Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Just seventeen..........

Players: Vicky, Maynard, Scott, Gareth, Russ (first visit post-baby!), Daniel, Jon, Barrie, Paul, Jim, Gavin, Emma, Ian, Philip, John, Johan, David

A record turnout at the London Apprentice tonight, with 17 gamers joining in the fun, including another newcomer, Gavin, visiting us for the first time. It was also a welcome return to John and Johan after several weeks away.

Watch out tonight for Swedish linguistic gaffs, a prototype game, and a dastardly secret mission for one IBG'er.......

As usual, there were several early birds, and they were persuaded to ask the question -

Are you the Traitor? (thanks Gareth for this report)
Gareth brought along this new card game which plays up to 10 players. He purchased it after taking some ill advice from the BGG. The basic premise was that the players each take on the role of one of five characters (Good Wizard, Evil Wizard, Traitor, Key Holder and multiple Guards) with some identities hidden. The objective was for the good players to uncover the evil players or give the key to the good wizard and for the evil players to take the key.
Seven played and three rounds were completed in what seemed like a very long 15 minutes. It’s not quite sure who the game is aimed at but it just didn’t work with this group.
The usually outgoing members were unusually silent, displaying lots of confused looks about the lack of structure to the game. Luckily, more players turned up to cut the game short, allowing everyone to move on to anything else that would be better! Barrie’s final comment of – “That was a load of **** ” brought down the death knell on this game for good.
So AYTT will now be resigned to the dusty box in the loft with previous failures - Race for The Galaxy, Twilight Struggle and Le Havre.
(Postscript: Barrie's summation of the 2nd round - "Hey are you the good wizard?" - "Yes" - "Here's a key for you" - "Thanks!" - round over...)
Emma 7; Barrie 6; Gareth 6; Scott 4; Paul 4; David 2; Jim 0

The next 4 through the door thanked their lucky stars that they weren't playing the previous game, and decided to have a quick go at -

No Thanks!
This was new to Johan, but everyone else had played before. Just like last week, one of the ‘30’ cards came out first, but this time Maynard wasn’t going to be left chipless, so he snaffled it up before anyone else could. Vicky then picked up the ‘23’ and Jon also increased his chip-count by acquiring a couple of mid-range cards.
Philip also decided to take a card at this point and therefore it was left to Johan to run out of chips, and start his card-collection. Jon managed to join 2 of his 3 sets together, but in a carbon copy of last week, Vicky obtained a lucky (sorry…”finely crafted”…) run of 5 cards, which when combined with her large pile of chips gave her a narrow victory ahead of Jon.
The other 3 players’ scores were close together – but a little behind the front two.
Vicky 11; Jon 15; Maynard; 37; Philip 40; Johan 41

The full cohort had now appeared, and the group was able to split into 4 tables, the first having a go at the gruesome -

Chaos in the Old World (thanks to Russ for this report)
After much promising and arranging we finally managed to get Chaos in the Old World to the table last Wednesday night, anticipation was in the air of a fun bit of variable player powers and direct screwage. We were all new to the game except Dan who had played once or twice before and Russ launched into the rules explanation while we were waiting for Dan to arrive. This went fairly smoothly (if I say so myself) although it’s yet another one of those games where the rules description makes it sound a lot more complex than it really is and certainly after the first couple of turns we found it flowing very nicely.
Godly allocation was Ian as Khorne, John as Nurgle, Russ as Tzeentch and Dan as Slaanesh - mostly decided by where we were sitting at the table, and our microbiologist served his rightful place as Nurgle.

Russ has written a glorious account of how the game played out, and it's posted in its entirety over at BGG. The following are his thoughts on the game, along with the result...

We only played one rule wrong which was that the Witch Hunters only remove corruption of the god with the highest threat, not the god with the highest threat that has corruption in any one region. I don’t think it would have made a lot of difference as that was Nurgle for most of the game and the only region that might have ruined earlier without that corruption removal was a region he was corrupting primarily (Kislev).
At the end Tzeentch had won with 52 points with Slaanesh and Nurgle tied at 44 and Khorne with 19, Slaanesh was one dial tick away from a dial victory, Nurgle and Tzeentch were two ticks away and Khorne four.
All in all a very enjoyable game which was nicely close at the end, Khorne definitely suffered with poor and statistically unlikely dice rolls whereas Tzeentch didn’t roll a dice all game (best way to avoid dice luck, but not an option that Khorne has).
It’s not the kind of game where you can really say anyone came 2nd-4th based on VPs as I’d imagine that Khorne would always win or lose outright! We all finished happy to have played it and keen to play again and without the rules explanation and if you got going straight away I’d imagine you could get two plays in an evening.
Personally I found Tzeentch fun to play and the teleport cards and abilities saved me from poor initial placement and gave the flexibility that a new player needs in a game like this. Slaanesh seemed to have fun messing with the game state, porting nobles to him and heroes to Kislev to mess with Nurgle. Khorne didn’t get enough double dial ticks, I’d imagine the cultist upgrade (so that they can attack) would have made a difference to that, but Ian said he enjoyed himself regardless!
John found Nurgle a little hard to judge as he felt that most of his cards were encouraging him to fight whereas that didn’t seem to be his best way forward to get points or dial ticks.
Russ (Tzeentch) 52; Dan (Slaanesh) 44; John (Nurgle) 44; Ian (Khorne) 19

Over on table 2, more meaty fare -

Power Grid (thanks Scott)
There were 5 players - Emma (new), Paul (new but owns the game), Jim (possibly new), Barrie (played before) and Scott (played a lot). Scott had brought along the Korea/China maps so Korea was selected as it plays a lot quicker and has a dual market where you can choose either to buy everything from the North or South each turn (no nukes in the North though).
The map has a lot of cheap cities clustered in the middle and everyone managed to centre themselves around it, Emma and Paul being the unlucky ones stuck right in the middle.
Jim seemed to be playing the strategy of ‘try to take down Emma’ but it backfired most of the time as he bought plants he thought she would like, when in fact he ended up being lumbered with a less than ideal infrastructure. He did make up for it on the board, however, and there was a lot of leapfrogging going on between them in the South of the map.
Emma was the lucky player this game, with an early #33 plant (wind power for 4 cities) but due to the constant struggle for cities didn’t get to fully utilise it early on.
Paul started out ahead with lots of cities and kept this up for most of the game, however since he was stuck in the middle of the map, expanding was an expensive venture. Barrie made the most of the Northern section of the board, but when cheap cities became available in Step 2, didn’t take full advantage of what he could get his hands on.
Scott expanded in to the East and South and as soon as Step 2 hit was clambering for any cheap cities in the centre as well. As usual, he bought big plants when they came out early and it was plain to see his 16 capacity was leading the pack.
With a dual market and cities over most of the board, there was little anyone else could do to stop him - they tried their best, but to no avail – the Powergrid king reigns supreme (for now). Meanwhile, Barrie snuck into 2nd place thanks to having a measly 2 elektros more than Paul.
Emma was betting on there being another round, so decided against buying fuel for her coal plant (she had 16 capacity also) but in any case, purchasing the extra cities would have been too costly anyway.
Scott 16 powered cities (17 total cities / 138 cash); Barrie 14 (14 / 135); Paul 14 (14 / 133); Jim 13 (14 / 138); Emma 10 (14 / 108)

Table 3 had decided to take a journey back in time, to when the only resources available were wood, stone, bricks and gold (really?) - i.e. the

Stone Age (thanks again Gareth)
This worker-placement favourite was tabled and four players were quickly found, including Johan (after a good two month absence spent ‘rebuilding his house.’) This game was new to Vicky and Johan so Philip explained the rules while Gareth set up the board.
Early on in the game, Philip and Gareth, the more experienced players started taking civilization cards, whilst Johan and Vicky began building huts for some early scores. Philip continued to increase his population and at a similar rate to Gareth increased his stock of tools.
By the mid-game Phil’s population was up to 10 but he was low on points, whilst Vicky had increased her population, food production and picked up a couple of tools. Johan had managed to become self sufficient, producing enough food to feed all his people. Gareth as per usual had bought as many tools as possible, a winning strategy that had been used before.
The game was quite long for Stone Age - nearly two hours - as no-one showed any real urgency to finish it. Eventually the last card in one of the piles of huts was taken and the scores were added up. Differing tactics were tried by the four players but ultimately ‘tool baron’ Gareth just managed to clinch a win, in what turned out to be a close game.
Gareth 186; Vicky 179; Philip 173; Johan 170

As the 4th group were trying to decide what to play, Gavin tentatively asked if they wouldn’t mind having a go at a prototype of a game that he’d developed. Encouraged by the promise that it would only take 10 minutes, they sat down to the previously unseen –

As Maynard always seems to get sucked into new games every week, we gave him the chance to choose one that he’d played before, so he selected –
It has to be said that this is an attractive game to look at. It is basically a small wooden box (think ‘Carcassonne the City’ box), with 8 circles cut out around the edge of the top face. These circles are lined with a rather nice purple velvet material, and are the ‘playing board’ of the game. A number of lettered dice are rolled, and players take it in turns to place a dice in one of the circles, move one of the dice, or rotate one. The winner is the first player to complete a word of at least 3 letters on their ‘side’ of the board.
This is quite a novel little word game that does indeed play quickly (Jon won with the word ‘eon’ after about 5 minutes). It would normally be played over a number of rounds up to a certain score, but this group stopped after just one.
Gavin also introduced the variant using a powerball, which is bounced up onto the board, causing a certain element of chaos when it comes into contact with the dice. Unfortunately, the IBG’ers did not have the requisite manual dexterity for such a task, and after scrabbling about on the floor after the unpredictable orb, they decided to abandon ship.
All the best to Gavin, who is demo’ing this game at some up-coming toy fairs. Remember – you saw it here first…..

As Maynard always seems to get sucked into new games every week, we gave him the chance to choose one that he’d played before, so he selected –

Power Grid: Factory Manager
Gavin joined in this game, and as he hadn’t played before, Jon tried desperately to explain the rules accurately and concisely. (It’s a good job that the game takes so long to set up, as it gave Jon time to give the rules booklet a quick once-over…)
This game was characterised by few labour-saving machines / computers being bought early on, resulting in a lack of spare workers, and consequently not many machines being brought down into the market each round.
Gavin made a good start, increasing his production and storage capacities nice and evenly in the first couple of rounds. David quickly scrapped one of his original inefficient machines, and concentrated on being first in turn order to snaffle up the best of the available machines. Maynard and Gavin were happy to go 3rd and 4th and thereby benefit from the discounts. Jon took a risk on buying the cheapest production computer in the first round, which left him a little broke, but did help reduce his energy costs.
Gavin and David now started to increase their production at a fast rate, and were raking in the cash. Several players suffered from labour-intensity, resulting in a boom in employment opportunities for the seasonal workers. This led to more machines being brought down into the market-place, so much so that it caused Jon to utter - "Wow - that's a veritable...what's the word?" "Smorgasbord?", ventured David. "That's 2 words", 'corrected' Jon.... (note to self - learn how to spell some rudimentary Swedish words prior to the next IBG evening....) 
In the final round, Jon bought only one robot, whilst scrapping an older model, as he had no storage capacity for any further production. This did mean, though, that he avoided using either of his factory extension spaces, whereas all 3 other players used at least one of them.
David had increased his production / storage to an impressive 130 / 150, Gavin had a nicely balanced 120 / 120 split whilst Jon had the lowest output of 100 / 100. Maynard admitted to having made “at least 3 mistakes” up to this point, but still finished with his factory functioning at a respectable 110 / 100.
When the scores were totted up, it was a surprise that the first 3 players were so close together, as David had looked like he was running away with it. Jon’s “savings” from previous rounds had been enough to get him within a mere 5 Elektros of David, but it was a case of ‘close, but no cigar…’
David 244; Jon 239; Gavin 226; Maynard 197

Strangely, 3 of the main games all finished at identical times, but the Stone Agers ignored everyone else and ploughed right on with -

Saint Petersburg (Gareth's 3rd report of the evening)
Gareth and Johan were familiar with the game, so the rules were quickly taught to the newcomers while it was set up. The players acquire workers, buildings and aristocrats to earn money and points throughout the game, the winner having the highest points. In this game you are always short of money, so it is important to manage your purchases carefully to ensure you have some money for each phase. (This was a lesson well-learned by Gareth in a previous game, where he had been lapped on the scoring track by both Jon and Barrie!)
Vicky set off with an early lead buying a couple of high scoring buildings, whilst Gareth invested in a high number of workers and a couple of aristocrats to produce a high income early on. Philip and Johan bought a little bit of everything.
By the mid-game, scores were quite evenly matched. Gareth had now started to buy buildings, Johan had picked up the Bank and a couple of Customs Houses, Vicky had continued to increase her building stock but was having difficulty producing income (being low on workers) and Philip was holding quite a few high-scoring aristocrats.
The game finished relatively abruptly with both the building and aristocrat piles coming to an end. A few last-minute purchases were made and Philip tried to offload his cards from his hand to prevent minus points. All in all, a fairly close game with Gareth getting his second win of the evening. Considering that nearly every game she plays is new to her, Vicky is proving to be a very fast learner, as she seems to come a close second in a lot of them. Maybe we shouldn't allow her to play any game for a second time....
Gareth 62; Vicky 53; Johan 44; Philip 41

The other 2 tables mixed it up a little, with 4 players joining Scott, who had pulled out -

Colossal Arena (thanks for this write-up Scott)
This was new to everyone else at the table. The rules took a while to sink in, and the game had forced Emma to rethink her stance of “I’ll play anything as long as it’s not Dominion again” - but she stuck with it.
The game has 8 creatures, and players bet on these creatures and play combat cards onto them.. There are 5 rounds and a round ends when every creature has card played on it and the creature with the lowest number dies. At the end of the game there will be 3 creatures alive and whatever bets are on them pay out.
The game got underway (eventually) and the first round saw the Ettin eliminated. Barrie was the only backer for it, losing a bet worth 4. The highlight of the round was Maynard choosing to steal a card from Barrie because he “didn’t really like him.” (Or it might have been that he didn't really like his tank-top...)
The second round saw Maynard’s Gorgon killed off losing two bets worth a total of 7. This highlighted to everyone that multiple bets on a creature would make you a target. Scott didn’t heed this advice though, and round 3 saw the Amazon destroyed, with Scott losing 2 bets (6) and Barrie losing out again as well.
At this point Jon mentioned that he thought this game felt a lot like a Knizia. Funnily enough it is a Knizia, but if you’re going to guess a designer of a short to medium game, then guessing Knizia is a fairly safe bet!
On to round 4 - with only 5 creatures left the rounds get shorter and it gets a lot harder to control the game, because with 5 players you might only get to play one card before the round is over. In a last ditch attempt, Scott revealed his secret bet to take control of the Collosus (retrieve a bet token from a dead creature) and tried to get a winning score out of it.
This time it was Emma’s turn to have her creature killed - the Wyrm, losing her 2 bets (7). The last round saw Scott totally obliterated as his Collossus was taken from him by Jon, which also lost most players some bets in the process.
The result of all this card-driven carnage was that Jon had the most bets remaining, securing the victory. So we let Jon get away with it this week but he has been complaining about not winning for a while now. Scott also failed his secret mission given to him by Steph to take Jon down in a game (she doesn’t give up a grudge easily) but Scott wasn’t that mean to have carried it out unjustified…
Jon 12; Barrie 9; Emma 6; Maynard 4; Scott 3

Meanwhile, Jim had pulled out his nicely-sleeved (I can hear Barrie groaning as we speak) version of -

Dominion (thanks Paul for these 2 reports)
During set up David and Paul weren’t sure if Jim was employing some serious gamesmanship by the tales of how he regularly gets beaten at the game by his young son. The cards were chosen using Barrie’s electronic ‘Dominion Minion’, giving a well rounded selection of staple cards such as the Market, more unusual ones like ‘Reform’ and some downright aggressive options including the Thief and the Militia.
In the first game David started collecting any card going, while Paul was attempting to shed his ‘filler cards’ using the Chapel and stock up on efficient buying power with lots of expensive Gold. Jim was somewhere in the middle. David’s strategy was supplemented very nicely by using the Thief at every available opportunity and pilfering much of the hard-won Gold that both Jim and Paul had invested in.
As the game progressed David continued to stockpile cards, wisely including as many Gardens as he could, whilst continuing to nick the good stuff from his opponents. Jim and Paul tried to catch up by using what little gold they had left to buy Provinces, but could afford too few to bridge the gap. When the game ended David’s impressive haul of 50+ cards meant that he had 5 points for each of his many Gardens and it became apparent that he had cleverly controlled the game from the outset. The scores were totalled and he had run away with it.
David 54; Paul 20; Jim 12

All three players were happy to play again and unanimously chose to keep the same set of cards to see if it would pan out differently. As Paul and Jim were trying to work out how to thwart David’s merciless strategy from the last game, David actually chose to go down a different route. It’s still not known if this was out or mercy or because he knew that the other players knew what he might be up to.
This round’s nastiness involved several hands where no one had more than 3 cards due to the frequently played militia. The Thief did make appearances but didn’t have the same grip on the game as the previous round, so all players were able to target Provinces.
Near the end of the game David and Paul dabbled with the Reform card, which could have been used to even greater effect throughout the game, and it didn’t really shape the result. The scores were much closer than the last time round:
Paul 45; David 41; Jim 33

After both games it dawned on the other two that Jim really was just an honest guy, and his self effacing stories of beating beaten by young Joshua weren’t gamesmanship whatsoever (unless of course he is running a hustle over more than one week).
Paul has since followed Barrie’s lead and downloaded the Dominion Minion on his iPhone, even though he has since realised that he doesn’t own a copy of the game, so please help him to get value for his 99p and invite him to play on Wednesday evenings.

And finally, the Chaos boys just had time to squeeze in a quick couple of games of -

No Thanks! (thanks Russ)
This game was new to most of the players. The first round had to be restarted as John looked at everyone else incredulously as they passed on the high value cards, before picking them up with a smile. You did get the part of the rules that says you are supposed to get as few points as possible, didn’t you? Oh, you didn’t. (Although from the first game’s scores you’d think he still hadn’t got the message…)
Ian 21, Dan 32, Russ 38, John 75

Mind you, Russ had no place to be cocky as the second game scored:
Ian 31, John 32, Dan 41, Russ 65(!)

And so, another fine evening of gaming drew to a close. With the ever-increasing numbers at the club, it's a good job that the landlord has agreed to buy some portable lights for upstairs, as we are having to start venturing further towards the "romantic" end of the room...

See you next week folks.......

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