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...........

1 comment:

  1. Hello, and thanks for a great evening at the London Apprentice. Nice to meet like-minded, and we felt very welcome :-) The evening at your club was memorable, and certainly one of the best evenings we had in London. We would rather have a night with extra boardgaming than a second musical:-) We can definitely recommend the trip to London Apprentice, primarily for boardgaming, but also for good food, good atmosphere and hospitality. Maybe we meet again ... if you take a trip to Norway, Haugesund / Karmøy give us a call :-)

    A special thanks to Jon who drove us to the nearest station. We owe you one :-)

    Greetings from Einar og Hanne