Wednesday, 17 March 2010

"A funny thing happened on the way to IBG tonight............"

Players: Emma, Barrie, Philip, Paul, Jon, Johan, Scott, Tonio, James, Gareth

Evicted from our usual residence in the Riverview room, the IBG'ers re-located to the Conservatory, which, to be fair, worked out ok (apart from some disconcertingly sticky tables...)

Gareth was due to be starting the Formula D season off tonight, but somewhat ironically, his car broke down on the way to the club. He still managed to valiantly get himself to the London Apprentice, but in a strange case of board games imitating life, proceeded to drive his little plastic car about as successfully as his real-life one........ 

Fortunately, the Apprentice staff had reserved 3 of the largest tables in the Conservatory (although as it happens, we only actually needed 2), which meant that there was plenty of room for the earlier arrivers to have another go at -

Nicht die Bohne!
This was new to Jon, Barrie and Paul, but the only thing that really needs explaining is how you get to select which cards to pick up (you get to choose a card after another player chooses yours). This is a neat little mechanic which makes it a bit different from the numerous other set-collecting card games out there.
James suggested some strategic moves to the new players, and then succumbed to one of the dreaded ‘Nicht die Bohne’ cards, and a minus card, to leave his score at halfway rather unimpressive.
Scott and Barrie were building up their scores nice and steadily, whilst Jon was busy trying to protect his pile of red cards, which were the only ones that he was going to end up scoring with. Paul however, had started to build quite a stack of yellow cards, and then whipped the yellow ‘x2’ from in front of Jon to give himself a very tidy score.
Jon managed to protect his red cards, but having a minus score in another colour resulted in an embarrassingly low final total. James’ fortune picked up in the second half, resulting in a close race for second place.
But there was no catching Paul, who ran away with it having quietly racked up a very impressive total.
Paul 63; Scott 47; James 45; Barrie 44; Emma 29; Jon 20

Having failed to get this to the table last week, Tonio tried again, and this time found 3 willing accomplices to play –

This is a pretty-looking game, based around fruit collection and delivery on the island of Mallorca. Tonio did a good job of explaining the rules, which, to be fair, are relatively straightforward. The central mechanic is based around a rondel, which the players move their workers around to collect different types of fruit in varying quantities. They also pick up ‘donkey tokens’ along the way, which enable them to convert their collection of fruit into deliveries (max 6 per donkey), which in turn translate into victory points.
This was certainly a learning game for the 3 newbies. First lesson learned by Jon was – “Don’t deliver less than the maximum 6 fruits on any turn”. His early delivery of only 4 bunches of grapes didn’t help his cause much.
The rondel became quite congested during the opening phase of the game, resulting in Paul and Jon picking up 5 and 6 figs respectively. Tonio was next to play, and pointed out that if he were to move onto the fig space, there wouldn’t be enough in the supply to collect, therefore Jon and Paul would lose all of their figs. He gallantly chose not to undertake this move, but Johan showed himself to be a big fat fruit thief by using a special move token to do exactly that. His haul was 7 figs, whilst Jon and Paul lost all of theirs. This swing of a dozen pieces of fruit is certainly significant in a game of this nature, so Jon and Paul spent the rest of the game scowling grumpily at the figging Dutchman.
Halfway through the game, Tonio suddenly revealed that he had collected a complete set of delivery tokens, resulting in a bonus score of 7 points. It was quickly becoming obvious that the finca tiles (worth 5 each) and the bonus tiles were going to contribute significantly to a players’ final score (and when I say “a player” I mean Tonio…)
Not content with stealing lots of fruit, Johan now decided to start donkey rustling, and, with a vindictive move on the rondel, succeeded in making Paul and Jon lose 3 donkeys each. Two words – Game Over.
When the scores were totted up, the points from fruit deliveries were reasonably close, but it was the bonuses which made the difference. Jon didn’t manage to pick up a single finca tile, while Johan and Paul got one each. Tonio picked up 3, and was the only player to pick up the bonus for a complete set of deliveries. He also had one of his ‘special move’ tokens left, which was worth a further 2 points, giving him a total that was well in excess of the other 3 players.
It’s probable that the next time this gets played (and it almost certainly will), players will be a little more savvy as to what deliveries to make, which will probably spread the bonus tokens out a little more resulting in a closer end result.
But, as has previously been mentioned at IBG, it’s probably the mark of a good game when the experienced player beats the newbies on their first game – it’s what happens next time that really matters…..

Meanwhile, over on the other table, a trip back in time to ancient Egypt was called for -

Priests of Ra (thanks James for this report)
RAAAAAAAA… no, not the sound of Emma after Scott stood on her foot but the yells of the IBG'ers as they check out this latest variation on the classic Knizia game. New only to Emma this game is deserved of its classic status being easy to pick up but having enough decision making to keep people interested throughout the game.
Ra has been a common visitor to the IBG tables but this was the first outing for the new version… would it compare favourability? The game play is identical but scoring here is simplified with fewer elements. Worker tiles are scored if you have the most of a colour, building tiles are scored in coloured pairs, plague tiles give compounded minus scores (not targeted against specific types as in Ra), Priests can removed plagues and finally, pyramids can be built to score at the end of the 3rd round. The new twist is that certain tiles are 2 sided and the person drawing can select which site to auction.
Emma took to this game with gusto, so much so that she’d used all her 3 Sun’s (bidding pieces) in the first Epoch before anyone could say ‘cute dragon’ and was resigned to watching events…
However as said events turned out to be lots and lots of nasty Ra tiles, this round finished way earlier than expected and Emma took a comfy lead. Philip and Barrie both ended up with no tiles and no points at all after Epoch 1.
Epoch 2 started with everyone bidding early to try and make up for lost chances. Emma again dropped down to one Sun early (the Sun being the ‘1’ piece) so was calling Ra each time it was her turn which in turn kept the spoils of each winning bid relatively small. James was trying to build a multicoloured pyramid but seemed to end up just collecting Plagues whilst Barrie was on a building run and Philip and Scott we picking up workers and buildings at a steady pace.
It was at this point that James realised that ‘white’ didn’t qualify as a colour in the bonus points scoring for pyramids and thus what little strategy he’d developed collapsed around him (much like this pyramids).
Epoch 3 was interesting as both rounds before had ended earlier than expected. Lots of tiles available and not many Ra’s, so the thinking was to let the tiles string out as long as possible… not that Emma took any notice, seemingly playing her own variation of Speed Ra.
James had given up on his multi coloured temple and apparently was trying to build a city based on plagues and I’m sure if there were rat tiles available he’d have been bidding for them as well. Philip seemed to have a habit of drawing out completely blank tiles, a clever strategy if they counted as wild tiles…. however they actually counted as ‘shouldn’t have been in the bag to begin with’ tiles so no points there...
Scores were close at the end (apart from the diseased and ruined city of Jamestown). Barrie jumped ahead of Emma in scoring by taking the ‘highest total tile’ 5 points bonus while Emma lost 5 points with the lowest (no points for quickest sadly) but at the end it made little difference as Philip’s kingdom took the victory… we did have a slight suspicion that he’d been colouring in all the blank tiles he’d found to his own gain but as we couldn’t find any felt-tip pens there was no evidence to back this up.
Phil (King Tut) 48; Barrie (Anubis) 41; Emma (Cleopatra) 41; Scott (Tintin in the land of the Pharaohs) 39; and James (Snowy) 30

By this time, Gareth had finally overcome his transport difficulties and arrived at the Apprentice. His arrival heralded the start of the Formula D season, but the non-Petrol-Heads decided to break out a new Game of the Month -

Tigris and Euphrates (thanks Philip for this one)
Philip and Johan had played before, but this was new to Paul, who got off to a flying start by building a Blue and Black Monument on the only place you can build a monument with blue tiles. He never lacked for Blue points thereafter, though Philip was able to sneak his Black leader into the kingdom and leech the black points.
Johan's initial attempt to build up an external threat to Paul's Blue leader was scotched by Philip prematurely starting the conflict (in order to pick up a treasure). Therefore, he slowly prepared a more thorough attack, picking up the whole of that kingdom about 2/3 of the way through the game, which allowed him to gain a cube in each colour every turn for most of the endgame.
Meanwhile, Paul experimented with kingdoms in other parts of the board, with Philip's green leader following at his heels to snap up any treasures going. This led to the formation of a large southern kingdom, which then spread northwards, with Philip's red leader defeating Paul's in a couple of criticial external conflicts.
Paul built another Blue and Black monument in this southern Kingdom, which he held uncontested for the brief remainder of the game as Philip swiftly reduced the number of treasures on the board to 2.
In the final scoring, Philip's posession of 6 of the 8 treasures that the players had plundered was a decisive factor in victory.
Philip 9; Johan 6; Paul 5

Having a large table now proved to be a godsend, as it gave plenty of space to play a 7-player game of -

Formula D
The full blow-by-blow account is still in testing, so you'll have to put up with this practice lap of a synopsis until the main report gets onto the starting grid......

  • Jon took an early lead with a flying start and never looked back (wise advice when you're driving an F1 car at 150 mph...)
  • Gareth left a trail of death and destruction in his wake, seemingly unable to get the image of his own real-life smoking automobile out of his head....
  • Every car managed to eventually make it across the line (somehow...)
  • The initial 2-lap race was converted into a single lap race when it was realised that: (a) Jon would win; (b) Gareth's car would soon explode; (c) Christmas was coming.....
It was nearly 11pm, but there were still a number of takers for a final game, so James took advantage of some game-choosing indecision to set up –

Wits and Wagers
Being a ‘party game’, this is very different fare to the normal games played at IBG, but it actually fits in really well as a fun, social, multi-player event at the end of the evening. In each of the 7 rounds, a question is asked which has a numeric answer. It would be very unlikely that anyone would know the exact answer to any of the questions, but that doesn’t matter, as all the guesses are placed in ascending order, then players get to bet on which answer they think is closest to the correct one. And as there was only 30 minutes available, speed was also of the essence...
The second question was “In what year did IBM release their first personal computer?” Barrie rather screwed up here, as he had read the answer before making his own guess, resulting in a void round – but not before Gareth had revealed his carefully considered answer of “1945”. That would be the well-known ‘Spitfire PC’ then would it…..?! (Actual answer - 1981 if anyone cares…)
However, Gareth was given the opportunity to re-establish his reputation as a knowledgeable man by revealing his best guess at the length of the River Nile. Unfortunately, when the real answer was read out, it was somewhat higher than the “60 miles” that Gareth had ventured (4160 actually.) In his defence, no-one else got within 1000 miles of the correct answer either….
And at least Gareth didn’t come last – that position was reserved for Tonio, ending the game with 50 points less than he started with. It’s a good job, therefore, that Tonio’s profession isn’t in any way related to education or numbers……
All in all, this was a fun-filled way to round the evening off, with James playing the role of ‘Croupier on Speed’ to perfection.
Emma 130; Jon 120; James 100; Scott 85; Gareth 60; Barrie 50; Tonio 30

Next week, we'll be back in the Riverview Room, and hopefully Gareth will have his car in working order again.

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