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....

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