Wednesday, 25 August 2010

"15 Men on a Dead Man's Chest"...or...."13 IBG'ers at the London Apprentice..."

Players: Scott, Steph, Vicky, Maynard, Daniel, Russ, James, Jim, Keith, Gareth, James, Paul, AN Other

Whilst Jon was sunning himself in Cornwall, 13 of the rest of the IBG'ers returned after their own summer breaks to play games. Including a very welcome return from our most prestigious medical professional, Russ, who, it had been assumed, had overdosed on one of his own anaesthetic concoctions, never to be seen at IBG again.

Anyway, here's what happened during the evening...

To start off, Daniel reports that - "Two games of For Sale were played as a warm up by the early arrivals. The most significant events were Daniel winning both games and Gareth 'unable to find a pen to write down the scores'. These two events are, of course, completely unconnected..."

While awaiting new arrivals, Scott, Paul and Steph decided to have a quick go at -
Bausack (thanks Scott)
This time, it was played with some new rules from James. Players started with 5 beans, and on your turn you pick two pieces and give one to each of your neighbours for them to place on their tower. If they don’t want them they pay a bean and you have to place it on yours instead. It seemed to work quite well but next time we will also add an additional rule of additionally being able to buy a piece you wanted for 1 or 2 beans to add to your tower as otherwise the nice pieces sit in the middle not ever being offered to anyone because they are too useful.
The game was going pretty smoothly - Scott was building quite a tall tower and at one point forced Paul and Steph to cry out at balancing a large red piece on top of two unstable pieces. It held, but not for long as Scott got too greedy and tried to balance yet another piece on top of it, saving his large patch of emptiness on his base piece. Paul had a pretty full tower, complete with egg cup and egg, but not how you would expect them to be placed. He was looking dubious towards the end but Steph got greedy as well and suffered the same fate as Scott, trying to balance pieces too precariously while still having safe places to fill. Paul was full of pride for his tower that has survived.
1st - Paul; 2nd – Steph; 3rd – Scott

And, as a first for the blog, we now have a report written in the style of a sea-shanty (by none other than Daniel, of course) -
Santy Anno
Twas on the Santy Anno,
The rules explained by Daniel,
Jim was confused and Steph bemused,
Vicky, Paul our players

The task of colour matching,
Soon became real taxing
The drunken sots they lost the plot,
And fell over the rails

Playing Santy Anno
The game was won by Daniel
Jim came last and Steph was fast
But never fast enough

With Jim operating the simple game table, that had attracted Dan like a fly to a bright light, Keith and Scott awaited to see what game Maynard would like, easy or not so easy. He picked not so easy and choices looked like the giant boxed Planet Steam, Brass or Opera. Maynard liked the sound of Opera (no pun intended) and so we began -

Opera (thanks for this report to Scott)
From the outset, Keith was targeting Scott seeing as he had played it the most, while Maynard was new and Keith had only played once before. He made some early extra money for himself and Maynard as they both set-up in Wien while Scott focussed on Venezia. This quickly turned as Scott sold two works to the Palazzo in the first two turns earning him a cool 22 Ducats, which boosted him to a very clear money lead, and for the next few rounds was controlling exactly what was happening. After the first scoring, Scott was lagging as Keith and Maynard both had three Opera houses to Scott’s two but with his money lead he quickly rectified this in stage 2 with new Opera houses in London and Paris while Maynard took the other Paris and Keith the other London.
Scott then shot in to the lead on the score track with a special scoring in Paris but Keith and Maynard were now keeping up in income as their Opera houses were full and Scott was getting less control on where to increase the income. With the second scoring, all things seemed rather equal and relative positions remained.
In the last stage, Maynard got the full Opera house in Milano and got a big special scoring opportunity there which Scott leeched off having also got a foot in Milano, while Keith and Maynard also shared another special scoring as well. Going in to the final scoring, scores on the doors were much closer and Keith had done his best to destroy Scott’s composers, sitting on some works now worth one. However the final scoring had us all earn the same amount (as Keith and Maynard had sacrificed some VP’s for a few extra VPs earlier with the special scoring). This left the scores as follows:
Scott 120; Maynard 112; Keith 101

A lot closer than expected after the initial steam rolling from Scott during the first half of the game. Keith was less than impressed with how a runaway leader can occur (Scott has actually made almost everyone he’s played this with feel the same way...)

And next up -
Diamant (thanks again Scott)
With Dan on a roll from winning every game so far, the next game up would push his luck to the limit; joining him were Scott, Steph, Maynard and Vicky. The first game we played was quite balanced, a couple of people would grab a few extra gems one round to lose out by a few extra the next. Scott and Dan looked to be the favourites and with Scott gaining a small lead having been left to explore alone, however, a snake arrived and this scared Scott away (he doesn’t particularly like snakes). It came down to the last round and Dan stayed in while Scott did a Gareth and ran early, picking up a nice shiny 5 while everyone else stayed to be gassed to death or something, Scott didn’t care he was too busy counting his money. Scores being:

Scott 25; Dan 22; Steph, Vicky and Maynard somewhere below that but doing okay (this is what happens with no control from Jon or score sheets) - nothing to be ashamed of, except for the taunting from Steph, particularly towards Vicky and Maynard who were making a name for themselves in the wussiness department.

Everyone was eager to play again and with the first card drawn a 4, there sat four little gems, at which point Steph called out across the room to Gareth, just to let him know there were four gems she thought he might like to run away with. Everyone seemed eager to run this game, at one point Vicky was declared a girly girl that may have made her rethink the sort of name she wants for herself. The pickings were slim with everyone running for next to nothing.
We bowed to our great leader Dan when all of us had run at once leaving Dan to explore with no disasters even showing, he walked through the 15, the 11, the 9 and casually avoided the one disaster that showed up afterwards and left because he couldn’t carry anymore gems, his cart overflowing with them, this being round 4 and Dan just sitting in all the way through round 5 just because he could buy his way out of any disaster and no-one would be able to overtake him.
Dan 40 (all from that one round); Maynard 18; Scott 11; Steph and Vicky – significantly less

With Dan quitting while he was ahead, Scott, Steph, Maynard and Vicky remained for a quick go at -
Mamma Mia (thanks once again Scott)
Scott started off well with three pizzas in the first round but due to the big pepperoni shortage of 2010, could not complete anything in round 2. Steph was on fire for the first two rounds and was in to a commanding lead. Vicky was trailing just behind but doing well, Maynard was as yet not proving to be any better than last time, probably because we all kept stealing the ingredients he played.
In the last round, Steph struggled to get enough pizzas to keep up with the unstoppable force of Vicky, keen to show she wasn’t a girly girl by impressing us with her culinary skills, erm...wait a minute. Scott recovered a little but not enough to catch up with Steph and at least Maynard had some pizzas completed so it wasn’t an epic fail.
Vicky 7 pizzas; Steph 6; Scott 5; Maynard 2

Apparently, also played were Endeavour, Tichu, Savannah Tails and Airships, but until the faithfully-promised scores and reports appear, you'll have to guess what happened....

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Brief in every sense of the word.........

Players: Barrie, Scott, Vicky, Maynard, Jon, Ian, Jeff, Philip

There were enough non-holidaying IBG’ers to have two tables of games going tonight, with both opting for a reasonably weighty game to take up most of the evening. Still time for a new game at the end of the evening though…..

With Jon going off on holiday, this blog has been put together in a bit of a hurry. It will get ‘fleshed out’ on his return (he promises……) Until then, you’ll have to put up with this brief brief of some brief and not so brief games…..

The first group to arrive broke out this popular card game -

Pinguin Party (thanks Scott)
Kicking the night off again, a 5 player game ensued with Vicky, Scott, Ian, Jeff and Philip. Scott tried his usual tactic of winning but no-one was having any of that. Jeff continues under the assumption that most points wins the game, Philip and Vicky killed off as many penguins as possible and Ian is left to eek out another victory.
Ian 0; Scott & Vicky 1; Philip 8; Jeff 9

Next up -

Piece o’ Cake
Barrie, Jon and Maynard had a go at this quick ‘I cut you choose’ game at the beginning of the evening. Barrie picked up lots of chocolate pieces, causing Maynard and Jon to eat any chocolate that they accumulated. Maynard picked up the Kiwi majority fairly early, and was also stuffing his face as he went along.
When the scores were totted up, Barrie had the most majorities but had just failed to eat enough as he went along. Jon and Maynard were almost neck and neck, with Jon’s late foray into strawberries being enough to just win it for him by a point.
Jon 34 (19 majority + 15 eaten); Maynard 33 (17+16); Barrie 29 (21+8)

It was now time to decide on the meat in the sandwich. Despite Maynard’s enquiry about how exactly ‘brief’ this game was, he joined Philip, Ian and Jeff for –

A Brief History of the World

(scores and report to follow)

The other group initially chose Mykerinos to play next, but then Jon realised that he had removed the rules to read at work, had failed to do so, and had also failed to return them to the box (doh!) So that game was shelved in favour of another go at moving cheese around the north of England -

Last Train to Wensleydale (thanks again Scott) 
EXTRA, EXTRA, read all about it, Jon plays a Martin Wallace game with Scott. Tempted by previous weeks shipping of cheese around the dales and a trip down memory lane for Barrie and Vicky pointing out various places they know on the board and even off the board, this particular town is just under that pint glass. We got underway with the seemingly innocent but tricky rules and by the end of the first turn everyone had grasped the basics of turn order and influence mechanics. However, by this point they had let Scott go first to build track and his usual run through the middle of the board reoccurring has secured a nice future haul of stone.
Everyone else seemed to focus around the red town in the South with Jon hugging the West side of the board, Vicky heading North and Barrie heading East. Round 2 saw Jon and Scott continue on their paths while Vicky and Barrie relocated nearer the Green towns in the North East and started heading West, Vicky taking the low road and Barrie the high road, neither of them made it to Scotland in the end though.
So far everyone was breaking even or making a small profit even with quite a few pieces of track each on the board.
Round 3 looked quite good for most, capitalising on the routes they picked, Scott got through to a red town, now being able to transport the lonely looking passengers once trapped in the middle of the dales. Jon, Barrie and Vicky connected up the North and reaped its resources. Jon had attempted to be useful during the influence buying phase and adjusting the tracks as Scott looked as if he was struggling, after one turn Jon had left it back to Scott, adjusting all the different coloured player discs on four different coloured tracks in a particular order is enough of a game in itself.
Then came round 4 with next to nothing left on the board and still plenty of track to be sold back to the real train companies, Jon was up first and made a dash for the last of the cheese in the south, there was some nice stone stockpiled nearby which Scott picked but then changed his mind, just before Vicky made her move, to gasps of “doing a Gareth” but at least no-one else had taken their turn, he wasn’t trying to wind back three whole turns or anything. It turned out to be a poor move anyway as Vicky jumped in to Scott’s original position and pointed out why it was much better, it had just the right border to connect to lots of stone that no-one else had quite noticed. Barrie did something so profound that no-one can quite fathom its genius and thus are not qualified to report it here, sadly it was all in his mind and had nothing to do with the game at all, and in that he probably just got access to some cheese too.
With the last shipments done after spending vast amounts of left over influence converted into train buying power, there were small losses made all round. The final scores looking as follows:
Scott 32; Vicky 31; Barrie 23; Jon 21

Scott almost lost out to Vicky who had noticed a better position on the last turn but Scott’s run through the middle of the board had won again, but not by much - a very close game and some quick learning from the others.

With half an hour left, there was just time to try out –

Archaeology: The Card Game
This is a card-based set collection game, where players score increasing amounts of points for larger sets of archaeological artefacts. The risk involved in holding onto cards is that there are thieves around (1 player steals a card from the player of their choice) and also regular sandstorms blow up, causing all players to lose half their cards in hand.
Jon started off by picking up two sets of broken cups, whilst Scott decided that a 4th Pharaoh’s mask was too risky to wait for and laid down the 3 that he had (as it turned out, the 4th one was contained in the pyramid which wasn’t accessible, so it turned out to be a good decision). Barrie seemed to spend most of the game stealing cards from everyone, whilst Vicky steadily laid down sets of parchments and the like.
When the digging ceased and the dust had settled, there were only 9 points between 1st and 4th, with Jon just coming out on top by 4 points. This is a neat little game, where the theme fits in nicely with the mechanics, and is sure to get another outing at IBG.
Jon 56; Scott 52; Vicky 49; Barrie 47

Over on the other table, the group finished with a game of No Thanks, where Ian scored 49, Philip scored “lots” and Jeff was somewhere in between.

And that was it. Your honourable blogmaster will be in Cornwall next week, so we’ll see what the rest of the IBG crew get up to in my absence…….

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


Players: Jon, James, Scott, Steph (for a bit), Keith, Philip, Gareth (also for a bit), Maynard (for a longer bit)

Summer holidays, football-watching, working late, Am-Dram rehearsals and "falling asleep" put paid to a number of IBG regulars this week, but there were still enough keen gamers to keep a couple of tables going.

There were a wide variety of games played - trivia, tower-building, auctions, dice rolling and fantasy warfare - but most notably there was a display of general manual klutziness from one IBGer..... 

The early-birds decided to test out their brains with this popular trivia game –

Gambit 7
Jon and Maynard joined the game in round 2, but there was still plenty of time left for them to show their ignorance on a wide variety of subjects. Scott got his decimal points a little confused, guessing that the average decibel level in a disco was 9.7, and several people were surprised to learn that the tallest ever giraffe was not as tall as they thought.
Our open-minded bunch of gamers also largely over-estimated the number of ‘positions’ described in the Kama Sutra. (No comment……)
Steph, Philip and Maynard all went for broke on the penultimate round by playing their Gambit 7 chip, but failed miserably. It was left to Jon and Keith to ‘rejoice in their shared victory’, with James only a point behind.
Jon 24; Keith 24; James 23; Scott 12; Philip 0; Steph 0; Maynard 0

Whilst deciding what to play next, Jon picked up his copy of Forbidden Island, only to be a complete butter-fingers and drop it all over the floor. As if in sympathy, Steph also decided to throw Modern Art into the general mess of components under the table, leading to 10 minutes of general ‘component-sorting’.
Actually, this is probably how genius game-ideas evolve. Imagine a game where glamorous art enthusiasts trek around a sinking island looking for priceless pieces of art, stopping only to engage in a variety of mind-bending auctions every turn? Hmmm…..maybe not………

Anyway, Scott left to take his beloved home, and the remaining gamers decided to pick up a quick manual dexterity game until he returned –

This is the game that Jenga wished it was – crazy irregularly-shaped tower building, with a few magic beans thrown in for good measure. The only thing missing from this implementation of the game (as opposed to the MB version Bandu), is the lack of standard foundation blocks. Therefore, the players decided to randomly assign the most stable blocks as foundations, with the player (James) who received the most obviously advantageous block being charged 2 beans for the privilege.
Philip, James and Maynard started picking up blocks for their towers, and it was Philip’s that was the first to topple. Jon had somehow managed to avoid picking up many blocks, and had acres of flat space available, but tried to get too cute with a curved piece and paid the penalty. Manual dexterity was not proving to be his strong suit tonight... 
By now, Maynard had run out of beans, and Keith was merrily passing on all manner of strange-shaped pieces for him to build with. The inevitable happened, and it was then left to James and Keith to duke it out.
James had fewer beans, but despite a valiant rearguard action, he was the first to fall, leaving Keith as the victor.
Being a further example of the wide variety of games that are played and enjoyed at IBG, I’m sure that this will turn up again on another week.
Keith 1st; James 2nd; Maynard 3rd; Jon 4th; Philip 5th

Scott had now returned, so after some debate, the group split in half to play 2 games – the first being –

Scott, Jon and Maynard pulled out this 3 round auction game. Maynard had only played once before, but it soon came ‘flooding’ back (see what I did there….?)
In the first epoch, Scott managed to snag the most pharaohs along with a number of monuments, putting him in an early lead. The RA tiles came out thick and fast in the second epoch, and Jon’s failure to pick up any civilisation tiles left him with a minus score for the round.
In the last epoch, Maynard won his auctions quite early, but accumulated a number of civilisations and monuments. Jon and Scott had a little back-and-forth before Jon was left by himself for the final auction. And of course, the obligatory chanting of “Ra!” had the desired effect and he was left with a pile of sand and little else.
Scott’s consistent scoring, collection of monuments and highest sun total were more than enough to give him a comfortable win, with Maynard just pipping Jon into second place.
Scott 49; Maynard 32; Jon 31

Spurning the chance to be hoodwinked by Jon again in Small World ("honest - I've only got 3 victory points and Gareth has got 75...") Keith, Philip and James decided they were brave enough to endure a first run at the club for -

Kingsburg (thanks James for this report)
This was new to Philip and Keith, which meant trying to de-cypher another of James' dubious rule explanations. It's an odd game to describe. Players roll 3 dice and use the dice to select advisors (numbered 1 - 18) who in turn provide resources, soldiers & victory points. Resources (gold, timber and stone) are used to buy buildings that give bonuses in battle, extra dice, rerolls etc.
After 3 seasons like this where players are building up their defences, the Winter season has an invading army to defeat. The total game spans 5 years, with increasingly hard invaders each Winter, and at the end the victory points are totalled. Quite simple to play despite the board looking complicated at first glance. So let the dice rolling begin.
Philip took the VP path in the early stages while Keith realized that by lagging slightly behind in the building stakes gave him bonuses each round so played the long game.
James was trying to repeat his gazumping victory the night before against 3 computer opponents by building for battle bonuses, although he quickly noticed that human opponents (especially euro-hardened veterans such as Keith and Philip) weren't quite the numpties that the computer had provided.
After a couple of years Philip was leading in buildings and VP, James had the best defences and Keith lagged behind but had the advantage in resources.
It's a neat game mechanic as there are certainly several different paths to victory and the expansion adds even more options. Keith's plan seemed to be to take the 10-advisor with a sneak peak at the soon-to-be invading army and then to set his defences exactly...
So the game drew into its last year and Keith made his move with a double building move in the last Autumn. James fluffed his last chance, unable to complete the 7 VP Church as Philip snagged the 6 Advisor first, and Philip kept his nose in front building anything he could get his hands on.
So to the last battle, James picked up extra VP with his fortress but it wasn't enough. Keith jumped a point ahead but still not enough as Philip managed to hold on and win by a point.
Given the pendulum swings during the game it was a good close finish. And with a different swing of luck at the end these positions could easily have been reversed. Next times we'll break out a few more of the expansions and maybe try 4/5 players as I think this would improve the experience even more...
Philip 42; Keith 41; James 40

With Gareth arriving late in the evening and Maynard just heading off, we were left with three again and with a choice of lots of smaller games or something a little longer, it was decided to play -
Small World (thanks to Scott for this one)
Scott agreed to play this with an “ok, but I always lose”, which may have made the game even more appealing to Jon and Gareth.
Included in the game were the new races and Tales & Legends event cards.
Gareth was up first, and the first event seen for the second round would be that no-one scores points for active races encouraging us all to get a board position and decline next turn. Gareth took some Wealthy Trolls and sat in the mountains along the south hoping to have some troops left by next turn.
Scott went with the Dragon-Master Elves and blasted one of Gareth’s defences while securing as many other areas as possible for scoring.
Jon took the Commando Skeletons and invaded lands thick and fast, keeping away from Scott and Gareth and ended up with the most areas conquered.
Round 2 we all just declined to be able to score during the event.
The next event to hit was a protection against your declined race but only to the highest bidder. Scott and Jon ended up tying with Scott winning on a die roll, as the tiebreaker in the rules about shortest person wins didn’t appeal to Jon... (neither would you if you were 6' 2"!)
Gareth’s next race was the Humans, accompanied by a couple of tokens to prevent invasion in two regions, and he began invading the Skeletons.
Scott took some Peace-Loving Giants and merrily wiped up a couple of declined Skeletons and some indigenous tribes to be able to keep his peace loving ways towards active races and a bonus 3 VP.
Jon continued his avoidance of any direct conflicts and went with the Flying Gypsies, who get a bonus for abandoning regions each turn - which was made much easier since they could fly. Jon spent the rest of the game uprooting every turn and invading the areas he had abandoned the turn before.
Scott stayed peace-loving for a few turns and with his bonus 3vp for not killing any active races was scoring highly each turn; this was not sitting well with Gareth who was trying to entice the Flying Gypsies to be much more vicious towards Scott. Although Jon had picked off a few of the declined Elves he wouldn’t be enticed in to a big fight and split his interests attacking Scott and Gareth in declined areas.
Gareth had expanded well with his Humans alongside the Gypsies and Giants and soon moved on to the Alchemist Amazons who immediately went in to full-scale war with the Giants; wiping out their entire civilisation, save for one measly region that would soon be swooped on by the Gypsies, leaving Scott’s scoring potential to plummet massively.
A late game entrance of Princesses for Scott was not going to get more than a couple of points and there were little choices to pick an aggressive race without spending a lot of VP’s.
It came to the last turn and Gareth chose to pick on the Princesses rather than wipe out the one remaining Skeleton still sitting on the board from the beginning. Jon continued his Gypsies flying around to the empty regions.
It was time to count up and the scores were as follows:
Jon 95; Gareth 94; Scott 83
Scott’s mid game had looked too good and he’d been destroyed because of it, along with people’s natural inclination to target him it seems.. Gareth never factored Jon into his equation who had scored consistently with the Gypsies throughout and beaten him by just one point, Gareth had speculated on the win he could have got had he targeted the one Skeleton that remained but upon realising it would be a shared victory with Jon, he stated that he was happier to come second (yeah, right....!)

And that was all there was time for. A select bunch tonight but lots of fun all the same.

See you next week!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Cheddar on the Choo-Choo.........

Players: Gareth, James, Scott, Steph, Iain, Keith, Jim, Vicky, Maynard, Paul, David, Philip, Tonio, Mark, Daniel, Johan, Barrie

"Excuse me, sir. I was just thinking that I would like to spend the evening transporting cheese, by train, through the Yorkshire Dales, but I seem to find myself stuck here in West London. Do you have any suggestions?"
"Why of course - come and join myself and my compatriots in this fine riverside hostelry, and you shall have all the cheese & train related fun that you like (and a few rabbits and hot air balloon races thrown in for good measure....)"

Whilst Jon was relaxing on the beaches of Norfolk (underneath increasingly grey skies...) the IBG'ers continued on regardless, with an impressive turnout of 17 gamers at The London Apprentice in Isleworth. So - while the cat was away, let's see what gaming adventures those 17 little mice got up to.....

Turn the Tide (thanks to James for this report)
New game from James, plays like a cross between 6 nimmt (in that you’re trying to avoid being the nth person in a sequence) and No Thanks (you’re bidding to avoid getting cards). Also has a nice mechanic in that after each round everyone passes their cards to the left and you play again so the game lasts for as many rounds as there are players and every gets to play every hand, good or bad.
This was one for the early arrivals, James, Steph and Scott, and new to all 3. It’s always fun checking out a new game, and even more fun when you discover that Scott really sucks at it… future game of the month anyone? (and not a dice in sight !)
Anyways, to the game. The first round was a disaster for Scott as the tide swamped his 6 lifebuoys and James managed to tie with Steph despite only starting with 3 to Steph’s 5 lifebuoys. Cards were then passed around with Steph taking Scott’s cards to try and do better… …sadly no such luck as she matched Scott’s performance to lose all the lifebuoys and take minus points.
The last round (slightly delayed by the arrival of dinner) proved decisive however as James (the new and proud owner of ‘Scott’s dodgy hand’) managed to avoid the negative points by 1 loss and clinched the win. Not a bad game - it plays 3-5 players. Although 5 might stretch the idea of a filler as would take 30-40 mins to complete all 5 rounds.
James 4; Steph 0; Scott -2 

(Off topic but during this game we also discovered, as other folks arrived, that we have 3 math teachers as members of the club. I’d like to suggest a future playoff game of Powergrid to determine the cleverest, with double homework for the losers…

Jim arrived just on 7:30pm laden down with the games from the Milan-Spiele order, to find that groups had already formed and games were under way. Fortunately Vicky and Maynard had also just arrived so Jim produced a new game -

Hoppladi Hopplada! (thanks for this report Jim)
This is a dice game similar in weight to Pickomino, but with a push-your-luck feel similar to Can’t Stop.
As the rules were explained, the table suddenly had 6 players and the game started. Fair to say that interest in the game soon waned to the extent that Gareth left for something meatier before his third turn. Jim and Dan consistently gambled down to the last die without success.
The result was not actually recorded but safe to say that the game is probably best played by not more than 4 people all of whom accept that it is, as with most dice games, more about luck than skill.

Last Train to Wensleydale (thanks for this one Scott)
After a few players eyed up the Last Train to Wensleydale box, Scott convinced enough players to join him for a game without last week’s dice-induced conscription. Those players being Keith, Iain and David, all of whom were new to the game.
As briefly as possible, the game looks like a typical pick up and deliver game with route building but works much differently to other similar games. Set in the Yorkshire Dales, there are two different goods (stone and cheese) and two types of passengers (green and red) to deliver. You can deliver stone and cheese if you have a railway connected to them or to deliver passengers you need to connect to them and be connected to either a red or green town to drop them off. Everything you deliver must be along your railway and you also need to rent trains for the mix of passengers and/or goods you want. Once you’ve finished delivering goods from a particular section of your track, you can have one of the large train companies (green and red) buy out your unprofitable pieces.
The game lasts four turns and at the end of the game you score for anything you’ve successfully delivered (1 VP each with a bonus 2VP for each set of 4 you have – rewarding diversity), plus/minus your company’s profitability less any track you have left.
The map is randomly generated with goods and passengers at the start and there is no way to add any more so you can plan in advance how you want to develop your network long-term but it will require careful planning throughout to ensure other players don’t block you.
Turn order is determined by who has the most influence in certain areas and there is an auction each round to bid on different sets of influence to improve the areas you need.
As it’s a Martin Wallace game, there are lots of little intricate rules with exceptions but you may be relieved to know that I won’t go into in detail.
After most of the rules explanation we began, Scott remembering an obscure rule or clarification here and there as we went along, hopefully in time to stop people running into a brick wall with their plans. After the auction round, Iain was first up for track building and began his network from the South (Red company) and making a run up the North Western side of the board. Scott was up next and overspent on track building to wrap track around from the East (Green Town) through to the middle of the board and blocking anyone from easy access to the central Valley which was ripe with stone and passengers. Keith didn’t want to give Scott too easy a run and competed in his Eastern area for stone and green passengers. With lots of space in the South East, David started collecting cheese. Everyone did well for the first round and all companies were profitable from their deliveries, not much track was sold off though leaving us all with a bigger burden for next time.
Round 2 stayed smooth, with everyone continuing in the area they started except for Keith who switched to start some new track in the South. There was little competition for resources and everyone spent all their train influence getting their deliveries made but it was looking a little bleak for Iain who ended up making a loss with his large amount of track. Scott had a lot of track too but stone is very profitable and keeping him afloat.
Round 3 began the problems, with everyone maxed out of train influence from last round and the influence available for auction this round looking particularly woeful, there was a lot of overbidding to get any sort of power with train buying. By the end of which everyone else scraped out two points while Scott had to settle for just one. With fewer trains, no-one expanded very far and shipped as much as possible although everyone made a loss, Iain’s being particularly significant now.
Going into the last round, a lot of the board was empty of resources, Scott and Iain needed the other colour passenger as Scott had built solely from a green town while Iain had done the same from the red. David and Keith had a couple of separate tracks and had already picked up a set or two. Last turn had also left David, Iain and Scott at the same point on the board and it seemed they all wanted to expand their network first to get where they wanted without being blocked. Bidding was tense and Scott just pulled out ahead so that he could extend his track south to connect up to a red town and deliver all the passengers from the Valley through the middle of the board. David was next up and he got to go further North and grab the goodies still awaiting up there, this hampered Iain somewhat who was best placed to just compete with David and get as much delivered as possible. Keith finished his southern connections though to the East to deliver the passengers that had been ignored in the expensive parts of the board. With extensive track building for some, the profits were low and most people broke even or thereabouts.
The game was over; all that was left was to count the points with the scores as follows:
Scott 30; David 27; Keith 23; Iain 17

Keith observed that Scott had been left to run away with it by claiming the route down the middle, most competition was with Scott though, stealing his stone and green passengers. David had done well collecting a tone of cheese located in the South-East and with the rest of his time collecting a few sets. Keith had set up in lots of small areas and had not quite got enough goods overall. Iain had unfortunately been running at a loss for too long and this cost him a few points at the end. Iain had also been on the receiving end of too much competition, particularly in the last round and sets were hard to come by being stuck on one half of the board. Overall it seemed to go down well so people can have a rematch sometime soon.

Settlers of Catan (thanks - I think - to Daniel...)
Everybody was terribly mean to me, even the usually genial Tonio who projects such an innocent schoolboyish aire but clearly can be trusted no more than an MP's expense claim form. Bloody Cylon. I actually blame him for being the ringleader, as even when he had an obvious stranglehold on the game I was constantly picked upon and endured the company of the bandit for the best part of the proceedings.
Everybody seemed to be fishing for bricks and assumed that I would have some, despite the bandit being parked on my quarry for virtually the entire game. I'm sure he was passing notes under the table at one point too. Plus the dice were clearly loaded to roll a four on every other turn.
Fortunately, I am far too mature and decent to publically complain on an internet blog about such awfully despicable treatment, so at least my dignity remains intact. Same again next week?

As the "Settlers" group wondered what and with whom to play next, Iain wandered over from his game group requesting something light but with some strategy. Jim proffered -

Verflixxt (thanks Jim)
Also known as 'That's Life', Jim warned that this played best with the maximum number of players (six), but 4 should be OK. Verfixxt is a simple "roll-and-move" game with a wee bit of screwage, although the expansions allow for even more players and screw-your-opponent options!
The original version was chosen to play and a brief explanation of the simple rules was given as the tiles were set out in the recommended layout. Once again, for such a simple game, there were often some disadvantageous choices and sacrifices to be made as people jockeyed for the favourable "lucky clover" tiles which turn a minus value tile into a plus! Guard pieces were ushered ever forward making the final run into the high scoring minus area more tempting but still fraught.
At the end, for once Jim’s experience of the game paid dividends with a win, but all saying it was an enjoyable experience for a simple game.
Jim +20; Vicky +13; Keith -4; Iain -11

With the players looking for another light and fairly quick game, Jim dug into his bag and produced -

Uptown (thanks again Jim)
Jim explained to the newbies that although the principal was simple, there would be some tactical nuances that would not necessarily become obvious straight away and that some thought was required to play the game well. The game had been played at IBG before, but Jim ran through the rules, emphasising that at the end of the game fewer groups (chains of one colour tile) were better than more groups with fewer minus points (other players’ tiles that you had elected to remove), that each player would have 4 tiles remaining at the end of the game, and that a single tile on its own was counted as a group – last time the game was played there had been a discussion about how a single tile can’t be regarded as a group!
Almost unnoticed, Ian build a continuous stream of yellow tiles from the start, eventually with Jim and Keith both doing their best to break his spread, but to no avail. Personally I blame Vicky for nibbling away at the end of my main group preventing me linking up to my satellite group, but to be fair I had been removing a few of her tiles too. And it also meant Vicky got 3rd place due to taking more penalty points than Jim!
The end was almost never in doubt from about ½ way through the game but all declared that it was another good lightweight game, this time with a little more thought required about tactical choices.
Iain 1 group (7 penalties); Jim 2 (3); Vicky 2 (6); Keith 3 (6 )

What have I learned from these two games playing against the same people? Only play Iain when his brain is fried; watch out for Vicky - her self proclaimed "blonde moments" are a disguise to cover her analytical mind; and Keith is genuinely up for any game proffered at him, simple or complex, whatever the theme or mechanic but never play him twice in a row at any game - he’ll probably beat you...

And before you ask, yes there is a Game of the Month for August -

El Grande (thanks again James)
So the first trial of the new Game of the Month… James and Steph had played before but new to Paul, Mark and Philip. It’s a lovely elegant game, nothing too complicated (despite James and Steph trying to make it sound more like Arkham Asylum with their garbled explanations) and always fun to play. 9 rounds of area control moving pieces onto and off the board (and sometimes into the castle) with 3 scoring rounds to make the most of. I always feel that it’s a real tactical battle this game, you’re constantly looking for the best option each turn but it’s really hard to derive a long term strategy as a lot can change from go to go. Despite the potential for long thought-out moves, the downtime between turns feels minimal and did I mention it has a castle… what’s not to like!
So for the first scoring round, not so good for James and Philip while Steph took full advantage of her experience to take an early lead… However this also meant round 2 was also ‘lets attack Steph’ time as she was picked on by all and sundry and by the 2nd scoring round Paul had overtaken her. James and Mark had caught up a little as well, with Mark taking advantage of the 8 piece mobile scorecard and Paul using his El Grande to good benefit.
So to the final 3 rounds. James picked up a Veto on the penultimate go to effective play kingmaker (hmm, so who do you think he might decide to use the veto on… any guesses?) Steph threw everything into a gamble on picking the right card, and Mark and Paul continued to take advantage of good positions. Philip by this stage was busy taking on the tourist role but I have a feeling that he’s spent the week (when he’s not cleaning his house) analysing the game to the nth degree and will trump everyone lights out next week…
So down to the last turn and James decided to gazump Steph’s last ditch attempt at victory (hey, who saw that coming) which left Mark and Paul to take it to the wire and to the very last province to be scored which gave Paul the win.
Finishing order was Paul-Mark-Steph-James-Philip… Scores, no idea… but then that’s what you get for going on holiday and leaving this to be organised by amateurs…

Also played at some point was -

Johan 59; Gareth 53; Maynard 47; Barrie 43

Balloon Cup (thanks again James)
Not sure quite the reason but by 10:30 everyone seemed to have had enough of the evening, leaving only a few die-hards ruing the lack of numbers for the traditional game of Saboteur. So James and Tonio decided for a quick flight of Balloon Cup, one of the Kosmos 2 player line of games. Players play coloured and numbered cards on either side of 4 place-setting markers that denote whether the highest or lowest total score wins the cubes on that marker. However you can only play cards that match the colour of the cubes on the card and you can play bad cards on your opponents side as well as good cards on yours… so quite an interactive and aggressive game but a simple concept and it plays well in 30 mins.
Tonio had played this many times, James just the once and it showed in the early stages as Tonio collected cubes by the dozen while James was avoiding them like the disease cubes in Pandemic. Tonio soon picked up one of the available trophies while James was still floundering, mainly being held back for the lack of grey cards available (Tonio was hogging them all). Eventually Tonio took pity on the newbie and dropped a grey card on the big scoring marker to help James out… only to find this turned into a disaster as James picked up these 4 cubes and some more soon afterwards and the game suddenly switched momentum.
Now I know how Jon feels when asking for assistance during Small World, only to pounce once the sucker has fallen for the ploy. The game came down to the wire at the end with whoever grabbed the next set of cubes taking the prize, and from nowhere James managed to sneak it at the end.
James 3 trophies; Tonio 1
I think that there was also a first outing at IBG for Bausack, and the thousandth outing for Mamma Mia, but who played them and what happened I have no idea.....
Thanks to James for organising the journalists in my absence - you did a fine job!