Wednesday, 10 March 2010

"Avast Ye Landlubbers.........!"

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

Upstairs in the Riverview Room tonight, there were overheard many cries of "Man Overboard", "Shiver me timbers" and "Women and children first" as some of the IBG'ers decided to spend most of their time jumping in and out of sinking lifeboats, and committing dastardly acts of piracy.

It was nice to see Jeff back for a second time - we obviously didn't scare him off too much last week. To kick things off, we split into 2 groups for a couple of short card games. The first group played another of James' new games -

Nicht die Bohne! (thanks James for this report)
A filler card game new to everyone (which in this case is Emma, James, Scott and Phillip) with a bean fetish. The game involves 4 sets of coloured beans (numbered 1-10) and a few special cards (plus/minus scores, x2 and the evil Nicht die Bohne card that kills any points for that colour). Points are tallied at the end of the game for each colour and these scores are modified by any special cards you have.
So far quite ordinary. The difference is in how you collect your sets. The starting player lays a card face up. Then other players lay a facedown card from their hand and everyone reveals together. Next, the person going first this round picks one of the cards on the table, with the person whose card was picked picking next and so on, until the last person picks the card laid down by the first person. These are all put in front of the player and the person who took the card last goes first next round…
Easy (honest!) game play, but after a few hands some strategy started to evolve, based on whether you wanted or didn’t want the leader’s card. You could tell some strategy was coming into play, as while it would take Emma 5 seconds to make a play, Philip was taking 5 minutes…
Early days had Scott struggling with 2 sets of colours effectively killed off by having to pick up their dreaded ‘Nicht die Bohne’ cards. James was picking up lots of green beans and Emma some reds. At one stage Emma picked up the Nicht die Bohne for yellow, squealed with disappointment (I’m beginning to think that squealing is Emma’s primary method of communication) before realising that her current score for Yellow was minus 9 so this was actually a good thing.
Anyway, Scott was making up for lost time putting all his efforts into his remaining 2 colours and Philip was starting to use an abacus to calculate the optimal moves for each card. Eventually the last cards were played and the results were a lot closer than thought.
After several recounts it was discovered that Emma had scored a magnificent zero. Quite some achievement really. James managed a few more but wasn’t a serious threat to the leaders. Scott had surprisingly made up his early lost ground but despite his late heroics he still ended up just one point behind Philip and his pocket calculus.
Neat little game - I suspect it’ll get another outing soon.
Philip 48; Scott 47; James 40; Emma 0

And the other group played a slightly more familiar offering -

Circus Flohcati
This ‘push your luck’ card game was new to Jeff, but is easily explained so was soon underway. Tonio and Gareth picked up several ‘6’s and ‘7’s early on, and then played ‘tit for tat’ with some reciprocal stealing. Jeff laid down a number of sets, but suffered from not having many cards in his hand at the game end.
The other 3 players all had 2 sets down in front of them, so it came down to cards in hand. Despite Gareth ‘doing a Gareth’ and trying to score 1 colour twice, which necessitated a 2 point deduction, he still had a high enough score to win by a single point from Jon.
Gareth (20+53)=73; Jon (20+52)=72; Tonio (20+44)=64; Jeff (40+14)=54

After bringing this along for several weeks running, Jon finally managed to get some takers for –

This remake of ‘Web of Power’ is a simple-to-learn area majority game, which was new to all apart from Jon and Barrie (who claims never to have played it before - but then people of a certain age do start to get memory problems…) Paul tried to persuade everyone that he should be the start player because he “looked the most Chinese.” Yeah Paul, go to the Far East and you’ll blend right in…..
Everyone was feeling their way around the game to start with, majoring on placing houses in districts. The way that the Emissaries are scored isn’t particularly intuitive, which meant that they were largely ignored until about halfway through.
The game was also punctuated by a certain player regularly exclaiming, “You never told me that rule!” (Er…actually we did, you know…)
The first couple of districts to be scored saw Tonio and Jon pick up some points, whilst Barrie had secured a green area, 'Yan', that no-one else seemed to be particularly interested in sharing with him. Emma decided that as she was playing ‘purple’, she should also focus on the purple 'Chu' district, which she duly did, creating a reasonable length road in the process.
With 5 players, this game reaches its conclusion with surprising haste, especially if players play 3 cards at a time. With at least 3 districts incomplete (and 1 completely devoid of houses), the deck ran out for the second time at the end of Paul’s turn. There then ensued a vigorous discussion about whether everyone should get another turn. The rules are clear on this, but, in the words of Mrs Merton, it never hurts to have a heated debate. Finally though, common sense prevailed, the game ended, and the final scoring was completed.
Not many emissaries managed to score, but the points that Jon had obtained from them were enough to put him ahead of the rest of the pack.
If this was played again (and the favourable nods around the table seemed to indicate that this would be the case), players would probably focus a little more on emissaries, and would also keep a closer eye on when the game was due to end. All in all, this game packs a lot into 45 minutes - well worth a re-visit…..
Jon 33; Tonio 28; Barrie 24; Emma 22; Paul 20

Meanwhile, another group had relocated to the 'romantic' end of the room, and, courtesy of the new portable lighting that the landlord has purchased, were able to see well enough to play -

Dungeon Lords (star reporter James again)
Every once in a while a game comes along that you have to try, if only on the hype alone, so when Jeff came through the door with a copy of Dungeon Lords I just had to have a go. I think the same thought crossed Dan’s and Scott’s minds as we were at the table in a flash once the opportunity arose. Barrie was also interested - right up to the moment he realised it was by the same designer as Galaxy Trucker...
So, basic game mechanics. You use worker (minion) placement to create the structure and workforce for your dungeon; set traps, hire monsters, hire imps, build rooms/corridors and take in supplies of gold and food. All the time keeping an eye on your evil reputation as this determines the strength of the adventurers your dungeon has to fend off, and if things get really evil (eg, Jon during a game of Nanuk) a rather powerful Paladin might decide to come a-knocking to sort out the chavs.
Once the dungeon is completed and all taxes are paid the do-gooder adventurers arrive to trash all your hard work. The rotters.
The game then becomes a logic problem (if you like Sudoku you might like Dungeon Lords) as you decide each round what traps/monsters to throw at the adventurers and what room/corridor to put up as the stake for the battle. If one or more adventurers get through, then this room is lost and a new room/corridor becomes the battleground for the next round - until they’re all horribly dispatched or they get bored and wander back to their village looking for a safer game such as Dominion to be a component in.
Repeat twice (2 years) and that’s the game. Various rewards at the end sort out the winner such as Most Evil Dungeon Lord, Keeper of Most Imps or Owner of the Worse Haircut.
It’s quite a simple concept with no randomness apart from card draws and a large emphasis on a eurogame-style worker placement setup… but the game feels very chaotic in spite of this.
And so it began. Three novice wanna-be evil dark lord’s trying to pass their learner license and one grand master doing his best to keep us in check and not get too bored waiting for us to make our moves (did Sauron suffer from Action Point analysis I wonder...?)
In this particular game, Scott decided to go down the path to true evil… maybe due to Steph not being around to bring out his better side. James was hoarding food by the dozen, although after his haloumi fish and chips supper I’m surprised he could find room for anymore.
Jeff was playing the cagey game, safe in the knowledge that as the only one at the table who knew all the rules he was quite safe so long as he didn’t make any major mistakes, and Dan was … hmm, not sure what strategy Dan was trying out although he did end up with a few big monsters and lots of corridors.
The first year was a learning curve, despite Jeff’s solid explanation of the rules. We’ll gloss over the events there.
In the 2nd year things started to make more sense. Jeff’s experience shone through as, despite having some terribly good ‘good’ guys to handle, his dungeon saw them off without much of a fuss, even being assisted by one of the do-good spells. James’s took a bit longer to finish the job but after 3 rounds (and a bitter shandy) there were no survivors and his monsters were enjoying good-guy supper.
Scott’s evil empire struggled a bit longer as he was dealing with the white paladin come to rid Isleworth of his evil doings… but eventually there was nothing left but bones and the odd pork scratching. However Dan’s dungeon was in dire trouble. Despite throwing some big league heavies at the good guys and springing a few traps there was no stopping them (like Phil in a game of Agricola) and with nothing left for Dan to use as defence, they were able to clean out several rooms and escape with the spoils.
So as expected, Jeff won the game (taking no pity on the noobs) and become one of the Evil Dead. James (after taking the bonus room in the last round) came a close 2nd and is now known better as Robbie Rotten. Scott came 3rd to claim the role of Dick Dastardly and Dan (ending up with a negative score) is this week's Mutley.
Jeff 25; James 22; Scott 12; Dan -3

And for the fourth and final week as 'Game of the Month' -

Goa (thanks Gareth for this info)
All the players were familiar with the rules which led to a close final game. Gareth managed to just take the win from Ian, by collecting a few extra bonus cards towards the end.
(Johan protested in the final round that he would have scored more points if he had taken the correct spices. Unfortunately he didn’t, so came in last).
A good game which allows various strategies to win!
Gareth 47; Ian 43; Philip 36; Johan 36

As the other 2 tables were still engrossed in their main games, the China crew decided to go for something completely different, namely –

This was a game that Jon had brought along because James had shown an interest in playing, but as James was still constructing a nefarious dungeon network, he will have to wait for another week. This is a pure negotiation game, where you are trying to get as many of your sailors from a sinking ship to the safety of some nearby islands, using a collection of increasingly leaky lifeboats. Each round, after a period of discussion, players secretly vote on which boat gets a leak (and possibly who gets thrown overboard as a result) and which moves nearer to safety. Each player then has to move one of their sailors to a different boat, so that alliances are constantly changing.
The game began quite gently, with players voting democratically and evenly about which boats got leaks and which moved forward. However, the nature of the game dictates that this ‘nicely-nicely’ approach can’t last very long, and soon there came the point when a vote was cast as to whose sailor was to be the first thrown overboard. No prizes for guessing that Jon was the unanimous candidate (although Tonio claims that he played a random card that just happened to be Jon’s. Hmmm…..)
Next to meet a watery grave was Barrie, when Paul and Emma coldly ganged up on him. Barrie then decided to spend the rest of the game quietly singing to himself, using an unfortunate piece of vernacular that cannot be repeated on a family-friendly blog. Suffice it to say, it sounded like he needed a bit of “own time”……
One of the neat rules in the game is that the start player in each round gets to decide how long the discussions go on for, and can bring them to a swift and sudden conclusion by banging the start player token on the table, after which point, no-one should speak until the votes have been cast. It was soon discovered that this had the rather beneficial side-effect that certain players (ok….’player’…) could be ‘officially’ stopped mid-sentence, a task that had seemed nigh-on impossible up to this point. The response from that particular player? “I don’t like being shutted up!”
It was now time for Tonio’s sailors to start expiring. First it was one of his officers, and on the very next turn, Paul had the casting vote to send another of his sailors to Davy Jones’ Locker. Tonio’s gracious response was, “That’s right – screw me over every turn!”
By now, 2 of the lifeboats had amazingly made dry land, with Barrie and Emma disembarking one of their officers for a tidy score. With 2 boats out of the game, the tension ramps up, as there are less boats to share the leaks between, and less choice when ‘boat-hopping’. With a sudden realisation, Paul asseverated – “Not all of the boats are going to make it, are they?!” And as if to instantly prove his assertion correct, 2 of the boats ended a turn with more leaks than sailors, and sank without trace.
With only 2 lifeboats left in the game, and not enough time to get them both home, Jon was left with the casting vote to decide whether to have Emma, or Tonio and Paul accompany him to safety. He chose the latter (male bonding and all that…)
The end result was incredibly close, with only 3 points separating the 5 players. Tonio and Paul had tied for first place, but Tonio won the tie-break on account of his own lifeboat making it ashore first.
This was a fun, noisy, back-stabbing game, with some cute components, and a magic “shut-uperer” token…
Tonio 21 (1 officer / 3 sailors); Paul 21 (1 / 3) ; Emma 19 (2 / 1); Barrie 19 (1 / 2); Jon 18 (2 / 1)

The Lifeboats crew were so immersed in the nautical theme that they decided to stay on the Seven Seas for their final game –

This had been played for the first time at IBG a few weeks ago, but was new to all the players apart from Tonio and Paul. Therefore, Tonio presented the rules succinctly, although having occasion to use his best schoolteacher voice with one member of the group – “I’m actually explaining a rule so you may want to listen…….”
This is a simple game to play, although it probably has some subtle strategies attached to it if you give it enough thought (not something that anyone was likely to do at 10.45pm…)
Tonio started by collecting a variety of treasures, as did Jon and Paul. Barrie decided to go into “can I break this game” mode, and built up a stack of 9 press-ganged crew members. When he eventually boarded a ship with this teetering tower of renegades, he found that the wages bill was exactly the same as his takings from the heist – leaving him with nothing for himself. It didn’t break the game, but it did rather break his score.
Emma was quietly and efficiently (ok – just efficiently…) collecting a huge pile of loot, including some valuable treasures, which the other players should probably have noticed and subsequently stopped press-ganging her crew.
Jon had managed to collect a wide variety of treasures, but had failed to get an overall majority in any of them. When the final ship had been plundered, the smoke had cleared and everyone’s cutlasses had been sheathed, Emma had proved to be the most swashbuckling Pirate(ss), scoring a massive 92 points.
Emma 92; Jon 62; Tonio 58; Paul 52; Barrie 26

Goa had finished, and Gareth was keen to try out another new card game (the 5th new game of the night...) -

David and Goliath (thanks again Gareth)
The rules were quickly explained by Gareth. The basics are: there are five coloured suits of which the players must follow, if they can. The winner of the trick is the highest card played. The winner then takes all the cards from the trick, minus their winning card which is given to the player that played the lowest card. Players score the face-value of the cards in the suits in which they only collected one or two of, and one point per card for suits with more than two.
So what happened? Ian was the clear winner with Gareth coming in last.
Ian 65; Philip 35; Johan 30; Gareth 26

And to round off the evening, the remnants of the David & Goliath and Dungeon Lords players joined together for a trip down the mines -

Saboteur (thanks Gareth)
There were seven players and the game was played over three rounds. The overall winners were Johan and Philip, whilst Gareth came in last again, after being on the losing side for each round.
Gareth's score (or lack of) was helped by Scott breaking his tools in the third round, before Gareth had even played a card, obviously in return for a minor indiscretion from a previous game.
Gareth also show his leadership skills by encouraging his fellow good dwarves towards a mine with no gold after forgetting its location! A fun end to the evening.
Johan 7; Philip 7; James 4; Jeff 4; Scott 3; Ian 2; Gareth 0

And that took us well past 'time gentlemen please'. Another fine evening of gaming had flown by......

Next week the IBG'ers will be downstairs in the Conservatory, as there are apparently some punters who are willing to pay to use the Riverview Room. The cheek........

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