Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation..........

Players: Scott, Steph, Maynard, Vicky, Tonio, Paul, Rob, James, Ian, Barrie, Gareth, Philip, Jon, Jeff, Emma, Iain

A great turnout tonight (including a welcome back to long-lost Iain), except that our usual venue was unfortunately cast into darkness prior to our arrival due to some unforeseen local maintenance crew at work (makes a change in Isleworth.....) Anyway, thanks to some swift wheeler-dealing we managed to persuade the recently re-opened Town Wharf to open up its downstairs room to accomodate us, and so the game-playing could continue.

Therefore, we were spread out a little more than usual, and one game even found itself bang slap in the middle of a pub quiz, but much fun was still had by all. Also, Vicky proved that when it comes to common sense, you can't beat having a lady vet on hand........

After all the frantic venue-finding and texting, the first few through the door brought out this recent favourite at IBG -

Wits and Wagers (thanks Paul for this report)
Wits and Wagers seemed to be a fun way to pass time while other gamers made their way to the temporary venue, gambling on confidence in each players knowledge of trivia. A mixed bag of those that had and those that hadn't played it before sat down at the table. Surprisingly, based on the previous weeks evidence the game yielded mainly credible answers, which of course makes for a good competitive game, but doesn't provide much in the way of easy pickings for the earnest game reporter ("Emma, Gareth, fancy some Wits and Wagers next week?")
One point to note is that this is an American-based game and many of the questions did carry a rather American theme. Despite James' best efforts to counteract this by deciding to pass on one highly American question (along the lines of 'who was the 17th president of the US?'), only to be replaced by another of equal 'Yankness' (something like 'who was the 18th president..?') After this failed attempt, it was more or less accepted that our resident American, Jeff, would have a home field advantage, but no one really seemed to care.
A couple of recentish tech questions came up that favoured the 40-somethings in the field ('when did Sony release the Walkman?') and something about a Nintendo Games system that this reporter had absolutely no clue about, despite being in the right age bracket.
Steph displayed an unusually wide knowledge of topics early on and started to look like the favourite to win, but there proved to be a few levellers later on, including the option to blow your whole stash of cash in the last turn. It could be that she started to go downhill when Scott owned up to copying her answers too... we'll never know.
As it happens, Jeff's 'other side of the pond' advantage, and Steph's runaway start didn't seem to benefit them too much, and most parties decided to wager most of their chips if they weren't in the lead on the last turn, hence the wide range of final scores.
The answer to Barrie's question 'did I win?' when he returned after the scores were counted up was a resounding 'no', although he wasn't far off James' winning total - proving that building scale models of the leaning Tower of Pisa in your spare time can actually prove useful when you least expect it.
James 120; Barrie 100; Rob; 100; Paul 60; Geoff 5; Steph 0; Scott 0

Several other IBG'ers had now turned up, and were complaining about the heat coming from the fire at one end of the room. They therefore manfully began transporting tables all the way to the other end of the room, and after much huffing and puffing, they returned only to find that Vicky had found the "off" knob for the gas fire. There's always one.... 

This a quick, fun game that handles up to 8 very nicely thank-you very much. There was a quick rules exploration for the 3 players new to the game (Emma, Ian and Iain) and then the path-laying began.
With 6 players, the stones come into contact after only a few tiles have been laid, and pretty soon the three newbies found themselves surrounding a single empty space. It was Ian's turn to lay a tile, which resulted in all 3 of them plummeting from the board.
Tonio was next to meet his maker, but Vicky had managed to find a nice little empty area all to herself, managing to stay on long enough to see off Jon as well.
Vicky 1st; Jon 2nd; Tonio 3rd; Ian =4th; Iain =4th; Emma =4th

There was time for another quick game (with Maynard stepping in for Iain), and this time it was Emma who found herself in a dead-end with nowhere to go. Not content with his massacre in the first game, Ian again found himself responsible for laying the tile that took 3 players out, leaving just Tonio and Vicky left.
It went down to the last tile, but Tonio just managed to keep his stone in play whilst Vicky found herself on the road to nowhere.
Tonio 1st; Vicky 2nd; Maynard =3rd; Jon =3rd; Ian =3rd; Emma 6th

As everyone had now spread them out between 2 floors of the pub, I have no idea what order the next games were played in. Suffice it to say, they were played somewhere in the building at some point in the evening.

Automobile (thanks to Scott for this review/report)
This week James brought along his rare and valuable copy of Automobile to test drive it. Scott was the only person who had played before and taught Barrie, Iain and James the rules. Steph had done her best to discourage any further interest in it, preaching to the masses that it was awful - she does this often about games Scott likes! (If you are lucky, or just in earshot, she’ll probably also tell you the story of her playing a prototype version of the game a couple of years ago but she won’t tell you that her comments after the game were along the lines of “It’s okay but it’s not like it’s by a famous board game designer.......")
Emma didn’t believe Steph though - she thought that “Automobile” sounded fun - and she didn’t believe Scott either that it was a 2 hour economic game that probably wouldn’t be that appealing to her past the car artwork and little car meeples. She just walked away with that “I’m sure he’s lying to me” look across her face.
Being a Martin Wallace game, there are lots of little intricacies to the rules but the basic premise is that you are investing in car factories across three different types of car markets - Budget, Mid-Range and Luxury. Within those markets there are multiple car models that you may build, proceeding in a fixed track around the board, and therefore you can only begin the game by purchasing the oldest technology. As each person buys a model they are the only ones who can produce that exact model but they open the possibility that the next person can buy newer models for a cheaper technology cost.
Players start with $2000 and over the game’s 4 rounds you win by making the most money; within each round you get three main game actions to perform, namely:
- Build one or two factories for a particular model,
- Close all factories of a model,
- Produce cars,
- Place distributors (sales men),
- Obtain 2 technology cubes to help purchase the newer model cars.
At the start of each round you know what types of cars there will be demand for (e.g. in the first round the only demand is for mid-range cars), to represent this demand there are demand tiles which each player secretly draws so you know a little of the potential demand but not all of it. Unless you are Scott, who (thinking it was something else I promise) stole a look at Barrie’s demand tile in the first round forcing a re-draw.
Each player also gets to select a character to be for the round to get a slight bonus, such as Ford who allows you to build an extra factory. The character chosen also dictates the order of play.
In the first round of actions everyone invested in the world of mid-range cars except Scott who got himself some salesmen and went for budget cars instead. Everyone was fairly cautious and most opted to build one instead of two factories. This resulted in some moderate car production but the demand was sufficient for all cars to be sold.
The whole selling mechanic was seemingly very confusing to everyone as it works backwards from the most recent technology in a circular fashion selling one at a time until cars meeting the demand are sold. Any above the demand left on the model spaces are lost - you don’t get to keep them until next round and in addition you earn loss cubes which makes overproducing a very expensive failure.
Before this happens though the salesmen get their opportunity, but only so many salesmen are allowed to sell each type of car and any of those that fail to sell a car are removed and take loss cubes.
Between those steps you also get a last step of executive decisions to help try and sell more than one car at a time in the sales loop - you can purchase bonus sales markers for technology and place this on a model and this will now sell two instead of one in each loop or you can take the free reduced price markers to place on a model and this will sell an extra car each loop, but you now have to sell both of them at the lower price.
Unfortunately for Iain, he had produced the most cars in round 1 and he was a little worried about their sales potential so he took the double reduced price markers, however with enough demand for all cars anyway they were not necessary and so he was forced to sell them all at the lower price.
Before the round ends, you have to assess each factory for its losses - older technology attracts loss cubes based on how far back it is in that type of car, so buying the newer models also forces your competitors to take losses. With us not progressing that far around the board, the losses were low and loss cubes only cost $10 each in the first round but they don’t disappear and cost more in subsequent rounds. To get rid of them you need to close factories where you can discard half of the loss cubes in front of you or take particular characters to help discard losses.
Round 2 saw some more investment in Mid-Range from Iain while Scott and Barrie branched out in to luxury using their salesmen to seal the deals as there were only demand tiles for Mid-Range and Budget this round. Scott also swooped up another budget model to keep his competition low but James prevented him from having a full monopoly.
The production capacities for luxury and budget were low so demand was easily filled, a few of the older Mid-Range ones had been closed and everyone still in that market did quite well this round. The demand tiles coming out were high and secured sales for everything again.
Round 3 & 4 saw swings towards the budget market now having more potential demand than the mid-range market. There is also a random one tile demand for luxury which you don’t find out until the crucial moment. In our particular game, the commencement of the pub quiz also began around this time and I think we also stole one of their allocated tables in looking for a big one to fit the game on....
In round 3 the adjustment to budget was limited due to Scott taking as many of the budget model spaces as possible, however Iain had been saving up a lot of technology and spent it in a huge leap forward to reach the last budget space for quite a while. Barrie focussed on his luxury market (being the man of fine taste that he is), although this did limit his sales potential quite a bit, and James jumping in on the luxury market as well didn’t help.
The Mid-Range market was stretched quite thin now with production around average and again they had all sold. The budget market was hotting up with Scott producing a lot of cars and Iain being a fierce competitor - he did have the newest model after all.
A lot of cars sold via distributors, leaving just enough to be met by demand, Scott flirted with the idea of selling his at reduced prices but figured that even if a couple didn’t sell he would make more this way and that it would be hard to sell them all before Iain anyway.
Then came the luxury cars. Barrie had a lot of them and put in plenty of distributors to help sell them, but Scott and James needed to sell theirs too which left Barrie with a few failed distributors returning home with loss cubes. Only Barrie’s 4 luxury cars were left and so he wanted to pull the tile out of the bag. Luckily he got the 4 demand tile he really needed and didn’t get any more loss cubes.
The last round brought about a lot of investment in new technology as everyone used up the cubes they had been amassing, whilst also seeing a lot of closed factories to get rid of the growing number of loss cubes people had accumulated. In a strange turn of events, both Iain and James brought new life to the Mid-Range market with a couple of new models and some big factories and they both produced the maximum they could. I think James thought this was Wits & Wagers, pouring all his money in a last ditch attempt with hope that the demand might just be high enough to cover it and make him a huge amount of money to bring him back in to the game (James being the king of loss cubes up until this point.) However, I don’t think that the demand he really wanted was even feasible though.
The budget market was already quite saturated but it grew a little and a lot of cars were produced for this too, but the demand just covered them all.
Barrie couldn’t resist opening even more luxury models but at least they were replacing some of his older ones.
The executive decisions were a lot more interesting this round as bonus sales could be very important, however Iain and Barrie had used up all of their technology cubes and couldn’t buy any bonus sales, although Iain could take some reduced price markers (Barrie enquired about reduced prices on Luxury but it’s not allowed.) The taste of profit was too much for Iain and no reduced sales were taken. Scott and James both exercised the bonus marker’s use in Budget and Mid-Range respectively.
Mid-Range was a huge blow-out, there were far too many cars produced and Iain and James both walked away with heavy losses. Budget was very close just leaving two unsold cars, one each for Scott and Iain. For Luxury, Barrie was faced with the exact same dilemma of being the only one left with luxury to sell and needing a 4 or higher demand tile. Barrie’s luck, skill or pure deviousness procured from the bag another “4”.
So after the final losses were dished out, Loans repaid and money added back for factories still on the board, the final positions were as follows:
Scott $4,350; Iain $3,250; Barrie $3,240; James $2,700

The game does take some getting used to and is very punishing to new players, but, with experience, the game can get much more cutthroat once the demand mechanic kicks in and players produce enough cars to make themselves the most profit while also making some losses for their opponents.

Carson City
Report to follow........

Gareth 44; Jon 40; Jeff 36; Emma 35; Tonio 33

Tigris and Euphrates (thanks to Ian for this one)
After a false start and several detours, Philip finally managed to make it to the alternative venue clutching his precious copy of Tigris and Euphrates. Philip had played several times and was reigning IBG champion after having won the previous 2 weeks of T&E’s outings as game of the month. Rob and Paul had played once or twice and Ian was new to the game.
T&E has a reputation of being relatively heavy and with some complex mechanics, but Phil did a sterling job of explaining the rules then we were under way. The game was pretty cutthroat with lots of wars and rebellions, so red points were plentiful as leaders hopped on and off the board like yo-yos.
Ian and Rob squared up early in the game for a big war in black, Ian managing to get the better of that one and ending up with a decent sized kingdom in the South-West corner. Philip soon managed to muscle in on this via internal conflicts, eventually building a monument there.
Paul had carved out a little corner to himself in the South-East and the North side of the board ended up pretty sparsely populated.
The game was a bit of a chaotic blur. Ian felt like he may have squeaked ahead from his good start and started to dump tiles in an attempt to hasten the end of the game. In the final scoring, despite having misunderstood how treasures counted towards the score, Ian did just manage to cross the line in first place, dethroning Philip (for now) in the process...
Ian 8; Philip 7; Paul 5; Rob 5

Mississippi Queen (thanks James for this report)
Ok, having recently purchased this from Gareth I was keen to give this a go at the club. A simple (hah - rookie error) game of racing steamboats up the Mississippi while picking up southern belles en route. What could possibly be simpler…?! As we also had the Black Rose expansion to hand, it was a case of throwing everything in - sandbars, logs, coal depots and the infamous Black Rose. Think Wacky Races on boats…

Pausing only to remove a few tiles to try and fit the game in the remaining 45 minutes, Iain, Ian, Paul, James, Rob and Tonio set off.
So it didn’t take long before we realised that no-one had a real handle on the rules (I say no-one, I mean James). Maybe it was the surprise at discovering that a game that used to be in Gareth’s collection actually had rules, but the results of not having read them thoroughly coupled with the fact they were English translations of German rules could only have one outcome - chaos and carnage on the river.
James pushed into an early lead helped by a bottleneck behind him (I’m not convinced this game is really playable with 6 boats) as everyone discovered the simple ‘pushing a boat out of the way’ rule was about as simple as a treatise on the intricacies of the bidding system in Power Grid. We soon dropped the Black Rose (let’s just say it sprung a leak) to try and speed things up as the game turned not so much a race to the finish line but a race to finish before the pub kicked us out.
As a result a few forlorn women were abandoned en route, as steamboats battered their way through the bedlam, desperately hoping for a gallant captain to abandon the race to help them… well, that’s Tonio’s excuse for being in last place anyways…
As events concluded, James was pushing for the lead but a mid-game burst from Ian had put him slightly ahead. Paul’s steamboat attempted a “Schumacher” and tried to barge Ian out of the lead but to no avail as Ian chugged safely into first place.
James came in 2nd and the rest are probably still out there on the water somewhere between St Louis and the Cape of Good Hope still looking for women to pick up and wondering why the waves had gotten bigger.
It’s a good game, but I’m not sure this was a good session. Needs a better handle on the rules and probably 4/5 players next time round.
Ian 1st; James 2nd; Iain, Paul, Rob, Tonio - Lost at Sea.

Nanuk (thanks Scott again)
With other games still going on and yet again Emma still locked in to them, we began our game of Nanuk with the stragglers looking for a game - Scott, Steph, Vicky, Maynard and Philip. Scott got the game underway immediately until Vicky requested that someone at least explain to her how to play (I thought that everyone knew how to play Nanuk these days...) Maynard needed a refresher too, so the rules were explained and we set off again.
The bidding started low and didn’t jump up very much (even with Philip in the game.) Vicky tried to play it safe until she had figured out what was going on and inadvertently became the hunt leader. There was very little enthusiasm from the hunt leader - she even declared she didn’t have anything to help with it. It was an easy choice for everyone else who left her to hunt alone and it was indeed very poor, which didn’t leave much for the doomers to collect in spoils either.
Having endured the failed hunt, Vicky went on to be a part of almost every successful hunt from them onwards and as there were lots of hunts where only two or three people were out, there was rarely a single doomer left behind.
Vicky was very clearly in the lead until Scott managed to pull off a successful hunt all on his own to the dismay of the 4 doomers. Unfortunately it was all seals with very little variety which isn’t too useful in the scoring department.
With a moderate (!) effort from the other players, the final scores were as follows:
Vicky 20 (6 sets / most polar bears); Scott 18 (5 sets / 3 pairs); Philip 10 (3 / 1); Steph and Maynard 9 (3 sets)

Keltis (thanks Gareth for this report)
Gareth, Jeff and Tonio finished the evening off with a game of Keltis. Although this German version of the Spiel des Jahres winner was new to all three, they had all played Lost Cities before (the original version of the game). Gareth quickly ran through the rules. There are five stones paths along which players counters progress by playing numbered cards picking up bonuses and wishing stones along the way. The position of the counters at the end of the game dictates the players' scores.
Tonio and Gareth were scoring evenly throughout the game collecting similar numbers of wishing stones and bonus points with Jeff unfortunately missing out on the stones.
When the final scores were calculated Tonio came out on top with one of his doubling counters getting to the end of the path and scoring 20 points.
Tonio 38; Gareth 27; Jeff 2

Apparently, there were also games of Birds on a Wire, and Finca, but as no-one provided me with any details, we'll never know what happened to the birds and the fruit.....
So that was it for our evening of games-playing in an ad-hoc venue. All being well, we will be back in the familiar, cosy surrounding of the London Apprentice next week......

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