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......

1 comment:

  1. Here's a link to my blog... :o)