Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A bit of PR at IBG.......

Players: James, Gareth, Vicky, Maynard, Scott, Steph, Barry, Philip, Ian, Iain, Paul, Tonio, John

Jon was away this week, entertaining long lost relatives (although John with an 'h' turned up instead), so the rest of the IBG'ers have gallantly put together this week's report.

In his absence, there was the usual mix of trains, planes and automobiles, some dice rolling, some card playing and a trip to some place with a 'Z' and a 'V' in it somewhere...

Oh, and there was the very first outing at IBG for the number one strategy board game that definitely does not contain any reference to slaves......

So here we go - not necessarily in chronological order, but they all happened at some point during the evening....

 Chicago Express (thanks Scott for this report)
Iain was more keen than ever to play Chicago Express this week, recruiting Ian and James immediately with it set-up ready to go when Steph and Scott arrived. Steph still professes that she doesn’t like train games but saved a seat for Scott and so a 4 player game commenced, with Iain and Scott having played a few times before, and James and Ian new to it all.
At Iain’s warning not to overspend on shares, James played his tactic of wait around not doing much in the first few turns while he sees what others do. Scott invested fully with the red and yellow shares with a couple of $ to spare, while Ian got started on the blue and Iain on the green.
As the initial red owner, Scott started with a share auction of green that went to Ian, diluting the best starting line but it was followed by share auctions of red and yellow going to Iain and James respectively, diluting both of Scott’s investments, but now there were more players to build track for them too.
Early on Iain was keen to progress green, Scott got the red moving, Ian the blue and James the yellow. With blue only having one share auctioned they almost ran out of money at one point and almost blocked off by Scott using the yellow trains as sacrifices but decided to play a bit nicer and focussed on getting yellow closer to Chicago.
By the mid game, green and yellow had progressed well, with green shares ending up spread across lots of players while yellow was focussed equally between James and Scott and a lot of effort put in to getting them moving West. Blue and red were concentrating on middle ground, making more money from a stopover in Pittsburgh and getting it upgraded, benefiting Iain and Ian who were the only ones to have both blue and red interest at this point.
Late game, green had connected to quite a few cities while not actually making a run for Chicago, the fact that investment was now split amongst everyone was the reason, it was in no-one’s interest to trigger a Chicago payout as we would all benefit equally. With yellow being taken over by Scott getting a third share, a run for Chicago was made, with Ian grabbing the last yellow share just before payout time and James still intent on keeping yellow profitable since it was the line he was most invested in too. Red and blue hadn’t done much recently, all attention was on yellow except for Iain who tried to get a bit more life out of blue seeing as it would benefit Scott the least.
As the black line was now in play, Ian got himself invested first with a slightly high bid considering Scott immediately put up the other share of it for auction, triggering the end of the game this round and an unexpected alliance between Ian and Scott to get the black line to Chicago, making back some money on their late investment.
With two companies in Chicago and three others on the wayside, the final scores were:
Scott $90; James $72; Ian $68; Iain $52

And so Iain had been bested at his own game and paid the price for getting a rainbow of shares resulting in any action taken helping others just as much as himself. With heavy investment in yellow by Scott and James, combined they created a train line twice as profitable as any other and this paid off well in dividends, especially after Scott got himself the biggest stake.
That’s also the first time I’ve seen yellow do so well, it is a game very heavily influenced by how people want to play the train lines, the rules are simple and it plays quickly, making it a very rewarding game. Oh, and the train companies do have names but they’re much easier to describe as colours!

Puerto Rico (thanks James for this one)
So given I think we’ve had a run out of most of the top 20 games in the last year it was time to make up for what could appear to the casual observer as an intentional overlooking of the #1 game on the geek… Nope, not the BGG perennial favourite but the big daddy, the overlord, the game that makes El Grande look like La Piceno, the one and only....Puerto Rico. No idea why this game has been so scurrilously skipped. On occasions a game can be discarded due to an irrational and thinly disguised contempt by Barrie (Le Havre anyone ?), but it really looks like this has just been the forgotten sibling, destined to sit in the corner while it’s elder brothers get to play with the Subbuteo set.
This was the first game in a while for Paul, James and Barry and the first game ever for an over-excited Ian - like a school kid on Christmas morning he was bouncing off the walls at a chance to play the ‘Take That’ of the geek game charts. Even a dodgy overview of the rules by a rusty James (both in age and memory) failed to dim his enthusiasm, and the ½ hour long set up of this game (SOOoooooo many teeny tiny pieces…) only helped to heighten the anticipation.
We were aware before starting of the ‘newbie on the left’ rule but as none of us felt like we could even remember the rules, let alone strategy it didn’t seem like much of a risk. Seating order was Paul, James, Barry and Ian and to give Ian a chance to get used to the game Paul took the Gov to start with. However this meant him going 4th for the Gov which is probably not the strongest starting position for a noob.
Early rounds went smoothly enough, Paul developed some Indigo, James collected quarries, Barry became Mayor to recruit some slaves, voluntary helpers and Ian still looking slightly perplexed and having worked out by now that going 4th wasn’t much help developed some corn, tried to raise some cash and made a mental note not to go 4th next time.
From here it’s all a bit vague as I don’t have the flash memory of the latest Pentax to track all the moves. In general though James went for buildings giving bonuses on the Settler phase (free slaves colonists and extra plantation), Barry developed a good production line for corn and sugar, Paul focused on Indigo and Ian was probably already working out what he would do differently next game now he understood how the game actually worked.
James was the first in with coffee while Ian produced the first tobacco although at one stage had 3 idle slaves workers in San Juan as he was running out of open buildings. After a few shaftings on the Captain role Paul decided to buy a Wharf and go it alone on the high seas. Barry held a monopoly in the corn market and took control of one of the export ships as the only producer of sugar.
At the ¾ stage James took one of the bonus buildings with his Tobacco riches and everyone anticipated the end game soon… In fact the phrase "only 15 minutes to go Gareth" was probably uttered a dozen times between 9:30 and 10:45 as we all slowly realised we were in this for the long haul and weren’t going to be able to fit in a quick game of Nanuk before home time. (…we’re doomed…)
It looked for a while (“…only 15 minutes to go Gareth…”) as if the end game was going to be triggered by James filling his building requirement but eventually after a couple of big Captain turns we used up the last VP and it was time to count the spoils. 
Ian, Paul and Barry all scored in the 40’s, it would be churlish of me to separate them (although Ian did come 2nd) but James ran away with the game at the end with a score of 62. Despite the 2 hr plus running time we all considered this a triumphant return to the tables for Puerto Rico and hopefully won’t be another year before the game comes out again…
James 62; Ian 40 something; Paul 40 something; Barry 40 something 

Thanks to Gareth for the next 5 short reports

No Thanks
The evening started with a short game of 'No Thanks' and true to form Steph came in first with lowest score.
Steph 1st, John 2nd, Gareth 3rd and Maynard 4th.

Formula D
Tonio and Vicky then joined us and we had a quick game of Formula D using the Silverstone track and the basic rules. Gareth took pole position with a lucky dice roll and was off to a flying start closely followed by Tonio and John, Maynard on the other hand stalled early on.
By the mid game Gareth and John were fighting for 1st, Tonio and Vicky in the middle of the pack and Steph and Maynard towards the back. Gareth managed to take the win of the single lap race with John just not managing to cross the finish line quick enough, Vicky cam in 3rd followed by Tonio, Steph and Maynard crashed out on the final bend.
Gareth 1st; John 2nd; Vicky 3rd; Tonio 4th; Steph 5th; Maynard 6th.

A new game introduced by John. Basically you are artists trying to restore a fresco in a renaissance church. Each player has 5 workers and has to plan their work day by day including buying paints, mixing colours, selling art or restoring the fresco. A fun middle weight game which plays quickly in around an hour.
Gareth 75; Maynard 67; John 64; Vicky 53.

The game of collecting different coloured Chameleons, new to Vicky and Maynard, but they soon picked it up. The joint win went to Gareth and Maynard.
Gareth 41; Maynard 41; John 29; Vicky 26.

The final game of the evening was the classic bluffing game Perudo. Vicky managed to get here first win of the evening.
Vicky 1st; Gareth 2nd; John 3rd; Maynard 4th.

Perudo (thanks again Scott)
To fill the gap between Formula D finishing to get a couple more players for Scepter of Zavendor, we decided on Perudo for a quick filler. So Iain, Scott and Philip played with a suggestion from Philip to combine two colours and have 6 dice each.
Iain was a bit rusty on the rules and lost the first two dice as he got to grips with how it worked but in Scott’s usual tradition, he lost all of his dice first and by a high margin. Losing dice early when he didn’t trust Philip’s bids (when they were usually exact) and in a last ditch attempt to save his last dice, went with an exact on Philip’s bid of three 5's and realised that Philip was a great liar who had no 5s whatsoever.
In the face-off between Philip and Iain, Philip was up and down with his dice while Iain managed to stay steady at 3 dice, increasing to 4, then it all fell apart for Philip who slowly lost more and more and in a final bid of four 4s from Iain, Philip called “impossible” but with three 4s and a 1 revealed from under his cup, Iain had won the game.
Iain 4 dice; 2nd Philip; 3rd Scott

Scepter of Zavendor (big thanks once again Scott)
Scott, Iain, Philip, Steph and Tonio were all eager for a game, with a welcome return to Tonio, the current holder of the scepter from last time. Iain and Philip were both new so a quick rules run through left them a bit dazed and confused but they got to grips with it quickly after the first round, which is fairly simply to get an opal and/or sapphire while maybe increasing your knowledge a little.
For the characters and starting knowledge tracks, Tonio drew the Witch (cheaper gems), Iain the Mage (cheaper artifacts), Steph the Elf (regular income track), Philip the Fairy (income boost track), Scott the Kobold (Extra gem slots).
With Philip’s boosted income, he started strong and moved up his knowledge track, and got himself a spellbook and some emeralds pushing him far in to the lead; however, this attracted the penalty of being in first to pay extra for artifacts, a penalty he would now keep for most of the game, so also pursuing the artifact track was his next priority.
With Philip in first, Scott held back to stay in last place to get an extra discount for artifacts while gaining knowledge of the artifacts to spend a couple of turns picking up two cheap crystal balls, then two Elixirs later on to start a run of diamonds after previous getting more sapphires
Tonio was a bit perplexed as usual and followed behind Philip in an emerald strategy, but with his discount for gems could purchase them easier. A lack of gem space prohibited getting too many active gems though while Philip ended up getting both artifacts to allow more gem space.
Iain went with extra sapphires early and then seemed to lose steam a little and his strategy became cloudy with which knowledge track and artifacts would be best to pursue next. He went with knowledge of gems giving him both cheaper gems and cheap artifacts which allowed him easy access to whichever ones he wanted later.
Steph maxed out her knowledge to get extra income per turn while also being the first to get an Elixir and start diamonds, followed by Scott who got a head start with his artifact discounts, but Steph pursued cheaper gems to pull in to the lead with diamonds.
Everyone seemed happy in the paths they had chosen except maybe Iain and Tonio who still seemed a little lost, not having money at the right time while the rest of us bought what they secretly had really wanted may have been an issue. By mid-game when the mirrors started to turn up (causes others to lose gems), Tonio showed us his vanity purchasing two magic mirrors (the first one wouldn’t tell him he was the fairest of them all) while Steph got the other one and between them, Scott, Philip and Iain lost all of their Opals.
A lot of other artifacts were left in the middle while everyone purchased more expensive gems before Iain and Philip cracked and bought up a lot of the emerald artifacts. Leaving Scott and Steph to get themselves some Masks of Charisma (Steph managing to get two of them), which was a powerful position getting a huge discount later from Sentinels, the most VP generating items. Also, Steph’s mirror could now tell her she was the fairest of them all with two masks to prove it, much to Tonio’s disappointment.
Going in to the end game, Philip, Steph and Scott were leading the way with first place switching between Steph and Philip often while Scott stayed just enough behind to get third but not far enough to fight with Tonio and Iain over last. However, with the big sentinel/artifact purchases to come there was plenty of opportunity to change it. To add a bit of urgency, we were getting quite late in to the night and a bit of goading, particularly from Steph kept us on track but this did leave us calculating rather quickly and left with a lot of spinning heads by the end, so the purchases from this point may not have been in everyone’s best interest but ultimately I think it worked out okay.
With Steph’s discounts on Sentinels she managed to get her greedy hands on three of them scoring for diamonds (not very many VP but trying to stop Scott getting it, although he didn’t want it either really), knowledge and artifacts (Toad).
Scott managed to get two sentinels scoring for sapphires and the other one for artifacts (Raven), while also picking up one of the expensive artifacts to boost some knowledge and get a few more VPs.
Philip got himself the sentinel for emeralds which paid out highly but with a shortfall of cash going in to the last round couldn’t get another one and settled for a cloak (losing gems for others).
Iain decided against saving up for a sentinel and pursued the cloaks as he had a lot of discounts for buying them and forced us all to lose two gems after a bidding war with Tonio, who was keen on getting himself a cloak too (if it was a funky looking hat, I’m sure he would have bid more), the gem loss was particularly painful for Steph who lost two of her diamonds.
I’m not sure if Tonio ended up with a sentinel but between Scott, Steph and Philip who had purchased any which would have been useful for him, money poured in to artifacts instead was best to secure the most available VPs.
With no time for the dust to settle, the scores were scribbled on a napkin (which was all we could find in Jon’s absence) just in time as Steph thought it would be best to pack away the score counters first, but the scores were as follows:
Scott 65; Steph 63; Philip 58; Iain 50; Tonio 46

And so Tonio had lost all of his beginner luck, Philip had been overwhelmed by the penalty for being in first too long, with Scott and Steph battling fiercely as Scott just pipped her to the post with 2 extra VP. Being Iain and Philip’s learning game they had done quite well with a lot of pressure to get it finished too. The important thing to plan for is your amount of money saved going in to the last few rounds to ensure you can get at least one of the high scoring sentinels you need. Hopefully it gets to be played again soon!

Thanks to Scott, Gareth and James for keeping a record of everything that went on tonight.

See you next week....

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