Wednesday, 3 March 2010

An evening in the Wild, Wild West.......(of London)...........

Players: Barrie, Ian, James, Tonio, Johan, Scott, Steph, Emma, Jon, Russ, Rob, Philip, Gareth, Paul D, Jeff

Just when you thought that Spring was on its way, and Tonio could hang up his collection of winter headgear, the Arctic temperatures returned to Isleworth. However, 15 IBG'ers dragged themselves along to the London Apprentice, including newcomer Jeff who came along with Rob (via some part of North America judging by his accent).

Tonight, the early birds decided that eating was more important than playing games, so once the scoffing was over, the usual opening fillers were passed over in favour of some meatier fare, the first being -

Goa (thanks to Ian for this report)
This was the second outing for Goa as current game of the month, with Gareth and Philip having played last week and Ian and Paul as new recruits. Gareth started with a thorough explanation of the rules , taking care to stress several times that most money was worth 3 VPs at the end to avoid any accusations of omitting that crucial detail again….
Gareth drew 'first player' so started with the flag to position, and slightly less ducats (Goa money). He managed to bag start player again in the first auction getting an extra action, whilst Phil and Paul grabbed spice plantations with Ian getting some extra colonists.
Phil and Gareth set off towards a strategy of maxing out their expedition track and picking up and using expedition card bonuses to add ships, spice etc as needed. Paul and Ian went with a more balanced approach, progressing all 5 tracks more evenly and generating ships and spice from actions to allow further movement.
Johan pitched up somewhere near this point and took on the twin roles of neutral observer and Gareth-distractor - who knows whether this had an impact on the final outcome...?
In the subsequent auctions Gareth managed to pick up some nice cards that gave free ships and spice every turn, while Ian concentrated on buying any auction items that gave extra actions, at one point ending up with 5 extra actions in one turn and then 4 in the following turn, which enabled him to produce large amounts of ships, spice and cash to further progress his development tracks. Things were looking very tight all the way towards the end, with not too much difference in the visible scoring.
On the last turn Ian used some expedition cards to push further down the development tracks for cash rather than spices and ships, blowing all his cash and leaving Paul getting the 3 bonus points for most money. All the players except Paul managed to get the maximum 10 VPs for founding colonies, with Paul still getting a creditable 6 from 3 colonies. It turned out Gareth had got 10 bonus points from the expedition cards he was holding.
Philip managed to avoid any last turn disasters but had an unluckily poor points return from by far the most expedition cards. Paul had spread his attention a bit too thinly and only maxed out a single track with his others spread more evenly.
However at the end, it turned out that the 34 points Ian had accumulated from the 5 main development tracks and all those extra actions were enough to win a very close game.
Ian 45; Gareth 43; Phillip 39; Paul 36

Meanwhile, Barrie had finally breezed in, and could join in with a "classic" -

El Grande (thanks to James for this one)
So Emma, Scott, James, Steph, and (arriving in the nick of time) Barrie decided this week to play a game that to my basic Spanish translates to “The Big” or “The Thousand” - neither of which really sounds that much fun.
However, I’m led to believe that the enticement of a chance to play this game was the main reason Steph came along… By her own admission, her main pleasure in this game is that it has a physical Castillo (castle) on the board and during the game you can place people in the Castillo to be used later. Maybe Scott should think about getting her a cardboard box and some lego bricks for Xmas….
With Scott explaining the rules it didn’t take too long to get going, and before long the simple but complex beauty of this game had everyone involved. Early days had Barrie coming last (late arrival and subsequent hurried rules catch up being the likely cause) and everyone picking on Scott as some kind of ‘let’s pick on the leader before he becomes the leader’ strategy (a prescient move by all involved). This included Steph as well, which suggests that gaming at their house must be a ‘daggers at dawn’ experience…
Steph (or “that kiwi bird” according to Barrie) took an early lead with James and Emma lagging behind. After 5 rounds Steph, James and Barrie were all tied in the lead on 51 and after the 2nd scoring round James had jumped ahead with a 9 point lead over Barrie.
Steph continued her strategy which was based on the theory that a meeple in the tower was worth 2 on the board, exclaiming in pure glee every time the tower was lifted and she’d managed to build a nice tower from the cubes inside. (Lego, Scott, lego…).
Emma finally realised that winning wasn’t going to be an option tonight, so joined Steph in the game within a game known from now as “putting things in the El Grande tower game”. Emma’s excitement at realising that this was more fun than the actual game does somewhat worry me if she ever gets to play Power Grid…
After a short discussion about Silvanian Houses (what?!?) the end-game proved tense as Scott threw everything at a last ditch strategy, while Steph and Emma threw everything in the castle.
The final scoring round was tallied and as James moved to the front, only to be overhauled by Barrie, Scott came round the last bend to lap the board and win with 102 points.
Everyone seemed very impressed with the game (some even more with the components), and the phrase "future game of the month" was heard to pass from Barrie’s lips (although this might be simply because he didn’t come last in this one).
Scott 102; Barrie 98; James 95; Steph 86; Emma 69

Russ had managed to avoid the "exploding baby"(?!) which had prevented him coming last week, so had turned up clutching -

Carson City
(Hmmm...maybe the exploding baby has prevented him writing a report though.....
Basic summary is:
Rob stole all Tonio's stuff; Tonio threw the toys out of his pram at Rob; Rob smiled back; Jeff had a transatlantic accent; Jon hadn't got a clue what was going on; Russ obviously did.......
Check back later for a more authoratitive update.....)

Russ 42; Rob 29; Jeff 29; Tonio 26; Jon 25

While the Grande gamers waited for one table to finish their gunfights, and another to leave their Indian coastal hippy hangouts they tried a couple of games of -

No Thanks! (thanks James for these ramblings...)
This was new to Emma but the game itself is as simple to pick up as Jon on a Friday night out (whaaaaat?!) In the first game James tried an initial strategy of taking the high card with all the money and hoping to find its neighbours… only to find later than both neighbours had been discarded in the box. Guess who came last.
Emma was going through a learning curve and was distracted by looking for cute baby dragons on the cards, whilst Steph was collecting low numbers. Suspicions were cast on the quality of the shuffling as at one stage the numbers 24-29 came out consecutively, however as Gareth wasn’t involved in this particular game, foul play was not suspected.
Eventually (I think) Steph managed to win this one, despite Barrie being the main beneficiary of the non-Gareth shuffled deck.

Before the 2nd game the deck was put though a blender to try and randomize proceedings and off we went again. This time Emma did a lot better. James still struggled and ended up with a worse score than last time.
Steph collected low numbers again and Barrie found proceedings much trickier without a non-Gareth shuffled deck on his side.
To be honest I’ve no idea who won this one, could’ve been Scott, could’ve been Steph. I seem to remember that we‘d all thought Emma had won until we discovered a missing card so it wasn’t her. Lets say it was a 3 way tie between Barrie, Steph and Scott… no, not Scott as he won El Grande… so officially a tie between Steph and Barrie... Well done.
(Real scores to folow if James ever locates them....)

It was about 10 o’clock and all the tables had finished at the same time. However, even Nanuk wouldn’t be able to handle 15 players, so 3 mid-length games were selected instead. The Carson City crew transferred in James for Tonio, and decided to stay in the Wild West for a game of –

Dice Town
This was new to both Rob and Jeff, but was also a chance to play with the Indian mini-expansion (kindly brought back from Essen by Russ last year). This gives a player who has just won a property claim the opportunity to give this back to the Indians (ahem..."Native Americans") in exchange for a small bonus during the next round. This has a knock-on effect during the game, as it removes many of the ‘1’ value property claims from players’ hands, and makes the use of the pilfering ladies of the Saloon more valuable.
Russ took the ‘eggs in one basket’ approach, and simply collected gold nuggets (often through judicious use of the Doc Badluck option). Rob managed to pick up a number of juicy property claims, (which instantly made him a target for theft by the other players), and was also the first player to run out of money. He realised the significance of this during the very next round, when he rolled a fantastic ‘hand’ on his first throw of the dice, but could only keep one die.
Jeff was making good use of the Saloon to steal Rob’s cards, and spent the last few turns of the game as the Sheriff, eliciting as many bribes as possible from the other players (except from Russ, who, as an upstanding member of the medical fraternity, stolidly refused to offer any backhanders whatsoever).
James and Jon struck some slightly uneasy deals when they had the Sheriff for a couple of turns, promising not to steal from each other in exchange for some goodies. Neither player was sure whether to 100% trust the other, but fortunately each one kept his word, avoiding the necessity of a High Noon duel….
Thanks to a useful General Store card, Jon managed a double Saloon action on the final turn, equitably stealing property claims from Rob and James, which proved to be enough to just pip James at the post. The other 3 players were within 2 points of each other, with Russ’s ‘Nothing-but-Nuggets’ strategy earning him last place.

The other tables had mixed around, with Scott suggesting a third outing at the IBG'ers for -

Colossal Arena (thanks for the report Scott)
A 4 player game ensued with Scott and Steph teaching Gareth and Ian. The rules were grasped pretty quickly but Ian and Gareth were both dubious about actually putting any visible bets down, so Scott and Steph took this opportunity to bet on as much as possible. The others soon cottoned on and began betting as well, before there was nothing left.
Scott and Steph had played it safe and intertwined their bets with each other, knowing that it's a bad idea not to do so, as they like to kill each other off (ahh…young love…)
Everyone was losing a bet here and there each round, although Ian, with his revealed secret bet on the trolls and two other bets on them, managed to keep them alive until the end. Unfortunately with only three creatures alive at the end, Gareth didn't have one to call his own but did bet well on those that the other players were keeping alive.
The scores were close with no-one being completely destroyed during the game – a fate usually reserved for Scott. There were successful secret bets all round but some early bets had secured the game for Scott, who has finally broken his losing streak at the game.
Scott 14; Steph 12; Ian 10; Gareth 10

And there was time for another short game -

For Sale (thanks again Scott)
Despite mixed enthusiasm for playing this game, none of the players had played in a while, High Society was unavailable and No Thanks had been kept aside (for now).
Scott almost made an early mistake by keeping all the property cards in the game. Gareth duly enquired - "We remove some cards with 4 players don't we?" "Are you sure?" "Yeah, because 4 doesn't divide in to 30". "Oh, of course not….."
Steph and Ian favoured dropping out early and spending their money wisely (Ian had to be persuaded on occasion to do so, as spending 4 on getting a 28 is not as efficient as getting the 26 for 1).
Gareth really wanted the 30 and started the bidding at a whopping 12 (cough, splutter…) Surprisingly, he got it… Meanwhile, Scott had managed to get himself quite a lot of middling properties.
The selling phase saw some even cheque rounds where everyone could play fairly low properties and get something good, and some rounds where there was only one or two nice prizes and those with the big properties got those easily.
Gareth now realised that guaranteeing a cheque of $15k by paying $12k for the 30 was not so great and Scott's middling properties were not selling very well. Steph did better, but Ian showed everyone else how to do it.
Ian 70; Steph 63; Scott 56; Gareth 48

And Steph finally got her wish to play even more games of -

No Thanks! (and again...)
In the first game, Steph went big and bet on the 30's getting herself 35, 30, 31 and a lot of chips to go with them. Scott went for a gamble on 18, 20 & 22 while Gareth concentrated his efforts on stopping Scott when both the 19 and 21 came out later.
Ian (although unwillingly due to having no chips) took the 34 that Steph was hoping to send round a few more times and Steph brushed it off with a "It's not like the 32 & 33 will both come out", which unfortunately they both did.
Ian and Gareth in their attempts to mess with the table ended with very high scores whilst Scott and Steph had enough chips to lessen the blows.
Steph 49; Scott 55; Ian 103; Gareth 104

In the second game, Gareth went for a high chip strategy and took as many as he could get his hands on. Steph also got in on the act and made sure that she had some spare chips around. Ian and Scott had not learnt anything and both ended up running low on chips and taking less than ideal cards.
The game ended in a very close contest between the two players fighting for first, with Gareth being the total gentleman and allowing “ladies first”…
Steph 25; Gareth 28; Scott 60; Ian 99

To round the evening off, Tonio had brought along his copy of -

Strozzi (thanks for this info, Philip)
This was new to all apart from Tonio, and is a kind of cross between Ra and Medici.
Philip concentrated on Rome and Venice, getting to the top of the chart in Rome and almost there in Venice. No one got to the top of the charts in Naples.
Others focused on Florence and collecting Art/Architecture/Science. Florence's tie-breaker was only used once, putting Philip in 3rd place on Architecture, who also admits to having some good luck with some fast ships.
Philip 195; Barrie 160; Paul 140; Johan 130; Tonio 115; Emma 110

And that brought the proceedings to a close, with just enough time for the ubiquitous furniture re-re-arranging and the dicovery of a mystery blue cube under one of the tables.....

We'll be back again next week for more of the same, by which time maybe the Hounslow Council Transport Unit will have finished digging up the 6 feet of road outside the pub. We live in hope.....

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