Wednesday, 16 June 2010

"USA win World Cup" (you heard it here first.....)

Players: Scott, Steph, Jon, Paul, James, Jeff, Barrie, Iain, Tonio, Keith, Gareth, Philip, Daniel, Mark

14 IBG'ers turned up tonight, including a welcome 2nd appearance (after a long absence) from Mark. There was the usual mix of Eurogames, fillers and dastardly saboteuring, but surely the highlight of the evening was the hosting of the 2010 World Cup. There were shocks aplenty and penalties pretty realistic then.......

And if that wasn't enough, there was a tender reconciliation between 2 hardcore IBG'ers - and it was all brought about through the words of a 17th century English poet.....

Apparently, the first IBG'ers through the door played this game at the request of Scott -

Tonio's brief synopsis reads: "Scott lost again. James got all the answers right and is consequently being head-hunted by 118 118." 'Nuff said....
James 13; Steph 0; Iain -1; Jeff -5; Keith -7; Scott -8

With most players having arrived, it was time to choose some meatier fare, which for Philip, Gareth and Keith meant a go at the current GOTM -

Caylus (thanks Philip for this report)
The random set up again put Stone furthest down the track, with Carpenter closest, followed by Cloth/Food. Gareth was playing almost the same strategy as the previous game, ignoring the Castle and building as many buildings as possible. He did however put 3 loads in the castle, 2 for the Walls and 1 for the Towers, and he also purchased some favours on the jousting field, money and points being his focus.
Keith played a Castle-heavy strategy with few buildings and 11 loads in the Castle (2,5,4). He pursued 3 tracks simultaneously, leaving only the building track untouched. Later in the game he made use of Bank and Jeweller to turn money into points.
I went for the Buildings Track and the Cube track. I built the 2 Cloth building, the 2 Stone 1 Cloth building, the Lawyer and the Church. I delivered 9 loads to the castle (2,3,4) I also built several Houses, but this time I was able to turn two of them into Blue buildings via the Buildings track on the last turn.
One of my workers spent almost the whole game in the Inn. We were all being fairly nice with the Provost; despite several opportunties for sabotage no one lost a worker that way.
On the final turn I had 3 Gold, 5 Stone, 4 Cloth and 2 Food. I placed my workers to pick up an extra 3 Stone (1 from Keith activating my Stone resource building) and 2 Wood, while using the Jousting field and the Castle. At the Jousting field I bought a Buildings favour, building the College (2 Gold, 3 Stone, 14 points, 1 Favour) which gave me an immediate rebate of 1 Gold via the Cubes track. At the Castle I delivered 2 loads of Cloth, Wood and Food, but Keith delivered more so I didn't get a favour there. Scoring the Towers I had 2 favours, which allowed me to get another Gold and build the Cathedral (5 Stone, 3 Gold, 25 points), raising my total to 93 points (and I had used everything up, so 93 was my final score).
Keith was not far behind on 86, and Gareth wasn't far behind Keith on 79: had Gareth managed to deliver a load to the Dungeons he would have been tied with Keith.
Since neither Keith nor Gareth used the Buildings track or the Lawyer, I had the Blue Buildings to myself. Had there been more players, I imagine that would not have been the case...
Philip 93; Keith 86; Gareth 79

At the far end of the room, Barrie and Jeff had chased away the normal people and set up -

Dungeon Lords
Again, Tonio proves himself to be a man of few words: "Basically we were a bunch of pansies. No Dungeon Lord was particularly evil (no Paladins). End of Year 2 was exciting as Demons and Dragons were turned into sheep and their ineffectual nibbling at he adventurers were worse than nothing at all as Healers healed and Dungeons were lost." 
Looks like it was a close run thing between Tonio and Jeff, with Iain seemingly having a day off....
Tonio 12; Jeff 11; Barrie -1; Iain -15

And now to the game you've all been waiting to hear about (haven't you....?) -

The World Cup Card Game (thanks to James for the commentary)
So forget all the action on the TV the real World Cup took place last night in Isleworth, as 32 quality teams managed by 7 inept managers (any of whom could do a better job than Maradona though) all trying to win the ultimate prize (sorry ladies, it’s not a night on the town with Jon, that’s for the last place team).
Everyone had a mix of good and bad teams (feel free to put England in either of those categories). Jon did well with France, Germany and Argentina, James had Brazil, France and Portugal, Paul had England, Steph had the Netherlands and Scott had Italy… a couple of latecomers (Dan and Mark) were given a few teams out of sympathy (Honduras) and out of certain managers not wanting to have to support them in the game, as in real life (Portugal)… not sure who had Spain but chances are they probably fell out with themselves before the tournament started and refused to listen to their own managerial instincts.
The league part of the game goes on a Group by Group basis resolving all 6 games before moving to the next group. All managers have a set number of ‘action’ cards for each team and can choose to play 1-4 per team per game. The only downside here was that muggins forgot to print out a world cup wall chart and so results were scribbled on our regular scoresheets, napkins, the back of hands and anything else we could grab. Game play here, although quite simple, felt frantic as we tried to shepherd 48 games through in 45 minutes while tracking scores and league tables, resulting in more frantic hand gestures than Jose Mourinho directing traffic.
So to the results… Group A – and the first shock as France drew all their games (hands up anyone surprised at this… can I say we got there before the real world cup on this one?) and failed to qualify while Jon adroitly managed to steer both SA and Mexico into the next round. Argentina qualified in Group B but only as runner up to Greece (yes, really). England and the USA made it out of Group C but Germany stumbled (oh, if only this were true) which left Serbia and Australia to qualify. Group E saw the Netherlands and Japan squeeze through and then another shock as Italy stumbled out (in last place) leaving Paraguay and Slovakia to edge out plucky New Zealand. Brazil and Portugal got though the group of death, Portugal only by the narrowest margin having scored 1 more goal than North Korea, and finally Spain and Switzerland advanced to take the last 2 spots.
Now onto the playoffs and gameplay here changed to be closer to the mechanics of the board game itself. 3 cards each per manager involved (however many teams they had). Each turn you played an action card against any team and picked one up… once all the cards (draw pile and hands) were gone the scores were totalled. I think this is a more elegant way of managing the games; there must be a good reason why it’s not used at the group stages? Again some more shocks as Brazil fell to the might of Switzerland, and Portugal won their local derby with Spain. Argentina, England (a goalfest 4-3), the Netherlands, Mexico and Japan all won comfortably while the USA managed to oust Australia on penalties. By this stage managers were starting to feel the competitiveness. I have no proof of this but I’m sure that Scott and Steph were kicking each other under the table during their games...
QF matchups were closely fought with 3 going to penalties. England drew 3-3 with Argentina and then won the penalties (you can tell this is not reality can’t you?), and the Netherlands lost on penalties to Switzerland after a tough 1-1 draw. The USA pipped Mexico on pens after another 1-1 draw while Japan squeezed by Portugal 3-2.
So to the Semi-Finals. If England ever found themselves in a WC semi with only the USA, Japan and Switzerland to bet you’d like their chances… however being England they, of course, lost, again on penalties, after a 2-2 draw with Switzerland. The USA thrashed Japan 5-2 which would’ve been a great game to watch... if you were supporting the USA… which in reality none would be.
And to the final…USA v Switzerland. Hands up who has that on a betting slip?... The tension was palatable, as the USA took an early lead. Switzerland pulled one back for a 1-1 draw at half time. Then (could it be something wrong with the ball being used?) a goalkeeping blunder took Switzerland ahead before the USA equalised and finally won the Cup with a last minute winner… Oh and England won the 3rd place with a 5-2 drubbing of Japan.. .too little too late, I don’t give much for Capello’s (Paul’s) chances once he gets home.
So the USA won the world cup… I’m so glad this was only a game … and kudos to Scott, their successful manager. I hear Barcelona are on the phone right now ready to make an offer…… yes, here it is - they’d like Agricola for Power Grid. Scott, are you interested ?
Winner USA – Scott; 2nd Switzerland – Paul; 3rd England – Paul; 4th Japan - Jon

With Caylus finishing in the time it took to play the entire World Cup, the groups mixed up, with Daniel drumming up support for a welcome return to -

Vegas Showdown (thanks Daniel for this one)
Las Vegas Baby! Four miles of bright lights and casinos, thirty four thousand hectares of bustling city, half a million souls (not to mention the millions of tourists) and Laurence Fishburne being all moody over terribly bloody crime scenes.
Las Vegas started as a few shacks and eighty odd people in 1905 but it wasn’t till the post war rise in popularity of legalised gambling that it defined itself as the world’s casino capital. And if it wasn’t for the interest of organised crime gangs then maybe even today we wouldn’t have such mighty meccas to the one arm bandit as The Golden Nugget or the MGM Grand - lives and futures hinging on the turn of a card or the roll of a dice.
All of this sadly has very little to do with Vegas Showdown, a light yet enjoyable auction bidding game. If Bugsy Siegel were to take time off from his busy schedule at the concrete shoe factory to play this game he would probably form an aggressive buying strategy, and would no doubt step outside of the rules to build rooms on black market credit. He might even threaten to pump a cap into somebody’s bottom. Then again he probably wouldn’t say anything due to the fact he’s been dead since 1947.
The IBGers were far better behaved and there wasn’t even a double entendre about jumping aggressively into an early slot in sight. Gareth adopted a patient strategy, holding back his bids for only the most useful casino rooms, while Pip seemed determined to roll in filthy lucre by buying up every game table and slot machine in the game. Mark and Daniel both missed an opportunity to collect on a bonus score which put them behind for most of the game and Gareth took a rather laid back early lead and ultimate victory. Pip ended up William Wilkerson to Gareth’s Bugsy Siegel, Daniel was chased outta town whilst Mark ended up as little more than a chalk outline in a back alley.
Gareth; Philip; Daniel; Mark

Jon had missed his opportunity to play it last week, so was keen to grab a place at the table for the second outing of –

This is very different fare from the normal Eurogames, card games, co-ops and fillers at IBG, being a more creative ‘party’ game, if you had to give it a label, but is great fun all the same. It was new to all players apart from Scott and Steph, but is a very simple game to understand and start playing.
The tone of the game was set in the first round, when Scott gave a clue about ‘Sex in the City’, which managed to get the one vote he needed, although not for the reason he intended (a picture of a large apple referencing the city that the programme is set in – yeah…pretty subtle eh?....)
It was when the time came for Jon to be the storyteller that a truly seminal moment in IBG history occurred. Jon had a picture of a bell ringing and gave the literary clue “For Thee”, expecting several of the well-read individuals around the table to get the John Donne connection. However, despite being surrounded by some of the finest intelligentsia in SW London, the only player to get the right answer was Jon’s arch rival and nemesis, Steph. Jon expressed his appreciation and new-found respect for the Kiwi girl-gamer, and all was suddenly warm and fuzzy at the Dixit table…..
Other highlights included Paul’s inability to get any takers for his “Spit Spot” clue (a Mary Poppins reference) and Steph’s long and detailed story of how she was mocked as a child for eating milk-sodden cereal, ending with the phrase “Never Eat Soggy Weetabix”. Harking back to last week, this was referring to the points of the compass on show on one of the cards, but proved to be far too subtle for the blokes around the table.
This is one of those games where the scores are secondary to the ‘game experience’, but for the record, Keith sneaked past the magic 30-point mark first, whilst Paul just managed to haul himself up to half-way.
Keith 32; Jon 27; Scott 27; Steph 24; James 19; Paul 15

Paul went on a beer run, so we looked for a quick filler, and Scott wanted one that he hadn't played before, so he chose –

Piece o’ Cake
Paul must have some sort of special powers as he managed to get a round of drinks in about 3 minutes flat. As he’d been good enough to get the liquid refreshments, Jon stepped aside and settled for being the rules explainer. The game was also new to James, but is easily described and understood.
Paul and Keith both decided to go for the majority in chocolate, whilst Scott had the Strawberries sewn up pretty early. Steph tried her successful strategy from last time of collecting and eating in equal measure, whilst James concentrated on collecting as much as possible.
After the 5th and final cake had been shared out, it was the Steph and Scott combination that ended up on top, with Scott just pipping his missus to the post.
Scott 23 (8 eaten/15 collected); Steph 21 (7/14); Paul 18 (7/11); James 17 (0/17); Keith 16 (16/0)

To round the evening off, it was time to reconvene as a large group, and find out who would make the most devious –

Jon and Steph, in their newly-formed alliance, were Saboteurs a couple of times, and Paul also turned to the dark side, but tonight was a night for the good dwarves to triumph (despite a couple of close shaves). And the shining light amongst them was Scott, who kept his head down and dug for victory. Scott 8; Philip 7; Gareth 6; Mark 5; Steph 4; Jon 4; Dan 4; Paul 3; James 2

I think there were also games of High Society and San Juan played, but no-one's owned up to them, so no details I'm afraid.

England are playing Slovenia next Wednesday, but it's an afternoon kick-off, so the English contingent will still be able to come out to play with the Dutch, New Zealand, American and Hungarian IBG'ers.

See you then!

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