short 2-player game that they could find was –

Mamma Mia!
This was actually Jon’s shiny new, tin-contained ‘Mamma Mia Plus’ version, which has an extra ingredient type (shrimp), several more recipes and the ability to play with 6 players (obviously overkill when there are only 2 of you……. )
Now Scott is known to be the master of this game, due to his uncannily laser-like memory, so Jon knew that he would need all his culinary skills to combat this.
3 rounds were played, which were all very close, but a couple of slightl;y mis-timed recipes by Scott in the final round allowed Jon to just sneak the victory by 1 point. To be fair, Scott did have a major head-cold, which probably brought his game-playing abilities down to that of a mere mortal….
Jon 7; Scott 6

With James having turned up, there was the need for a 5-player experience. Power Grid and another of Jeff’s new games were the options available. The vote was split, and Jon had the casting vote. He opted for the new game, but as Gareth nearly burst into tears, he quickly changed his mind to –

Power Grid
Scott had a number of maps to choose from and asked everyone which one they would like to play with. The universal response was – “whichever map you’ve played the least….” As Scott was yet to try out the Russian map, we were consequently off to the ex-USSR for some power-producing fun.
Fossil fuels started off cheaply, garbage was non-existent, whilst uranium would soon enter the market. Scott started off by becoming an oil baron, Jeff also went down the fossil fuel route, Jon took a gamble on garbage and uranium, James picked up the first ‘1 unit of fuel powers 4 cities’ plant as well as some eco-friendly power, whilst Gareth also picked up some oil and coal guzzlers.
Gareth also decided that hoarding fuel was a good idea, but it only succeeded in making the fossil fuels more expensive for everyone.
The opening map positions proved to be crucial, as the Russian map has some very definite ‘zones’ to it. Scott cornered the South-East corner, which had a few cheap connections, but expanding further would prove expensive. The other 4 players jumped into a very crowded central / western corner of the map, which contained all the cheaper connections. Gareth was in the centre of this melee, and soon found himself blocked in.
Jon decided that turn-order wasn’t a priority, and quickly built to 6 cities. Scott and James followed a few turns later, and after some expensive leap-frogging, so did Gareth. Jeff resolutely remained on 5 cities, using only 1 fuel cell per turn and staying first in the turn order.
And there it stayed. Bigger power plants were bought, the cash slowly rolled in, but no-one would make the jump to 7 cities and trigger Step 2. Eventually, Gareth decided that he was losing the cash race (it was costing him at least 15 electros a turn to power up his cities, whilst other players were getting by on just 2 or 3 elektros) and he built his 7th city. As it happened, the Step 2 stall took so long that Step 3 then began on the same turn as well.
First in turn order was Jeff, and with the ability to power 15 cities from his power plants, he made a massive sweep across the map and was able to buy his 15th city with 10 elecktros to spare. Jon, Scott and James were also rolling in cash, and were able to expand to the maximum that their plants would allow. Having triggered the end of the game, Gareth was last to buy cities and was only able to get to 12.
Scott and Jon had tied for second place, but Jon had been benefitting from powering 6 cities for longer, and therefore won the cash tie-break.
This was a strange game (no Step 2) which seemed to have been partly caused by the strange Russian map. There is a large area with relatively cheap connections, but many of the peripheral cities have large connection costs. Therefore, there was little opportunity or advantage for anyone to make the leap to 7 cities, without spending a lot of cash and ending up last to purchase the newly re-opened cities on the next turn. With hindsight, Gareth should probably have done it earlier, as he was most disadvantaged by the stall, but that’s a difficult and unintuitive decision to take at the time.
All in all, a good game, even if it did have a slightly anti-climactic ending. Well-played Jeff, though, who played a very efficient game.
Jeff 15 powered (15 built); Jon 14 (14) - $83 left; Scott 14 (14) - $8; James 13 (13); Gareth 12 (12)

Jeff and Gareth then left to hang up their stockings, leaving 3 hard-core gamers to have a go at James's latest purchase -
Fresco (thanks to Scott for this report)
Jon and James had had a 2 player battle with it earlier in the day and Scott had played a few times before. It is very heavily a Euro, you have workers, a turn order mechanic, VP’s along with different paints, a random market to buy more, a mixing department to convert your paints and the Fresco itself where you will be using them up painting various sections, complete with dignitary to oversee your work and award extra VP’s if he’s in the right place.
James got off to an early lead to get the most sections completed while Scott spent much of the game getting up late and painting people’s portraits for cash (remaining cash being worth a fair few points at the end), Jon did a mix of the two.
If anything could prove that the game was quite balanced then it would be that we all finished one point apart in the final scoring. Scott had languished behind with a shortage of paint at the end and James finishing all of the sections he had his eye on, it was an impressive run of painting at the end for James. However, Scott had kept a small fortune behind his screen and earned 30 points for 60 cash in hand, although this didn’t win him the game, he was rich beyond his wildest dreams!
James 96; Jon 95; Scott 94

And that was it.

Merry Christmas to all - I hope that Santa brings you everything that you wish for!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Who's the Boss.....?

Players: Jon, James, Paul, Scott, Daniel, Vicky, Johan, Gareth, Tonio, Jim, John B, Barrie, Philip

A healthy turnout tonight for our pre-Christmas Meal session.

As December turned out to be a nightmare month for me, this post has been put together a month in arrears, so apologies for the lack of the usual fluency and side-splitting humour (ahem.....)

Scott and Jon were the early birds, and after being joined by Vicky, they chose to have a quick game of –

Archaeology: TCG
This was new to Vicky, and it was understandable on the first turn that she failed to pick up the 2 broken cups that were available in the market place. Jon was therefore able to snaffle these up for an early 15 point lead.
Vicky and Scott got into some early ‘tit-for-tatting’ when the thieves turned up, whilst Jon found that his archaeological digs were turning up yet more broken cups. When his sandy explorations also revealed numerous maps, he was able to raid the pyramid and benefit from the many treasures contained within.
All in all, rather a runaway victory, with Scott coming in second.
Jon 108; Scott 66; Vicky 52

At the request of Jon, John had brought along –

Jim and Paul had not played before, so John introduced them to the game in his usual efficient manner. Jon requested that the winter side of the board was used this time, and his request was granted, so, with extra packets of Kendall Mint Cake in their pockets, the gallant mountaineers set off.
Jon set off at a sprint, determined to get up and down the mountain as quickly as possible with his first climber. He managed to get within one space of the summit, and pitched his tent to ride out some bad weather which had appeared. Behind him there was a queue of Paul and Jim, who were unable to pass, which did not change when Jon made a dash to the summit and back to his tent in a single move.
Paul and Jim decided that discretion was the better part of valour and started their descent, with Jon hot on their heels. Because Jon had used up a lot of movement cards to get to the top, his acclimatisation level was dangerously low. However, the players had reached the end of 6 turns and reshuffled their decks, and Jon had calculated that he only needed a single solitary acclimatisation card to come up in his first 6 cards for him to be able to get down the mountain safely. And what happened? Of course, against considerable odds, none of these cards came up, and he perished within sight of safety. 10 points had become 1!
John was meanwhile engaging in some form of shuttle mission with his 2 climbers and 2 tents, keeping them out of the worst of the weather.
When the final card was turned, and the final push up the mountain finished, Jim had succeeded in doing best overall, with Paul just pipping John on a tie-break (getting the highest spot first). Jon was still grieving…..
Jim 14; Paul 12; John 12; Jon 7

Ever since he walked in this evening, John had been extolling the virtues of, and seeking some willing volunteers to try out –

I’m the Boss
This is a very simple, but strangely compelling pure negotiation game, played with a deck of cards and a rather garish board. The basic idea is that there are a number of deals to be made during the game, for increasingly larger amounts of money. Each deal needs certain characters (represented on the cards) to be part of the deal and players have the opportunity to play these character cards and thereby cutting themselves in on the deal. However, the player leading the deal (“The Boss”) gets to ultimately decide who to involve and what to offer them. The fun starts, though, when other players start to play cards which will disrupt the current deal in progress. They can remove certain characters from play, steal characters from other players, and even declare themselves “The Boss” and take over the deal. A very simple premise, but a highly entertaining game.
Before the game had even begun, James and Paul decided to point out that under no circumstances should Jon be trusted. Thanks guys…… However, there is so much to-ing and fro-ing in this game that this somewhat misguided advice was forgotten anyway.
Paul decided that it would be a good strategy to take his time deciding which players to bring in on his deals. This proved to be not such a good idea, as he quickly found other players throwing in their “I’m the Boss” cards to take over the deals and reap the spoils of the largest shares.
Deals often changed hands multiple times during a turn, and Scott was the king of thieving characters from other players, ending up with 3 main characters in front of him at one stage.
In a crucial deal towards the end of the game, Scott and Jon managed to quickly broker the deal between themselves, giving them a slight leg-up in the money stakes.
When the game ended, the wads of cash were totalled up, and it turned out that Jon had just pipped Scott to the post by the narrowest of margins.
Jon 48; Scott 47; John 43; James 37; Paul 28

Scott was keen to play this after having Tonio explain it last week but we didn’t have enough time left to play it, this time we also recruited Dan and Vicky to join -
Ticket to Ride: The Card game (thanks Scott)
Tonio started explaining the game with “Have you played Ticket to Ride before”, “not really”, “good!”. For those who have played any of the other games in the series, the mechanics at work are very different and surprisingly in most cases, they seem more interesting to play.
You have a hand of tickets which you are trying to accomplish and you can draw coloured train cards to fulfil them, instead of connecting locations on a board you have to just match the train colours listed on the destination ticket with trains you draw in to your hand. However it’s not that simple as you need to get train cards from your hand to a separate “on-the-track” pile of train cards - the journey is not necessarily that easy. On your turn, other than drawing more trains or tickets you can play train cards in front of you (your railyard), either three different colours or as many of you like of just one colour, the big thing to take note of is that you cannot play the same colour that someone else currently has in front of them, unless you play more of the same colour which then discards all of that colour in front of your opponent (thematically, the colour signifying a route under construction so you can’t start your own until that’s finished or you can do a better job– is that better for you Tonio?)
At the start of every turn, you get to place one of each different colour you have in your ‘railyard’ and move it to your ‘on the tracks’ card pile which is played face down; you aren’t allowed to look at them again until you score them, so memory plays a part in completing your tickets as well.
It was suggested we play a practice hand a few times round the table to get used to the mechanic and after Dan played 4 black train cards Scott enquired as to whether we were still doing a practice hand, after it was confirmed that we were he then proceeded to play 5 black cards and destroy Dan’s fledgling train business. However after a few more times round the table, it seemed no-one wanted to stop and the practice turned in to the main game, which was unfortunate for Dan (not that Scott wouldn’t have made the same move anyway but his conscience is clear).
The game was mostly smooth in the first half, playing a few cards here and there, discarded one or two, by the mid-point (once through the deck), Scott and Tonio had quite a few cards in their track pile and Dan and Vicky looked a bit worried, well Dan didn’t quite so much with his care free attitude to everything.
In the mid scoring, Tonio and Scott had both completed all 6 of their starting tickets while Dan and Vicky did 3/4 of theirs. In the second half, Tonio was targeted a bit more by Scott, seeing his main rival across the table, to which Tonio was upset that he might lose at one of his own games (again!). Scott had his fair share of punishment too and struggled to get some useful colours played before the end.
Tonio took a risk at the end in drawing more tickets, he was definitely keeping one of them but wasn’t sure about two. With some encouragement from the rest of the table, we suckered him in to drawing too many and this cost him some valuable points at the end. Vicky and Dan had done well and not failed too many tickets. Tonio and Scott had failed one or two more but also completed many more, picking up more of the bonus scoring cards (issued to players who complete the most tickets with key cities highlighted on them).
The scoring was very close but Scott had just won, thanks to Tonio’s ticket completion greediness.
While we waited for the other tables to finish after TTR, we had a quick go at -
24/7 (thanks again Scott)
Dan wasn’t sure whether he was playing or not but came back to the table to jump in just as we started and picked up the rules as he went along, usually being pointed to a good move available by Tonio, “if you have a 2 you can play it there and score big”. Obviously Dan would always have the right tile, the same trick even worked on Tonio when he was struggling. Vicky wasn’t given many nice scoring opportunities and it was a close fought affair between the others with only ten points between them. We let Tonio win one of his own games at least.
Haggis (thanks for this one Scott)
Jim being keen to try his luck at another game of Haggis he quickly recruited Scott, and John was on board for a game too. Everyone knew the game so we were quick to start and Scott started off strong with a bid of 15 and played all of his cards before John had played any, which worked in his favour slightly as Scott gave all of the tricks he bombed to John, who then quickly recovered to finish second before Jim.
Scott 86, John 57, Jim 0
Round 2 was a closer fought battle as no-one wanted Scott to win another hand, yet he still prevailed but with a slightly less impressive score and Jim beat out John for the second (some sort of sub-game with Scott around)
Scott 54, Jim 40, John 6
Round 3 ended being the last as people started going home and possibly Jim and John had given up hope by now as Scott finished yet another round with ease (it’s all luck they tell me.) John got just enough points to stay ahead of Jim who didn’t score any in this round either.
Scott 75, John 20, Jim 0
Final Scores - Scott – 215; John – 83; Jim – 10
Fortunately it’s a quick game so there might be time for a rematch soon.

The second week when we played the 'game of the month'. Johan, Gareth, Philip and Barry battled it out. We had time for two games this evening and here we go.....
Puerto Rico (thanks Johan)
The first game had a slow start for Philip who after three production round, still hadn't produced anything at all! Johan was racing ahead as he was able to buy the Harbor whereas Gareth went for the 'all corn' strategy. Barrie hadn't played for some time and was experimenting with getting it right.
All seem to be going well for Johan until Philip got some coffee and started trading and raking in the doubloons and building big buildings. The game was ended fairly early as Philip had built two of the 10 doubloons building (both with colonists on) and the final scores were:
Johan 37, Gareth 40, Philip 53, Barry 30.
The second game was very different, although Gareth stuck to his 'all corn' strategy. Johan started producing coffee and corn early on and fairly quickly got the Harbor and Warf combination. Philip again was slow to start but built three of the big buildings in the end! Barrie improved his game play and diversified really well. The game ended in the last round by the building area being full and the victory points being all spent. Final scores:
Johan – 63, Gareth – 40, Philip – 48, Barrie – 47

There were also 2 games played of - 
7 Wonders (thanks James for the report)

The first was a four-player game for which we have the scores only:

Tonio 57; Daniel 48; Jim 42; Vicky 39

After the previous 4 player game had finished a few others decided they wanted to join in for a 6 player experience. Jon and James and Paul jumped in while Vicky, Dan, Tonio were happy to play again.. Tonio (after his stonking victory in his first game) mainly to see if he’d finally found a game he could win more than once (the answer, for those of a nervous disposition... no).
So the wonders were distributed and the first age began... (It’s a hard game to describe equally cause the game play is fast and generally you’re only focusing on your own play, and those of your immediate neighbours... so apologies if this report seems heavy on Jon, Tonio and my own actions, while vaguely discussing the moves from Vicky, Paul and Dan... )
Jon and myself immediately went for a resource heavy approach, Dan (with the Colossus of Rhodes) build up some military and Tonio tried a different strategy taking bonuses where available and trying peaceful coexistence with his neighbours (a strategy based on the Swiss ideal but in eventuality as  successful as the Polish...)
Militarily this was an interesting game with 3 players winning nearly all the battles (+13 to +18) and 3 taking losses (-4 to -6). Vicky was collecting science points like some hyperactive Einstein ending up with 26 at the end of the game, double her nearest competitor.
Jon with the 15 point wonder (Pyramids of Giza) piled up points in Guilds and bonuses (much to James’s irritation given he got none of these cards passed on...) and as expected Dan whopped some neighbourhood ass with his colossus (erm... more tea vicar) but didn’t manage to achieve much else.
Paul having not played since Essen and only receiving a passing recap struggled a little (next time, hey Paul?) and Tonio realised he might have to live off his first game victory for a few more weeks with no guilds, no markets... and no 2nd win...
So the final scores... Tonio, James and Paul fell back in the 3rd ages with 37,40 and 43... But things were close at the front... Dan with 51... Vicky with 55 but in true nail-biting fashion Jon managed to sneak ahead with 56 despite -5 for his military defeats...

Jon 56; Vicky 55; Daniel 51; Paul 43; James 40; Tonio 37

Much like Germany in post war Europe...I’m liking this game more and more every time I play it... I’m sure with the current cards it might have a limited shelf life but word is that expansions are just around the corner (Any chance The London Apprentice will be available as a Wonder?) and it wouldn’t surprise me if this becomes the Dominion of 2010-11-12.

It's the Christmas Meal next week, and then one more session before Christmas.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome a completely useless tosser.....

Players: Scott, Steph, James, Keith, Johan, Philip, Gareth, Jon, Vicky, Maynard, Daniel, Tonio, George

12 regular IBG'ers and a dealer-acquaintance of James (welcome George!)turned up on a bitterly cold evening. Despite the heating being on, the Riverview Room was unusually igloo-like tonight, necessitating the 'keeping on of the jumper' approach to boardgaming...

A fine variety of games were played tonight, including the best of the old and the new. And we also discovered that one of the IBG'ers in particular is a completely useless tosser (and thief for that matter)......

With the early birds Scott, Steph and James looking for a game until finding out how many others had braved the cold, we started the night off with the penguins -

Pinguin Party (thanks Scott)
This was played partly to test how good James really is at the game after last week’s early finish. The first two rounds were fairly benign but James had been caught short and was losing ground to team Scott and Steph (as James thinks we play all games jointly against him).
The last round saw Steph take over the middle of the Pyramid with green, with five of them let loose, suffice it to say we all lost a lot of points but James lost slightly more...
Scott 4; Steph 4; James 7

Apples to Apples (thanks again Scott)
With still more time to kill, Scott, Steph and James had a quick round of Apples, the dummy hand player participating again but not doing as well this time. Scott got in to an early lead but was soon caught by Steph. Communism is always a good topic to throw at James and Steph deciding that the Pyramids were more dangerous than an Iceberg (tell that to the Titanic); we decided to end after breaking the tie, Scott’s 21st Century being more Cosmopolitan than whatever it was that Steph played.
Scott 4; Steph 3; James 1

Pinguin Party (thanks once more Scott)
With more people looking for a filler game, Gareth suggested the penguins, it started as a five player but we got it up to 6 in the second round, the players being Philip, Scott, Steph, Keith, Gareth and Dan.
With 6 it was very hectic; a lot of colours disappearing quickly and usually a shocked comment from Gareth to accompany it - “is green dead already?” You only have 6 cards to get rid of but there were a few rounds with four cards left in people’s hands when they couldn’t play.
Dan couldn’t take the pressure half way through and Johan took over for him, although he kept to the spirit of Dan and still collected lots of points.
Despite Scott and Steph doing what they could to cause trouble for everyone else (and Steph managing to play all her cards in the first four rounds), Philip reigned supreme.
Philip 1; Scott 4; Steph 4; Keith 9; Gareth 10; Dan/Johan 11

For Sale (4 on the trot - thanks Scott...)
With still no-one ready to commit to a longer game, so we had a quick round of For Sale with Keith offering up his place to let Tonio have a game. A few players were rusty on the rules but they wanted to remember as they went.
A miscalculation from Johan in the first round saw him spend most of his money early, only to be reminded there were more rounds. Gareth did his bit to help his left neighbour by always bidding 5 and forcing Johan to pick up the lowest card forever more.
For everyone else, the houses and cheques were divided fairly evenly, no-one getting too big of a lucky play. Scott managed to just edge out a win:
Scott 48; Steph 47; Gareth 46; Tonio 37; Philip 34; Johan – less than 34 (too embarrassed to reveal)

James (somewhat apologetically) brought out this new offering to kick the evening off with on a second table –
A La Carte
After finding Jon to be a willing participant, and also persuading Vicky and Maynard to join in, James started off by saying that the production was excellent, whilst the game itself was….well…..'ok'. It mattered not - the other 3 were already enamoured with their mini pans and stoves and were playing with the components like 3 year-olds.
The basic idea is to make recipes using a combination of up to 4 different spices, and then turn up the heat on your stove to just the right level to cook it. However, if you add too much spice or salt, or turn up the heat too high, then the dish is ruined, and you have to start all over again. The spices themselves are coloured little polyhedrons inside small spice jars, which drop out in small amounts when the jar is swiftly upended, and require a certain amount of technique to control successfully. Jon asked Vicky how skilled a chef she was, to which Maynard replied that he did 80% of the cooking. ‘Nuff said…..
Jon was the first to successfully conquer the small plastic condiments, and completed his spaghetti and meatballs with style. In contrast, Maynard ruined 3 recipes in a row by over-spicing them. If Vicky was a worse chef than that, it would take some doing…..
James was also having trouble getting his spicing right, although eventually managed to produce a magnificent ox-tail recipe – not bad for a vegetarian. Jon, however, was cooking with glee, producing a well-tossed crepe followed by a hamburger and a delicious chocolate mousse.
Maynard proved to be a useless tosser, and couldn’t make a successful crepe, whilst Vicky finally managed to get a recipe completed. Bonus chits were used to swap stoves around, mid-cooking (don’t try this at home kids) but Jon completed his 5th recipe to end the game.
In stealing Jon’s stove and completed recipe at one stage, Maynard had actually earned himself some points, but the final scoring revealed that Jon was Jamie Oliver, Maynard was Delia, and James and Vicky were the Swedish Chefs.
Jon 19; Maynard 8; James 3; Vicky 3
Despite this game being no. 1 on the BoardGameGeek for a long time, we had only played it a IBG once before. Therefore it was long overdue!

Puerto Rico (thanks for these reports Johan)
Anyway, Gareth, Johan, Philip and Keith started the game off. Gareth only played this game once or twice before whereas the other three were a bit more experienced. After going through the rules it all started off.
Johan and Philip started off by having a balanced production and trading game and Philip was getting a fair amount of victory points as well as doubloons. Johan started off a bit slower with the production but eventually got the factory which earned him quite a bit of doubloons in the end.
Keith started building some big buildings, but unfortunately his production did not get underway well, whereas Gareth tried to produce and ship which was quite often thwarted by Johan and Philip and eventually was strapped for cash that really crippled his advances. Philip was 'screwed' in the round before last by having to ship his coffee, rather than being able to trade which gave Johan the opportunity to build and end the game.
Johan 48; Philip 43; Keith 38; Gareth 38

In the second game the strategies were quite different, with Johan going for a shipping strategy and the others for a combined shipping and building strategy. Unfortunately, Johan could not ship significantly later on as the ships were blocked by sugar, coffee and tobacco and the others were trading and building away.
Philip especially was brilliant in exploiting the opportunities and maximising the effectiveness of his strategy. Gareth made one crucial error (he was sitting to the right side of Philip......) and Philip was flying away with the victory points!
Nevertheless, the initial lead by Johan was quickly reduced and in the end it was a matter of ending the game as quickly as possible. Philip however was in command and won by a fair margin. Well played indeed!
Philip 55; Johan 47; Keith 34; Gareth 33

Meanwhile, back on the first table, Tonio had brought out his Big Box o' Games -
24/7 (thanks to Tonio for the next 3 reports)
After a very useful practice hand or two, Steph and Scott managed to get a few double-scoring 7’s. At one point, Tonio (who was keeping scores) helped Steph out by pointing out that her 24 also scored 20 points for a 7, hence also a 60 point bonus. By he end, Steph won by exactly 80 points, so that’ll teach Tonio!
Steph 400; Tonio 320; Scott 310
This is a card game with words. We played with a variation of rules where people play only 3 cards at a time. Scott, who is not a fan of word games did well to sneak into 2nd place right at the end.
Tonio 102; Scott 97; Steph 94
George (some sort of dealer acquaintance of James...) then joined us to play -
Circus Flohcati
As Steph was playing lots of sets, Scott was convinced that she was holding high cards, so she was targeted for almost every ‘take a random card’ card. Tonio kept a low profile (especially as he was collecting zeros at the start.)
We got to the very last card and Tonio turned over a 4 red to make his complete show. The 10 bonus points helped!
Tonio 79; Scott 72; Steph 49; George 38
Vicky and Maynard had 30 minutes left, and so Jon suggested a go at –
Sneaks and Snitches
It should be noted that James was only semi-present for this game, as he was constantly jumping up and down, doing some sort of dodgy deal for games with a new guy who had just walked in. Having said that, he still ended up winning, which probably says something about either the game itself, or James’s intuitive moves when playing ‘fast and loose’.
This game is a fine little filler, with plenty of ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ as players play thieves to the same location. The scoring is a little odd, as there aren’t actually that many points available, but at least that means that the final scores are nice and close.
Maynard proved to be the worst thief, obviously never ‘casing the joint’ and constantly bumping into other thieves whilst on the job.
James 8; Jon 6; Vicky 6; Maynard 4

With half an hour to go, and everyone else leaving, Jon, Tonio and James sneaked in one final game –

Archaeology: The Card Game
James hadn’t played before, but the gameplay is simple enough and was quickly explained. Thieves and sandstorms came out thick and fast at the beginning of the game (bringing into question Tonio’s shuffling skills), but sets of artifacts were soon being displayed. Use of the thieves was quite equitable, and, unusually, all the secret chambers in the pyramid were explored.
About 2/3 of the way through, Tonio’s brain seemed to shut down and he decided that laying down 12 points from 2 Pharaohs’ masks (value 8) was better than swapping it for 18 points from 4 coins (also value 8). Good job he isn’t a maths teacher or anything………
When the game ended, Jon had just pipped Tonio to the victory, with James not far behind. As it turned out, those 6 extra points that Tonio could have picked up would have made all the difference…
Jon 73; Tonio 68; James 54

Also played during the evening was a first outing for the excellent new 7 Wonders (in fact it was so good that it was played twice in a row). However, James seems to have abducted the score-sheets and so the results will be forever lost in the shrouds of time....

Thanks to all that turned up this week. See you again next time....

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Ye Olde Isleworth Boardgamers step back in time......

Players: Jon, Gareth, Paul, Russ, Ian, Iain, Philip, Scott, James, Johan, Emma, Jim

Amongst the 12 IBG'ers gathered at the London Apprentice was a welcome returnee, Russ, who we hadn't seen for a number of weeks, and simply turned up to trounce us all at a couple of games. There was also an appearance made by the first comedy hat of the season - this year modelled by Emma, as opposed to our resident millinery expert, Tonio.

This week, the IBG'ers decided to abandon 21st century London, and instead transport themselves far back in time, with the majority of the games that they played based in the pre-1600's. This was a time of dubious haircuts, strange clothing, unintelligible speech and questionable personal hygiene practices. Right up our street then.........

Either Ian or Paul (or both) had suggested that some of the early birds have a go at the ‘yet-unplayed-at-IBG’ –

This was originally going to be a 3-player game, but after Jon and Gareth wandered in it was up to 5. Fortunately, both Gareth and Jon had played before (although a long time ago) which resulted in Jon asking for a quick rules recap. Gareth pooh-poohed this (“you must remember how to play this, Jon!”) and then immediately was caught out trying to take both money and cards as his action during an early turn. Hmmm....
Anyway, Gareth started the game in typical fashion, picking the assassin and thief as his first 2 characters. Paul began as the King (nobly admitting to being the oldest at the table) and this privilege rarely left him.
Russ played the early victim well, having been assassinated and ‘warlorded’ in the same turn. However, everyone else seemed to take pity on him and left him alone for the rest of the game (big mistake).
Ian and Paul got several buildings down nice and early, whilst Jon bemoaned the fact that Ian chose Jon's character to thieve from by default (it was the only one he could remember….)
Time passed (quite a lot of time in fact), and Paul finally built the magical 8th building. The scores were totted up, and it ended up with only 4 points between all 5 players – and it was ‘victim Russ’ that came out on top, having rebuilt his city to impressive effect.
This is a fun game, but the hour it took to play is just too long. Building to 7 buildings may be the answer…
Russ 28; Paul 26; Ian 24; Gareth 24; Jon 24

By a happy set of coincidences, not only was Emma at IBG after a wee absence but Jim had brought along one of her favourite games - 

Lexio (thanks to Jim for this set of reports)
Scott, eager for his “building game” fix, and a “curious passer by” in the shape of James were roped in and the rules and end round scoring were explained, a practice round was played and then the game proper were played.
It was not an exciting game with everyone seemingly having reasonable but not powerful hands, several rounds consisting of ever increasing single tiles being played, some raises only being the colour and not the value of the tile. So after the 5 rounds, the steady attrition and a couple of players being left with 2’s in their hand at the end round scoring resulted in a win for Jim (at last!)
Jim 210; Emma 158; James 123; Scott 105

With chants of “more”, Emma was clearly up for another game. James wandered away looking to play a different game and was replaced by Phil, Scot had a quick look around but returned to attempt to avenge his loss, Jim and Emma retained their seats.
All players having played before, their was no need for a rules recap but there was a wee delay as the players sorted out everyone again having 149 points in poker chips. Counting clearly not a strong suit for some.
If anything, although more raucous and with some interesting hands (Emma played a Full House of 2’s and 1’s early on in one round but that bravado proved her undoing taking very little part in the rest of the round), the players seemed almost evenly matched.
Jim had adopted a practice of waiting for everyone else to take their tiles and he would have what was left, and this clearly was a sensible tactic because the final scores revealed yet another win for Jim ("far out, man" - as we used to say in prehistoric times!)
So, this round resulted in the the same positions, with Phil replacing James. The observant among you will notice that the point total is 20 short of what it should be. Did I mention that counting was not a strong suit for some? Adding the 20 to any players score would make no difference to the result and not wishing for a repeat of the “who has too many chips” episode at the start of the game Jim sensibly kept quiet.
Jim 180; Emma 156; Phil 131; Scott 109

The players decided that because there were no other games finishing soon that a third game was in order. Could Jim come first again for a hat-trick of wins? Would Scott finish last for a hat-trick of loses? Would the 149 points be evenly distributed at the start of the game be evenly distributed without a recount?
Of course a recount was necessary to find the missing “2 points”. No names, no pack-drill but did I mention that counting is not a strong suit for some?
Once all players had 149 points, a much tighter but still raucous game was started and the level of competitiveness for some had clearly moved up a notch or two with most players determined to do better than the previous game.
This was demonstrated rather bizarrely by several players trying to offset their “bad luck” with tile selection by either selecting tiles for other players or “stealing” tiles from other players face down pool of tiles! It is just the kind of wild and crazy thing we do at IBG!
For a while, it looked like the “inverse tile selection” was having the desired effect. Jim was the one suffering as his points dwindled away. The hat-trick of wins looked increasingly unlikely.
The turning point of the game came mid-way through. Jim had a nice hand of lots of pairs and a low value single and had steadfastly refused to break them up passing on many turns. Suddenly Scott was about to get the lead and had 4 tiles ominously split into a group of three and a single tile to Jim's 12. Could he really have a three–of-a-kind and a single of any value? That would win the round and gain him many points. But Scott was such a bluffer (amongst other things!) as Jim had learnt to his cost last week playing Haggis with him. After some clearly painful thought process, Jim decided to break up a pair of 1’s and take the lead. Jim then “walked through” his entire hand playing out only pairs, then his remaining 1 tile and then finishing with his low value tile. And a good job because Scott really did have a three-of-a-kind and a single tile left in his hand! How close was that?
From then on, Jim could do no wrong in later rounds and won the game for a third time (come on – that’s what I’m talking about!). Scot had a much better game and Emma swapped places with him while Phil held his 3rd position with a remarkably similar score to the previous game he played.
Jim 196; Scot 152; Phil 136; Emma 112

Meanwhile, the 'final four' tried out this new (very old) game -

1655 (thanks James for this one)
Subtitled: Romanes eunt domus...or something like that. A neat little card bidding game based around gaining favour with carious cardinals (no, not in the ‘modern catholic’ way) in order to win the vote to select a new pope. Probably not going to be a big hit at the Vatican but worth a shout at the Apprentice for Iain, Johan and James.
So to start with players are given 2 ‘orders’ which, if fulfilled, give extra votes at the end. There are 3 piles of cards and a ‘first go/winner in a tie’ card. One pile are cardinals (worth 1 vote), one holds ‘political’ cards which can give you extra votes, extra cardinals etc and the last is action cards which allows rule breaking. 18 cards in each pile. 18 rounds in the game.
During each round players bid using gems with the winner picking first, loser picking last etc. At the half-way stage, players get some extra money and have to discard one order. When the white smoke appears (one of the last 4 rounds) then votes are tallied and the winner gets to control the Catholic church and spend the rest of their days waving from odd looking cars, kissing babies and wearing silly hats.
So, given this was a first experience for us 3 the game was slow to start while we grappled with all the icons (another day, another new card game, another 15 symbols to memorize…). The bidding also stuttered while we were trying to work out what made sense. But the game does move fast… turn over new cards / play action cards / bid / select cards… not a lot of slack in the game play.
At the halfway stage Johan managed to bag the most money from cardinals, both he and Iain were fighting over who could get the most King Philippe’s (bonus votes) in play while James was collecting other cards enabling the player to buy votes with gold at the end. This game also invites a lot of back stabbing play (from my understanding 1655 was chosen as a particularly bad year in terms of corruption at the Vatican) as the action cards allow players to kill cardinals, bribe them to swap sides, switch cards with other players etc… lots of room for losing friends.
James struck lucky at one stage as Johan played a card to steal one of James’s cardinals that was immediately counteracted by James’s card to get the cardinal back. Also action cards at the end were being played every round as it could be seen the game was about to finish.
And then the white smoke arrived… the western world held it’s breath as the new Pope was announced to be…James (by a point).
So pausing only to reform Christendom and to beatify Stephen Fry, all that was left was to search for all that hidden gold....
James 17; Iain 16; Johan 15

I think that we all liked the game, 30 minutes at most once you know what you’re doing. Worth another run out and I think the bidding will be a lot more ruthless now the relative values of available cards are known. Also I think with 4 it’d be an even more cut-throat game.

With the first games all finishing at similar times, the 3 groups took the unusual decision to all play longer games, the first of them picking a recent purchase of Russ -

Troyes (thanks Russ for this one)
Is it like Kingsburg? Well a bit.
A game where we revisit the desire of Pope Urbain IV to have a cathedral built in his home town of Troyes, one of the few games to sell out at Essen 2010 and a game that I had picked up primarily as it had the same designer as Carson City.
The central mechanic is rolling your ‘hand’ of dice and then using them in turn to fight the events and activate the characters in order to gain influence and victory points. Despite the dice this is a fairly heavy Euro, and the option to buy your opponent’s dice out from under them gives great interaction which I often find lacking in such games. Trust me, when someone buys your much needed ‘6’ for a measly 2 deniers it doesn’t feel like it’s been bought, it feels like it’s been stolen.
I finally managed to be free on a Wednesday and brought Troyes along to IBG as it was one of my favourites of the Essen 2010 crop (along with London and 51st State), Jim had already expressed an interest in giving it a go (as he has a pre-order in) and we quickly recruited Jon and Paul to join us. Sadly it plays a maximum of 4 so we weren’t able to accommodate anyone else. I launched into a rules explanation which was a bit haphazard, reassured everyone that I’d yet to win a game and we were up and running pretty quickly.
My piece of tactical advice was that I’d spent most of my previous games concentrating on the religious cards (which mostly mess with the dice rolls in some way) and that the winners had mostly concentrated on the events and the military card. I then proceeded to completely ignore that advice as I hadn’t had a chance to use the ‘Monk’ before (allows you to turn one white dice into 3 yellow of the same value), quickly showing the use of such cards by buying up a load of influence at the Pub and by the end of the game, 3 of us had men on it.
After a couple of turns I was noting furrowed brows around the table - it was clearly heavier than both Jon and Jim were expecting. Dice have a way of saying ‘Come play with us, we’re easy’, but they were frankly just teasing us in this game. Everyone but me had picked up a few points from events, the cathedral had barely made it past the foundations, mostly due to some shoddy building work by migrant workers and multiple interruptions of work. Influence wasn’t really short and the red dice seemed to not want to roll above a 3 so a lot of our dice were eaten up by the attacks, resulting in most events staying on the board for the whole game. Still I felt I was doing badly in the points war until the 3rd turn when the Sculptor was turned over and I still had 3 cubes on the Monk. Jon beat me to the 6 point slot with a group of yellow dice, but I jumped in next paying Jim 2 deniers for his white 6 and immediately scoring 11 points (Monk made the white 6 into 3 yellow sixes worth 6 VPs on the Sculptor and 5 VPs for the second place on the card).
The next couple of turns involved me stealing white sixes wherever I could find them. I say stealing as I’d been kicked out of almost all my buildings and had 4 dice and no white ones, and scoring another 12 points from the Sculptor alone. Other than me only Jon scored a good number of points from the Sculptor, though Jim did move in later (sadly missing out on the bonus points for being one of the first to get in).
The game ended after the prescribed 6 turns, (having taken about 2 and a half hours in total including the rules explanation) and our secret characters showed scoring for money, influence, numbers of men on cards and number of men in the main buildings. The final scores were:
Russ 45; Jon 43; Paul 33; Jim 27

My last action had moved my influence from 9 to 10 meaning I scored 2 more points from Jon’s secret character meaning that I didn’t have to look up the tie breaker – there isn’t one – and that I won for the first time (though of course against 3 people that had never played it before!).
In retrospect I think Jon played the best game, spreading himself out so he wasn’t dependant on any one colour of dice and doing a bit of everything while still earning points. I grabbed the Monk as I’ve always been short of cash in previous games, but the Sculptor allowed me to turn that early investment into a pile of points which of course was really lucky for me and had something like the Goldsmith come up I would have been second at best.
I’ve not seen such an ignored cathedral before and all of us (except Paul I think) lost some points for not being present on one level or another.
We had to rush out fairly quickly afterwards. I continue to enjoy it, some interesting things happened with a different group especially with letting the black dice go round the table as influence wasn’t seen as very valuable, though I think I’ll explain the rules better next time.
Paul said he enjoyed it and I know Jim isn’t cancelling his pre-order. Jon seemed somewhat bemused by his second place, but the more I play with him the more I think it’s all an act!
So more Caylus than Kingsburg, but certainly enjoyed by all.

Scores only I'm afraid......

Gareth 39; Philip 37; Johan 29; James 21

And finally, a very welcome return to an old favourite -

Power Grid (thanks to Scott for this report)
With Ian and Scott keen to play Power Grid (it not having been played for quite a while now), Iain was also persuaded but the other straggler James was less so. Luckily, James was interested in London and Emma was happy to swap and play PG instead (she really did offer, there were no bribes involved I swear...)
With maps aplenty, Scott picked one of the new Essen released ones, that being Japan. The defining characteristic being that the map is long and thin so players are allowed to start two separate networks. Some of the cities have two 10 slots (with just one 15 or 20) and some have only two available slots (10,15 & 15,20), which no-one seemed to notice until they became a hindrance later on.
Scott refreshed everyone’s memories and made Emma chuckle by referring to the cities as “sillies” (unintentionally). Scott’s vocabulary has obviously been tainted by Steph’s New Zealand twang and created a demon of pronunciation.
With everyone up to speed we began with some quick expansion early on by all parties. It soon subsided when the initial batch of cheap cities had gone and most people had opted to start a second network to extend their coverage later on. There were a lot of coal plants currently in use but costs hadn’t escalated too high yet; oil was becoming increasingly cheaper though.
Emma usually insisted on extending her network as much as possible even though she was beginning to struggle with powering them all or doing so efficiently when buying fuel last. Ian was doing well with a good capacity and efficiency and raking in more money than the rest of us. Scott’s expansion was struggling a little being hemmed in on all fronts by expensive connections and aggressive players, so he sat on less cities and hoped for the best in Step 2. Iain had diversified his fuel requirements but looked to be paying quite a lot to keep them going, he caught a break when the first big oil plant came out and Scott couldn’t afford to keep outbidding him, fuel prices for oil being rather low since there hadn’t been many coming in to the market.
When step 2 hit, Scott ploughed his savings in to getting some good territories, trying to clog up the middle of the board to stop players travelling through the centre, leaving himself with as many options as possible. Emma was now boosting her efficiency with wind and hybrid plants at the expense of capacity, Iain went for to higher capacity but was needing to spend more on fuel, eating away at this cash for expansion. Ian made a few more plant purchases but regretted them soon after, conflicting with himself over whether to buy plants or more cities.
Step 3 occurred pretty quickly after, and Scott had again found himself with the least cities which proved fortunate in the power plant market, picking up a big oil plant for cost, his capacity now at 18; however Ian was at 16 capacity and looked like he could build to 17 and end the game powering more than everyone else. Scott built as far as he could to 16 and Ian was just a few dollars short of getting to 17 so even if he could do so it wouldn’t be good if Scott had enough money to win on a tie-breaker.
We went in to a last round and unfortunately for Emma, her low capacity but efficient plants hadn’t been upgraded in time and her capacity was stuck at 16 which she built to comfortably. Ian didn’t have much choice and had to settle for just a capacity of 17 while Iain jumped all the way out to 19, paying heavily for a big plant. This would be his downfall - with such a big requirement for oil and coal which were now close to selling out, he could only build to 15 while Scott got to 18 and walked away victorious.
Scott 18 powered; Ian 17; Emma 16; Iain 15

It was fairly close, though Iain could have avoided upgrading his plants and raced for a victory earlier. Ian was just a few dollars short the turn before and Emma just needed to get her hands on a slightly bigger plant. An interesting map in terms of cities, even with two networks possible, it’s very easy to get caught out and be forced to pay a lot or avoid expanding.

And surprisingly, those were all the games that were played tonight. At least the last one ventured into the 20th century! I've also just noticed that tonight's offerings must have had the least inspiring box art that I've seen for a long time. Good job we don't spend all evening just staring at the boxes...
Next week will be our first session in December, and just a quick advance warning that there will be no games night on 15th December, as we are having our IBG Christmas Meal. If you'd like to come and haven't booked yet, then drop Gareth an email (see top of the blog page), post on our guild forum at BGG, or let us know on Wednesday.
See you next week!