Wednesday, 30 June 2010

"You looking at my wimple.......?"

Players: James, Jon, Paul, Emma, Scott, Mark, Keith, Jim, Ian, Barrie, Tonio, Daniel, Gareth, Philip, Vicky, Maynard, Jeff, David S

18 gamers again tonight - and a night off from the football. Good to see David back with us again after a long time away (which he obviously used to grow some more hair...)

It was another night of varied fare in the boardgaming world, including a first outing for one of James' new purchases, which involved chasing around an Abbey late at night with 6 young girls, and sneaking up behind a nun in a tight-fitting habit. Or in other words - Paul's no.1 fantasy experience......

Anyway, the evening started with a card game new to IBG -

Guillotine (thanks Scott)
We started the night with a French Revolution, chopping the heads off the aristocracy - worth a lot of VPs in those days. Jeff taught the rules to Scott, James, Paul and Emma.
A very simple game played over three days (rounds). 12 nobles are lined up and the first in line gets killed by the active player which goes clockwise. Rather boring you might think until you factor in the hand of action cards which can do all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff, rearranging the order, adding bonus points or some rather awful ones to target the leader.
Getting into an early lead Scott and Paul looked like viable targets, most of the attacking came from each other though, Paul making Scott discard a random noble and Paul havng a -2 sitting in front of him. Jeff was struggling to find any popular noble to kill and James tried to pull off some very nice actions but then noticed the words 'randomly choose', which would not actually be very good if he ended up with the unpopular noble. Emma kept quiet (figuratively) and focused on improving her own score. The second round went rather quickly after a noble's death triggered the end.
The first two rounds had no negative scoring which left the third and final round with lots of very unpopular nobles lined up to be killed. Scott tried to start a master plan, playing a card so that he could control the card the player to the right would take and rearrange the order meaning he could set himself up as well. Sadly Jeff stopped him and the rest of us in our tracks by playing a card to end the round early, seeing he was in last by quite a fair way. This caused James to cry out "You know what you've done don't you, you know who you've let win!"
A quick count up of the scores had them very close but Emma pulled out a surprise of her own, the scores being:
Emma & Scott - 9 points; Paul & James - 8; Jeff  5

Several others had now arrived, and James was trying to drum up enough support to get a good number of people to have a go at his latest purchase –

Nuns on the Run
James managed to find 6 other willing volunteers, which meant that we were playing with the full cohort of novices. No-one had played before, and James was even allowed to break the golden rule of not having played the game prior to introducing it to IBG – hence a rule-reading session was in order.
This game is basically Scotland Yard in reverse – instead of having a single ‘Mr X’ trying to outwit his pursuers, you have 6 novices trying to stay away from the Abbess and the Prioress. Novices can choose to creep around quietly, (which makes them less likely to be discovered but slower) or run around, (which makes them noisy but fast). Each turn, the novices write down on a log their current location, and only bring their token onto the board if they have been seen. The Abbess (the ‘fat one’) and the Prioress (the ‘fit one’) have pre-programmed routes, but they can deviate from them if they hear or see one of the novices. Dice rolls determine how acute their hearing is on each turn. The novice that recovers their ‘secret wish’ and returns to their cell first is the winner. The ‘guards’ win if they catch novices 7 times, or keep them running for 15 turns.
There were some initial confusions about where a novice could be seen, but after a few turns, the sequence of play became second nature and the game started to roll along nicely. First things first – Mark had a torrid time. His novice must have been wearing hob-nailed boots, carrying a pair of clanging cymbals and having a 6-foot flashing neon sign above her head. James was controlling both the Prioress and the Abbess, and discovered Mark cowering in a side-room after only 2 turns. He returned to his cell, and with hindsight, should have probably stayed there for the rest of the game…..
Emma owned up to being seen at the beginning of the game, and placed her token on the board, only to discover that she was actually out of range of the guard’s vision. Bit of a giveaway, that…
Scott was doing a good job of keeping hidden, until Jon inadvertently knocked over a dustbin lid, causing the Prioress to turn around and nearly bump straight into Scott’s novice. A swift foot-chase ensued, with James choosing incorrectly at a 50/50 junction and losing the naughty little novice in the process. Emma was also spotted at this point and was returned to her cell, almost colliding with Mark’s novice who had failed to outrun ‘the fat one’ for the second time. “Go back to your cell slowly,” was Scott’s cheeky advice, “because it will make the game longer….”
Paul’s novice had been neither heard nor seen since the beginning of the game, (and his solitary contribution had been to reveal his fetish for ladies in black uniforms…) but suddenly, on turn 10, he declared that he had made it back safely. There were groans from Jon, Keith and Scott, who were only one turn away from getting back too.
A close-run adventure indeed. James admitted that he had probably made a mistake at the beginning by choosing paths for his guards that ended at the same location. It would probably have helped his cause if he could have got at least one of them to be patrolling the corridor outside the cells towards the game’s end too.
All in all, this was a really fun game. It took far too long, but that was entirely down to having to learn the rules at the beginning. A second outing with some experienced players would definitely not last more than 45 minutes, which would be a perfect length for a game of this ilk.
Paul - won; Jon, Keith, Scott, Emma, Mark, James - lost

And now, the 'gamekeeper' (literally) gives his view....
To give a contrasting viewpoint I was playing the ‘bad guys’ in this game; consider me Hattie Jacques to everyone else’s Kenneth William’s in a game that could easily have been called Carry on Convents. Basically the job of the nun is to select a route to patrol the grounds of the nunnery and hoping to spot anyone foolish enough to wander into view (or to foolishly announce incorrectly that they’d wondered into view (erm… Emma…  ))
Not many decisions to be made until you see someone and then it’s a bit of a lottery trying to guess where they went. It’s fun, but at the same time I think this game went on too long (too many players, a dodgy rendition of the rules at the start… (?erm…).. you decide) It’s an interesting position being one against everyone else, a bit like Saboteur but where everyone knows you’re 'it' before the game starts and plans accordingly, which must be how Gareth feels most times we play…
Given this was the first time for everyone it’s not an easy role to handle and I started badly in selecting a route sending both characters to the same location and thus giving free reign to the novices to disappear to other parts of the board. If it wasn’t for the generosity of Mark’s novice (almost wanting to be caught by the fat nun, ho hum, not sure what this says about you Mark…) being picked up 3 times I’m not sure I would’ve been able to find my way downstairs to the bar let alone several novices trying to avoid detection in a dark convent.
The game livened up at some stage when the same nun heard Jon, spotted Scott and eventually caught Emma, but apart from that it was a quiet evening and when on the 10th turn Paul announce he’d made it back I was none the wiser. Would be good to play this on a PC with the ability to run through the game at the end and see how close you were at times and what various novices were up to while you were hanging out in the kitchen...
So, mixed feelings after the first run. It’s certainly a fun game, but I think our run came in over 2hrs which is too long for this to sustain interest. From a strategy aspect you have to cover more of the board with the nuns than I did on the first routes chosen, and possibly 7 is too many for an initial game. For sure it’ll come back to the club again soon, probably with fewer at the table next time and I guess I’ll probably want to play the other side. I would suggest though that you’d want someone who’s played before to be the nuns next time… hey, Tonio, I’m sure I heard that you’ve worn a wimple a few times in the past?

On arrival, Jim declined the offer of being the 5th player in the new game of the month,  and opted to wait for other late-comers. David and Daniel duly obliged by arriving a few minutes later and Jim proffered a choice of games, and the decision was made to play -

Verflixxt (thanks for this report Jim)
This is an older roll-and-move game that offers a few choices a with a smattering of good old fashioned screwage of your opponents.
32 large, sturdy tiles are laid out in a preset pattern and they are the path that the players must move one of their 3 men along dependant on the result of a die roll. The tiles are laid out with the numbers from -1 to -8, followed by six “lucky clover tiles” then the tiles ranging from +8 to +1 and finally more minus tiles, this time from -1 to -10. Guard pieces are then placed on the lucky clovers and the +8 and +7 tiles. These guards can be moved by any player instead of their own piece providing any players pawn is on the same tile.
The game itself is simple; if you move one of your pawns off a tile in response to the die number you rolled and it is the last piece on the tile, the tile is yours. So you would think that you would want to avoid the large negative numbers like the plague, but you’d be wrong. And that is because the lucky clovers turn minus numbers into plus numbers. As you can imagine, much of the shenanigans of the game involve trying to get the lucky clover tiles.
The game played quickly with David being particularly spiteful to Daniel and Jim trying to keep out of their way. All agreed it was a nice light, fun filler style game but also all agreed that it need the full complement of 6 (or 8 with the expansion) to make it “nasty” as it could potentially be!
Jim 28; David 26; Daniel -23!

Looking around, and noticing that no other group was near to completion, Jim produced 'Pandemic-Lite'; aka -

Forbidden Island (thanks again Jim)
The rules were quickly explained and the cards dealt, roles assigned (Jim - messenger, David – diver, Daniel – Navigator) and the island started sinking around us. With two natural plotters planners in Daniel and David, a fortuitous distribution of treasure cards allowing us to gain the treasures quickly and even two Water Rises cards being turned over together thus limiting the impact of the water rising, our escape from the Island was done with ease. Next time, with a higher starting level, I doubt we shall be so fortunate. Time will tell!
David, Daniel and Jim all survived Forbidden Island.

It was a good night for James, as he managed to find some takers for another of his new purchases –

James had played this before, and was able to explain the rules clearly. The beginning of the game involves travelling around Europe, garnering certain amounts of ‘knowledge’, before jetting off to warmer climes to dig for ancient artefacts. This is one of those games where the mechanics and theme really do mesh together well – the more knowledge that you collect about a certain archaeological site, the more likely you are to strike it rich. You can also decide to collect congress cards (basically the lecture circuit), which give increasing returns depending on how many you have at the game end.
The one feature of the game which is highly thematic but also highly frustrating is the digging for treasure itself. This involves delving into a bag and picking out tokens that could be artefacts (valued 1-7) or dust. Having more knowledge increases your chances, but luck does play a huge part in what you find.
As it turned out, Scott was ‘Mr Lucky’, finding 38 points worth of artefacts in 34 digs, whilst James was ‘Dusty Bin’, picking up only 26 points from 39 digs. Jon and Mark were somewhere in the middle.
However, Mark had been allowed to collect all but one of the congress cards for himself, giving him a massive 28 points and a comfortable victory.
Opinion? The mechanics for acquiring knowledge and the ‘time track’ around the edge of the board are great, but it really all boils down to whether you can handle the luck involved in the digging process. Oh – and don’t let one player pick up all the congress cards….
Mark 59; Scott 48; Jon 46; James 36

The other groups having finished their games, the happy Forbidden Islanders looked for challenges new. Gareth had a rummage through the games Jim had brought along and chose -

Vikings (thanks to Jim again for this report)
Phillip and Vicky were press-ganged enrolled into making up the maximum number of players. Jim explained the rules briefly, but then went for drinks while the others set up the game and Gareth read the rules to everyone. Jim explained some of the key strategies from his previous plays, including the need to have fisherman for the end game. And the game was started.
The players have a choice of 12 randomly selected Vikings (fishermen, gold smiths, hunters, scouts, noblemen, warrior or boatman) at the start of each round, with each Viking coming with a land tile (a start, middle or end island) or a Viking ship tile which have the advantage of being able to generate money or VPs if defended against with a warrior standing on a land tile under the ship, or limiting the value of score for the Vikings placed on the land tiles in the column. Each Viking costs between 0 and 11 coins, but the value of the higher value Viking/tile combinations lessens as the lower placed Viking colour groups get taken, which is a key part of the game – paying a high price to guarantee the Viking/tile you want, or hope to get it cheaper by waiting.
There was much thought, if not a lot of certainty, put into many of the choices made, with Gareth concentrating on the longest Island for bonus VPs, Vicky making many islands for another bonus, Philip playing thoughtfully and Jim looking to gain most money having lost badly at the last game he played by running out of cash early on!
After the quickly played six rounds final scoring was done and Jim, having stressed to the others the essential need to get Fishermen for the end game, had failed to heed his own advice, suffered the minus points and did a magnificent job of trailing in last against three players who had never played the game before.
Vicky 50; Philip 40; Gareth 38; Jim 24

Apparently, this was so good that it was played again -

Guillotine (thanks Philip)
It was (perhaps thankfully from Jim's point of view), a pretty brief game of Guillotine, with Robespierre ending day 1 after 5 kills and the Scarlet Pimpernel (played by Gareth) ending day 2 after 1 kill.
Admittedly there were at least a dozen kills on day 3, with extra cartloads of nobles added by both me and Jim. Jim's 8 point Count+Countess won out over Gareth's taking Marie Antoinette by playing "Let them Eat Cake", normally a rather useless action card.
And that's as far as I'm going to write about a game I lost....
Jim won; Gareth - 2nd; Philip - 3rd

Also played tonight were Dungeon Lords, Atlantis, Dixit, Saboteur, Circus Flohcati and In the Year of the Dragon, but our intrepid reporters seem to have had a week off, so we may never know how these games turned out.

Next week will be in the Conservatory, as there is a function upstairs, which could be interesting as it is also World Cup semi-final night. Let's see who the die-hard IBG'ers really are......

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