Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Six of the best.....

Players: Scott, Tonio, Toby, Jon, Philip, Paul

Not since last September has there been such a low turnout at IBG, which was boosted by the appearance of newcomer Paul.

Maybe it was the World Cup, maybe it was the relocation to the conservatory, or maybe it was a 'work trip' to Paris - whatever - there were 6 diehard gamers who spent the evening engaging in some fine games, keeping one eye on the football and entertaining the local children.......

With Toby, Scott and Steph being the early arrivals, they looked for somthing short and setled on -

Pinguin Party (thanks Scott for this report)
Scott started and quickly got himself into a precarious situation with lots of similar penguins and everyone else building the pyramid with other colours. He trapped himself and ended up with a big 4 point jump at the start, while Toby took just one and Steph none as per usual.
The second round was much closer, Steph was again wily and forced an extra point out of Scott and Toby while still collecting none for herself, it wasn’t looking good.
For the final round, Scott managed to get rid of some of the huge points he was amassing and with Steph only collecting one point she had sailed on to victory. Toby and Scott sat tied in second place and/or last depending on your perspective.
Steph 1 point; Scott & Toby 3 points

There was some interest brewing for Age of Industry, particularly from Philip; but Steph was feeling sick, (possibly best to avoid the chicken and leek pie next time!) So Scott ducked out to drop Steph home for what apparently was only a couple of minutes (on a 15-20 minute trip) as they had just finished one round of Mamma Mia when Scott had returned; rather than reset/continue it was decided just to play a larger game -

Scott brought along a new auction game, complete with punn-ish title and gavel! -

Wrott & Swindlers (thanks Toby for your first report!)
A speed read through of the rules by Tonio kicked us off as no-one had really played the game before. There are essentially two stages to the game - players take it in turns to pick up the 'next' card and attempt to auction it off to the other players. Players start with an equal number of cards each but must compete to gain more via the auction process in an attempt to make a set of 4. The sets vary in value from 50 up to 1000. There is only a limited amount of cash in the game and the amount bid is paid to the current auctioneer rather than into a bank. Its the monetary cycle in action.
Cash is made up of fixed amounts and being stuck with a handful of higher denomination can therefore be a curse - particularly when certain events involve having to give cash away (namely Commission cards which, when drawn by the auctioneer prompt payment of either £200 or £400 to all players but they must also donate a cash card back to the auctioneer).
In poor Tonio's case he inherited 400 earthly squids at a timely point in the game….having just ran out of cash...but this then formed his only cash card with Scott being the lucky benefactor. Scott, being of guilty demeanour for this deed, later overbid for one of Tonio's auctioned cards to make up for this.
Steph made the most lively auctioneer - not being the least bit put off by the nearby crowd of strangers forming Kate's (as we later learnt whilst singing happy birthday) 30th birthday party. Much banging of the gavel was enjoyed.
The scene is however set for Stage 2 when all items are sold and players now start competing for each other's cards directly. This involves wagering a card (or two) of your own for one (or two) of someone else's who has is going after the same set (e.g. my two toys vs your two toys.) Players take it in turns but can choose who they go up against. The challenger lays down cash in front of them and the challengee does the same. Both then swap the amount and the highest bidder wins the cards from the other…taking the cash too. This can involve completing underbidding or overbidding for items and choosing your timing for who you bid against is key.
Scott and I both ended Stage 1 with a handful of cash each which made us less predictable to a degree. Scott had his hands in many pockets though having bid for at least one of most of the sets that came along. I admit to some naughty tactical play by picking on Steph a couple of times when I knew exactly what cash she had in her hand….having given her the cash cards myself in the previous round.
Ultimately it came down to Scott and I challenging for two sets (900 and 200). Scott realised he had me easily beaten on the cash stakes so bid the lot for the 900 leaving me with the 200. Scoring is done by adding up your total set points and then multiplying by the number of sets you have. Ties are determined by number of sets held. Scores were:
Scott - 2100 x 4 sets; Toby - 1400 x 4; Steph - 1400 x 3; Tonio - 800 x 1

Age of Industry (thanks again Scott)
With Paul, Tonio, Philip and Toby learning the rules from Scott, Tonio found an escape route by seeing how far away Jon was and decided to sit out and wait for him to arrive. Toby and Paul looked a bit precariously at the game but picked it up well even though they seemed mostly confused about what exactly was the best option to take (Philip obviously picked it up very well). We played on the Germany side of the map which is recommended for beginners to remove the ships.
In the first round everyone went into debt except Scott, getting their mill or coal on the board. Philip continued in the next round by getting the exclusivity of coal in The Ruhr and then extending his empire in all directions. Scott got down a mill, then a port and shipped, Toby connected up a mill to a market and shipped while starting an iron empire competing directly with Paul, who also got himself a mill but was still a bit unsure on the selling part (he was obviously very confident some businessman would come along and take his cotton off his hands eventually) and decided to branch in to iron and coal production.
At most points in the early game there was lots of possible coal and iron available and everyone had jumped into different parts of the board and then connected in quickly with railways so we were one big network. Scott and Philip moved on to factory goods, Scott leeched off of Philip’s connection up a factory market, which Toby would allow Philip to do later on. Philip was also making his money from making life easier for other players by building them ports to sell their goods to, a seemingly risky strategy while also trying to sell your own goods but it was paying off well with ports high in demand.
Paul continued his mill empire, this time with a plan to sell them through his own port but despite having the plan and the railway, he didn’t have the right card at the right moment to time his actions how he would have liked.
Toby was getting deeper into the coal and iron, setting himself up with some edge of the board coal and keeping the iron stocked up; we were now using them up a bit quicker and so there was money to be made by selling coal and iron back to the external demand. Unfortunately, Scott would often jump in and place an ironworks or coal mine at just the right time to sell all of his coal or iron immediately, this seemed liked a good idea at the time and there was a pile of money growing in front of him.
Late game, Philip and Paul got themselves deep in to debt funding high level factories and mills respectively with Philip getting out some top level ports to sell to, so while his cash might wasn’t as high, his points on the board were very good.
Scott and Toby continued their profit making from restocking iron and coal but often had to start overbuilding their own stuff to do so, Toby had in fact been building over a lot of his own industries with cries of never having the right card, surely that’s the response to any card drawing mechanic, you always say you never get what you needed, whether you did or not.
As the game came to a close, Paul was in the position to decide when it ended with the least cards in hand, often building railways to extend the game and hopefully get his mill goods shipped with a level 2 & 3 mill still sitting on the board ready to go. Despite Scott providing one Port to sell to, the other remained un-flipped and the scoring began.
Scott looked quietly confident behind his tower of cash but was pipped to the post by Philip who had successfully got a lot of high level industries on the board while the rest of us had not:
Philip 38 (12 cash/ 26 industries); Scott 36 (17/19); Paul 32 (15/17); Toby 32 (14/18) – lost tie breaker for money spent in last round

Ultimately quite close for three new players; Scott had focussed too much on getting unnecessary cash flow with cheap iron and coal mines but they were not putting enough points on the board with only level 1 & 2 industries. Toby had probably overbuilt himself a few too many times rather than expanding into the great South East which was left largely untouched; with a little more time Paul could have got his final cotton mill shipped but some areas on the board were quickly dominated by one or two players making it very difficult to get what you needed on the board late game. Philip’s focus on factories and ports, particularly in the second half of the game, was a big success.
I’ll look forward to getting this to the IBG table again with a trip to New England which adds ships into the dynamic.

Jon had turned up late due to a heavy day at work and a ‘head-lice incident’ (don’t ask….), and Tonio had generously waited for him. On arrival, Tonio was on a real Busman’s holiday, showing some feral children how to play Pinguin Party. Once he had destroyed them at this game, he pulled out –

This was new to Jon, and is one of those games where the rules explanation makes it sound a lot more complicated than it actually is. It’s a kind of area control game, where you attempt to surround buildings with other buildings and workers, in order to collect 'seals' (of the wax kind as opposed to the sea-creature kind...) There is a nice mechanic which makes the seals worth varying amounts during the game (a la Loco), meaning that the trick is deciding the opportune moment to cash the seals in for gold.
Tonio cashed in some of his seals quite early in the game (there are 4 opportunities before the endgame to do this) for a nice fat profit, whilst Jon was still coming to terms with the most efficient locations to place his builders.
However, as the game progressed, Jon found himself with a large stash of 12 silver seals, and on the last 2 turns managed to manipulate their value to be worth 5 each (almost the highest amount.) Combined with a few other odds and sods, this was enough to pull ahead and win the game.
This is another of those games that packs a lot into 45 minutes, and would certainly be a different animal with 3 or 4 players. Well worth another outing at IBG.
Jon 157; Tonio 100

Age of Industry was still going on (as Tonio pointed out, never play a game with “Age” in it’s title) so it was handy that Jon had brought along a 2-player word game –

Word on the Street
Tonio seemed genuinely excited to play this, as he’d been tracking it for a while, but it has only been available in the US until recently. Jon had only got it the day before, so this was his first real game too. The gameboard has a row of tiles consisting of 18 letters of the alphabet (vowels and a couple of others not included) placed down the middle, with a small track on each side of each letter. Cards are turned over which contain a category, and the player has 30 seconds to think of a single-word answer which fits the category. He then pulls the letters contained within that word towards him, and the idea is to get 8 of the letters to drop off your side of the board.
At first, it seems that the best idea is to pick the longest words to pull the most letters towards you (eg ‘refrigerator’), but as more and more letters drop off the board, you are looking for words that mainly contain the letters that are left.
Jon hadn’t brought a dictionary with him, so adjudications were provided by the mental colossus that is Scott. Hence ‘Carry Cot’ was ruled out as being 2 words and not hyphenated. Ditto ‘King Kong’. Tonio also rightly vetoed Jon’s attempt to sneak ‘Processor’ in as a kitchen appliance.
It’s surprising how difficult it is to think of an answer in only 30 seconds, especially once the letters start disappearing, but that certainly keeps the game rattling along at a fair rate.
The scores were close right up until the end, when Jon managed to drop the last couple of letters off (thanks to ‘Velvet’ being one of the few words that contain 2 V’s) and win the game.
As word games go, this one is right up there, especially as you can easily play in teams for a more ‘social’ experience.
Jon 8; Tonio 5

Paul had to leave at this point, and Philip vetoed Dixit, so the final game of the night was -

Mamma Mia!
Jon hadn’t played before (not sure how), which was obvious during the first round as he failed to lay down a single recipe card (er…Jon…that’s like not buying any power plants in Power Grid…you won’t win, dufus…) In contrast, memory-man Scott was throwing out recipes like Jamie Oliver on speed, and when it came to the count-up, he’d completed most of them too. Toby, meanwhile, was complaining that he hadn’t picked up a single one of his base ingredients…
The second round saw Jon pick up his first recipe, but Scott and Toby were still proving to be the master chefs. Toby was still complaining that he hadn’t picked up a single base ingredient….
In a final flurry of pizza dough and mushrooms, the third round came to a close with an unsurprising victor but a slightly surprising 3rd place.
Scott 7; Toby 5; Jon 3; Tonio 2; Philip 2

And that was the end of the evening for the intrepid 6 IBG'ers. The football had finished with a Spanish victory, but the failure of anyone to switch off the TV at that point resulted in a couple of young fillies watching Desperate Housewives at full volume. And even Tonio's well-reported charms failed to persuade them to go home and watch it there....

Next week, we're back upstairs, hopefully with a larger cohort of eager gamers. See you there!

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