Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Return of the Flying Dutchman.......

Players: Jeff, Keith, James, Jon, Johan, Scott, Steph, Ian, Philip, Gareth, Barrie, Paul, Daniel, David

We were back upstairs in the Riverview Room this week, with 14 IBG'ers turning up. It was a very welcome return to David, who hasn't been along for quite a while (I think he's found some other gamers a bit closer to home..)

With the World Cup over, there were no distractions this week, and our resident Dutchman decided that it was time to rejoin us after a few weeks away. There were several nervous glances in his direction, as everyone wondered whether he would adopt some 'Dutch tactics' and try to kick his opponents in the chest during the games, but fortunately he was well-behaved.....

First up, was a train game with a difference -

Tokyo Train (thanks Scott for this info)
Jeff brought along this little filler game to tempt people again, although Scott wasn’t very keen seeing that it involved hand gestures of some description as a central mechanic. Steph and Jeff were keen and we recruited Ian as well as you need to play in pairs.
Scott was with Ian and Jeff with Steph; the game has a very simple premise and similar to Aaarghtect but without an inflatable club to hit Steph with. There are 6 coloured cards in a 2x3 layout matching a card from the deck so that both teams have the same set-up. With the pairs split on different sides of the table, one half of the team get to see a different card for them to try and direct their team member to arrange from the cards on the table; using Japanese phrases to indicate the card and hand gestures to indicate whether it should move vertically or horizontally, the phrases are also different for each pair so you can’t just copy what one pair are doing. Once you have the correct set-up in front of your pair you call out “Tokyo Train.”
Jeff’s Japanese was a little rusty and wasn’t sure exactly on how many rounds to play so we did a best of 5.
Scott and Jeff were up first on the management side once we’d all wolfed down some food. It wasn’t a good start for team Scott and Ian, mostly because Scott got confused between the card on the table (showing the set-up) and the card directly in front of him to use to change that starting set-up, leaving Jeff and Steph to easily get their Tokyo train in the correct order.
On the flip side, Ian then pulled out some extra effort in his management role and had won before Steph had got her bearings on it.
Round 3 was another quick victory for Scott and Ian, Scott keen not to embarrass himself too frequently. There were only two moves involved in this particular set-up and Jeff was only a split second behind in calling “Tokyo Train.”
Ian remained undefeated in leadership for round 4 and successfully tamed Scott to listen to instructions. Leaving the victory with Scott and Ian at 3-1.
All in all it was a good quick game and can apparently scale up for more pairs to play along too. You can even play with a 3 x 3 grid of cards which would make it all the more complicated. It's a surprisingly logic based game as the instructor needs to pick the best route of cards to swap around compared to the swapping around of cards which is easy.
Ian & Scott 3; Steph and Jeff 1

With 6 players now looking for a game, it was a chance to try - 

Pinguin Party (thanks again Scott)
This was played at its full capacity to see how much damage could be caused over 6 rounds. The players being Scott, Steph, Jeff, Ian, Dan & Keith. Dan and Keith were new to it but they were on board after the 5 second explanation which is what makes the game great as a filler.
The first couple of rounds Steph and Jeff were doing well with the rest of us picking up a few points, particularly Dan and Keith, so there wasn’t much beginner luck floating around.
The later rounds got a lot more intense, in one particular one Dan retaliated after Steph had blocked off the blue penguins by blocking off the reds leaving a couple of players stuck with those colours, Ian did well in the middle rounds getting all of his card out and getting back to zero. Jeff and Steph had stopped winning every round and were now gaining some chips. Keith and Dan stayed consistent in gaining more points (we did stress they were negative...)
In the last round, fortune favoured Scott as two colours were blocked off on the outside fairly early, partly orchestrated by him and neither of which he needed; forcing everyone else to at least get some chips while he emptied his hand of them. The final scores being:
Scott 0; Steph 2; Ian 4; Jeff 5; Dan 6; Keith 8

James and Paul had also arrived a little early, with the intention of squeezing in a quick (!) game of -

Twilight Struggle (thanks James for this report)
Otherwise known as the ‘Ze Russians are stuffed’ scenario as the game ends only if the Russians can avoid being totally overrun by the end of the 10th phase. I’ve played this once before and lost control of Europe before Bresnev had even been born so was hoping to do better this time around. Apart from the traditionally tricky setup for this game (the ‘Struggle’ in the game’s name does actually refer to the stress of keeping all the tiny small card pieces in some kind of order) it’s a fab experience and the late war manages to give players a chance to enjoy the TS world without taking several days off work in order to play the standard version.
This time the Soviets (James) had much better cards than in my last game and we managed to hold off the Yanks (Paul) in the early stages. South America was a gonna but some skirmishes in Europe and the Middle East made for a cagey opening game which ended around even. Paul’s Yanks soon pushed strongly into Asia in the middle stages and a few wars (Pakistan & India at it again) helped again keep the middle round even although the Yanks were getting stronger all the while.
South Africa saw a tug-of-war in the 3rd (and final) round; switching sides I think 3 to 4 turns in a row, Mandela must’ve got dizzy getting pushed in and out of jail in the process. Cuba was momentarily destabilised before Castro took matters into his own hands and sat on all the dissidents.
North Korea tumbled to the South (much as their football team did recently to Portugal) and the Middle East staged a few Islamic revolutions to back up the Soviet influence and to give the American army something to do in the 1990/2000’s.
After the end of round 3 the USA were ahead but not by the requisite 20 points required so it came down to the final scoring… Slowly as regions were tallied the USA inched ahead until inevitably came the killer blow as they managed to control Europe and move past the 20+ mark with the final region being scored.
A close game, and lots of fun in about 90 mins, but it’s really hard playing the Soviets as you’re fighting a rearguard battle all the way…..…or maybe I’m really just that bad….!? No….. don’t answer that....
Paul (USA) won; James (USSR) lost

Jon managed to snare Daniel and Johan to engage in some quick co-op action -

Forbidden Island
Jon was the Explorer (move and shore up diagonally); Daniel was the Messenger (pass cards to other players without being at the same location)and Johan was the Navigator (move another player up to 2 spaces). The game was played at Elite level. 
Jon spent most of the game in the centre of the island, shoring up as much as possible, whilst Johan was collecting / being passed most of the treasure cards. Daniel played the Messenger nicely, distributing cards and generally keeping the team in order. We were lucky at one stage because 2 'Waters Rise' cards came out in the same turn - this prevents re-flooding of recently flooded tiles. As the island gradually disappeared, the water level was within 2 of the top when the last treasure was discovered. The presence of 2 helicopter cards then enabled a swift exit from the island with a turn or 2 to spare. Although this game certainly doesn't have the depth of Pandemic, it still has a nice level of tension, and plays quickly. Well worth a re-visit every now and again....
Daniel, Jon and Johan - all won

With several games finishing together, there were 6 gamers looking for something to play. Unfortunately, Small World only handles 5, so 2 groups formed, with the first lot trying out an old favourite -
Agricola (thanks Daniel for this one)
Ian brought the village beauty into play early on. As a man who knows how to treat his ladies right he then spent the rest of his early turns gathering resources in order to build three rooms in one go to set her up in what passes for a mansion in plague ridden Germany during the middle ages. He also slipped in a Clay Roof card which reduced the amount of reed he needed to collect in order to do this. It was a seemingly well thought-out plan but this narrow focus meant that he stalled his hand too long, ultimately missing opportunities to grow his family sooner and he couldn’t afford to take full advantage of the Village Bicycle Beauty with double growth during a turn.
There are two significant problems that can occur when bringing the Village Beauty card into play; strain on food supply (costing food to grow using the card and then having to find even more food to feed the expanding family) and reduction in competition for family growth action (giving opponents more opportunity to grow when it suits them). Both of these things happened to Ian and despite having a five room house very early on he was always one step behind with the size of his family, rattling around his empty mansion like a scene from “Whatever happened to Baby Jane?”. With all the resource gathering going on for his fine lady’s crib he also didn’t get a food supply engine started till well into the second round and had to rely on a lot of fishing to feed his family early on, all of which meant he was ultimately converting potential victory points into food.
Paul took a mixed approach, quickly buying into a fireplace and setting down some early crops. However Ian rather snarkily rustled the supply of sheep before Paul could get to them, letting most of them loose into the wild as he was unable at that point to cook them or even turn them into a nice rug for the fireplace. This also left Paul struggling for food and forced him to give some dancing lessons in return for a spot of lunch. He tried to raise some livestock but frequently had to resort to eating them before they could breed and what little grain came out of the fields was wastefully baked into some rather measly flatbread.
Paul was always last to grow his family, citing an inability to gather enough resources to extend his house, which didn’t help as he frequently had to watch helplessly as the resources he desperately needed were snapped up by the two and sometimes three actions left to his opponents after his turn had ground to a halt. When he finally got his family growing he had a late surge and was the only player to have a complete set of animals grazing his fields.
Daniel went for a baking strategy, bringing into play an improvement that allowed him to buy ovens for one less resource. He then followed this up with the Market Crier which gave him bonus grain (and some vegetables as a nice extra) – this occupation also gives grain to the other players and it was enough to keep their attention away from the grain action, leaving it vacant for most of the game. Now able to bring in large amounts of grain as and when required he focused on extending his house ready for an early growth (and ending up being the first to do so despite the baby factory in the Playboy mansion next door) before following up with the Baker as a second occupation and an improved oven that resulted in Daniel’s farm being turned into something resembling an industrial bakery.
With food in abundant supply at the cost of very little effort he was now free to focus on further growth and doing all those things a medieval farmer is wont to do, such as plowing fields, building stables and setting out pasture for a few pet animals (not having a fireplace or cooking hearth it was cheese on toast for dinner every night at Mr. Warburton’s farm). He was also the only person to renovate and with no one else able to gather enough resources to use the renovate action he was able to effectively control the last few turns to his design.
Eventually it was a steamroller victory for the baker - rather ironically the Coeliac won by stuffing his face full of bread.

And the other group played the aforementioned -
Small World
This was played with the newly released Tales and Legends expansion. This adds an 'event' to each round of the game, which affects all the players on their turn. This could be anything from the reasonably innocuous 'caverns are worth 1 extra point this turn', to the more dramatic 'all in-decline races are removed from the board'. An element of forward planning is included as the upcoming event is visible for one round before it takes effect.
This was a fairly close game, with Jon managing to convince Johan that James was in the lead (which he probably was for a few rounds...), which allowed him a bit of breathing space to sneak ahead. Jon only used 2 races all game, with the Diplomat ability being used to good effect. At one point this was used in conjunction with an event which protected all Farmland from attack, to completely hem in James' Skeletons, something which the 3-player board makes quite possible in the right circumstances. Johan failed to decline his Stout Orcs on their first turn, which, with hindsight, may have lost him the opportunity for a few points.
All in all, the Tales and Legends expansion really works with the base game - it affects the gameplay enough to breathe new life into the game, but not so much that it takes away from the core elements of the game. It wil return....
Jon 108; Johan 99; James 91

Meanwhile, the GOTM was -

In the Year of the Dragon
No report here but it looks like Scott was best at stopping his population starving, falling ill, being attacked by Mongul Hoardes or being taxed to death.
Scott 109; Gareth 99; Steph 98; Philip 88; Barrie 84

Also played by this group was -
Steph obviously knows how to farm some Stink Beans...

Steph 16; Philip 14; Barrie 13; Gareth 12 (6 cards in hand); Scott 12 (3) 

Scott and Philip then stayed together for a 2-player game of the mysterious iconography that is -

Race for the Galaxy (thanks Philip)
The Goals were Most Developments, Most Rebel Worlds, first to 3 Uplift, first to 5 VPs, 2 military worlds with a Takeover power/2 military worlds with negative military, and 4 Goods.
My starting hand contained Uplift Gene Breeders, Rebel Pact, and some cash. For Homeworlds I had a choice of Rebel Freedom Fighters or Galatic Scavengers. Since I wanted to play Settle-Produce and get the Designers out there, Rebel Freedom Fighters looked a better option-also given the Most Rebel Worlds Goal and the possibility of keeping Rebel Pact if my opponent called Explore.
Scott's home world was Alien Research Team. He opened with Explore-Develop, putting down the other Rebel Pact and Abandoned Alien Uplift World on my Settle. I just settled the Gene Designers. Produce duly gave me Prestige Leader, which I held for the rest of the game.
I now called Trade-Produce, an obvious tactic. Scott called Explore-Trade, I think. Anyway, he didn't have anything to Trade despite calling it.
I now had quite a few cards, including Golden Age of Terraforming and Alien Toyshop and Ravaged Uplift World. I developed and setteled, Scott Settled and Traded. Golden Age of Terraforming allowed me to discard the Genes good on Uplift Engineers and Settle Alien Toyshop for free. The good was immediately consumed for 2 Vps on Scott's trade (I think he settled Reptilian Uplift Race and traded the Genes good).
I settled and produced, settling Ravaged Uplift World. Scott settled Deserted Alien World. Over the next few turns Scott finally got some Alien windfalls down, including the Scoutship and the Sentry. I added Lifeforms Inc and Blackhole Miners to my worlds and Galactic Salon to my developments and Scott's development of Uplift Code clinched the 3 Uplift goal (Scott had got the takeover related goal easily with Rebel pact, and I took both over first goals, so they split evenly over all).
I now veered away from my Trade/Produce tactic, Develop/Settling Dropships and Uplift Revolt World. Scott also played military, developing Imperium Planetbuster and settling Alien Uplift Lab.
We now both had 10 cards in tableau. Scott had most developments, the most rebel worlds goal was unclaimed, both of us thought that I had won the game by a very considerable margin, and I had recently drawn Rebel Outpost and Rebel Fuel Cache. I decided to double settle and end the game while I was ahead.
Scott completely misread my intentions and played Search+Trade. Continuing not to believe that I was about to end the game, Scott annouced he was searching for 6 developments. He rejected Imperium Seat and had to be content with Pan-Galactic Research.
I then double-settled Rebel Outpost and Rebel Fuel Cache, Scott playing Lost Alien Battlefleet but being unable to settle a second time. Then Scott's Trade earned me 3 VPs and him a lot of cards.
We added up the points. I had 56 Vps, and, to both his and my suprise, Scott had 55 VPs! As it happens I had forgotten to take Prestige for my 2 Settles on the last turn, which would have raised me to 58. But still quite a close game and one in which the last turn proved all-important. Had Scott called develop instead of trade, or searched for some kind of world (5+ defence probably his best option) instead of a 6-dev, he would probably have won instead...
Philip 56; Scott 55

And finally, a couple of come-together games to finish with -

Firstly, the game began with no-one wanting to sit next to Paul, and when he was eventually allowed a seat, it was about 6 feet away from the playing area. A little furniture re-arranging was called for, and he finally made it into the inner sanctum.
For the first 2 rounds it was the usual fare - Steph being a saboteur, Jon being accused of being a saboteur and Barrie looking on in confused bemusement.
It was in the third round though that the twists and turns really kicked in. James and Barrie were making quite a good fist of being saboteurs, until the tunnel suddenly arrived only 1 card short of its destination. At this point, James suddenly produced a rockfall, removing a crossroads at the start of the path. How the saboteurs cheered...until Jon calmly replaced the card with a crossroads of his own...only to have James remove it again on his very next turn. Play passed around the table and no-one could replace the missing tunnel segment. The saboteurs rejoiced again - victory was surely theirs.
But wait....a knight in shining armour (well - with a shining head at least....) - Gareth had finally been released from his broken tools, and delved deep into his stack of 2 cards and produced the missing crossroads card. This was followed by Ian producing the requisite final tunnel card and the gold was discovered. Hurrah for all the good litle dwarves - the celebrations continued long into the night...(well - for a good minute at least)
Ian 9; James 5; Gareth 5; Daniel 5; Paul 5; Jon 4; Steph 4; Johan 3; Barrie 3

And last but not least -

Gambit 7
Awaiting scores from James. But we did learn that a chicken can't fly very far and we don't actually throw away as much food in the UK as one might think....

Also played during the evening was Opera and a version of Hey! That's My Fish on Barrie's iPad (which doesn't count as a boardgame in my book!) but no reports or definite scores leave you in the dark as much as I am....

Another week of lots of variety at the Isleworth Boardgamers. We'll be back at the same time, same place next week...

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