Wednesday, 24 February 2010

"Hvordan sier du 'Doomed' på norsk.........?"

Players: Ian, Scott, Emma, Daniel, Philip, Jon, Gareth, Steph, Barrie, James, Einar, Hanne

Well, tonight saw the IBG'ers go truly global, as we were honoured with the presence of Einar and Hanne, a Norwegian couple who were on holiday in London for just a week. As it turned out, they were pretty mean boardgamers, winning 4 out of the 5 games that they played... (we were just being extremely hospitable hosts, you know.....)

After introducing ourselves to our new Norwegian friends, we dived straight in as James brought out one of his new little card games -

Ziegen Kriegen
This was new to all apart from James, but is very simple to pick up. It’s played with a deck of cards that have ascending values and a number of ‘goats’ heads’ (think 6Nimmt). Everyone lays a card from their hand, and the highest one wins the whole lot. The lowest one, however, gets to add a tile to an ‘island’, and depending on how it is orientated, will affect how many goats’ heads is the total to aim for (without going over).
Einar managed to get himself labelled as the “Norwegian Gareth” by asking for the cards to be re-dealt as he had a sub-optimal hand. He was granted the privilege afforded only to a newcomer from overseas, as James swapped some of his cards over.
In the first game, it was difficult to know how many goats’ heads to aim for, but the 4 island tiles eventually added up to 19, which meant that a couple of good tricks were needed to get close. Gareth managed to get the closest with 18, whilst James went bust and Hanne failed to pick up a single trick.
[Mountain=19] Gareth 18; Jon 14; Einar 14; Barrie 13; Hanne 0; James 22 (bust)

The second game saw some strategies start to evolve. Jon deliberately played low cards in the first 2 hands and subsequently played low tiles to the island. The eventual total was 14, which meant that Gareth and James went bust.
The other players were very close, with Jon and Hanne tying for first place with 11 goats’ heads. Jon had only got this many because Gareth had tried to screw him over by donating 5 heads to his trick in an attempt to make him go bust. Thanks Gareth!
[Mountain=14] Hanne 11; Jon 11; Einar 9; Barrie 9; James 20 (bust); Gareth 21 (bust)

The next few IBG'ers through the door decided to ease themselves in with 3 games of the popular filler -

No Thanks!
(Errrr....actually, "Yes Please!" if anyone's got the scores for these games.....!)

It was time for the main games, so James convinced a number of others to try -

Neuroshima Hex (thanks to James for this report)
(...or "how I learned to stop worrying and love the icons...") This was a new game for all the players. James had, however, breezed through the rules the night before so took on the job of confusing teaching everyone with his take on how to play.
This is a neat little hex tile-laying game. Tiles show either battle units, support units or can trigger events. Players use these to build up a battle scenario on the board as tiles are added in turn (e.g. Player A lays a tile to attach player B’s base. Player B plays a tile to attack Player A before they can fire, Player C attacks Player B’s base… Player D also attacks Player B’s base.
Next, Emma (as owner of said Player B’s base) pulls a ‘why me’ face, makes a remark on what she could possible have done to deserve everyone attacking her base and comments how the game could be improved by more pictures of cute dragons. And then, suddenly, (either by the board being full or a player laying a specific hex tile), a brief but furious battle ensures, and the board is analysed to see who lives, who dies, who is wounded, and how many points are deducted from Emma’s base. Pieces are thus removed and tiles are lain again… the winner is decided on who’s home base is the least damaged.
Lots of interactivity, lots of nasty game play and lots of potential for many a ruined friendship... what more could you ask for on a pleasant night out!?
All the tiles have their own ‘powers’ and each army is different so there’s a short but steep learning curve (somewhere between Dominion and Race for the Galaxy) but the game plays fast and furious when it starts and given a playtime of 30 mins it could almost be called a filler once you’re up to speed.
So you might have gathered already that Emma didn’t fare too well… it’s a hard game to play effectively as first time around is really a learning curve.
Emma in fact had the early edge before everyone turned on her - the game does very much lend itself to the ‘attack the leader’ principle… However after this initial bout of sanity, personal vendettas took over and the attack-the-leader tactic quickly became attack-the-person-that-just-attacked-me tactic. This allowed James to win quite comfortably by avoiding all these in-game vendettas. When it wasn’t Emma’s base being attacked it was Dan’s or Ian’s while James’s army seemed to sit in front of his base attacking everyone with relative impunity.
Post-game everyone seemed to like the experience and I have a feeling this’ll get some more table time in coming weeks as more players get a handle on it.
James (surviving base); Ian (went 3rd); Dan (went 2nd - slightly suicidally); Emma (went 1st) 

Over on table 2, the new "Game of the Month" was brought out, namely -

Goa (thanks Scott for this one)
The new game of the month was kicked off with a full complement of 4 players, Gareth and Philip (the experts), Scott and Steph (the newbies). Steph was on the sidelines at first but after hearing the other options of Tikal and then Neuroshima Hex she was happy to stay.Gareth explained the rules and the game was under way. Scott was the start player and the auctioning began, with Steph and Scott starting with similar strategies of buying up some plantations and beginning their advancement of Gold and Ships.
Gareth and Philip were eyeing up and winning more of the bonus effect tiles and exploring plantations quite successfully with lots of high explore cards coming out early. Gareth explained how getting advancement on the card drawing track was a viable strategy to increase your hand limit and have more scoring potential (that was rather nice of him....)
The later game saw Scott favour the bonus VP tiles while Philip and Steph made use of lots of bonus actions. Gareth used his card drawing abilities and got his fair share of rewards from that.
Scott specialised towards Ships and Spice growth, Gareth towards gold and cards, Steph was mostly balanced but went for a big push into exploration in the end. Philip went heavy with ships and some exploring.
In the last round, the players asked if money was worth anything at the end. Gareth thought that maybe it was a tie-breaker, so some players spent most of their money in the last auction, seeing as it wasn’t worth much to hold on to it. At this point, Gareth checked the rules - “Oh, this might change the game a bit, the person with most money at the end gets some points!”......conveniently enough, this was most likely to be Gareth. (ahh...that's more like it...)
The last round had everyone finishing off their plans, but Philip had miscalculated slightly and couldn’t progress on his exploration track as he had intended. He continued with the explorations anyway but unfortunately this led to three unsuccessful explorations in a row with ever decreasing bonus cards drawn.
The scores looked set to be close for the rest of the players - Gareth had a large hand of cards and was tied for the most money with Philip so they both got the points. Everyone scored equally for explored colonies and Scott had the two largest VP tiles.
The final turn for Philip had been disastrous while both Steph and Philip didn’t have many bonus VP’s from cards or tiles. Scott had advanced his specialties just enough alongside his bonus VP tiles to overcome Gareth’s bonus VPs from cards and money.
Scott 43; Gareth 41; Steph 37; Philip 30

It was time for a main game back at table 1, and our new Norwegian friends were delighted to see that someone had brought along their copy of –

Einar enquired at the outset if we were going to be using the auction variant (which he usually plays with), so it seemed like a good opportunity of trying it out. This basically takes some of the ‘luck of the draw’ out of the tile distribution, as you can choose to bid victory points to get the tiles that you want. This does extend the game-length a little, but also adds a nice extra level of strategy. However, for Barrie and Jon it was a steep learning curve of deciding how much you should bid to get a certain tile…..
Barrie started off on the Eastern side of the board, and quickly started building up a number of temples, eschewing the treasures that were on offer.
Einar introduced us to a new strategy by building a camp on his very first turn. He used this to good effect as a base for sending raiding parties into Barrie’s temples, stealing them off him and placing guards there. (He also interspersed the Barrie-bashing with a lot of photo-taking, much to the horror of one of the IBG'ers on the next table...)
Hanne decided not to make any bids at the beginning of the game, seemingly happy to take whichever tile was left at the end of each auction round. She slowly expanded into the central area of the board, building up a number of temples on the way.
Jon chose to plough a lone furrow into the Southwest corner of the jungle, where he quickly built up a ‘10’ level temple. This was in a remote location that was too difficult for any other player to access, but it did mean that Jon’s expansion options were severely limited. He did manage to place a treasure tile there too, and also plundered others to start a reasonable treasure collection. This was matched by Einar, who also seemed intent on accumulating multiple treasure tokens.
By the second scoring, the scores were still very tight, with only 3 points separating the first 3 places – Hanne being just out in front.
It was between the second and third scoring that Barrie started to drop off the pace a little, choosing to bid high amounts for the temple tiles, only to see them stolen from under his nose by Einar. It was at this point that we learned our first word of Norwegian – we could hear Einar constantly murmuring “Fem…fem…fem….” before deciding what to do on his turn. We soon realised that this meant “Five”, and was indicative of Einar deciding to spend 5 Action Points to place another guard on one of Barrie’s temples...
As the endgame approached, Jon built a camp in the centre of the board and stole one of Hanne’s ‘7’ level temples (putting his new-found knowledge of the Norwegian language to good effect…), whilst Einar had managed to sneak into the far corner and discover a couple of temples of his own.
The final scoring round was done in reverse score order, meaning that Einar went last, but he had accumulated enough guarded temples and treasure sets to stay in front for a well-deserved narrow victory from Jon.
As the players surveyed the final board position it was interesting to note that all but 4 of the temples had been guarded, and there was only 1 unused temple level token left.
Jon reported that he had very much liked the auction variant, and would probably use it in the future. Barrie was not so sure….(about anything) 
Einar 123; Jon 119; Hanne 103; Barrie 61

After spending time Neuroshima-Hexing each other, a change of pace was in order as Em, Dan, Ian and James turned to -

Fairy Tale (thanks to James again)
The cast: Emma as Cinderella, Ian playing Prince Charming and James and Dan as the Ugly Sisters. The game can best be described as Race for the Galaxy with fewer icons to remember, crossed with a drafting system (similar to a CCG). Not that I know anything about CCG's but Emma (as the self proclaimed CCG queen ) took over the drafting process once she grasped how it worked. Passing cards to the left one round, right the next, under the table the next, in our left hands while standing on one leg the next… I never knew CCG's could be such fun….
In a nutshell, each round players are dealt 5 cards each, they take one and hand the remaining cards over to the next player while receiving cards from another player. The process continues until everyone has 5 cards. From the hand of 5, 3 cards are played and 2 are discarded and this, after 4 rounds, leaves a tableau of 12 cards. These are then scored based on each cards score, plus a number of multiplers, bonus’s etc and that’s the game.
Certain cards have special effects such as flipping cards over, or back again, or multiplying scores… and some have extra, extra, EXTRA special effects such as prompting Emma to squeal suddenly, proclaiming one had a picture of the cutest little baby dragon ever. It’s a fairly dynamic game, with a nice mix of card collecting, player interaction and, yeah, apparently, very, very cute dragons.
So the first game was pretty much a learning exercise, especially for Ian who turned up with drinks after the first round of instruction teaching had concluded, and so only had the benefit of an edited version… which might explain his attempt to sabotage the mine, buy 2 gold for 3, and suddenly announce "You’re doomed", before he cottoned onto the right game. Due to everyone collecting dragons (no doubt lured in by the cuteness) apart from James, he managed to run away with this one.
(Scores to follow...)

The second game was a slightly more controlled affair, apart from Emma’s modified drafting rules (due to everyone stealing her dragons last time round). Scoring was higher which is not surprising now we all knew the rules a little better.
In surprising fashion (given Gareth wasn’t playing) the game ended on a tightrope with a little bit of controversy… With the last card James did a quick switch from his original plan and played a Hunt card (everyone turns one over from their tabled cards). This forced Emma to turn over a 1 point card… and when points were tallied James had beaten Emma by a solitary point… insincere sympathy was duly passed around, but as Emma’s mood had been previously softened by her dragon fixation, everyone ended up smiling.
It's a nice little card game - once you get past the slight learning curve it’s got a lot going for it.
(Scores to follow....)

There were still cries of "Flip the Fairy" (!?) from James' table, so this indicated that there was just time to introduce the Scandinavians to –

High Society
No matter how many times this game is played, it always seems to feel fresh, as the bidding really depends on how quickly the red tiles come out. In this case, they were mostly near the bottom of the deck, which led to slightly lower bids but fewer bidding cards left in players’ hands at the end.
Einar picked up the “1” and “3” early on, which then enabled him to take the Thief without it hurting too much. Jon took a chance and picked up the “1/2”, which necessitated winning quite a few more tiles later on.
Hanne took the “10” and Barrie had the “5” and “8”. Both the “2x” tiles then appeared, which Einar and Jon shared.
No-one had many bidding cards left, but it was difficult to ascertain what values they were. Jon decided to take the “7” to put him in the lead on 20 points, but the final red card was then revealed, and it transpired that his final bid had been just enough to leave him with the least cash.
Einar had played an excellent game by keeping hold of his $25k (although if the “-5” had turned up, he may have been stuffed!) and took the victory. In fact, he was impressed enough that he said that he would probably buy it in London before he flies back to Norway. Good choice.
Einar 18 ($26k); Barrie 13 ($20k); Hanne 10 ($28k); Jon 20 ($15k)

And with all the main games now finished, it was time to reconvene for more Arctic hunting -

Nanuk (thanks Gareth for this report)
This week we played the game with a record breaking 12 people... who cares if it only officially does a maximum of 8! We just changed the rules slightly, dealing out fewer cards and using the extra hunt tokens, and were then away.
We managed four hunts before we ran out of cards and not surprisingly the game worked just as well if not better with the additional players. Of the four hunts, two were a success and two were failures.
Further drama was added half-way through as Emma suddenly disappeared under the table, accompanied by the sound of smashing glass. This is only the second breakage in IBG history, and both by one of the ladies. They just can't hold their drink, you know.....
Back with Nanuk, Hanne came in as the overall winner leading the first successful hunt and being on the right team for the other three hunts.
In contrast Gareth managed to be on the wrong side for every hunt and even managed to lead the final hunt to failure. Oh well maybe he should try a different game next week that doesn’t involve hunting or polar bears!
Hanne 9; Jon 6; Einar 6; Scott 6; Dan 6; Phil 5; Ian 4; Steph 4; James 3; Emma 1; Barrie 1; Gareth 0(!)

Well, the IBG'ers were well and truly hustled by the Norwegians tonight, but as they were genuinely a really nice couple of gamers, we'll let them off - just this once...
For anyone who's interested, their own club is called "Orthad Ithil Brettspillklubb", and you can also find them on Facebook.

See you all next week, for our first get-together in March. Where does the time go...........

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

With friends like these..........

Players: Barrie, Gareth, Jon, Scott, James, Ian, Philip, Johan, David M, Stuart, Paul D, Emma, Zoe, Simon, Paul
Tonight, fresh from his star appearance as "Meet the IBG'ers #01", Barrie decided to prove his worldwide renown by bringing along three "friends" - who then proceeded to have a great time mercilessly stealing his cards and attacking his Ratmen. One of them had the rather bad grace to be called Paul, which, without a surname, has unfortunately resulted in him being given the rather anonymous title of "Paul 2"....

Stuart and David arrived early again, this time to get in a game of Arkham Horror, but the rest of the crowd soon turned up, and the opener for this evening was -

Coloretto (thanks Emma)
The game got off to a pretty even start - Phillip usually taking an early pick with the bonus point cards and James worrying that he had too many different colour chameleons so early on. He soon became more optimistic when given 2 shiny rainbow chameleons of greatness in 2 consecutive rounds from Scott & Emma. This was probably because the rest of his chameleons were all brown and grey and boring. Or that they went on to give him the win. Either way it was the rainbow chameleons that saved the day.
James 30; Scott 22; Gareth 20; Emma 20; Phillip 15

Barrie had now arrived with his 3 “friends”, and Jon joined them for a quick game of -

Circus Flohcati
Barrie had played before, although with Gareth’s German language edition, so some of the language-independent icons had to be explained. This game is quick to pick up, and everyone was soon laying down sets.
Simon raised a few eyebrows by laying down a set of 5’s, rather than keeping them for the game ending, although the final scores seem to bear out that he knew what he was doing. Zoe, Paul and Simon, at different points in the game, all revealed the card that allows you to steal from another player, and without hesitation they all chose – Barrie. Friendship is a beautiful thing.
The scores were very close at the end (apart from Barrie), with Jon just pipping Simon by a couple of points.
Jon 53; Simon 51; Zoe 47; "Paul 2" 46; Barrie 32

Over on table 3, Arkham Horror had been cleared away to be replaced by -

Nothing is known about this game apart from the fact that Johan bailed out halfway through, and David won it. Oh, and Barrie had forgotten his Dominion-Apps thingy so the deck was probably drawn using the 'manual random' method......
David 36; Paul D 27; Stuart 20

Fresh from his victory at Coloretto, James joined the Circus crowd for another IBG filler-favourite –

For Sale
6-player For Sale is all about the opening bid. How much should you bid to try to make sure that several players have dropped out before it comes back to you? $3,000 is the usual bid of choice, but $5,000 is not unheard of, especially if one of the high-valued properties is available.
A couple of the early auctions had a strange run of properties, with 5 very low and 1 very high property available. Someone invariably gets a bargain (Simon and Zoe on this occasion), but there is always everything to play for in the second half.
Avoiding the void cheques is usually a good strategy (hard luck Paul and Simon), and when the dust had settled, Zoe had proved to be the canniest property mogul with a slim victory from the ‘old hands’.
Zoe 48; Jon 46; James 45; Barrie 41; Simon 35; "Paul 2" 31

It appears that Johan jumped ship from Dominion to join in the 'game of the month' -

Cuba (thanks Scott for this report)
For its last outing as game of the month, there was only 1 newcomer – namely Emma. Gareth explained the rules to Emma as best he could, but as always, she seemed to play the role of the confused onlooker. However, looking at the results, she seems to have known what she was doing (despite having one eye on the game of Small World being played on the next table…)
Phil was first up and started a strategy of shipping, getting himself a building to ship two goods, although a quick check of the rules underpowered what Phil was expecting from playing it incorrectly last time.
Johan and Emma had gone a similar direction in collecting sugar for Rum conversion (although Emma had plans for wine), however Johan was earlier in the turn order and got himself in to the rum café and distillery in the first two turns to cries from Emma that he had ruined her master plan. Emma diverted and still went with Rum (wine) production but sold/shipped them instead.
Gareth went for the water strategy getting himself extra water production and a building to score water. He also went with the large VP producing building.
Scott saw the first law that was possibly going to come in the first round (score 1vp/3money) and went with a money and law strategy to get extra money and later on a building for 2 bonus votes, as well as the small VP production. With all the control in the laws and a growing pile of money scoring 5-6 points per round it looked promising for Scott although Gareth jumped on this band wagon and was storing up lots of money himself and with his other VP scoring was slowly increasing his lead over the rest.
Scott looked dejected in having a great plan of his own work so well for Gareth, until round 5 hit and a juicy ship entered the 3VP spot and with all his money Scott bought up the 5 necessary goods to get 15VP as no-one else had enough resources to stop him fully. This took him in to the lead to much disappointment from Gareth (which is why we play games with him really).
Johan and Emma continued their Rum business but since Emma was using them up to sell and ship, Johan could only turn them in to VP’s at a lower rate since buying more sugar was overly expensive.
Phil expanded his shipping empire with Cigar production but no scoring building for them so continued to ship/sell them, the downside for Phil was that everyone kept shipping before him.
With no money left, Scott lost all control of the voting and the last two rounds saw everyone pile in lots of their money to take control. Phil had it in round 5 and brought in great laws for him and Scott to the detriment of Gareth, and the last round saw Gareth have the control but the laws available were all quite damaging to everyone (super high taxes). However, the meddling was not enough to change the outcome:
Scott 91; Gareth 81; Emma 72 (2 cash); Phil 72 (no cash); Johan 63

And like Johan pointed out to everyone he spoke to afterwards, it is a nice game with great mechanics but you get locked in to your strategy from turn 1 and it’s difficult to react to the changes throughout the game if it looks like your strategy is not effective enough. Here endeth Cuba as game of the month.

Meanwhile, over on the first table, Chaos was ensuing (again) -

Chaos in the Old World (big thanks to James) report from the chaos crew (where is Russ when you need him?)

Except - one week later, James has dredged the inner recesses of his memory and produced this entertaining account of what happened...

After surviving the chaos of the modern world by navigating the road closures to get to Isleworth, it was time for some ye olde worlde chaos as Ian, James, David and Stu set about summoning demons.
David decided to take on the role of Khorne which as the only god that gets points by defeating the other gods basically means you get to spend the whole game with a target on your back. James took the tubby Nurgles, and David and Ian shared one of Tzeentch or Slaanesh but I can’t remember who had who… one of them was definitely green…. or maybe that was Stu after the drinking he’d done beforehand….
The mechanics of the game are that players summon various pieces to the board in order to dominate lands and spread corruption, gaining either victory points or increasing the power of their gods. Too much corruption and a region is ruined giving even more VP. Each players’ god operates with a separate set of pieces and powers/abilities, so the game from a newbie perspective involves a lot of “who, what, where, why, how?” questions until things settle down. Luckily we managed to avoid the ‘you never mentioned that rule’ shenanigans of the last time this was played at IBG…
Anyway, given the game was over a week ago I can remember few details other than that Stu managed to corner off the RHS of the board quite nicely, while Ian took the lower left and James the centre. David didn’t have much luck early on with battle victories.
What the other players hadn’t realised is that James had browsed the rules early in the game and discovered a strategy page - very useful as up to that point he had no idea what he was actually trying to do. With his Nurgle’s going for VP (as a result of the advice he’d read) while the other gods squabbled for power upgrades he managed to run away with a victory scoring 61 VP. Although it should be noted that Stu was close to claiming the power upgrade victory at the end so the differences were not quite as great as the VP score suggests.
Anyhow, in terms of Godlike powers, James ended up as Thor, god of Thunder, Stu was Shiva the Destroyer, and due to some unfortunate typos, Ian ended up as Gok Wan, god of camp shoes and David finished as Bod, god of milkshake (hmmm, strawberry please).
James 61; Ian 22; Stuart 15; David 7

The main game for Barrie's buddies et al was –

Small World
There was a full-house 5 players (which is always fun) for this game, with Paul D, Paul 2 and Zoe not having played before. However, this is a reasonably easy game to explain, with the concept of ‘declining’ being the only part that needs special attention, and you soon get the feel for it after a couple of rounds.
Jon started with the Merchant Giants, and predictably headed for the mountains for his early conquests. Barrie brought on some Flying Trolls, and quickly set up some useful defensive positions around the board, using the Trolls’ Lairs to good effect.
Zoe decided to begin with the Forest Wizards, and conquered a section in the South-West corner which scored her some useful bonus points. Paul 2 galloped on with some Mounted Humans, and Paul D knocked out a number of Lost Tribesmen with his Commando Orcs.
The first player-to-player combat occurred as Paul 2’s Humans cut a swathe through Paul D’s Orcs – an aggressive move that was only partially tempered by a few muttered apologies...
After a couple of rounds, Jon was the first to decline, and brought on some Stout Tritons, who quickly took up position around the central lake. Barrie decided that Jon had become too strong and took control of the Wealthy Ratmen to attack his declined Giants. The 2 Pauls had adopted Ghouls and Elves, with the former making sure that the Ratmen didn’t become too prolific.
It was at this point that Zoe decided to show affinity with the fairer sex and give the Diplomat Amazons a run. However, she couldn’t decide whether to attack Barrie’s Ratmen or Jon’s Giants. Jon gave her some good, impartial advice, and told her that rats were vermin that needed to be annihilated. Barrie’s pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears, and Zoe (eventually...after a 'dramatic' pause..) took out a few of her “friend’s” Ratmen along with some remaining Lost Tribes. She also used the Diplomat ability to good effect, preventing Paul 2’s newly-acquired Halflings from stomping all over her.
Jon picked up the Fortified Dwarves for the final 2 turns (mainly because of the 6 victory points which had accumulated on them) and set up a small camp on 2 dwarven mines.
The only other new race to enter the board were Paul D’s Pillaging Sorcerors, which he freely admitted entered the fray a turn too late.
By the end of the game, Barrie and Zoe had only used 2 races, with Barrie still having 7 of his original declined Trolls unmolested on the board. The scores were tallied, and (as usual) there was a very tight finish, with Jon doing the un-gentlemanly thing and pipping Zoe by a single point.
If she didn’t live a distance away, I’m sure that she would have a fine future ahead of her as one of the femme fatales of the IBG’ers….
Jon 88; Zoe 87; Barrie 80; Paul 2 70; Paul D 67

With Cuba and Small World finishing within minutes of each other, it was time for another outing of the increasingly popular -
Nanuk (thanks for this info Gareth)
This week the hunt was made up of eight players - the largest to date. The game was new to Paul 2, Johan and Emma but the simple rules were quickly explained by Jon and the group was off hunting game within minutes.
A large bounty of birds, seals and fish were caught with four highly successful hunts, more than sufficient to feed the tribe through the winter. Lots of bluffing by the less honest members of the group, Jon and Gareth, who seemed very confident of having many of the animals/ birds needed for each hunt and then surprisingly elected to stay at home.
It was also pointed out by Emma, that Gareth raises his eyebrows when lying….so much for bluffing in the future.
Particular mention should go to Paul 2 who led two successful hunts even though it was his first game. Also, tragedy struck on the final hunt for Johan, who had been unable to generate any support and was eaten by a polar bear!
Another great game with lots of laughter, which comes highly recommended by the IBG’ers. This game has now joined the select few including, Saboteur, 6Nimmt and Diamant, as the perfect way to finish the evening with a large group of players.
Philip 9; Scott 9; Emma 7; Paul 7; Jon 7; Barrie 6; Gareth 5; Johan 5

(Postscript by Jon: I contend that I played an honest game the whole way through this evening. Also, you can actually tell when Gareth is lying because his lips move….)

There were still a few minutes left on the clock – enough for a single round of the luck-driven card-fest that is –

6 Nimmt!
11 players sat down to this one, including Stuart, who tried Philip’s old tactic of playing random cards. It proved no more successful in Stuart’s hands than it had in Philip’s….
Emma, wearing her best “Confused from Colchester” expression, appeared at a loss to know which pile to pick up after playing a low card half-way through the game. Gareth was quick to excitedly chime in with the advice – “Take that one, ‘cos it screws other people over the most.” Subsequently, justice was indeed done, as the aforementioned buttinski was duly the player who found himself to be “screwed over”……
Barrie and Johan managed to both stay out of trouble for the whole game, and Jon appears to have attempted to ‘shoot the moon’ with a mammoth total.
Barrie 0; Johan 0; Scott 1; Emma 8; James 9; Gareth 15; Ian 16; Stuart 16; “Paul 2” 17; Philip 28; Jon 38

Well, Barrie's friends will be welcome back at the IBG'ers any time (although whether they will be welcome back at Barrie's house is another matter entirely....)

Great to see everyone again tonight - we're back again at the same place next week for more Wednesday-night escapism......

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Forget London - let's all head for the Americas.....

Players: Vicky, Jim, Scott, Philip, Paul, David M, Jon, Barrie, Gareth, David S, Daniel, Johan

Just when you think that Spring is nearly here, it goes and snows again! So on a cold and wintry Wednesday evening, a dozen IBG'ers decided that they would leave West London behind, and transport themselves across the globe to much warmer climes....

And so it came to pass that there was much Central American jungle exploration, Communist cigar and rum trading, and power production for the cities of Brazil. But in order to re-acclimatise themselves, they ended up with a trip to the Arctic.....

The first group through the door had another go at -

Katzenjammer Blues (thanks Gareth)
A quick five-player bidding game to start the evening off. With lots of Jazz cats and cool mice. Scott took the win again and Gareth narrowly missed coming last for a second week running (even with Barrie’s determined effort to make it so…)
Scott 8; David M 4; Barrie 3; Gareth 2; Philip 0

Whilst waiting for more people to turn up, Jon collared 3 other players to join him in the abstract game of –

This was new to Scott, and each player took 2 tokens, which means that conflict arises within a couple of rounds of laying tiles. Vicky’s grey token was the first to depart, but then everyone else clung on until Jon found both of his pieces isolated on a single tile, resulting in a double-suicide. David and Vicky then obliterated each other, leaving both of Scott’s tokens facing each other across the last unplaced tile for the victory.
Scott won; David M 2nd; Vicky 3rd; Jon 4th

In the second game, David was dispatched rather quickly, following a double-team effort from Vicky and Jon. Scott then managed to take out his own token along with one of Jon’s and Vicky’s in a single tile of carnage. Scott had again found himself in a corner by himself, leaving Vicky and Jon to do a “Beachy-Head” giving him the 2nd win in a row.
Scott won; Jon / Vicky 2nd; David M 4th

A third group had now arrived and had a couple of games of -

High Society
Barrie 14 ($21k); David 10 ($14k); Dan 5 ($26); Johan 16 ($11k)

Barrie won; Daniel / David; Johan bust!

High Society was still being played on table 2, so out of politeness (!), table 3 chose another filler in order to try to finish at the same time –

Circus Flohcati
If anything was learned from this game, it was that Jon should not buy a lottery ticket tonight – considering that every card that he turned over seemed to be a turn-ending duplicate.
Scott got off to a flier, managing to lay down 4 sets for a guaranteed 40 points. This resulted in him being a bit of a target for stolen cards though, with Vicky proving to be the most active thief. David kept his head down, and despite a recount, fell a single point short of preventing Scott from picking up his fourth victory of the evening.
Scott 64; David M 63; Jon 48; Vicky 39

Table 2 turned out to not be as polite as table 3, and got on with their own game of -

Tikal (thanks for the report, Johan)
Johan and Barry had played this game before, but Dan and David were Tikal ‘virgins’. After quickly going through the rules and mechanisms (too quickly in fact) it was decided that Barry was the oldest member in the group and he therefore started.
Barry and David tried to spread themselves out via building temples and uncovering treasures, whilst Johan simply was building temples as high as possible. Dan was uncovering loads of treasures – far too many, in fact, as it transpired that a small but crucial rule had been overlooked (namely, that you can only uncover one treasure per worker per tile on your turn). Dan had uncovered two treasures with one worker on quite a few occasions before the mistake was spotted – but the game continued anyway.
The jungle was divided into two distinct camps as David and Johan put the tiles in such a way that it cost quite a few actions to get to the other side. Johan started off in the lead closely followed by Dan and David. Barry from the beginning had difficulty catching up – which was probably due to his age….
Johan 77; Dan 77; David S 65; Barry 53

Johan claimed the moral victory (as he would, of course) due to the incorrect application of the rules that distinctly advantaged Dan, but then again the game would have been quite different if the rules were applied correctly. We will never know……

Back on the first table, their selection for main game of the evening was -

Cuba (thanks Gareth for this info) 
It was decided to re-start the game of the month, whereby the same game is tabled four weeks in a row. So for February, Cuba was nominated. A few rules were clarified, that had not been applied correctly in the last two games (thanks Scott), and Jim, being the newbie, was given the full monty. So hopefully, at the third attempt, the game was played how the designer intended.
Differing strategies were used: Gareth (Inn, Hotel & Large Branch Office); Philip (Saw Mill, Black Market); Paul (Cigar Café, Light House, Cigar Factory and Small Branch Office); Jim (Dam, Cigar Factory and Distillery).
Gareth 99; Philip 84; Paul 84; Jim 72

It was becoming obvious that it was going to be one of those evenings when the tables just wouldn’t ‘sync’ in terms of finishing games, so table 3 decided to pick their ‘main game’ and chose –

Power Grid
David and Vicky were given a quick re-cap of the rules by Scott, and the Brazil map was chosen as the arena of combat. The 2 westerly regions were ignored for this game, which does make the board quite cramped (although relatively cheap to connect).
Before the game started, Scott warned that due to re-stock levels, coal would be scarce and expensive, whilst oil would be much more plentiful. Despite giving this advice, he then proceeded to do his best Arthur Scargill impression in becoming a veritable coal baron. The other 3 players heeded the advice, and all chose to buy oil-fired power stations, creating a bit of competition for this particular fossil fuel.
On the map, David started out in the very cheap South-East, with Scott and Jon fighting it out in the northern sector. Vicky wisely stayed out of trouble and opted to start in the centre of the map.
As Vicky triggered step 2, all the players picked up a garbage-powered plant, as this had become relatively cheap and plentiful. Not for long though. Jon was relying on the garbage to power his main station (3 garbage – 6 cities), a fact that had not gone unnoticed by David and Scott, who took the opportunity provided by Jon going last in turn order to hatch an evil scheme to completely clear the market of garbage. This left Jon only able to power 6 (instead of 10) cities for a round. Vicky decided that this was a fight not worth participating in, and wisely opted to diversify into nuclear and wind power.
Step 3 suddenly appeared, which triggered the inevitable bidding war for large power stations. Scott paid out the most, stumping up 80 elecktros for the ‘46’ plant, whilst David also bidded high for another coal-guzzler.
Jon had managed to hoard enough fuel on a previous round to power up a maximum of 16 cities without needing to buy any more fuel, and had just enough Elektros to buy 7 cities in a single turn to end the game. David and Scott had been banking on another turn, and although Scott also had 16 capacity, he didn’t have enough cash for the extra cities that were needed to out-power Jon.
And so it came to pass, that Scott, after 3 straight victories at Power Grid, and 4 straight victories in other games tonight, was finally pipped into second place…..
Jon 16 powered (17 cities total); Scott 14 (14); Vicky 10 (13); David M 8 (11)

The Tikal explorers had finished exploring, and so opted to buy and sell houses instead -

For Sale
Johan 57; Barrie 56; Daniel 52; David 52

David 62; Barrie 61; Daniel 59; Johan 55

(Apparently Daniel reports that he was more pre-occupied with keeping his greasy fingers off the cards than actually trying to win the game. I could make a highly sarcastic comment here, but as it was my copy of For Sale that he was playing with, I applaud his commendable attitude....)

With Cuba now finished also, tables 1 and 2 combined and set off to the Arctic for a new IBG favourite -

Nanuk (thanks again Gareth)
After two successful weeks Nanuk was tabled again. Seven prospective hunters journeyed out to find fresh game, but not all of them were successful.
The first two hunts were doomed and team leaders Barrie and Gareth returned home empty handed. No fish, no birds, no points.
Then the tides turned for the tribe and the final four hunts were all successful. They collected three large colonies of seals and a small herd of deer, allowing the community to see through another harsh winter with plenty of food and new fur hats for everyone.
The overall winner was David, the leader on the third hunt, with Philip choosing to stay back at home in the village with a rather heavy cold (deciding it was better to be in the nice warm tent rather than out in freezing Tundra hunting down animals…)
David S 11; Dan 11; Barrie 10; Paul 10; Gareth 8; Jim 7; Philip 6

Nanuk had just started, so the Power Gridders stayed together and Vicky requested “something with dice”. And it just so happened that Jon had brought along –

Roll Through the Ages
This was new to everyone apart from Jon, but the rules are fairly simple, and it only takes a round or 2 to get into the swing of things.
Vicky chose to max out on city-building, giving her 7 dice to roll on each turn. She also managed to pick up the Empire development, which gave her a 7 point bonus at the end, but her lack of monuments was to be her undoing.
David opted to pick up some cheaper developments, and also chose to protect himself against all disasters (which did save him 3 disaster points at one stage).
Scott managed to collect a lot of goods (helped by his Caravan storage) and bought both large Developments at the end of the game for a good score.
Jon had decided to build only 5 cities, but picked up the Masonry development which helped him to complete both the Pyramid and Temple monuments. Combined with the Empire development, this gave him a massive 44 points in total.
This game really is tough on new players compared to those that have played before, as the knowledge of development combinations and game length significantly inform a player’s strategy. Having said that, Vicky’s inability to total up 5 small numbers at the end to discover her final score, is less excusable (we’ll assume that the lateness of the hour and the recently played Power Grid were to blame…….)

And to round the evening off -

6Nimmt! (thanks Gareth for these scores)
6Nimmt Two single-round games were played of this card game, which is as much luck as it is skill (which I’m guessing is why Gareth didn’t win either of them…) Both were won by David S. The games can be described as fast, furious fun, with lots of cheers and groans when the cards are revealed. Fingers crossed you are not the one to pick up the collection of bulls heads!
Game 1 - David S. 0; Jim 7; Dan 8; Paul 10; Barrie 23; Gareth 27; Philip 36.
Game 2 - David S. 10; Paul 12; Gareth 14; Phil 17; Barrie 28.

And that brought down the curtain on another evening of fun at the Apprentice. We'll be back at the same venue (upstairs in the Riverview Room) for more gaming around the globe next Wednesday......Adios!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Meet The IBG'ers - #01........

This is a new monthly feature on the blog - a chance for you to find out a little bit more about these strange creatures that lurk about in the upstairs room at The London Apprentice every Wednesday, shuffling little bits of cardboard around on green cloths.

Are they truly normal human beings, or actually some 'lost tribe' of forgotten individuals whose only foray into civilised society is to venture out into the London night once a week and drool over the collection of 'big people's toys' that they bring with them???

You decide.........


     Meet the Isleworth Boardgamers (#01) - Barrie

• Name: Barrie

• Place of birth: Manchester
• Current place of residence: Isleworth

• Status: Separated, 2 grown up children. Loving being a singleton, and don’t really see me getting hitched for some time, I like my own way too much!

• Job: Consultant project manager

• First came to IBG: Founder member

• If you had to describe yourself using just 3 words, what would they be? Honest, Practical, Fair

• Top 3 favourite board games:
1) Powergrid – it’s got everything I like, auctions, strategy, finance etc.
2) Tikal – Just a nice game, lots going on and fun!
3) Year of the Dragon – Cos I usually beat Gareth!

• Least favourite board game: Le Havre – WHAT A BORE....

• Favourite food: LOL – almost anything. Don’t like tripe, and - oddly creamy chicken dishes!

• Favourite drink: Water, water, water!

• If you had to eat a hamster, how would you cook it? Baked in clay

• Greatest achievement in life: My kids, they are bright, clever, polite and self reliant. A job well done!

• If you could have 1 Super-Power for a day, what would it be? Flight...... just imagine!!! (errr....ever heard of something called a plane, Barrie...?)

• If you could have any 4 people for dinner, who would you invite? Easy one – Stephen Hawkins, Les Dawson, Joanna Lumley, Arnold Schwarzenegger

• Pet Peeve: Lack of consideration

• If you could only have 3 songs on your i-Pod, what would they be? 
1) Perfect - The The
2) Sunscreen - Baz Lurman
3) Autobahn - Kraftwerk

• When I'm not at IBG, I like to: Do a little archery, gardening, party, BBQ, have friends round for food and drinks, walk, cycle, Xbox.

• Would you rather... when faced with an attacking grizzly bear, be armed with a guitar -OR- with a saxophone? Saxophone. With the goddam awful racket a Sax makes, it’s a clear winner to scare any grizzlies in Isleworth away!


And there you have it - you can almost feel what it's like to be inside Barrie's head now, can't you? (That's some bizarre, scary place to be......)

Tune in again next month for a probing and insightful exposition of another regular IBG'er.....


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The Night of the Co-op...........

Players: Paul, Vicky, Maynard, Daniel, Emma, Johan, Tonio, Scott, Rob, David M, Stuart, Barrie, Gareth, Jon, James

There was a welcome return this evening to Rob and Stuart, after long absences from the regular Wednesday night meet-up.
In total, 15 IBG'ers managed to negotiate their way to the London Apprentice tonight, despite the road outside the pub being closed - which seemed to have caused traffic chaos throughout the whole of Isleworth.

Thanks to Barrie, the speakers in the Riverview Room were once again pumping out their eclectic mix of tunes - meaning that Emma did not have to endure another 'quiet night'........ 

The usual “first through the door” comment doesn’t really apply tonight, as David and Stuart arrived at 4.30pm to fit in a game of Space Hulk! This had been finished and cleared away by the time that the rest of us mere mortals started to turn up, so the first ‘official’ game of the evening was –

Katzenjammer Blues
This was another of Gareth’s seemingly endless supply of quick card games. It seems to be a cross between Circus Flohcati and Frank’s Zoo. Players are bidding with cards to gain more cards in order to make ‘melds’ of 4 identical values. These allow you to take a certain number of mice (‘victory point counters’ to you Euro-gamers) of which there are only 24 up for grabs.
As per usual, Gareth hadn’t read the rules to his own game, and even after he did, he managed to somehow miss out an entire page. Fortunately, there were others on hand to ensure that the game could progress smoothly.
There is a nice little rule that states that whoever uses the most jokers loses 5 points at the game end, which is supposed to add a bit of tension as the game goes on. However, Emma played 5 jokers almost immediately, which basically gave everyone else free rein to do what they liked.
Jon managed to collect a set of 5’s quite early on, whilst Barrie laid down several low-numbered sets. Everything was quite tight until Scott suddenly unleashed his masterstroke of laying down 4’s and 5’s in a single turn, picking up 9 mice in the process.
This was enough to easily win him the game, whilst Barrie was able to pick up the final mouse in order to secure equal second. More importantly to Barrie, it denied Gareth a single mouse, leaving him in last place (a theme that would be repeated throughout the evening…)
Scott 9; Jon 5; Barrie 5; Emma 0 (5-5); Gareth 0

Several IBG'ers had been sampling some of the London Apprentice's fine fare, but had now finished stuffing their faces and decided to start playing games; in this case -

Pirates (thanks James for this report)
Avast there me hearties, shiver me timbers, yo ho ho and a bottle of The Apprentice's finest real ale. Land lubbers listen to my tale of daring do’s on the world’s oceans and ... and ... and ... I'm going to stop there before I use up all my pirate-talk in the first paragraph...
So Tonio provided the first game of the evening or should I say the first game for those of us who are not students and therefore able to turn up at the pub at 4pm and play Space Hulk while drinking themselves into a stupor in preparation for later. A strategy that might've worked if the later games had included beer and pretzels. I'm not sure if Stuart's preparation included any bottles of rum but either way it was pirate time.
This game was new to everyone apart from Tonio but pretty simple to pick up. You takes your 5 trusty pirates, jump on top of other players unsuspecting pirates to raise a crew and then, when you've press ganged enough unwilling sailors into a motley crew, you can pillage one of the available ships, grab the booty and spread the pieces of eight amongst your now grateful shipmates before returning them home for more adventures.
With new games the best initial strategy is usually to watch what the people who already know the rules do and try to copy them, however as this would mean copying Tonio, the idea was universally ditched early on and so several competing strategies seemed to develop.
Stuart was collecting crews at a similar speed to Russ picking up games at Essen, Paul was collecting bonus rewards (with a apparent fetish for candelabras); David was infiltrating other crews to take his share of the spoils (while letting everyone else do the work); James was trying to raid the bigger ships, and Tonio was generally talking one strategy whilst doing something different... either as a way of confusing the rest of us, or because that’s just what Tonio does...
As to the details of the game, many ships were boarded, money was grabbed, cutlasses were brandished and virgins were sacrificed (no, sorry that’s another game). Then, with one ship left, the game took an interesting turn as no-one seemed to want to take it, and so we ended up with crews being built up higher and higher as all the available sailors were taken.
We were down to just 2 players (Paul and Stuart) and 4 crews of 6/7 before eventually Stuart’s will broke (or perhaps decided he couldn't wait any longer before buying another beer) and he claimed the last ship.
And thus it was time to check the scores. James had the most by a point over David and thus claimed the role of Capt Pugwash to David's Cutthroat Jake. Tonio's middle ground bestowed on him the role of Tom the Cabin Boy, while Paul and Stuart finished joint last which, I believe, officially wins them the roles of Seaman Staines and Master Bates…
James 79; David 78; Tonio 65; Paul 59; Stuart 59

Cleared of the detritus from the 'feasting four', the other table had now been laid with a games cloth in readiness for the return of -

Cuba (thanks Gareth for this one)
Gareth brought this along again for a second game since Xmas with a new group of players. The rules were explained as quickly as possible but did take around 30 minutes. Dan, realizing he was in for a two hour euro game, made his excuses after 20 minutes and was replaced by Paul.
Once the game started things moved on quickly and everybody seemed to have picked up the general idea. Gareth went into an early lead by loading the first ship up with goods, but this was short lived. He proceeded to buy the Cigar Factory and Café, but didn’t place them well on the board to optimize the tobacco production. Towards the end of the game he also purchased the large bank, but it was too late for the additional money to have much effect on the game.
Paul on the other hand went for alcohol production, buying the Distillery, Rum Café and an extra Warehouse and then proceeded to hoard sugar. Johan went for the Dam and Golf Course strategy and by mid game had also bought the Inn and Town Hall giving greater influence on any new statutes passed.
Finally, Scott went for a bit of everything with the Cigar Factory, Hotel, Lighthouse and Small Bank.
Paul moved into the lead by the mid game and held the position through to the end. With only three points between second and fourth place it was a close game. Gareth’s experience of playing the game previously seemed to have little effect, as he came in last place (for the 2nd time tonight...) Definitely a game to play again.
Paul 72; Johan 65; Scott 64; Gareth 62

After playing musical chairs at the Cuba table Daniel joined with the group who had just finished Pirates for -

Space Alert (thanks to Daniel for the next 2 reports)
With the sudden arrival of Rob there were just a little too many to play Space Alert, so Daniel took the role of game explainer and moderator, watching the game unfold and providing support, advice and occasional abuse from the sidelines. Fortunately Space Alert is one of those games that is almost as much fun to watch as it is to play!
Seduced by the Intergalactic Peacekeeping Force And Interstellar Gourmet Coffee Chain's advertising slogan “Be a real man/woman/multi-tentacled blob, see the universe and blow stuff up,” five foolhardy (ahem, I mean brave) cadets enrolled and the excitement was palpable for their first supervised training mission.
James was forcibly volunteered as Captain with his crew consisting of First Mate Stuart, Communications Officer David, Security Officer Rob and last but certainly not least, Tonio as the Ship's Mascot. Induction and training by veteran combat commander Daniel was quickly dispensed without too many blank stares and the crew declared fit and ready for their first journey aboard the good ship Sitting Duck.
After being flung through hyperspace deep into the centre of enemy territory James immediately displayed the unique credentials that made him stand out as officer material. “Uhm... so what now?”
Fortunately the ships computer left little time for hesitation and reported an incoming Pulse Ball off the starboard side that would rip through the ships shields unless handled effectively. Remembering the strategic advice offered during training the crew immediately decided to launch a combined attack with both starboard cannon. So keen were they to do so that the entire crew ran to the same weapons control unit together, presumably fighting amongst themselves for the inestimable honour of pressing a big red shiny button. Realising that there may be a slight tactical error in their current plans the crew continued a lively debate on who should go where whilst the computer announced a new threat, this time a heavily beweaponed Destroyer heading directly for the ship.
The crew were so involved in strategy discussion that they missed a fleeting opportunity to exchange action cards and by the time that a deadly Stealth Fighter was reported on the Port side the first action phase was drawing to a close without anybody placing any orders! Realising that this would mean they would be milling about on the bridge arguing whilst under heavy attack, the crew pulled themselves together and set to countering the Pulse Ball as a priority.
The second action phase ran more smoothly with the crew settling into the pace of the game and rushing about the ship on various jobs loading shields and priming weapons for attack. Precisely seven minutes after arrival, the Sitting Duck returned home and the crew were able to replay precisely what had transpired during their maiden journey. Working through the game turn by turn the crew did an effective job of wiping out the Pulse Ball almost immediately after it appeared with a full broadside attack. The rest of the enemy ships were quickly dispatched with only superficial damage breaking through the the red sector shields.
Although the port side shields were enthusiastically yet unnecessarily powered up it didn't impact on the smooth running of the main cannon. With three trophies of war and a safe return home James and crew had good reason to celebrate.
James; Stuart; David; Rob; Tonio - all won

Pleased with how well they handled their first outing the crew immediately re-enlisted for mission #2...

Space Alert
Due to his success James accepted promotion to Air Marshal And Chief Milk Frother, stepping aside from the general running of the ship in favour of new Captain Stuart. Emboldened by their previous rampant success the crew ventured out into new territory gleefully chanting the Space Corps battle motto “operor vos quoque volo amicus” (eh?)
Confidence was high and this time round the crew we're keen to combine their efforts to ensure that good energy flow around the ship would be a priority. Some crew members were keener than others in this respect although the implications of this wouldn't show until the replay.
David immediately latched onto the best way to cope with the Energy Cloud that the ship was flying directly into, and manged to avoid making the rookie mistake often made at this point by holding fire on the Pulse Cannon until the threat was within range of this particular weapon. Unfortunately for him none of his crewmembers managed to man the main battery at the same time so his attack was overall fairly ineffective and the ship was quickly enveloped by the cloud - which stripped away the shields that Tonio had just primed to capacity.
Determined to single-handedly save the ship, Tonio immediately reloaded the shields on his next turn, although the crew were less than amused when doing this emptied the reactor thus rendering the starboard cannons inoperable, allowing a Cryoshield fighter to wreck havoc as it closed in for the kill. Amid cries of “Cylon!” (the IBGers once again confusing their games) Tonio continued to load the non-existent shields from the empty reactor whilst James and Rob watched the cannons they were trying to fire remain disappointingly quiet.
David did his part to rectify the energy crisis by feeding energy rods into the main reactor, but once again his actions were fruitless as most of this energy was wasted and not pumped through to the crucial side reactors.
Meanwhile James had danced across to the other side of the ship and with Stuart in the bowels of the red sector they tried to get the port side weapons operational. For some reason this mainly consisted of running up and down the stairs a lot but eventually they were able to get a couple of shots in although sadly too little too late.
The massive cannons of the incoming port side Gunship, in combination with the detrimental effects of the Energy Cloud, tore into the unprotected hull of the Sitting Duck. With both wings of the ship ruined and most of the crew vapourised, contact was eventually lost.
Unconfirmed reports have surfaced from the ship's last moments before destruction that Tonio was heard crying the words “Gazpatcho Soup!”
James; Stuart; David; Rob; Tonio - all lost

With most of the table keen to settle down to play the totally-not-anything-remotely-like-Dominion-honest game Thunderstone, Tonio bowed out to play Small World with the other girls. Little did he know that later events during Saboteur would cement his reputation of being IBG's 'Official Cylon'...

Thunderstone (thanks David for this info)
A small number of brave militiamen, equipped only with a few daggers, torches and rations, ventured out in search of the fabled Thunderstone, facing dangers lurking within the Dungeon that included abominable Abyssals, dastardly Doomknights and odious Oozes.
Rob and James managed a few early dungeon kills, before joining the rest of the players in the village. After some shopping/hero-hiring they were able to again enter the dungeon to kill some more monsters and acquire XP, rapidly followed by David (each monster killed inevitably being followed by a cry of ‘Damn! I was going to kill him!’ from at least one other player).
These three continued to make regular trips to the dungeon, whilst Stuart and Dan became increasingly familiar with the inhabitants of the village. (oo-er missus...) James in particular looked to be doing well, with Rob’s and David’s visits to the dungeon slightly less frequent.
By the time the Thunderstone itself appeared in the darkest recesses of the dungeon, Dan and Stuart had still not been able to score a kill. With the end of the game approaching, David was able to make one final trip to the dungeon to kill a powerful monster worth 6 VPs, and moments later Stuart was able to end the game by claiming the Thunderstone itself on his first and only dungeon expedition.
Having acquired the assistance of a motley collection of hired heroes and what supplies and spell scrolls they could purchase from the local village, the militiamen fought their way, at great cost, through armies of undead, hellspawn and other horrors before finally acquiring their prize.
A final count of the VPs revealed the surprising conclusion that David’s final kill had been decisive!
David 21; Stuart 5; Rob 16; Dan 2; James 18

Meanwhile, back on the first table, several other IBG'ers were also participating in a bit of co-op action; of the chaotic castle-defending kind -

Castle Panic
Only Jon had played before, but the rules are quick to explain. The only thing that comes as a surprise to new players is that the monsters move nearer to the castle on every turn. Combined with the constant introduction of new monsters, this certainly helps to provide the ‘panic’ element to the game.
As Barrie is a real-life crack-shot with a bow and arrow, he seemed to be an ideal compatriot for taking out the monsters at long range. By the time that each player had had a single turn, however, the monsters (and a giant boulder) had already managed to knock down 3 castle walls. Things were not looking good.
The monsters were relentless, and it seemed that whenever a cunning stratagem had been formulated by the defenders (“I’ll trade this card with you so that you can kill the monster in the green sector next go”), a token would be revealed that moved the monsters around and scuppered those best laid plans.
Maynard was forced to use his Barbarian prematurely, which, being the only one in the deck, was being saved for a rainy day. However, despite the loss of more walls and a few towers, and Emma’s initial reluctance to trade any cards in case someone else killed a monster instead of her, the brave quintet were still in with a chance.
There were 10 tokens left to be revealed, when Emma managed to turn over a combination that led to 7 monsters being added on a single turn, instead of the normal 2. Cue more panic.
After much swordsplay and bow-twanging, the team were left with two towers standing, a 1-strength monster inside the castle (who would die when it brought one tower down) and only a couple of trolls still advancing. The smell of hope was in the air. Against all the odds, it seemed that the defenders would prevail. Until – the last but one token revealed another Giant Boulder. The words “Don’t roll a 3 or a 4” had hardly passed Jon’s lips when Emma rolled……….a 4. The sound of falling masonry heralded the collapse of the penultimate tower, and without another Barbarian or a “Drive him back!” card, it was left to the Troll Mage to suicidally bring down the final edifice, and with it the hopes of 5 war-weary players. Maybe next time….
Jon; Barrie; Emma; Vicky; Maynard - all lost

Maynard had the choice of next game, and decided to revisit –

PowerGrid: Factory Manager
Maynard set the game up whilst Jon explained the rules for Small World to Vicky, and Barrie got the drinks in. Finally, the 3 players reconvened, and Barrie was taught the rules. This is quite a tough game to pick up on the first play, so Barrie did a good job of hanging on in there.
Jon decided on a new tactic (for him) of upping production and storage as quickly as possible, without worrying too much about keeping down energy costs or manpower requirements. Consequently his energy use quickly shot up to 9 and his workers to 5, although he was starting to rake in a fair bit of cash.
Maynard quickly built some labour-saving machines, and therefore had more workers at his disposal for bidding, buying and jiggling his factory around. He didn’t seemed too bothered about going first in the turn order though, until later in the later in the game, leaving that privilege to Jon.
Barrie was obviously trying to feel his way into the game, choosing not to compete for first in turn order, as well as unfortunately buying a robot that ended up being redundant for most of the game. He was also initially finding it difficult to get a good cash flow going, preferring instead to treat the game as a kind of “credit crunch simulation.”
After a couple of rounds, Jon decided that he needed to pull back on his power costs, or else the National Grid might collapse, so he bought an expensive computer which also helped automate some of his production. An upgrade and removal of an inefficient production machine also helped.
Maynard had now started to get his production line going, although he was slightly annoyed (when he finally did choose to bid to get the first-turn tile), that Jon did not bring down the hardware that he would have liked into the market. Being the gentleman that he is, he chose to voice his frustration by calmly uttering – “I am disappointed that your objectives do not fully align with mine.” (And then proceeded to beat Jon over the head with a metal bar…)
Moving into the final round, none of the players had yet used any of their factory extension spaces, and as Jon and Maynard had already used up all their other spaces, there were a number of calculations being made as to whether any further machine purchases were actually going to turn a profit. After a (lengthy) pause, Jon decided ‘no’, and chose simply to sit on his $145 collected from previous turns.
Maynard did a little more jiggling, and Barrie took the opportunity to catch up with everyone else’s production and storage capacities. When the totals were totted up, Maynard was pleased with his “higher than previous games” total, but suffered from a slightly low production output in the end.
Barrie had actually done really well for a first game (ending with the highest production capacity), and if it hadn’t been for the early redundant robot, would have undoubtedly done even better.
Jon’s strategy of “get the cash quick and then sit on it” seemed to have worked in this particular game, although it’s questionable whether or not he would get away with that again.
Jon $335 (100 prod/100 storage); Maynard $223 (80/80); Barrie $181 (110/100)

As previously mentioned, Tonio had joined the ladies for some war-mongering -

Small World (thanks to Tonio for this info)
Jon did a super job of going over the rules before the game began. Emma started the game off by skipping the Mounted Trolls and playing with the plentiful Heroic Ratmen, taking control of the NW of the board. Tonio took the free coin and the Mounted Trolls (interesting concept) and entered the world from the SW to maximise the number of hills and farm regions (which cost one less to attack with the "mounted" ability). Vicky paid a few coins and started her play with the Beserk Dwarves. Entering from the uncontested Eastern side of the world and with the helpful "beserk" dice, Vicky's dwarves were able to conquer 5 regions including two mines. A lovely start and at this point Vicky had already got Emma and Tonio worried.
The extra reinforcements from the Trolls' lairs meant that Tonio spread the Trolls out thinly, and Emma's Ratmen were able to slowly eat into their number.
Meanwhile, Vicky continued to play a strong game taking on the Swamp Sorcerers. The Sorcerers entered the board from the West and so were able to benefit from turning lone Ratmen and Trolls into Sorcerers.
Having out-served their usefulness, Tonio declined the Trolls and went for the Merchant Skeletons. The Merchant ability also served him well last week, giving an extra coin for every region controlled. Now with Skeletons (that can increase in number when the defeat two occupied regions) he looked like he was developing a strong position. However, he tried to convince Emma that Vicky was definitely winning, to get the heat off his own back......(how chivalrous...) 
Emma declined her Ratmen and went for the exciting sounding Pillaging Ghouls. Emma's gameplan would be to decline them as soon as possible, but the coins that come from pillaging were also an incentive to play them for a couple of rounds. Emma went on to play Wealthy Amazons, who proved quite formidable. Unfortunately, she did manage to take out some of her own declined pieces, which was probably due to her having too many in one area.
Tonio eventually declined the faithful Merchant Skeletons and adopted the Flying Tritons for a last push.
Tonio 113; Vicky 102; Emma 90

With Cuba finally over, this table chose to stay together and bring out the ever-faithful -

Ra (thanks again Gareth)
No rules explanation was needed, as all the players were familiar with the game.
Paul took an early lead in the first round, having a good selection of civilization tiles.
In round two Gareth’s Nile and flood tokens went into double figures giving a well needed boost to his score, but he was still in third place due to his very poor first round.
Scott and Johan continued to build up their monument numbers and by the final round it looked as if Johan would be the clear winner. Unfortunately for Johan, Scott just managed to edge past, going from last place to first with a massive twenty six points to Johan’s twenty.
A great way to spend 45 minutes on a game that is sure to be brought out again soon.

Having lost Tonio, the other Space Alerters decided to push their luck even further -

Diamant (thanks Rob for this report)
In this game the hazards came thick and fast and the cowardly prospered. In the first tunnel Rob signalled his intent and scarpered just as a rockfall crushed the rest of the group.
The next two rounds ended quickly and horribly for the adventurers. The fourth mine seemed the most promising with Dan and David venturing furthest. With gems spilling out of his pockets Dan skipped back to camp just at the moment David was killed. (“Why did it have to be snakes?”)
The stage was set for a tense final round. Unfortunately everyone died within three cards of the entrance to complete the least successful expedition since Scott of the Antarctic (bizarrely, the first of 2 mentions for this explorer, by separate reporters this evening!)
Rob 23; Dan 21; James 12; Stuart 10; David 0

This table was now joined by the girls (sorry...Tonio and the girls), in order to have a full house for even more mining exploits -

Saboteur (thanks to Daniel again)
The game began in typically high spirits with accusations flying around the table. Maps were played early by James, Tonio and Daniel and the miners began creeping toward their goals.
Although Tonio was first to come under suspicion with some unusual tunnel arrangements, the mind games at the table were going nowhere and Daniel was the first to openly reveal himself as a Saboteur, 'rockfalling' one of the tunnels, only to be promptly blocked out of the game when the wheels came flying off his mining cart.
Vicky quickly joined him with a broken lamp after she also made life difficult for the miners. Despite wholehearted agreement that Tonio would be the third Saboteur it eventually transpired that that honour belonged to David, who had quietly been discarding cards out of his hand for most of the game.
The miners fell hopelessly short of achieving their goal and round one went to the Saboteurs. How Tonio managed to be on the miners side whilst seeming to be completely the opposite all game long can only mean one thing - he really is a Cylon after all...
Round 2 started off quickly with plenty of tunnels being dug, however they ended up going round and round in circles and eventually nowhere useful.
As the miners' frustration increased, James quickly became obvious as the first Saboteur then yes, you've guessed it, Tonio was the next to "reveal". Rob followed soon after although he made a hash of trying to block the tunnel with an illegal card placement.
The endgame took some bizarre turns when Vicky (our resident strawberry-blonde) had a self-confessed ‘blonde moment’, missing a chance to end the game in the miners’ favour, whilst Daniel suddenly realised that he was holding two broken lamp cards that could have been used to slow down the Saboteurs.
The finish was close but a lack of crossroad cards meant that the Saboteurs were once more successful in foiling the miners’ attempts to get the elusive gold. With the pub wanting to close, there wasn't enough time to play a third hand, so the game was ended prematurely.
Daniel 3; Vicky 3; David 3; James 3; Rob 3; Tonio 3; Stuart 0; Emma 0

And to close proceedings, after a successful first outing last week, it was a welcome return to another large-group game –

Johan couldn’t be persuaded to join in, so 6 players started the game. It was new to Paul, Maynard and Scott, but the rules were quickly explained and the players were soon off hunting.
Scott was the first to utter the famous cry of “Doomed!” leaving Maynard to lead the first hunt for 5 seals in 4 days. He managed to recruit Barrie and Paul, who then proceeded to catch a whole herd of seals and avoid the Nanuks to successfully complete the first hunt.
The roles were reversed for the 2nd hunt, with Maynard this time proclaiming Scott’s hunt (7 birds / 3 days) to be doomed. Captain Scott failed to recruit any other hunters, and his ice-bound journey therefore proved to be as fruitless as his famous ancestor’s (see?!)
Gareth then ended up being hunt leader for the next 4 rounds, with Paul and Jon taking it in turns to doom the hunt. After 2 unsuccessful attempts to catch seals and deer, Barrie uttered the immortal words, “Gareth – you’re the worst hunt leader ever….” and so (unwisely) chose not to follow him on the final hunt, which turned out to be a cakewalk of catching 6 birds in 1 day.
Although the deck hadn’t yet run out, the clock had caught up with the players and it was universally agreed to call it a day after 6 rounds. Paul, Maynard and Barrie had all chosen the successful side in 5 out of the 6 hunts, but Paul just squeaked home by a single point from the other two.
The other three players shared 4th place (i.e. joint last), which helped to cap a fine evening of bringing up the rear for Gareth.
Paul 11; Barrie 10; Maynard 10; Jon 5; Scott 5; Gareth 5

As we are good little gamers, we like to tidy up after ourselves and put the tables back in their rightful places. Unfortunately, Daniel's interpretation of 'rightful place' meant right in front of the door to the staff quarters. With that kind of forward planning, maybe it's just as well he wasn't able to play Space Alert......

And so that's it for another night of gaming fun in West London. Catch you next week for another installment.....