Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The politics of IBG............

Players: Steph, Jim, Emma, Vicky, Philip, Gareth, Scott, James, Ian, Barrie, Jon, Daniel, Russ, Maynard, Iain, Toby

A rainbow alliance of 16 gamers assembled in the Riverview Room at the London Apprentice tonight, including a welcome to newcomer Toby, who had wandered in from nearby Brentford.

Tonight saw post-election fever evident amongst the group, as one table sought to make valuable coalitions, Gareth won an outright majority and Dan decided not to vote for economic games. Fortunately, the room didn't close at 10pm, there weren't queues of gamers unable to get in, and no-one resigned in the middle of it all.....

The early birds were persuaded by 'someone' to start the evening off with -

Fluxx (thanks Dan!)
Some people like economic games, some relish a heavy Euro and others enjoy games involving zombie sharks being hunted by ninja pirates. That's not forgetting the party games. Where Fluxx sits in amongst these is anybody's guess.
The numbers sitting down to play started with five early arrivees, which quickly became six, seven and then eight, until almost the entire club appeared to be involved.
Details are hazy although not everyone got a go, some turns were missed altogether and the game was thrown twice without any apparent impact on gameplay. Perhaps the experience was best epitomised by the exchange "Who won? Who lost? Did anyone lose in this game?" "Actually I think we were all losers..."
Ian won; Emma, Steph, Scott, James, Dan, Russ, Toby, Ian - all lost

Before the main games started, one of the opening fillers was -

Pick Picknic
Quick summary of this 'chicken eats corn, fox eats chicken' simultaneous selection game: James' foxes were much in evidence. Daniel doesn't like sharing stuff, preferring to rely on his dice-rolling skills to take the whole lot himself. Many cries of "ohhhhhh!" as foxes turned up in fields devoid of plump, tasty fowl. The game ended with 2 felds with oodles of corn in it that no-one could gobble up. Iain's luck with the dice was even worse this week than it was last week playing Exxtra - no wonder he prefers economic games... 
James 34; Dan 29; Maynard 24; Jon 23; Russ 20; Iain 16

And for some of the next to arrive -

High Society (thanks Jim for this one)
Although the official start time is 19:30, Jim arrived 10 minutes before then to find 2 full tables of games already in play. Talk about keen! Fortunately Gareth and Barrie were also looking for a game and the trio and decided to play a quick game pending others arriving. High Society was produced. Vicky joined the group and then James made the game up to 5 players.
After some interesting bidding, double bluffing and a few cusses, Gareth ended the game with the most treasure but the least money so he was out. The lead for the treasure was shared by Vicky and Jim, but Jim's frugality (not luck as some would have...) meant he had the most cash on hand and thus won the game.
Jim 14 + $20k; Vicky 14 + $15k; James 12; Barry 8; Gareth 18 (least cash)

Mamma Mia!
Ian (4 pizzas/6 ingredients); Emma (4/3); Steph (4/3); Scott (2/7); Toby (2/5)

Lexio (thanks again Jim)
At the end of High Society, Emma came over and asked to borrow Lexio, but Jim declined unless he was playing too, so off the two of them went to join Steph, Phil (returned from his holidays) and Toby (new member!) Vicky declined to take Jim’s place and instead helped distribute the players’ starting kitty and watched the game. Having watched a game, I think Vicky wants to play next time!
Neither Phil nor Toby had played before so Jim explained the rules and the game started. As before, it took longer to explain the game than play a round. No “powerhouse” hands emerged although they did get frighteningly close a few times and Toby did get caught with a “2” still in his hand in one round so had to pay out double – had he not had to do he would have almost certainly won the game.
After the 5 rounds the points were tallied and the final results were:
Jim 161; Toby 157; Emma 156; Phil 145; Steph 126

Back by popular demand (well, Jon asked for it) was the organised chaos that is -

Space Alert (thanks for this one Daniel)
With a triumphant fanfare the replacement crew for the recently renovated Sitting Duck, resplendent in their military issue Rayon Leiderhosen and Deely Boppers, boarded their vessel. Spirits were so high that nobody even mentioned the hastily welded hull or the way the entire starboard wing appeared to be held on purely by the application of elastic bands and sticky tape.
Surveying his crew as they took their positions, Captain Jon gave a Space Corp standard double fisted salute to each one in turn - Iain, Maynard, Security Officer Russ and finally Communications Officer Daniel. In order to break the new crew in gently a quick test mission was organised. The Communications Officer did his best to present the key instructions for controlling the ship, which largely comes down to pressing one of three buttons (in the right order... and at the right time please...) and without undue delay the Sitting Duck once more returned to the depths of enemy territory.
The test mission was a resounding success, so much so that the crew found time in the last few minutes of the mission to break out the sun loungers and cocktails. Only a last minute moment of complacency saw an enemy ship break through the red sector shields causing a minor amount of structural damage and the resultant loss of the ships waffle iron.
Result: Mission complete.

Feeling a little more confident the crew decided to head off on an extended mission deeper into enemy territory. This time round they also had to contend with a pesky screen saver shutting down the ship's computer every three minutes as well as some far more difficult opposition. Nobody anticipated just how tough the challenge would be and when some seriously heavy enemy artillery appeared Captain Brown Shorts did his best to rally the crew to action stations.
A lot of effort was put into tackling the immediate incoming threats, so much so that the crew completely failed to respond to two gigantic spaceships advancing slowly toward them. Perhaps sensing their impending doom, both Daniel and Iain tried several times to unsuccessfully leave the ship, clawing at the walls in the blue section.
With the port side of the ship largely unattended it fell quickly to enemy attack and a direct head-on collision saw the ship rent asunder in the last moments before it was due to return. With most of the ship vapourised the crew were trapped on the blue section as it trailed off into the depths of space. They somehow managed to find an escape capsule and returned to Space Corp HQ for a vigorous and no doubt painful debriefing.
Result: Mission failure. Abject, humiliating failure.

Cap'n Jon and his crew were given one last chance to redeem themselves, this time with some battlebots coming along for the ride to help them out. This time round the crew would be facing threats onboard their ship as well as outside and very quickly into the journey the main reactor began to heat up beyond control, threatening to explode before the mission was barely underway. Some good organisation saw the crew attending to perform some maintenance work on the reactor in double quick time. Too quickly in fact, as both battlebot squads (by this point following Maynard and Daniel), were put out of action for a turn.
As a result of delays and some miscommunication Daniel raced to the top of the red section with his battlebots ready to fight wildly against an invading blob of slime which was in fact at that time pulsating on the lower deck. After almost exhausting himself flailing at a non-existent enemy for several turns, Daniel then launched his battlebots in the close range interceptors and kept them circling the ship for several turns, whilst Iain hammered on the cannon activation button.
As well meaning as this tactic was, earlier delays meant that the incoming Stealth Fighter broke through the red sector shields before the battlebots were even airbourne and Iain found himself on the wrong floor firing a cannon which was completely ineffective against the enemy shields. The whole port side of the ship was rocked with massive explosions and barely remained together, only a couple more hits away from complete destruction.
Fortunately for the crew, Jon, Russ and Maynard were far better organised and managed to work together very effectively to fend off a destructive yet slow moving Juggernaut class battle cruiser that was closing in on the starboard side. Their elation was short lived as realisation dawned that the central section was once more left unguarded - several more explosions occurred as the ship's shields were mercilessly stripped away under the incoming assault and the white section of the ship took several hits.
The oozing slime that was eating away at the bowels of the ship spread across the lower floor and finally began to cause some damage to the beaten and battered craft. There was a sharp intake of breath at the table as everybody wondered if the Sitting Duck could hold together for one more turn before returning through hyperspace...
Result: Mission successful.

Triumphant yet bedraggled, Captain Jon guided the limping wreckage of his vessel into the scrapyard at Space Corp HQ. The crew were received with appropriate ceremony, a choir singing space fleet battle hymns and corporate jingles, and each were awarded a second star under their namebadge. Much celebration followed and even the threat of potentially being sent out on another mission in the future couldn't dampen their spirits.

At IBG at the moment, you don't have to ask twice to find some takers for -

Ca$h 'n Guns (thanks once more to Jim)
Ca$h and Gun$ was proffered to the group next because it supported 6 players. Steph explained the rules to the newcomers to the game and the game was started, tentatively at first but as the subtlety of the game (subtle? A game where you point guns at each other?) began to dawn on a few of us noobies.
About halfway through the game and with three guns pointing at him, Toby decided to bluff out the threat - an expensive mistake as three slugs hit home and he was out of the game. The remaining rounds played out fairly evenly, and although Jim was shot in both the big kitty rounds (painful…) he survived the game.
Steph and Vicky tied - £75k and two hits each; Phil 70k; Jim $55; Toby (RIP) had $65k.

Meanwhile, at the dark end of the room -

The Princes of Florence (thanks Gareth for this report)
This game of the month was into its 3rd week and still attracting new players. The game was new to James, but Gareth, Scott, Barrie and Ian were all familiar with the rules.
There was a lot of tension early on in the game. With five players, the wrong move could spell disaster. James was on a steep learning curve but did well considering. It was a slow start with everybody going for the limited stock of Freedoms and Profession cards early on rather than playing works.
There were some very high bids from Scott and Barrie in the auction rounds and later the Recruiting cards became key to scoring Prestige points. Positions were close until the penultimate round when Gareth took all money rather than points for one of his works. He then outbid everybody in the final round for the last recruiting card which prevented the others from scoring any works.
This allowed him to play two works for 18 Prestige points plus the bonus 3 pts, giving him a winning score.
Gareth 64; James 48; Scott 44; Barrie 41; Ian 41

After the thematic adventures of Space Alert, Jon managed to persuade the rest of his crew to come back down to earth to play -

This was new to everyone, although Iain had apparently played China's earlier incarnation, Web of Power, a few years ago. The rules are fairly simple (play up to 3 cards, to place up to 2 pieces, in 1 region per turn), although the subtleties of the coalition scoring aren't immediately obvious.
With 5 players, the competition for regions was pretty fierce. Jon managed to nab an early majority in a central region, which he also placed enough envoys in to get a majority for the end-of-game scoring. Russ (despite his assertion that he "always does terribly at these sorts of games") had picked up on the importance of the coalitions, and had started to strategically place his envoys to good effect.
This game plays a lot quicker than it looks as if it will, and before long, we had scored the majority of the regions and the draw deck ran out. As Jon (the starting player) had triggered this, there was time for one more round. In this turn, Daniel nearly managed to prevent Iain from gaining a majority of envoys in one region, but Iain had enough green cards to place 2 of his own envoys which allowed him to score 2 separate coalitions.
The coalitions were scored 1 at a time, and it seemed that Jon's experience had been enough to sneak him the victory, but as it turned out, he had no roads longer than 3 houses, therefore Russ was able to overtake him for a well-deserved win. Just don't believe Russ in the future when he says that he's bad at a particular game......
Russ 41; Jon 38; Iain 35; Maynard 32; Dan

(Postscript: Yes I know that technically they're supposed to be called "alliances" and not "coalitions", but, in light of national events, it seemed more apt that way.....)

The big game of the evening on "the girls' table" was -

Power Grid (thanks to Steph for this one)
After a series of short games there was the sweet relief of a more serious game. This was going to be a six player game, the maximum possible number of players (but still of course with one area cordoned off [are you sure....?]). The players were Toby (Jug), Jim (Jeem), Phillip (Pip), Vicky (Olive) and Stephanie and Emma (who after rejecting the names Bilbo and Baggins could not resolve which of them had more right to be named Samwise).
All players selected their starting plants and then began the population of France. The three girls all went in the north, centring around Paris, while the boys all hung around the vineyards in the south.
Vicky and Emma were having a little tussle over the outskirts of Paris, leading Emma to howl in protest when Vicky leapt over her to pounce upon the cheap nearby cities. The boys were more peaceful, setting up their own little lines to the north, west and north-west. But it was the third round when things started to get more interesting.
Vicky had been holding back a little cash, never building more than she could power and scooping up the cheapest fuel available. Stephanie had spent a bit more money, but had been taking in more money as well, powering and building as cheaply as she could without getting in any fights with the other girls. These opposing strategies gave the two enough money to take full advantage when the plant-market threw out the 32 (3 oil for 6 cities) and the 29 (1 oil or coal for 4 cities).
POUNCE! After short bidding tussles with the other players, the girls took their prizes, Stephanie with tremendous relief that she could now power her cities a bit more cheaply, Vicky dealing with Emma's protests that "You're ruining my life!" (Emma had previously been the oil baron, possessing both 3 oil for 2 and 2 oil for 3 cities.) Needless to say, neither Stephanie nor Vicky could afford to build more cities that turn, but were confident this shortcoming would be made up later.
With nobody near 6 cities (the point for going into stage 2), it was still time for the strategies in powerplants to change. Phillip was going across the board - taking a little of everything. Jim was focussing on playing both clean (wind) and dirty (coal). Emma was determined - she had her oil and she would stick to it. Steph, like Pip, was splitting both coal and oil (though later she would snatch the '30' - 3 garbage for 6 cities) ... Vicky was another going across the board, and Toby, the only new player, was powering extremely cheaply with both wind and nukes (cheap even from Stage 1 thanks to the nuclear-obsessed beauty of France).
Eventually, without anybody having been trapped with nowhere to go, three players all at once took it into Stage 2. Stephanie was powering the most, but was staying squarely in the front, having higher plants than anybody but Vicky, who was staying warily just behind in cities, aware that if she shot to the front, she would suddenly be buying oil at a premium.
This was the period that the boys started to suffer. The girls had already made some great acquisitions with the power plants, and as Power Grid is wont to do, after the flood comes the famine. That unpleasant stage where a power plant for four starts to look fantastic ...
All players started to grow their cities in anticipation of Stage 3, grabbing the last of the single-links, skipping throughout the various north and south cheap points and waiting for the point at which they would finally be able to bid for the bottom row.
The deck was starting to look smaller - it had to be coming out soon. The players had all build up to around 10 cities ... 11 cities ... and then the power plant market was once again open for business. A few plants were purchased that turn, and then, it happened ... Stage 3 came out.
After having fallen to last place for the first time that game, Stephanie was unable to believe her luck. "So, it's not Phase 3 for plants, but definitely for building, right?" "You're sure?" "We can build Stage 3 now?" Yes, yes, you can, go ahead ...
And she grinned at her pile of money underneath the table. It should be JUST enough. She grabbed her fuel, as did the others, and then uttered the magic words "Okay, this might take awhile..." One city, two city ... "It's going to come down to money, isn't it?!" came from somewhere across the table while Vicky and Emma started to look nervously at their money (They would both be able to power 14 cities) ... three cities ... (at which point somebody noticed that Stephanie was sneakily able to power 15), four cities ... and then Stephanie was left nervously looking across the board for one more city, at which point Jim pointed out that actually, she'd done it, she'd already reached her 15.
Vicky and Emma had a close call for second - Emma quite delighted that I'd been terrified she'd snatch the win from me. The boys unfortunately had been messed up by the power plant market, though Phillip had managed a quick climb at the end to 13. Jim was just behind at 12 and Toby was left with last place, but an enormous pile of money.
Stephanie 15 powered cities (17 elecktros); Emma 14 (24); Vicky 14 (18); Phillip 13 (41); Jim 12 (20); Toby 10 (112)

Having had enough of placing wooden houses into regions of China, this group decided to put on their best Indiana Jones accents and morph themselves as if by magic into -

The Adventurers (thanks to Maynard for this one)
Five brave characters stepped up the vine-laden steps to the entrance of the Temple of Chac to try their luck. Not all of them made it...
Russ, Dan, Iain and Jon strolled through the Walls Room, pausing regularly to plunder some loot without pausing to check the glyph clue tiles. Maynard took a little more time but stopped to check all four of them, planning a wander through the Lava Room. All made it out without any great movement from the walls and well ahead of the boulder, which was taking a little while to get going.
Iain, Jon and Dan then made a beeline for the alcoves at the far end, and started to pick the locks with a moderate amount of success. Russ aimed for a high risk, high reward strategy of wandering into the Lava Room unaided, which was rewarded with an instantaneous plunge into the lava. As the boulder was still some way away, it was a lonely wait in purgatory before his second character could be brought into play.
Maynard took an early promenade via the safe route through the lava room, correctly remembering all the glyphs and collecting a fair few treasures along the way. Jon then decided to risk all with a cut across the corner and amusingly also plunged straight into the lava, joining Russ in the wait for a chink of light to appear as the boulder passes.
The boulder started to gently accelerate, and this allowed Russ and Jon to finally bring on their reserves. Russ then cheerfully restarted his plundering with a trip to the far side of the lava field, picking up a single treasure before greed overcame him when he stepped fatally into the third lava trap, putting him out of the game.
Iain and Maynard then headed for the far end of the tunnel and the 9-point treasure alcove, while Jon and Dan went for a quick dip in the river. After a few tries Maynard actually managed to pilfer the Chac Medallion but was now heavily laden with nine treasure cards, leaving him stumbling behind as Iain made a run for the exit.
Jon and Dan successfully trawled the river bed before getting ready for the jump to avoid the waterfall. Jon made a leap and lost three of his treasures before emerging next to Iain near the exit. However Dan was less fortunate, amazingly throwing four dice and getting three ones, losing him every single one of his treasures.
Iain dashed out of the exit, closely pursued by Jon and Dan. Trudging along behind was Maynard whose heavy load level coincided with a sudden burst of speed of the boulder. He desperately dropped three treasures but to no avail; he was crushed to death five spaces from the exit.
Iain 16; Jon 9; Dan: escaped with his life but nothing else; Maynard: crushed to death; Russ: died in a pit of lava (twice!)
The five POF players had by this time decided that there was just enough time to fit in a game of -
Saint Petersburg (thanks again Gareth)
Barrie had brought along the expansion to allow an additional player and the rules were quickly explained to James. The game moved quickly with five as most cards were being purchased each round.
By the mid game Ian took the lead with his strong supply of buildings collecting 20 VP’s a round. Gareth managed to purchase both Observatories which were used to collect as many Nobles as possible.
The game ended abruptly when the buildings ran out and despite Ian’s attempts to grab any noble that would produce more points for Gareth, he didn’t manage to stop him from getting a second win of the evening.
Gareth 93; Ian 77; James 71; Scott 63; Barrie 52
A rare double win for Gareth who still holds the record for coming last in the most games this year!

And that was all there was time for. I know that a game of Perudo was played at some point (as the dice-crashing cacophony coincided with the Space Alert crew desperately trying to hear their instructions being relayed via the loudspeaker on Daniel's mobile phone) but there are no scores or report at present, so we'll simply assume that someone lied better than everyone else and won the game...

More of the same next Wenesday night - looking forward to it already......

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