Wednesday, 28 April 2010

"Can I give you a Chilli for your Stink?..................."

Players: Iain, Steph, Ian, Jon, James, Vicky, Maynard, Russ, Jim, Scott, Tonio, Emma, Barrie, Gareth, Paul, Keith, Malte

17 IBG'ers turned up tonight, including a return from Jim after several weeks away, and a warm welcome to Malte, who is studying in the UK after having come over from his native Germany. At last - a visitor from the spiritual birthplace of quality boardgames.....

A paying function had unfortunately turfed us out of our usual room, but 4 large tables had been reserved for us in the Conservatory, and once the landlord had brought over some spotlights (and the kids had left), we were happy little gamers again.

Russ and James were the earlybirds this week, and took the opportunity to have a go at -

Twilight Struggle (thanks Russ for this report)
James and I had arranged to arrive early to play the short Late War scenario for Twilight Struggle; unbeknownst to us we would be doing this downstairs in plain view of the general public. Surprisingly enough (well surprising to me) we weren’t drummed out of the area for being geeks and freaks when I unfolded my custom printed map for Twilight Struggle and started setting up with a pile of little gem dice to mark influence.
The first problem arrived almost immediately - the Late War scenario is designed to represent the historical influence in 1975 with the fall of Saigon and there’s a lot more US control than you’d normally find if you’d played up to that point, I was almost out of dark blue dice! The deck is set up with most of the Early and Mid War events removed and a few continuing events in place, including the damnable hippies (Flower Power)—just wait till Reagan gets his hands on you. This leads to a pretty heavy US bias in the event deck as James was about to discover as he lined up to engineer a graceful decline of the Soviet experiment.
The victory conditions are a little different as the auto-20 victory condition is removed and in order to win the US must have 20 points after final scoring or if they play Wargames (so would need to be 26 points up before playing it), DEFCON and Europe control wins are still possible. The other interesting thing about this scenario is that the US start with the Eagle Landed and hence the ability to take an extra action round and no opportunity to drop cards onto the space race, whereas the USSR start at Space Walk so they can only drop 3 ops or greater (and in most cases will want to fail the first roll so they could drop a 2nd 3 ops card as it takes a 4 ops card to move to land on the Moon).
My opening hand was fairly neutral, no 4 ops, but a few 3 ops and the only really bad card was ‘The Reformer’ though it got a lot worse when James headlined Red Scare; thankfully I’d headlined Asia Scoring so at least I didn’t lose an action round to play it later. Opening turn scoring cards were Mid East where I managed to score a few points with the help of Camp David, Africa which put a few points back in the red camp and Central America for scratch.
In fact James had either been cunning or incompetent (he claims the latter) as he had signalled heavily that he had South America scoring through checking whether he could use Five Year Plan to discard a scoring card at the end of the turn. Not only had I not taken the opportunity to secure domination in Central America before the scoring card was played, I sent the Russians into Afghanistan to force him to play it rather than get to play Five Year Plan! Tear Down This Wall went onto the Space Race unsurprisingly, in this short scenario it’s probably one of the most damaging cards for the USSR. Notably the Polish Pope popped his head up as played by James which was rapidly followed by my play of Lech Walesa to turn Poland to the side of capitalism.
The second turn turned up a much better hand for me, but not so for James (at least that’s what his face told me), highlights included KAL (my headline), Ames, Nuclear Test Ban and East Europe Unrest. I figured I’d have a go at using Unrest to leverage my way into East Germany after dumping my 4 headline points in there, this met with some success especially as James had to play Maggie making my SocGov safe and had Chernobyl and two scoring cards. In doing so I’d abandoned South America and James managed to get that back from US control to no points scored. The turn was rounding out with James holding Europe Scoring, Five Year Plan and Grain Sales and with me in control of Europe. As a last ditch effort he played the Plan and I picked Europe Scoring keeping him in play for the moment.
The final turn was a scrap over Europe unsurprisingly; I had enough ops to ensure I kept control after headlining Junta to keep the DEFCON at 2. I rapidly managed to achieve a point of overcontrol in the battlegrounds and with the scenario setup controlling more countries than the USSR wasn’t a problem. On his last action round James found himself left with Grain Sales and Duck and Cover and no safety valve as the Space Race needed a 4 ops card at least. Just goes to show that without Gorbachev (neither the Reformer nor Glasnost was played) the US would have much increased influence across Europe, but that his trigger happy replacement would have blown up the world in response!
All in all we both enjoyed the game, especially as the card mix gives a much different feel with the USSR having more worries about US event control rather than the other way round. In retrospect the more experienced player should probably play the USSR, not least because of the DEFCON gotchas, but the requirement to win by 20 points for the US made me think that it would be harder for the US to win. I would have been nowhere near the 20 points at final scoring if it had happened, and I reckon quite a few of the US wins in this scenario will be DEFCON or Europe Control. It left me keen to try it again, especially as with setup we got a good taste of Twilight Struggle in 75 minutes.
Russ (US) - won; James (USSR) - didn't

After last week's epic games, 3 other early starters obviously hadn't had their fill of -

Through the Ages (thanks Ian for this one)
This was Iains first play and Ian’s 2nd try, being a glutton for punishment - a 4 hour game last Wednesday hadn’t been enough. Steph had played a few times before, coming off a win in the previous week. Big thanks to Russ for lending us his copy with the shiny resource cubes, and apologies from the players for mixing up the cards in the rush to pack up at the end……
The game started with Ian taking Homer as leader, who gives an extra culture (VP) per warrior in your civilization. Iain took the pyramids as starting wonder and Julius Caesar as leader, Steph grabbed the hanging gardens (can’t remember who her early leader was) and Ian the Library of Alexandria as a wonder.
With Homer Ian started racking up several culture per turn, getting up to 4 per turn towards the end of Age 1, which helped him into an early VP lead. Iain and Steph grabbed the 2 iron mine upgrades available leaving Ian struggling for resources through Age 1. Steph was building up a strong economy but was behind on VPs. Iain struggled a bit with the juggling of the various resource types, falling into the same trap as James the previous week of filling up his hand with technology upgrades before he had enough science being created to be able to play them. Once he’d solved this problem he found he was behind on food production so didn’t have any workers available.
The problem with TTA is being able to manage a lot of different resources (8!) and realizing that your lowest one will likely constrain your growth, so you really need to keep them in balance to some extent, and it seems easy to get stuck in a catch 22 if you are not careful.
Steph cruelly picked on Iain while he was in this conundrum, playing a war over science on him and with a large difference in strength stealing 6 of his hard earned science points. She upgraded to a new government that gave 7 civil actions per turn and then also had Newton as leader which meant that every time she played a technology card she got the civil action for it back again! Effectively this meant she had almost unlimited actions and soon had a big lead in science per turn, and was catching up on VPs.
Ian had also upgraded to a constitutional Monarchy and had several civil actions and 4 military actions per turn, and managed to build the Ocean Liner wonder that gives effectively a free population per turn, so was hanging in in the lead going into Age 3.
Iain gave up on trying to keep up on military, and took Gandhi as leader meaning it would take double military actions to attack him. This effectively kept him safe from Steph who only had 2 per turn.
As the last few turns approached Steph took a gamble and played a war over culture on Ian who was still in the lead on VPs, then built up her strength as far as possible and hoped for the best. Ian managed to add 15 strength in one turn by adding an extra army with a high value tactics card (1 infantry plus 2 artillery= 9 extra strength) and turned the tables, winning the war and taking 6 culture points from Steph.
Steph built a fast food chain wonder on her last turn and pretty much managed to catch up on VPs, leaving the win in the balance between her and Ian. Iain had gallantly stepped aside by this point in the interests of getting to a result with limited time before pub closing.
On the flip of the Impact cards it was very close, with Ian finally coming out the winner on 155 to Steph's 153. I estimated Iain would have been around 130 or so if we had had time to count him up, which was a very creditable performance - hopefully he won’t be put off by the experience! Without the 12 point swing on the war over culture Steph would have been comfortably ahead, so in the end a gamble that didn’t quite pay off!
Also, I believe we may have played Homer wrong (doh!), apparently the culture bonus only applies to a max of 2 warriors – so this should probably be a moral victory for Steph since this must have gained Ian 6 extra VPs at least!
Ian 155; Steph 153; Iain 130
Now that the 'crowd' had turned up, 2 more tables started up - the first of these had a go at -
Birds on a Wire (thanks Tonio)
Birds on a Wire is a game of collecting tiles and matching groups of three in the same way as you do in the card game "Set". Jim identified rather early on that it wasn't really going to be Scott's kind of game (i.e. before we even started) but Emma was keen to give the game a go because of the cute birdies!
Tonio set Scott up to collect an early Zap tile and, although Emma was clearly putting together a very high scoring card, Scott decided that his Zap tile was best used against Tonio, his benefactor, in an attempt not to come last. Unfortunately he still came in last! Ho hum.
Final scores were Emma won and Scott lost - the actual scores have been mislaid.
A light game, with opportunities for stitching people up, which has more strategy that the average tile drawing game. I think it's fair to say Scott isn't in a hurry to play it again...
Emma - won; Jim & Tonio - next; Scott - last
Having finished Twilight struggle, James and Russ were now joined by Jon, Vicky and newcomer Malte for -

The Adventurers
After Russ and Vicky had finished their in-depth discussion on the relative merits and demerits of a variety of different types of anaesthetics (get a room, guys...) we were able to return to the business in hand.
Jon and James had played before, and were able to offer some ‘advice’ about not staying in the first room too long, to prevent being squashed by the swift-moving boulder. The newbies therefore followed this advice and exited pretty swiftly, stopping only to consult a few glyphs and (in Malte’s case) pick up some treasures. Of course, sod’s law then dictated that the walls to the room failed to move at all, and the boulder advanced about as quickly as an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping.
Russ was the first to venture into the lava room, and started to pick his way across the glyph-stones. Vicky followed suit and Jon brought up the rear. Russ used the knowledge gained in the first room to storm across the glyph-stones……straight into the lava pit. He had not looked at all the glyph clues in the ‘walls’ room, and therefore proved the old adage that ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’.
The way that the dangerous glyphs were laid out prevented any adventurer going straight through the room, but Jon was able to use his special ability to hop diagonally out at the end. James and Malte had both stopped to try to pick the locks along the temple wall. After 1 failure, Malte succeeded, but James thought better of it and instead headed towards the rickety bridge. Meanwhile, Russ was awaiting the arrival of the boulder at the corner of the lava room, so that he could bring on his second adventurer. He managed to finish reading War and Peace and succeeded in isolating the Higgs Boson particle while he was waiting….
Jon decided to head for the 9-point treasure at the far end of the temple, whilst Vicky plunged straight into the river, picking up numerous treasures as she went. The boulder finally started to pick up speed as both James and Malte successfully negotiated the rickety bridge. Jon got a lucky dice roll on his second attempt and grabbed the 9-pointer.
Vicky and Russ both jumped out of the river without losing any treasures, and with an energetic sprint down the final corridor, all the adventurers escaped before the boulder could trap them inside. For the second game running, it was the adventurer(ess) who jumped into the river first who ended up winning, whilst James managed to top up his score nicely by rolling a double-6 for his 2 'mystery treasures'.  This had been a very different game from the previous one, with the boulder ambling along, and the adventurers all having 4 or 5 actions each turn. I suspect that this was unusual, and a more ‘normal’ distribution of dice-rolling would result in a tenser experience. Having said that, it was still a great way to kill an hour at the beginning of the evening.
Vicky 33; James 26; Jon 20; Russ 18; Malte 15

Meanwhile, the birdie-lovers (or haters) tried out -

Lexio (thanks to Jim for this one)
Jim produced Lexio, a game new to all the others, explaining that it was a (much) simpler version of Tichu but played with tiles instead of cards and that if you could play rummy or poker, you could play Lexio.
At this point, Tonio tried to escape to play Princes of Florence, but the cramped room and a surplus of willing players for that game caused him to return. Emma was demanding to play "a real game" as well, but despite this less-than-enthusiastic reception to the proposed game, Jim, fool that he is, stuck to his desire to play the game or better still, Tichu, but Scott wanted to be selective about his partner if we played that game, so Lexio it was.
Jim explained the simple rules, and after a practice round (which only took a few minutes and that Emma stomped everyone at!), Jim divvied out an equal amount of poker chips to all four players for scoring and the game began in earnest.
All five rounds played quickly with the occasional rule clarifications on the way but with no one being able to get a truly "knock-them-dead" hand to make the big points (points are obtained from each other by the difference in the number of tiles in each player's hand after one player has played all their tiles), it came to a count.
Originally everyone had 70 points (about ½ the recommended starting number) and by the end there had been a small redistribution of the wealth.
Emma wanted to play again right away (a convert) but everyone else wanted something "meatier". So the game was packed away and the general feeling was that the tactile tiles helped the game, which, despite it's quick play time was both fun and interesting with everyone wanting to play again on another evening.
Scott 86; Emma 70; Tonio 62; Jim 62

By this time, the 4th table was also up and running with -

The Princes of Florence (cheers Gareth for this report)
The new game of the month ‘The Princes of Florence’ was tabled by Gareth and he quickly found four volunteers to join in. The game was new to most of the table and Gareth hadn’t played it for over twelve months so the rules were run through at a quick pace to get everybody up to speed.
The players encourage artists and scholars to their Palazzo and inspire them to create great works (this is achieved by playing profession cards). The better their Palazzo, the more impressive the work. Buildings and Landscapes are bid for or bought outright. The game is played over seven phases with one auction round at the start and two action rounds. With any works played producing either money or prestige points or a combination of the two. The winner is the player with the most prestige points at the end of the game.
At the start of the game, Maynard and Keith took an early lead, winning the best works for these rounds. Barrie and Paul held back on their works, collecting jesters and property for higher scores later on, and Gareth just tried to keep up with everybody else.
By the mid game, Maynard had taken a strong lead followed by Paul who had now moved up the scoring track, with Barrie and Keith in 3rd and 4th and Gareth languishing at the back, quickly running out of money after paying an extortionate price for a lake!
By the last round it looked as if Maynard would be the clear winner with a commanding lead, but he ran out of profession cards meaning he had no way of scoring. Barrie played some strong bonus cards to close the gap and Gareth who had now run out of money, was spending valuable prestige points to play his final two works.
At the end of round seven, prestige cards were played and Barrie narrowly took the win by a point from Maynard and Paul who came in equal second followed by Keith and finally Gareth. A close fought game to be tabled again next week.
Barrie 49; Maynard 48; Paul 48; Keith 39; Gareth 35

It was now time for something 'meatier' at Scott's table -

Power Grid (thanks to Scott for this one)
With other tables still engrossed in games, the four of us at the table thought about what to play. The offer of Power Grid was put forward by Scott, and to his surprise both Tonio and Emma were excited at the prospect, I’m pretty sure Jim likes it too.
At hearing the possible maps to play, Tonio heard Italy and that was that decided. With 4 players, we needed four areas and chose a straight line of them down the middle, cutting off some expensive connections to Sicily and cheaper connections in the North-East.
The differences for Italy are that there is slightly less fuel in the starting market for oil and coal but more garbage making early garbage plants more viable.
After a quick rules summary we were under way with Jim up first and buying the #06 plant (1 garbage for 1 city), Emma took #07 (3 oil for 2), Tonio took #05 (2 oil/coal for 1), and Scott deliberated a little but settled on #04 (2 coal for 1). With more expensive fuel, the first resource round was mostly just get what you need so you have money left for building cities.
Scott put his first cities in the North, at the centre of a large cluster of cheap connections. Tonio started slightly south of Scott, Jim slightly west and Emma to the east; luckily this still left a bit of breathing room for all.
For the rest of Step 1, Scott got lucky and landed himself plant #20 (3 coal for 5) while not many other coal plants came out helping to keep the coal costs under control. Emma went heavily into oil plants, Jim went with a renewables and uranium strategy and Tonio had a bit of everything.
With city building, Scott managed to get up to 5 cities to make the most of his power plant but everyone else conspired against him to surround every other city so he sat there collecting his money while the other players continued on to 7 cities and Step 2. This was triggered by Emma, who couldn’t resist buying cities if she had the money to do so and was competing with Jim, who was leapfrogging all over the board and had connections across almost all of Italy.
Tonio was mostly concerned with making sure his relatives were involved in getting some electricity - I’m sure there was the mention of a Godfather in there too...
Meanwhile, Scott had been sitting there saving his elektros, to which Tonio commented that he had loads of money. Scott, in a half impression of Harry Enfield, repeated “loadsamoney” and a surprised Tonio didn’t think Scott was old enough for Harry Enfield to be known. Maybe Tonio’s just a bit younger than we all thought...
Scott spent his life savings and rocketed into 1st place in cities with others happy to sit behind him through choice or maybe just lack of money.
Jim’s strategy of going renewables was showing its weakness as the lower capacity plants were preventing too much growth, while Tonio and Emma got into a fight over garbage and put prices to the top, hindering both of them.
It had taken a while for us to get to Step 2, and with the power plant deck looking quite small, Step 3 was upon us. Tonio and Emma continued their fighting, but this time over the #50 plant (no fuel for 6) which Emma bid all the way to 81. At this point Tonio asked himself whether a bid of 82 would be worthwhile or not. After concluding that he didn’t know, he bid 82 anyway. Emma had seemed so keen to get it before, as she had done similar bidding for other plants, not letting anyone else have them at any cost when she liked the look of them. However, here she cried “Ha! I made you pay too much - have it for 82, I’m getting you back for ruining my garbage plants!” So all of the overpayments she made before had been for this one hustle bid on Tonio. I don’t know how effective that is as a strategy?!
Jim turned against his earth-friendly stance on power and got in to some hybrid and oil plants to ramp up his capacity to 18, although his cities unfortunately fell far short of this target.
Scott also got his capacity up to 18 and Tonio realised too late that the last round had approached. As Scott was heading for his 18 cities, Tonio made a valiant attempt and got to 17 while Jim and Emma maxed out on cities with 11 and 13 respectively.
Tonio felt that the ending was maybe a bit of a let down as it’s often known what's going to happen when you reach the last round, while Jim and Scott thought it was a good part of the game requiring a need to plan for it. I don’t know what Emma thought - I think she was just happy to have got revenge on Tonio...
Scott – 18 cities powered (18 capacity); Tonio – 17 (17); Emma 13 (17); Jim 11(18)

With all the other tables electing for heavyweight Euros, the Adventurers decided to opt for something a bit lighter and co-operative, namely –

Castle Panic
This was new to James, Malte and Russ, so Jon did his best to explain the rules and apologise to everyone that players would have to delve into Tonio’s pants to pick out the tokens (sorry Tonio – that’s the last time I mention that – promise!)
The game did not start well for the brave defenders, as a boulder and then a Troll took out 2 towers early on. James was pulling some lucky tokens from the bag (2 ‘all monsters in red move inwards’ in one turn, when there were no monsters in red, and an ‘all move clockwise’ immediately followed by an ‘all move anti-clockwise’) which helped keep the onslaught manageable. In fact, the walls were soon rebuilt and the defenders continued to defend the towers with relative ease.
A quick flurry of monsters appeared near the end, but they simply presented some target practice for the Archers and Knights. The penultimate token was the ‘reveal 4 more tokens’, which was the ideal time for that one to come out, and so the ending was somewhat anticlimactic (apart from Russ and Jon choosing not to trade with Malte, so that no-one got the final ‘kill’).
Whilst the scores were totted up, James went off to get more drinks, returning only to ask if he’d won the Master Slayer title. Jon absentmindedly replied “Yes”, only to burst James’ bubble by adding, “oh…hang on…no - Russ did….”
On reflection, the tokens had come out of the bag in an almost perfect order for the defenders, and it’s unlikely that such an easy victory would be won ever again. It might be fun to sometime try the variant where one player takes control of the monsters and chooses in which order they come onto the board. Watch this space….
Russ 18; James 16; Jon 14; Malte 8; Vicky 6

And to keep it light and fluffy, it was time for -

Bohnanza (thanks to Russ again)
The evening finished with a game of Bohnanza, one of the first games I bought, back when I could fit my games collection into a hold-all rather than a U-Haul. Jon had chucked it in his bag, but didn’t seem that keen to play initially, but Malte was keen and I’m always up for a bit of bean trading so he was persuaded. I went through the rules quickly, emphasising not rearranging your hand and the importance of trading.
Malte was discombobulated when I mentioned the ‘no harvesting single bean fields if you don’t have all single bean fields’ - apparently he’d always missed that rule, and though he initially trusted us, later on he insisted on checking the rulebook!
One thing I love about Bohnanza is how different people are with their trading. Jon quietly accumulated large fields of low value beans while I was described as a second hand car salesman as I tried to get rid of the beans that were so lovely that I didn’t want them myself. Vicky was generous in her trades, much to the occasional consternation of myself and Malte. James surprised no-one by being a cunning trader determined to get the best value possible (no surprise he’s always got a pile of games he’s picked up for a couple of quid on eBay or the car boot) and Malte had a big premium on the high end beans, getting a pile of cash from Cocoa and Garden beans.
The game sped along nicely and it was an incredibly tight fimish. Apparently the tie-breaker is cards in hand and Jon and myself both had 4 (Malte had 1) so we rejoiced in our shared victory!
Jon 15(4); Russ 15(4); Malte 15(1); Vicky 12; James 10

Now I know for a fact that the Princes of Florence crew also had a go at The Adventurers, but we currently have no scores or report, so who knows what went on.
(My best guess is: Gareth got one of the rules wrong; Barrie attempted to break the game by riding the boulder down the corridor; Maynard drank coke 'cos he was driving; Keith wore leather trousers 'cos he's that kind of a guy; Paul won the game with a smile on his face....)

Anyway, that was the end of another very enjoyable evening with the Isleworth Boardgamers. And after venturing down into the real world for a week, we are planning to be back up in the Riverview Room next Wednesday.


Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Ages, and Ages and Ages.............

Players: Jeff, Scott, Steph, Keith, Ian, James, Russ, Gareth, Barrie, Philip, Iain, Jon, Tonio, Dan, Paul

15 gamers turned up tonight, as the skies over Isleworth were just starting to reverberate to the sound of passing aircraft again, following a few days of "volcano-respite'.

6 of the IBG'ers bravely decided to try to build entire civilisations in one evening - and managed it (just.) It's not called Through the Ages for nothing, you know...

The 2 games of TTA were underway early to try to ensure that they finished before closing time. More on them later - but for the other IBG'ers, there was a chance to try out one of Jon's new purchases -

Pick Picknic
This is a fun little filler based around a simultaneous selection mechanic. There are a number of coloured ‘farmyards’ in the middle of the table, in which a variety of ‘corn’ is placed each round. Players have a hand of cards which consist of various wildfowl, foxes, and the occasional chicken poo (!) Everyone simultaneously selects a card, and depending on who lays what in each farmyard, the spoils are divided up – chickens eat corn and foxes eat chickens. Whoever has the most corn and gobbled-up chickens at the end is the winner.
Tactics are determined largely by what cards come into your hand, but there are decisions to be made. Do you go for the ‘valuable’ fields where lots of corn has accumulated, but risk having to fight for it, or worse, being eaten by a fox? Or do you focus on picking up just a few ‘safe’ points each turn?
This was new to everyone apart from Jon, but a 5 minute rules explanation was more than enough to get everyone up and running. During the game, Gareth and Jon both mistook chickens for foxes (slightly worrying considering that Jon actually keeps chickens…) and Barrie seemed to be playing foxes at every opportunity, wolfing down a number of tasty fowl.
Gareth had picked up the most corn, but unfortunately had been forced to eat several chicken poos, giving him a negative score for chickens. On the penultimate turn, Jon managed to play a fox in a farmyard with 3 chickens in it, a move which turned out to be enough to give him the win.
Power Grid this ain’t, but there are worse games to play when you’ve got 15 minutes to kill.
Jon 41 (22 corn / 19 chickens); Barrie 36 (20/16); Jeff 30 (26/4); Gareth 26 (27/-1); Tonio 26 (22/4)

High Society (thanks Dan for this non-report)
Picked as a short filler at the start of the night to pass some time while the rest of the non-civilisation builders were finishing up their warm-up game. Daniel was the only person who had played before and after a brief yet succinct rules explanation we made our way through four or five rounds before the game was abandoned in order to combine tables with the Pickpicknickers for Wild West and Outer Space shenanigans.
(Actually that should be packeduppickpicknickerplayers...)
Daniel, Paul, Philip, Iain - all gave up...

And so the packeduppickpicknickerplayers and the notsohighhighsocietyabandoners split into 2 groups, the first choosing to go spaceship building -  

Galaxy Trucker
This was new to all apart from Tonio who took a very creative slant on teaching the rules – basically he told everyone to just play with the components for a while. (Maybe this is the latest government directive in how to teach Maths – “Just try pressing a few buttons on the calculator for a bit….”) Anyway, Tonio eventually returned to the more orthodox approach of actually explaining the rules, and so the game was soon underway.
The first thing to become clear was that Jon appears to have a complete blindspot when it comes to quickly choosing spaceship components and fitting them together in a cohesive fashion. It was a good job that everyone had agreed to a certain laxity when adhering to the rules about when to stop building the spaceships, otherwise on 2 occasions Jon would have been flying the equivalent of a Smart car with no engine, wheels or seats.
Conversely, Dan seemed to have found his niche in life, swiftly constructing efficient, well-proportioned spaceships that were ready for any inter-galactic dangers that could be thrown at it.
The game basically panned out with Tonio and Dan taking it in turns to lead the way in the space adventures, with Paul and Jon deciding to (or being forced to, in Jon’s case) bring up the rear. Although Tonio and Dan were the first to meet any danger, they were also able to pick up the greatest rewards.
Somewhat surprisingly, none of the players had their spaceships entirely obliterated (partly due to some fortuitous dice-rolling), although there were a few modules destroyed in the final round.
It turned out to be a close-run thing for first place when the scores were totted up, with the veteran Tonio just pipping Dan to the post. Paul was some way behind, and Jon was last seen serving a Big Mac and fries in the restaurant at the end of the universe…
Tonio 83; Daniel 78; Paul 36; Jon 21

The other group kept their feet on planet earth, and just stepped across the pond to -

Carson City (thanks Iain)
Carson City is a clever and complicated worker-placement and building game (Caylus with gunfights) which will need several plays to get used to. It lasted 2.5 hours, which felt a bit too long, but we played with five, which may be too many. I expect it would work better for two or three. The Western theme did not work for me. Dice Town implements its theme better as it is more about shoot-outs and gambling than slowly building a town.
Gareth had already won this game three times, and it really showed. Jeff, with ten plays, had not seen such a high score. Gareth manoeuvred himself into the first choice position going into the final round, amassed over $100, and picked the sheriff, which let him reserve the the action that allows you to buy VPs for $5.
After that it was all over. Phil took to this game well too, scoring a load of points from fire-power tokens.
Gareth 44; Phil 34; Iain 30; Barrie 25; Jeff 24

OK - the time has come. 2 epic reports for 2 epic games. Sit down with a pot of tea and a fondant fancy, and take a journey with the IBG'ers -

Through the Ages (cheers Scott for this one)
With three copies of the game being brought along, Scott and Steph arrived with theirs and started explaining the game to Jeff and Keith who were around and interested in the game. It seemed at this point there may even be enough people for a third game but that was getting a bit too ambitious.
After a few minutes Jeff realised that listening to the full 15-20 minutes of rule explanations would be a bit of a waste when it was unlikely he would be playing it tonight so Keith sat through them all and Iain never arrived by the time we were ready to begin, so our journey Through the Ages had to start or else it would be unlikely to finish.
As briefly as possible, the game plays over three ages with a short introductory Age “A” and a short wind-down Age 4. Each player starts with 2 mines, 2 farms, one laboratory, one warrior and one free worker.
Your farms produce food to buy population increases; mines produce rocks to spend on putting workers in to urban buildings, such as the lab which produces science for your civilization, or a temple which produces culture and happiness. Rocks can also purchase more mines or farms, recruit military units or build Wonders. Science is used to buy new/upgraded technology for your buildings, mines, farms, military units and government changes.
You need happiness to maintain a high population and culture to win the game. The food, rocks and science are what build up your economy so that you can earn more culture than everyone else by the end of the game. Age 3 sees lots of high culture earning potential so the focus in Age 1 and 2 is to build up your civilization rather than focus on just getting culture, although certain strategies do allow that. Strength is necessary to protect your culture and if you have enough of it, you can plunder you neighbours (everyone) with aggressions and Wars.
Civil actions and military actions also control how much a player can do on their turn, these are primarily provided by the government technologies so upgrading usually gets you more actions. Each player starts with 4 civil and 2 military actions per turn.
The game is controlled by a card row where all of the cards for a particular age will come out but the exact order is unknown. To purchase the more recent cards on the card row will cost you more of your civil actions but waiting until it’s your turn again may result in not getting the card at all. There are not enough in the deck for each player to get the same technology - science is also quite limited at the beginning. Therefore, no one player will be able to purchase all of the possible technologies so you often need to develop a strategy as you play based on what cards you can get your hands on and carefully choose when to pay more actions to get the more valuable cards for your strategy (or for other players strategy if them getting it would be too powerful).
And therein lies the game, with many little rules covering many different eventualities and combinations of card effects. Not that brief a rules summary but if you were interested in what actually happened in our game, you’ll be excited about the rest of this report:
Steph was the first player, which was helpful for Keith going 3rd so he could get a better idea of what was happening. The first round (Age A) is simply a pick up some cards round, where Steph took Moses, Scott started building the Library of Alexander and Keith took bonuses for population growth and farm/mine building.
Age 1
Scott went militaristic picking Julius Ceaser as his leader while also building up some early science with a University Wonder to join his Library.
Keith reacted by taking Alexander the Great to get some bonus strength while building up 2 additional farms and 1 additional mine. Too many farms you may say, as Keith’s food production got so high he was facing regular corruption and needed to destroy one of them later on.
Steph saw our military leaders and got herself some swordsmen technology; with her Moses ability for cheap population she was funding a lot of military units, making her the strongest.
Scott and Keith promptly responded by building more military units of their own to keep pace with Steph.
Scott and Steph went for upgrades to their farms and mines while Keith got himself out of Despotism and a new Monarchy government. Steph also recruited Leonardo da Vinci to help her build her economy now that Moses was done increasing her population.
Age 2
Steph continued her military progression and ended up around 10 points ahead of the others. She used this opportunity to launch an attack on Scott, plundering 5 (all) of his rocks and scuppering any new units being built.
Keith also took an opportunity to improve his science by spying on Scott and taking 5 of his science - it was looking a bit bad.
However, Steph didn’t play another aggression giving Scott a chance to make peace with Keith and propose a pact giving Scott more strength and less culture while Keith got more culture. Scott also built up some new units and his strength was enough to match Steph’s and avoid any further raids.
Keith began to struggle with too much food and not enough rocks - a slow build up to a new mine was needed while getting some aid from Joan of Arc. An attempt to build the Taj Mahal was undertaken but there were never sufficient resources to build it.
Steph’s economy was on a roll but her culture was still lacking slightly, however this wouldn’t matter when she completed the Transcontinental Railroad, boosting her rock production and Strength even further. She also got her hands on many new territories, some very cheap, as Scott and Keith were often unable to put forward enough strength without leaving themselves defenceless to Steph, so she was in a win-win situation.
To counter Steph’s territory grabs, Scott took James Cook netting him an extra 2 culture per turn but in Steph’s hands he would have eventually been worth 10 culture/turn.
Age 3
It was at this point that Steph went for her culture production by the only means she knows - aggressively - and to aid her in this she made a pact with Keith. Both of them would get additional strength and there was no down side for them - but there was for Scott.
Steph launched regular attacks upon Scott although they all failed this time around; they did however use up all of his defence/colonization cards resulting in Steph obtaining even more territories.
Keith’s economy was back on track and his culture production was good, but it was unfortunately clear at this point that it was unable to keep pace with Scott and Steph’s who were viciously competing at the top of the culture track by now.
Scott and Steph both got themselves some high scoring wonders, the Fast Food Chains and Space Flight respectively - we all know which of those is more important culturally but they scored similarly none the less.
Scott’s science had now succumbed to fate as Keith and Steph both passed him while he was still on the same science from Age 1 but he sought to correct this with a Printing Press. Steph hindered him with Nikolai Tesla, who made other players' science buildings more expensive, while Keith managed to carry out a Terrorist attack on both Scott and Steph knocking out their science, of which only Steph could afford to rebuild easily.
Scott had a different plan now and further disbanded his science to put to use his military units taking him 10-15 points clear of Steph and Keith.
Unfortunately the game was nearing an end and only one successful aggression occurred towards Keith, stealing some of his precious culture but putting Scott into a lead of 30 points just before the end game scoring.
It was now Keith’s last turn. While Steph and Scott were discussing what may or may not have been played in the end game scoring section, Steph muttered that the bonus for territories would be perfect, giving her 20 points while Scott would only get 4. Keith happened to have that very card at that very moment on the very last turn. Steph with her devious ways, confused and manipulated poor Keith into playing the card despite it being worth just 3 points to him (but it was better than nothing he would say). Keith was also quite happy that it would push Steph and I closer together on the track and make it more interesting for him to watch which I imagine it most certainly was.
Scott was most distressed as the scoring cards he had played would not gain him any benefit over Steph but Steph’s cards as it turned out were sufficient as they mostly hinged on science which Scott had foolishly ignored in favour of military, resulting in the final scores as follows:
Steph 153; Scott 147; Keith 96

Scott will again curse himself for not making the right judgement with the final scoring cards while also accusing Steph of blatant manipulation and cheating.

(Postscript: Steph also submitted a report for this game, which ran as follows - "We played. Steph won. All bow at the feet of Stephanie's gracious majesty. The end.") Quite........

Time to top up the pot, and break into a packet of chocolate hob-nobs for part II of -

Through the Ages (thanks Russ for this one)
We’d talked about playing Through the Ages in Isleworth before, but with a potential 3-4 hour length for a 3 player game it’d never been attempted. Until this week.
A flurry of interest on the forum over the preceding couple of days had led to a number of us turning up early with the intention of learning and playing this great game. James, Iain and I had intended to get in a game, but due to Iain being stuck in traffic we dropped the ‘i’ and got going with Ian instead. Ian and James had never played before, and I’d only ever played 2 player games, though quite a few of those. We went through the rules in about half an hour and I still managed to miss out a couple of little things (though nothing that particularly needed foreknowledge), though I blame that on the interruptions of people jealous of my lovely plastic cubes!
First turn got underway by about 7.20pm, and we stormed through the Ancient Age. I picked up Aristotle and the Pyramids (they both just appeared at the right time, honest), James went for Caesar and the Hanging Gardens and Ian went for Moses and the Library of Alexandria. I’ve never seen Moses taken before and Ian had trouble with corruption due to excess food and not enough civil actions to get it all spent.
I picked up Code of Laws to go with my Pyramids and jealously grabbed science updates left, right and centre. James found himself short of food (and entered into a trade pact with Ian to get extra) and used Barbarossa to bypass one of the required food for expanding his population quite effectively. The only Age I wonder picked up was the Universitas Carolina which helped James out of his science issues. I managed to slip behind on military, but it seemed that the others weren’t getting the aggressions to take advantage of it and I only got hit with one Plunder. In fact it seemed the only thing my civilisation was producing was science as Leonardo took the reins.
Age II brought the first (and only) revolution of the game as Robespierre helped Ian convert in to a Constitutional Monarchy and out of his civil action problems. James picked up Napoleon and continuing a theme I moved to Newton. I managed to get Ocean Liner completed and pick up Transcontinental Railroad in Age II while Ian, feeling like he should build another wonder picked up the Eiffel Tower, which would remain uncompleted. Napoleon led a War on Resources against me at the start of Age III but I managed a big conversion to Shock Troops to win by 1 strength.
Age III saw me trailing by over 30 points; a combination of no culture delta and not playing events due to my low strength. I drew War on Culture and started ramping up my military, but not before I picked up Albert Einstein (of course) and managed to get the Railroad finished (combining nicely with my Coal mines) in time to pick up First Space Flight.
Both Ian and James went to the Movies, Ian combining it with the Rock and Roll idol and James thwarting my warlike plans by picking up Ghandi. In the end I didn’t play the war as Ian wasn’t too far behind me and I’d picked up Impact of Wonders and Impact of Technology. Ian had asked a couple of questions that made me certain he’d played Impact of Happiness and I suspected Impact of Government so I got Military Theory out. Between First Space Flight and Einstein I made about 60 points and ended Age III 5 points behind Ian and 2 or 3 points ahead of James.
It was all down to the Age III events, my suspicion of Impact of Happiness had led me to build 2 Arenas in the last turn of the game, and good thing too as I’d been managing on discontent workers since the Ocean Liner started shipping them over. The 5th event was Impact of Population (whatever it’s called!) and I squeaked a victory in with the final scores of:
Russ 155; Ian 151; James 109

It wouldn’t have taken much to have messed up my plans, in fact missing First Space Flight of Einstein would have done it nicely. Everything seemed a lot more fragile in the 3 player game with less likelihood of getting exactly the cards you wanted, which emphasised the importance of infrastructure. The scores were a lot lower than I’m used to for a 2 player game, though the fact that I never went above 6 civil actions probably didn’t help with that! Viva Despotism!

Phew! Well, there was just time for a couple of quickies for the remaining gamers - no reports this time for -

Gareth 2; Paul 3; Jon 6; Barrie 11; Iain 15; Tonio 42

Gareth 38; Barrie 25; Jon 25; Paul 16; Tonio 15

And that was quite enough for one night. I just hope that things have calmed down in the Scott/Steph household in time for next week's games night. Join us next Wednesday to find out......

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The one where Jon was away and it all went a bit 'Lord of the Flies'.........

(Report of games played on Wednesday 7th April)

Players: Gareth, Barrie, Paul, Philip, Ian, Emma, Russ, Iain, David, James, Scott, Steph, Vicky, Maynard, Keith

15 IBG'ers turned up for this post-Easter session, including a warm welcome to newcomer Keith.

Blogmaster Jon was taking a week off in the wilds of Norfolk (apparently the last internet-free zone on earth) so the rest of the valiant IBG'ers have cobbled this together in his absence. However, it appears that while he was away, the general standard of gaming seems to have gone downhill, with the usually mild-mannered IBG'ers spending most of the evening shooting, torturing and throwing each other into live volcanoes......

Downfall of Pompeii (thanks James for this report)
If ever a game was invented for Steph, this was it. Not a Castillo this time for depositing obedient caballeros, but an erupting volcano in which to toss doomed Romans. Steph could do well, if she could just avoid throwing all her own meeples in the volcano through habit… An easy-peasy game to pick up this one, played over 2 phases. To start with players populate Pompeii with locals seeking a new future in the Roman Empire. This involves playing cards to determine in which buildings to place the villagers under the watchful eye of a fuming Mt Vesuvius which is waiting for the right card combinations to trigger the eruption.
The 2nd phase (once volcano day arrives) involves everyone drawing tiles to slowly submerge the city in lava flows while moving a couple of their pieces towards one of the many city exits. Any poor locals too slow to escape (or distracted by the arrival of their dinner) are deposited in the volcano, preferably accompanied by screams of terror… and the winner is the player with the most survivors. Teachable in about 5 minutes and playable in under an hour. What more could you want for a first game of the evening (ok, dancing girls, beers, fast cars, your very own lifesize model of R2D2… but hey, this is Isleworth after all….)
So given this was a first game for all, strategy was at a minimum (not that any recent Isleworth Boardgamer evidence suggests strategy might improve with further plays). The city slowly filled up, with the occasional sacrificial townie dropped into the volcano to appease the gods (for some reason always James’s people… anyone want to hazard a guess why?). Despite the volcano showing signs of life and coughing more than Emma after a cigarette break, the townsfolk continued to settle in Pompeii (these Romans are crazy…)
Then… finally… disaster… the screams could be heard from Twickenham as - no, not a striptease by Jon - but lava started to flow and everyone ran for the exits. Ian’s rescue mission started out promising but as the exits became blocked his remaining folk became trapped. James’s humanitarian aid seemed more to resemble the Keystone Kops out to foil a burglary. Heaven help us if he ever joins the Fire Service.
Steph and Scott seemed happy throwing each others meeples into the volcano as though it were a normal night at the Agius household. It’s possible we got a rule wrong somewhere in this stage of the game, as towards the end it was obvious that any surviving Pompeian’s were getting trapped quite quickly and, in the words of Nanuk, DOOMED.
Still, for a 45 minute filler this packed a lot of theme, a tinge of strategy and quite a bit of running around like headless chickens. The final result - a few townsfolk saved, but the vast majority ending up toasted in the volcano.
Scott 7; Steph 6; Ian 5; James 5

Pickomino (thanks to Paul)
Emma and Russ had just finished their food for the evening when it was suggested that we kick off with a quick game of Pickomino, a game about chickens plucking roasted worms from a barbeque. Obviously this didn’t deter Iain, whose game it was, as he ordered food and wolfed it down as the game progressed. Not sure if that meant that (a) he just didn’t care, (b) he likes worms so it didn’t put him off at all, or (c) that he is only too aware that a Reiner Knizia theme isn’t really worth the cardboard it is written on, so 'realism' doesn't enter into it?
Russ had played Pickomino previously, so was able to give us a whistle stop tour of the fairly simple rules. It is a dice-based ‘push your luck’ game, in which players attempt to pluck the most worms from the BBQ by rolling the highest scores on the dice and sorting the results into sets. The element of skill in the game is down to the ‘shall I roll again?’ decision, after some rolls have been made, to go for friendly dice rolls and more worms, or to be satisfied with a lower score.
Worm tiles can also be reclaimed and lost if a player does push their luck too far or is just unlucky. After a reasonably well balanced start to the game, a spate of losing tiles from Russ, consistently low starting rolls from Iain, mediocre luck from Paul, and wise change in tactic from Emma and a huge amount of skill (ahem!) from David, saw the latter player take a commanding lead, which he would increase by the final tile.
It was noted that there was a suspiciously high correlation between those players with low scores claiming that the game was all luck, and those who did better who, surely with their tongues pushed firmly into their cheeks, asserted that skill was the main factor in this game. A balanced observer would probably say that it was a bit of both, but quite obviously we didn’t have one at the table for this game, and most certainly not the one tasked with the ‘write up’...
David 9; Emma 3; Paul 2; Iain 1; Russ 0

Scott and Steph brought along a recently new game to them - a game about making pizzas and nothing at all to do about any similarly named musical -

Mamma Mia! (thanks Scott for this write-up)
Steph, Scott and Gareth had played before with James and Ian both new. The rules are fairly simple but you have to see the game in action to really understand them. You have a personal deck of 8 pizza recipes and there is a shared deck of ingredients with 15 each of Pineapple, Pepperoni, Chilli, Olives & Mushrooms. Each player gets a base ingredient which is present in most of their pizzas and you generally need four of something else plus your base ingredient to complete it.
How you complete your pizzas is the great mechanic of the game; you start with 6 ingredients and one random recipe, then on your turn you can play any number of the same ingredient in to the middle of the table plus a recipe on top if you wish, then you draw back up to 7, either entirely from your recipe deck or from the ingredient deck. This play continues around the table until the ingredient deck has been depleted. You then flip over the pile of cards in the middle and resolve them in the order they were played, when you get to a pizza recipe, you see if there were enough ingredients played up to that point to complete it, if there are not enough then that player gets a chance to add ingredients from their hand otherwise the pizza fails and goes back to their recipe deck. The winner is the player with the most completed recipes after three rounds of going through the ingredient deck.
Ian and James were still a bit confused going into the first round but seemed to have picked it up by the end. Unfortunately a cautious approach hadn’t got them many completed pizzas and Gareth’s attempt to put in almost every pizza recipe in one round didn’t pay off when only one of them was actually successful. Steph and Scott did well in the first round as they generally do!
The next 2 rounds saw quite a few successful recipes from everyone with a bit of a comeback from Gareth to actually get some pizzas completed but James and Ian were still struggling a bit - but at least by the end they had understood what they needed to do. Maybe next game will be their time to shine.
Scott 6; Steph 4; Gareth 4; James 3; Ian 2

Ca$h 'n Guns (thanks again Scott)
After successful persuasion from James to get Scott and Steph to bring this along as well as 6 willing players, the foam pistols were drawn from the game which consists entirely of what it says on the box. Scott, Steph & Gareth had played before while James, Maynard & Vicky were new to it.
The premise is simple, we are all gangsters robbing a bank, but after the hold-up we need to share the loot and the only way we can decide to do that is by way of Mexican stand-off. Each round there are 5 money tiles revealed (ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 each), each player then loads their gun with one of their 8 bullet cards (5 clicks/blanks, 2 bang’s and 1 bang, bang, bang) and on the count of three each player points their gun simultaneously at who they want to shoot. Once you see how many people have a gun pointing at you there is a second count of three where anyone can take a dive to avoid getting shot (they will receive a $5,000 penalty by taking a shame token though).
If anyone still standing has a gun pointed at them, the bullet cards are revealed, bang bang bang’s get resolved first and anyone getting shot by those cannot shoot their target unless they played the same card, then any bang’s and clicks are shown to see if they hit their target or not (if your target took a dive you don’t have to reveal what you would have used).
Any hits knock a player out for that round and they receive a wound marker (get three of those and you are out of the game), from those still standing who didn’t get shot or took a dive they split the loot amongst themselves evenly. If they cannot split everything evenly they take what they can and leave the rest to add to the next round. After 8 rounds anyone still alive counts up their loot and the one with the most is the winner.
Everyone got into the spirit of this immediately and it was time to finally get some revenge on our fellow IBG’ers. In a surprise turn of events, everyone didn’t point at Scott in the first round. Gareth did though, and for most of the game (I don’t know what I could have possibly done to outrage him, especially when Steph has done her best to annoy him recently by way of saying he looks like a monkey and a bit like a goblin).
James got some revenge on Steph though, holding his gun right up against her head, which scared her even more than usual when playing with James.
With a lot of blanks in the bullet decks and many people not getting targeted by multiple people at once there were quite a few rounds with lots of survivors. This caused the loot to pile up but a couple of high paying rounds saw the tables turn and Steph took a couple of shots while Vicky was often scared away by two guns, flinching before three was called for the chance to dive.
Towards the end a few players in particular had some cash piling up in front of them, mainly Scott, Steph and Vicky. Gareth made it his priority to point out that Scott had the most while Scott tried to pass it off as not having any $20k’s, which wasn’t fooling Steph for a second as she accused him of lying.
So it came to pass that almost everyone targeted Scott in the subsequent round but it was a foolhardy move, with the big loot gone and Scott not caring he took a dive while everyone else got nothing either as there were too many of them. He almost 'did a Gareth' and forgot to take his shame marker though but Steph was there to correct his ways (as usual!).
The last few rounds saw some attempts on Steph’s life, still mainly from James, as she had two wound markers. There was also a lot of firing going on across the other half of the table, with a bundle of cash going to some people’s hands, who were quick not to point out exactly how much they were collecting to avoid the repercussions (particularly James who had been keeping quiet in his corner for most of the game...)
With everyone still alive at the end, the final scores were as follows:
Scott $95k; James $65k; Vicky $55k; Steph $35k; Maynard $35k; Gareth $30k

It is a quick, fun game that also has a couple of nice variants, one where each player draws a card at the beginning to give them a secret special ability to be revealed during the game. Such as - you are carrying a grenade and if anyone shoots you they also get hit that round, or the double gunslinger who gets a second gun and the remaining bullets of the first person to die during the game.
Or there is also the undercover cop variant where the cop is trying to call for back-up without the other gangsters realising who they are, and killing them off first.
I’ll bring it along a few more times to see if people are still keen to shoot each other up. (I'd say that's a fairly safe bet.....)

Formula D (thanks Gareth)
This game was new to Steph, Vicky and Maynard and was the second race of the year, this time using the Monaco track. Gareth took an early lead from pole position closely followed by James. Stephanie stalled on the grid making slow progress from the start but managed to overtake and block Scott on the third corner causing sharp braking, the screech of tyres and lots of protests from Scott. Vicky and Maynard fought over 3rd and 4th positions for most of the first lap.
By the start of the second lap James had moved into first with some crazy driving and much crunching of gears. Gareth played it safe and remained in second place and Scott had now moved up 3rd but his car was looking pretty damaged.
By the final corner Gareth and James were neck and neck and Gareth being on the inside corner (this went to a referees decision due to James protests) got to move first but couldn’t accelerate fast enough and James overtook a few feet from the finish line taking the chequered flag, closely followed by Gareth, with Scott also making the podium in 3rd place.
James 10pts; Gareth 8; Scott 6; Vicky 5; Maynard 4; Stephanie 3

Inquisitio (thanks Russ for the report)
To round off the night we had a quick game of Inquisitio. I soon realised that I didn’t remember the rules as well as I thought and hence made a bit of a hash of explaining them! It’s a very light game of avoiding the Spanish Inquisition which doesn’t really stand up on its own merits and needs people to buy into the theme.
Needless to say with only one drink in us and with Iain suffering from a post-Liberté headache it didn’t really go down too well!
David ended up with the most guilt points at the end and hence was burnt at the stake as a heretic; Iain won with -12 guilt, I was next with zero, Barry had 3 guilt and Emma 6, but at least we all survived the torture.
Previously when I’ve played there’s been a lot of quoting of Monty Python, announcing the tortures in a portentous voice and arguing about who really did consort with the Succubus (most seemed pretty eager to admit to that sin).
My opinion is that with a certain mood it’s lots of fun, but the scoring system is a little too awkward to fully just relax and call for Cardinal Fang to bring out the comfy chair...
Iain -12; Russ 0; Barry 3; Emma 6; David - burned at stake

Wits and Wagers
Emma 220; Steph 130; Vicky 60; Maynard 35; Scott 25; James 10; Gareth 0

Stephanie 6; Vicky 6; James 4; Maynard 2; Emma 1; Scott 0; Gareth 0

Also played was Liberte (check out Iain's blog for his opinion), Saint Petersburg and Tigris & Euphrates, but with no scores or reports, that's all the information you're getting!

Thanks to everyone who compiled reports without me being there to nag you. See you all next week, when we will endeavour to return to some more civilised gaming....

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

"You run like a lay-dee................."

Players: James, Rob, Paul, Barrie, Philip, Steph, Scott, Tonio, Jon, Vicky, Maynard, Dan, Iain, Keith

14 keen boardgamers came out to play tonight, including a return from Keith, who is taking a break from scuba diving to join us. I'm sure that he felt right at home playing a game based around coral reefs then....

Elsewhere in the room, there was some space-based empire building going on, as well as some courageous treasure hunting (and boulder-based death) in a booby-trapped temple. And there was still time for Barrie to become totally confused about who really was a Saboteur.......

The first few through the door tonight had another go at this food-themed card game -

Mamma Mia! (thanks Scott for this report)
Steph’s new favourite filler game is spreading among IBG, the new convert this week was Paul along with Scott, Barrie, Steph and James for a full complement of 5.
This game was a lot more constrained than usual, a lot of recipes from everyone thrown in to the mix, resulting in lots of failed recipes each round. Steph and Barrie seemed to be doing the best after round 2, Paul was keeping up and Scott and James were flagging a little.
The last round saw Scott catch up and take the lead from 1 pizza to 4 while Barrie didn’t get any completed leaving him with a full hand of ingredients as tie-breaker.
Out of 8 possible pizzas, we each completed the following:
Scott 4 pizzas; Barrie 3/7 ingredients; Steph 3/5; Paul 3/3; James 2

The next few through the door were rounded up by Jon to have a go at another food-based game -

Piece o’ Cake
New to most, this is the game of “I’ll cut – you choose”. Steph hovered over the game at the beginning, helpfully interjecting that the correct name for the small green fruit is a “Kiwi Fruit”, not a “Kiwi”, which is a bird. (A “Kiwi” is also the name given to an Antipodean who hovers over games making unhelpful comments….)
Anyway, Philip decided to do a Barrie and attempted to break the game by eating every slice that he picked up. He didn’t come last, but 4th out of 5 probably indicates that it isn’t really a strategy destined for much success.
The first 3 rounds flew by, but dividing up the last 2 cakes took a little more thought. When the crumbs had been cleared away, Tonio had scored the most in majorities, but Jon had scoffed enough whipped cream from a few chocolate slices to just take the win.
Jon 32 (10 cream / 22 cake); Tonio 28 (2/26); Keith 27 (5/22); Philip 24 (24/0); Vicky 19 (5/14)

Jon now left the cake-eaters to join up for a thrilling expedition with -

The Adventurers
This was one of James’ recent purchases, and he had no trouble in rounding up 5 other brave Indiana Jones wannabes to join in. It is basically a re-enactment of the opening scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where our hero is trying to valiantly escape from a collapsing temple, complete with a huge rolling boulder. The object is to guide your adventurer through a variety of dangerous zones, including a room with crushing walls, a lava pit and a raging torrent, all the while trying to pick up treasures on the way.
However, the more treasure you pick up, the slower your adventurer moves. And if that wasn’t enough, the rolling boulder is hard on your heels, picking up speed as it goes. Although you can dodge out of its way and then follow behind it, if it reaches the exit before the adventurer does, it traps them in forever. A nice addition is that if your adventurer dies, you can bring on a substitute, although all the treasure collected to date is lost.
As no-one had played before, the boulder appeared to offer no imminent danger at the beginning, and all the players were happy to mingle in the first room, collecting treasure and looking at the secret glyph tiles.
By the time they realised that the boulder was increasing speed at a rather rapid rate, it was too late, and James, Jon and Paul were squashed flat. Barrie had made it to the lava room, but in deciding which tiles to step on, “he chose… poorly”, and also met a swift demise.
Whilst the other adventurers hung around outside the lava room to collect more treasures, Jon made a dash for the river, and started picking up goodies from the river bed. James chose to cross the rickety bridge, but took too much time on it, and consequently his second adventurer met the same fate as his first, courtesy of the 10-tonne boulder.
As the boulder fast approached, there was a mad dash for the exit, with Jon discarding some treasure to lighten his load. As it transpired, he was the only one to make it out alive, with everyone else being trapped forever inside the temple of Chac with only their worthless trinkets for company…
Jon 12; James, Barrie, Dan, Rob, Paul – all died

Meanwhile, back in the ocean -

Reef Encounter (thanks Tonio for this one)
Vicky and Tonio were new to the game but Philip did a good job of going over the rules and scoring. Keith had also played before and was keen to test (if not share) his strategy!
Reef Encounter is a set collection game of sorts and the play area consists of independent reefs in which collections of coral grow (under player influence) and are then consumed by other coral unless guarded by shrimp. The player plays the part of a parrot fish and can eventually consume the coral (so long as it has a shrimp of his colour guarding it) and consumes the shrimp too, in an ungrateful sort of way. There are, of course some twists. There are eight tiles indicating which coral can consume which other coral, and these tiles can be flipped by playing a special move. They can also be locked, but only after you have consumed your first shrimp. The dominant corals score more at the end of the game.
This ability to lock tiles was key in Philip's strategy and so he consumed a relatively small coral (5 tiles, but you discard the first 4 so he scored only 1) very early in the game. At this point Keith was concerned that Philip was wanting to make it a brief encounter. For the most part the first half of the game was pretty conservatively played, with shrimp placed in such a way that it was impossible to capture other people's coral.
It was at this point that Keith showed his strategy (which is possibly obvious to seasoned players of the game) which was to move your shrimp out of the way and consume your own coral. Now with lots of tiles in front of him Keith was able to make more choices.
As the game progressed Vicky was keen to grow her coral farms big enough to consume and unable to defend them all she attracted a number of attacks. Tonio had a big interest in orange and yellow coral and also seemed unable to defend it all. Philip's initial fast start slowed a little and although he succeeded in locking orange and black dominance, Tonio managed to get a larger amount of orange coral by the end of the game. Keith cleaned up most of the black and so Philip was unable to benefit from the hard work he put in. It was a close finish, with Tonio edging it on a tie-breaker (most tiles in front of screen).

The game is reminiscent of Arkadia in that you collect tiles without knowing their final worth. I enjoyed the game and am keen to give it another play.

And in outer space -

Galactic Emperor (thanks again Scott)
A recent addition to Scott’s collection and his second play in as many nights, today he was accompanied by Steph, Iain and Maynard. The game mechanics are similar to Puerto Rico in that each round everyone gets to pick a role, that player gets a special benefit while everyone else also gets to execute the role.
You start the game with a home system and a star base to produce ships, the rest will be built as the game goes along. There is a deck of planet systems where a number are face up each round. The “Explorer” role allows players to move those systems on to the board. Each system will produce a combination of Food, Metal and/or Energy. You collect food from your planets with the “Merchant”, buy/sell resources and place food on your production systems; the “Steward” can then turn that food into the metal/energy depicted in the system.
The “Engineer” can build ships with metal, energy and space credits, the “Warlord” can move those ships out to explore new systems or you can just start space battles by moving in to another player’s systems. Not just ships can fight, but Empires will defend themselves too, destroying another players Empire in a system will earn you 1VP with no reward here for turtling.
The role which affects the game the most and makes it very different to your ordinary empire builder is the “Regent”, where all players will get to spend two or three influence points across systems in the galaxy, converting enemy empires to your own or upgrading your own empires to star bases that can then deploy ships. After this, players score 1Vp per planet still under their control.
The last role is the “Scientist” where there are various technologies available to spend energy on and get a range of benefits that affect different areas of the game; there is only one copy of each so you need to be quick to grab the ones that fit your strategy.
The winner is the player with the most VP’s either when the VP chips are depleted or when someone has all of their empire tokens on the board.
The game began with Scott going down the science route, getting a tech to fuel 2 production planets without food. Maynard went with some long-range scanners for exploring, Steph took the obvious choice of Space Pirate to steal a food/metal from someone during “merchant”, while Iain went with a Saboteur to try and stop some of these techs being used when it mattered.
Maynard got full use out of his scanners next by “Exploring”, Steph went for the “Merchant”, she just enjoyed stealing from people, and she would often take “Merchant”. Iain went with “Regent” and we were all quite peaceful just expanding our current territory and not trying to take over anyone else just yet.
It all changed from round 2 and lacking a food source, Scott influenced an uncontrolled food system next to Maynard with the favour quickly returned while also hurting Steph - he wasn’t here to make friends (except with Iain who was on the opposite side of the board). Steph continued to play it safe in the influencing phases and secure her own territories rather than wage war or get revenge, whilst Iain just sat back and enjoyed the chaos being caused by everyone around him.
The game continued with lots of little sparring and a few extra VP’s here and there. Iain turned the tide by mid-game when he had collected more than his fair share of food sectors and managed to collect a huge bundle of money for it all during a round with lots of high priced goods.
The rest of us were fairly even with planets and ship building. With four players, there are a lot of borders to defend with quite a distance between players so influencing was much more popular to invade other players. Maynard got himself an edge with the +1 movement to ships tech and used it to bring the battle to Scott’s doorstep. Steph with her aggressive fighting techs also took an opportunity to try and bring balance to the force and claim a few of Iain’s systems. The force was not strong with this one though and Iain quickly took back what was rightfully his.
By the time everyone had got their ship building economy in full swing, the VP’s were looking dangerously low and Steph finished the last round even more prematurely by picking “Regent” immediately. With Iain’s Ambassador and Diplomat technologies to help influence it was difficult to deny him some of the precious remaining VP’s. Ultimately Iain got a couple more VP’s here and still with the most money got a bonus 2 VP’s and was comfortably ahead:
Iain 38; Maynard & Steph 33; Scott 32

A fun game with a very close result where you could feel the anguish of Scott from losing at his own game! On the plus side though, it may see more plays that way...

With Rob departing (late) to pick up his beloved from the airport, and Paul and Dan getting a round in, there was time for the remaining Adventurers to have a quick game of -

High Society
Barrie played this game by only picking up 2 tiles and hoarding all his money. He lost. James and Jon fought it out for the rest of the tiles, with both of them picking up a “2x” and a negative tile each. When the 4th red tile was revealed, James was 1 point ahead, but when the money was revealed, Jon had a little more in the bank. Barrie was saving up for a very, very rainy day.
Jon 14 ($35k); Barrie 7 ($63k); James 15 ($25k)

With the gamers freshly watered, it was time for some co-op fun -

Castle Panic
This was Tonio’s copy of the game, and was new to James, Paul and Dan, but the rules are fairly east to explain so it was soon under way. Things didn’t start too well, with a boulder taking out a tower early on, but the monsters were being taken out with relative ease as the game progressed.
However, just as the newcomers were wondering about the title of the game, one delve into the bag for new monsters resulted in no less than 9 counters being revealed.
There ensued a few rounds of furrowed brows and pensive looks, but all’s well that ends well as the defenders survived the onslaught with 2 towers remaining.
If anyone cares, James just pipped Dan to the title of Master Slayer, but I’m not sure that you could ever deliberately play to win this title, as the defenders would almost certainly get over-run in the process.
As a side note, it was slightly odd picking the tokens from a bag made out of pair of Tonio’s old pants. I think that’s taking the recycling ethos just a little too far…
James 19; Dan 15; Barrie 8; Paul 8; Jon 2

The Galactic Emperors had now also finished, and fitted in a couple of rounds of -

Money (thanks Iain for your opinion)
I have been meaning to get hold of Money for years. The new version has top quality linen-finish cards and the artwork is good. The simple rules, simultaneous bidding and short duration all make this feel similar to For Sale.
Scott 650; Iain 460; Steph 290; Maynard 60

Maynard 530; Scott 520; Philip 510; Iain 440; Vicky 140

And finally -

A full 3 rounds of this game were played, which is always fun. For some reason, James mistrusts every word that comes out of Jon’s mouth, and was convinced that he was a Saboteur throughout the whole game, when in fact, this was only the case in the first round. However, during this first round Jon managed to convince the increasingly confused-looking Barrie that it was in fact James who was the traitor, resulting in Barrie breaking James’ tools for the rest of the round. A fine piece of subterfuge, against which all future bluffs and underhand dealings will be measured….
The first round went to the Saboteurs (Paul, Jon and Dan), whilst the second was a relatively easy win for the good dwarves (Paul, Barrie and Dan failing to stop them). The third round looked to be a nailed-on victory for the saboteurs (Tonio, Steph and Dan) when Tonio played a crucial rockfall late on, but a late rally by the good guys nearly (but not quite) turned the tables.
The victory spoils were shared by Dan (a saboteur all game) and Steph, who discovered the gold in the second mine. A great way to round off the evening with much good-natured banter throughout.
Dan 6; Steph 6; Jon 5; Tonio 4; James 3; Paul 3; Barrie 0

And that was it. No more to say this week - except - see you next week....