Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Communication problems.......

Players: Jeff, Mark, Ian, Keith, Philip, Paul, Gareth, Scott, Steph, Vicky, Maynard, Emma, Daniel, Barrie, Antonio, Jon

16 IBG'ers turned up to play games in the Riverview Room of the London Apprentice tonight. The evening was comprised of the usual mix of penguins, monument building, treasure hunting and death & destruction.

Tonight, Gareth beat Scott at a Eurogame (much to his obvious joy), Jon proved that discretion sometimes really is the better part of valour, and we learned that any boardgame with "Brief" in its title certainly won't be....

Also, we reinforced the notion that just because you come from a supposedly 'English-speaking' country, that doesn't mean that you can necessarily communicate effectively with the rest of us.....

Another day, another game of -

Pinguin Party (thanks for this one Scott)
With lots of people milling around, Scott & Steph managed to recruit Emma for the game while the others attempted to go back downstairs and order some food and drink amongst the crowds.
The game was new to Emma and she got it immediately, but Steph still successfully managed to ruin both Scott and Emma’s chances every round. Particularly in the second round with half of the pyramid base being green and Scott didn’t have any of them in hand.
Despite Emma not being too keen on the penguins being killed off as Steph described it, (they were just not allowed entrance to the party), the scores were:
Steph 3 points; Scott & Emma 6

Scott and Emma consoled themselves that they were joint second, at which point Philip informed us that he was once told he came second in a game of chess when he was younger and he didn’t buy it then and he wasn’t buying it now...

Emma had now spotted a shiny new tin and got very excited when she saw the words –

Forbidden Island
Jon joined Steph, Emma and Vicky to have a go at discovering the treasure and getting airlifted off the island in time. Jon chose ‘Elite’ level to play the game at, and the 4 roles selected were Navigator (Jon), Messenger (Vicky), Pilot (Emma) and Engineer (Steph).
Steph had a fortuitous first turn, where her initial 2 chalice cards were matched by 2 identical ones when she ended her turn. That was one treasure in the bag. Vicky was also using her Messenger ability to good effect, passing cards around in a helpful fashion to her co-adventurers.
The 'Waters Rise' cards were well spaced-out when they arrived, and consequently the adventurers were able to keep much of the island above water in between. By the time that 3 treasures had been discovered, the Messenger had to go and eat her tea, but fortunately Mr Vicky was on hand to finish off her final moves.
With 2 helicopter cards in hand, the adventurers made it back to Fools’ Landing without too much trouble and were airlifted to safety. The waters had risen to within 2 of the fatal level, but much of the island was still visible.
As onlooker Daniel astutely observed, “I’ve never seen anyone lose at this game – it’s time to go Legendary…”
Next time my friend, next time…….
Jon, Emma, Steph and Vicky (& Maynard) – all won

With the promise of it playing at 30 minutes per player, 4 willing volunteers emabarked on a -

A Brief History of the World (thanks Keith for this report)
My impression of BHotW is that two of the designers were big fans of Risk and Vinci. So they took the area expansion mechanism from Vinci and grafted on the dice rolling combat from Risk. Fortunately, there was a third designer who added in a few balancing tricks from modern Euro games to produce a very playable hybrid.
The civilisations which appeared during the first two epochs (rounds) were fairly well balanced. So after rise of civilisations like Ancient Egypt and Carthage the spread between first and last was about ten points.
One of the balancing mechanisms to prevent a runaway leader is that the player in last place gets first pick of the civilisations for the next epoch. Generally this works well, but in the third epoch there can be a big disparity between the best (15 armies) and worst (6 armies) as we discovered.
Jeff took the Macedonians and with ten armies grabbed most of Europe and a healthy 15 point lead. But Keith, who had been in last place, took command of fifteen Roman armies. Recognising an opportunity he played all his event cards and obliterated Macedonia, leapfrogging Jeff to go from last to first in a single turn. The remaining civilisations in epoch three only had six or seven armies each, which left Mark and Ian lagging behind.
In the subsequent turns the civilisations were much more balanced. This combined with the destruction of Jeff's Macedonians in Europe meant that nobody was able to close the gap and Keith romped home to a 20 point victory.
Keith 179; Jeff 157; Ian 154; Mark 150. (What have the Romans ever done for us???)

6 players (including Steph and Emma) were now looking for a game to play. There could only be one choice –

This was new to Maynard and Vicky, but with their legendary telepathic husband-and-wife abilities, they would surely wipe the floor with the rest of us?
Early on, Daniel confused several people by using a straightforward un-cryptic clue – his recent virus had obviously affected him in a big way…
Then, Steph decided to use the clue “Cool Red”. Jon remarked that a picture of a Red Fridge would be useful here, and Steph chuckled her agreement. The votes were cast and Steph’s picture was revealed as being the one with a wolf standing trial in a courtroom. When asked for her reasoning, she replied, “Isn’t it obvious? The wolf is on trial and they are about to Call Red Riding Hood.” It took a second, but the penny suddenly dropped that Steph’s Kiwi accent had once again intervened to introduce an element of confusion into a game which has more than enough confusion in it already. The suggestion that Steph writes down her clues in future did not go down too well…..
After 4 rounds, Vicky was still pointless (which may have coincided with her opinion of the game), but she finally picked up points when Maynard gave a clue about “old-style business”.
Emma decided to put out some random clue about monkeys, and Jon was disappointed that no-one but Emma picked up on his reference to the film “The Shining” (actually Emma hadn’t picked up on it either, but chose Jon’s card on the basis that it had a sad-looking caterpillar on it…..)
In the end, Jon just pipped Maynard to the victory, with Dan a little further behind and the girls having a tea-break halfway round the scoring track.
Jon 34; Maynard 31; Daniel 23; Emma 16; Vicky 16; Steph 16
By now the Game of the Month was in full swing, namely -

In the Year of the Dragon
Now we have no report here, but my knowledge of the game extends to the fact that Gareth beat Scott, which put an extremely big grin on his face. Barrie appears to have been left way behind - the rumours are that he put on some fantstic firework displays but left his population to suffer at the hands of the rest of the year's desperate events (sounds like New Labour to me....)
Gareth 106; Scott 102; Philip 94; Paul 84; Barrie 63

Antonio had now arrived, and with two games finishing at once, there was no lack of volunteers for –

Small World
Jon had again brought along the Tales & Legends expansion, which is proving to be a no-brainer addition to the base game. Daniel, Barrie, Antonio and Paul joined Jon for a maximum 5 players, and the game was quickly underway.
Daniel’s Stout Tritons had appeared and declined before you could blink, and Paul move some Humans into the north-east of the map. Jon’s Diplomat Skeletons made peace with the Tritons, and Barrie decided that attack was the best form of defence and broke a few of Jon’s bones in the first turn.
Antonio’s Mounted Amazons (ahem…) filled most of the east coast, and Small World was starting to look very small indeed. Jon managed to use his Diplomat ability to deflect Barrie’s bloodlust onto Daniel, whilst Paul and Antonio quietly got on with the business of Victory Coin accumulation.
The events cards were providing some nice twists in the game, and Antonio produced a whopping bid of 11 coins to take the privilege of the Necromantic Elixir (keep the active race and its powers intact when it goes into decline). At the time this looked like a gross overpayment, but his next 2 turns resulted in 15 and 19 points being scored. Unfortunately for the other players, his newly acquired Halflings were well dug in, and he was collecting points like Gareth collects properties……
When the scores were totted up, Jon and Antonio were tied, and on a count-back, it was discovered that Jon had a single extra race token on the board, earning him the victory in a what had been a close game overall.
Again, the Tales & Legends cards had provided an extra element of interest without slowing the game down noticeably, and will definitely be brought out each time the game is played with seasoned players.
Jon 78 (12); Antonio 78 (11); Daniel 72; Barrie 70; Paul 64

With the stragglers looking for games split up, and Emma convinced to play Stone Age with Philip and Gareth (we advised her to get tools – it’s the best way to play against Gareth), that left Scott, Steph, Vicky and Maynard to have a double date over a game of - 

Tower of Babel (thanks again Scott)
Taking it out of the box it comes with some lovely laminated player aids and Vicky was shocked that Scott would go to so much trouble to which Steph commented, “Oh, it’s not his copy”; however, it was Scott’s copy, it just came in a trade that way and Steph obviously needs to keep a closer eye on what gets brought in to the Agius household.
In any case, the game is about attempting to build the possible 8 wonders of the world, the Tower of Babel being the eighth. There are three tokens on each wonder which have a building resource and a number on them ranging from 3 to 6, this is how many of that building resource are needed to complete them. The building resources come in four types - workers, camels, cranes and ships and are all on cards that will be played.
On your turn you can either draw more resource cards (you get two, everyone else gets one) or you can attempt to build a piece of a wonder with possible help from the other players. Once you say which token you are attempting to build, the other players can put forward materials required face down and all are revealed. The active player can accept as many or as few offers to help them build the piece but must take the whole offer if they accept one; any offers rejected will score players 1 VP per building card played. For every card played/accepted, that player puts one house in the wonder region to signify their participation, once all three pieces of a wonder are completed, the wonder scores points based on the number of houses, 1st place getting most, then 2nd, then anyone else gets 3 points (the 1st & 2nd place scoring gets higher for each subsequent wonder completed so late scoring wonders score more but the game may end before they are completed – part wonders at the end of the game are scored on a set lower amount).
The active player also gets the building token which will score at the end of the game, you get more points for having multiples of the same type, each pair gets 5 vp, each set of three earns 10 and each set of 4 or more gets 20.
The trick to the offers comes with the trading cards that players may offer, within each offer any player can put forward their trading card along with the building materials, if your offer is accepted with a trading card then the active players gets to put their houses in the wonder but you get the token which is being built, you trade your houses for the token.
The strategy is tricky and can be hard to gauge whether you should go for tokens, houses or a bit of both; when to use your trading card and how many cards to offer the active player. Scott had played the game a couple of times and everyone else was new to it.
Scott was up first and with only a small set of cards to start with he opted to pass and get some more. Steph was keen to build some wonders and put up a token that was successfully built with some assistance, but not from Scott, not many people accepted Scott’s offers and he shot up the score track and kept a large hand of cards as a result.
Vicky was getting lots of cards spent and not moving very far on the score track just yet as rarely any offers of hers were rejected. Steph and Vicky were getting some nice collections of tokens with at least a set of three each early on. Maynard was moving along nicely in the score track with some rejections and we all had an area or two that we had the most house in by mid-game.
The wonder completions started mid-game and were pretty regular as most wonders had a couple of pieces built ready to score. The scoring was pretty even amongst them and the end game was soon upon us (the games ends as soon as one type of building token is exhausted), for us it was Maynard who triggered the end, buying up the last ship token. We scored the uncompleted wonder regions and scored the sets of tokens which we all had a set of three and a set of two leaving the final scores as follows:
Scott 91; Steph 74; Maynard 70; Vicky 50

It would appear that the large hand of cards Scott held had helped build up a lead in VP, with all of the rejected offers which had lots of cards in them, while we all scored fairly evenly in the wonders, just shutting Vicky out of too many of them. Despite a range of scores, the game is very subtle and a few seemingly minor actions early on will scale as the game goes on and the game’s pace gets quicker and quicker; as wonders start getting scored it gets hard to manipulate regions and tokens when people are fixed in doing something particular before the end of the game.
It seemed to be a hit all round as it plays pretty quickly (in the time it took to set-up and explain Stone Age which was apparently about 30 minutes this week) and will be brought along again.

Back on the ITYOTD table, there was the aforementioned -

Stone Age
No report again, but Philip seems to have romped home here, with Tool Boy coming in second and the new girl paying the price for playing a Eurogame with 2 veterans....
Philip 202; Gareth 182; Emma 88

It was 10.45pm and there were 4 intrepid IBG’ers looking for a final game – the consensus being –

The game began with Antonio legging it from the first mine just before the 2nd venomous snake appeared, resulting in him taking an early lead.
In the 2nd and 3rd mines, Jon decided to take an early exit each time, picking up several gems in the process. Gareth chose to vociferously mock this strategy – and then let greed get the better of him to wind up gem-less after 3 mines.
Despite his mocking, he chose to leave the 4th mine hand-in-hand with Jon to take a share of the spoils, but an explosion in the last mine resulted in a few singed hairs and not much booty.
The final count-up revealed that Jon’s cautious approach had just edged out Antonio for the second game running.
Jon 33; Antonio 22; Barrie 14; Gareth 7

And that, as they say, was that. We'll be back again next week, to play some more brief (and not so brief) boardgames. Adios!

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