Wednesday, 29 September 2010

All things Oriental.........

Players: Barrie, Johan, Gareth, Keith, Jon, Philip, Scott, Daniel, Steph, Adam

Relegated to the conservatory tonight, but with 3 large tables reserved for us it didn't affect the gaming fun. 10 IBG'ers turned up, including a warm welcome to newcomer Adam. Tonight saw the usual mix of card games, board games, euro games, tile-laying games and even some story-telling thrown in for good measure. There were several games that were new to IBG (as usual...), but more unusually, one of them, although new to IBG, was decidedly old (even older than Barrie, apparently)...........

There was also a definite shift towards an oriental theme this evening, with chopsticks being brandished in a sushi-making contest, and some cut-throat trading taking place in order to set up businesses in Chinatown....

But anyway, to kick us off -

Pueblo (thanks Scott for this report)
An odd game to start the night off, about building a pyramid. Everyone has 7 of the identically shaped blocks, 3 neutral and 4 in your colour, where a pair can form a cube but they can tessellate quite well in different orientations. The builders were Scott, Steph, Keith and Gareth.
The aim of the game is to build a pyramid with your coloured pieces being least visible from the outside, as the building inspector doesn’t appreciate the builders showing off their own work and getting some free advertising or something like that. Just to be clear, there is actually a building inspector who goes around the construction and will take note of any colours he sees along the row he is standing on (or if he reaches a corner, he climbs a ladder and has a look at that quarter of the board from above) and take notes in his little pocket book of which colours he sees, the higher the colour off the ground, the more points it gets.
Players can control where the inspector looks to some degree and can urge him to move up to four rows along after they’ve built a piece - there was probably some money or camels involved but we don’t see that.
Scott began and not really realising the implications had placed his block close to the edge and moved the inspector straight past him, not realising that when the inspector gets around again, he won’t be able to hide his colour under anything neutral - his excuse being he couldn’t see from that angle as it was the wrong side of the table.
Steph was under the impression that she needed to be noticed and was collecting penalties in quick succession. Keith must have been playing with smaller blocks or something as he managed to stay pretty hidden for most of the game, probably because the rest of us were so incompetent. Gareth was getting his fair share of penalties too.
Once started, it seemed difficult to get out of a mess and we all continued along the same path. At the end, the inspector checks every row, column and also from above to add to the scores the game at the end.
Steph didn’t correctly count but we estimated that she was off the score track of 100. Scott and Gareth tied for 2nd and Keith was a runaway winner with significantly less points than anyone else. The exact scores have been lost over time, there were no computers back then and Jon hadn’t arrived with his papyrus and writing sticks.
1st - Keith; 2nd - Scott & Gareth; 4th - Steph

And as if to counter the argument that the IBG’ers are slaves to the ‘cult of the new’, they go and pull out a game that is 107 years old –
This is one of those games that invariably used to come out at festive family gatherings – complete with the ubiquitous manic shouting – “Two, two, two, TWO, TWO, three, THREE, THREE….c**p I’ve got the Bear…” And it’s surprisingly fun – so a great idea to pull out at the beginning of an evening at IBG.
As we were in the conservatory, the gameplay was a little more reserved in terms of volume than it might have been had we been upstairs, but it was frenetic stuff all the same. I’m guessing that there is some form of strategy involved in deciding which cards to collect and which to trade, but the rounds finished so quickly that I’m still none the wiser…
In terms of doing well at the game, Scott, Adam and Steph (twice) all managed to corner the market, whilst Jon, Daniel and Keith only managed to collect minus scores.
Steph 180; Scott 80; Adam 80; Keith -20; Jon -40; Daniel -40
As Scott had been good enough to courier this game to IBG for Jon, it was only fair to break it out and have a go –
This game really is the very definition of over-production. Any game that includes a cute little melamine bowl for each player purely to store a handful of cubes in, is going the extra mile. The artwork is also great, and all in all it turns what could be a very average abstract game into more of an experience.
The premise is that the players are sushi chefs all trying to complete recipes for their customers by laying out ingredients in the correct order on a communal mat. Completing recipes provides points and also allows players to pick up action cards which will help them to complete future recipes.
Scott and Keith were soon off and running, with Scott doing especially well to complete a number of recipes ‘with style’ (i.e. all ingredients in exactly the right order – earning bonus wasabi cubes). However, at the mid-point, Jon made the schoolboy error of not having a 2-ingredient recipe in his hand, and therefore was stuck in the situation of not being able to complete a recipe without an action card, but not being able to get an action card because he couldn’t complete a recipe. Catch 22 indeed!
With the board eventually filling up with ingredients, Scott had proved to be the finest sushi chef at the London Apprentice, whilst Jon had probably killed most of his customers with a poorly prepared blowfish.
Scott 28 (22 recipes+6 wasabi); Keith 21 (17+4); Jon 15 (12+3)
Certain IBG'ers seem to be gathering a bit of a reputation for rules 'misinterpretations'.....
Taj Mahal (thanks for the info Philip)
Yes, Gareth was explaining the rules. The crucial part was about following suit: Gareth explained that everyone has to play the same suit as the starting player in each auction (there are 12 auctions in the game, although you're bidding for several different things at once so its more complicated than that). Anyway, about auction 5, I looked up some small point and happened to glance at the 'follow suit rules'. The actual rule is each player must play the same suit throughout a given auction- but it doesn't have to be the same suit as the starting player (or any other player).
Gareth's version encourages players to build diverse hands with some cards in all suits as you don't know what the start player might lead. The actual rules encourage concentrating on 1 or perhaps 2 suits. So perhpas its not that suprising that I, who had been coming last by a long way when we switched rules, ended up winning the game (by a single VP)...
Philip - won; Gareth - didn't; Johan and Barrie - claimed it was null and void........

And so, they moved on to a game where everyone knew the rules -

Saint Petersburg
No report, but scores were -
Johan 42; Barrie 40; Gareth 37; Philip 31

(those scores seem unbelievably low...rules check anyone....?!)

Looking to play even more new games tonight, next on the list was -

Chinatown (thanks again Scott)
This is a game vaguely reminiscent of Monopoly (apologies for the bad language...) but without the dice and a bit more negotiating power. The board is a map of 6 districts, each with 15 property spaces; every turn, players draw a number of those property locations and place ownership markers on them. They also draw a number of business tiles with which they will build up their income. Between those business tiles, property locations and money in hand, players negotiate to get the locations they want to build up the business they want. There are 12 different types of business and they have a set size that they are trying to achieve from 3 – 6 tiles. The more tiles a player can get next to each other on the board of the same business, the more they will generate in income each round, with a slightly higher income if the business is complete upon meeting its target size.
This was a first game for all with Jon, Keith and Scott competing to be the best tycoon in town.
The first couple of rounds saw less interaction as property locations were spread around the board, but there was a swap here and there to get some size 2 business started for later on and amassing the business tiles to add to them later. Jon fared slightly worse after the first round with scores being much closer after that.
By the middle game, Scott and Jon looked to have some good positions but not quite enough tiles between them to make sufficient use of them. Keith had the business tiles but not the locations. Players were reluctant to give too much power away from their locations so growth was slow and everyone was trying to keep everyone else in check and have no-one run away with the game. Keith suffered slightly because of this as Scott and Jon could grow a little more, Scott often starting defunct businesses just to get the income from 1 or two tiles regardless of their future, as the others were holding back from doing so.
By the end, Keith and Jon were in a powerful position with some big businesses on the board. Scott had faltered with his scattered empire and couldn’t capitalise in the last round. This left the scores as follows:
Jon $1,160,000; Scott $1,110,000; Keith $1,070,000

Scores were so high because the minimum denomination is $10,000, so really the scores were quite close. Jon had done well after the first round and kept a steady growing empire, Keith had lost out in the middle game with less to offer the other players and Scott had lost out at the end from not getting enough big businesses finished, but had secured enough in earlier rounds to counteract it slightly.
An interesting game which plays in an hour with the whole game being about negotiation, worthy of some more plays to see how a 5 player interaction would work

Whlist the rest of the group started a game of Saboteur, Philip and Scott opted to break out -

Race for the Galaxy (thanks to Scott for this report too)
In game one, Philip had got a good thing going and was amassing the goal cards quickly. Scott was floundering in his galaxy and struggling to find any habitable plants or fund any developments - they had Prestige though and that’s all that matters. As such, his civilization were stuck at home and Philip’s had prospered throughout the galaxy, being rewarded by the intergalactic council for building and terraforming the correct things.
Philip 65; Scott 30

Scott was keen for a rematch -

Scott was eager to get out of his galaxy this time, building up some military might and taking over planets, no need for any terraforming. The goals this time were a bit more evenly split and Scott kept hold of prestige leader. The game went very fast with lots of planets being settled and Scott and Philip often picking the same actions cards to play each round. There was little end game scoring and scores were much closer but Scott had won this time.
Scott 40; Philip 30

The game of Saboteur was aborted as there was a mass exodus after the first round, so a new game was sought. And amazingly, there are still some gamers at IBG that haven’t yet played –

Pinguin Party
The 2 newbies this week were Jon and Barrie, with veterans Steph and Gareth making up the foursome. It would probably be fair to say that Barrie’s participation in this game could best be described as a ‘learning experience.’ Having a handful of purple penguins during one round, he omitted to get any onto the bottom of the pyramid, rather scuppering his chances of getting rid of any more of them. Consequently, he picked up a few points…..
Going into the final round, Jon had 2 whilst Steph had 4, but with Steph getting rid of all her penguins and Jon being stuck with 2, these positions reversed to give Steph the win.
Steph 2; Jon 4; Gareth 5; Barrie 13

Also played during the evening was Tales of the Arabian Nights, but I've no idea how that panned out. Check out Daniel's report of the last time it was played at IBG (nearly a year ago!) to give you a flavour of  what it's all about....

So that was quite enough sushi, stock markets, penguins and pyramids for one night. We're back in the Riverview Room next week for much more of the same. Cheerio!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Play by the rules (if you can)........

Players: Johan, Gareth, Jon, James, Daniel, Tonio, Keith, Scott, Noel, Tanya

A cosy 10 IBG'ers at the London Apprentice tonight, including a very warm welcome to 2 newcomers - Noel and Tanya - who had finally managed to co-ordinate a babysitter and a Wednesday night.

Tonight was one of those nights which reminded us that the rules to board games can be tricky pieces of literature. Properly compiled, studied and understood, they are the magic key to a fabulous gaming experience. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. This evening we had the case of the badly read rules and the badly written rules....

For the early birds, the first game of the evening was -

Loot (thanks for this report James)
A new filler so it must mean another Reiner Knizia card game. Scott, Keith and James were the volunteers to walk the plank this time with a game themed on attacking merchant ships with pirate cards, but in true Reiner Knizia fashion could just as easily be about rabbits playing volleyball or dancing zombies... or more likely both at the same time.
However given a game with no cubes meant we had a chance to beat Scott the lack of realistic theme was excused. Players either take a card or play a card. And they can either sail a merchant ship or attack/defend existing ships. If a merchant ship goes a round without any further attacks then it can be taken by the largest number of attaching pirates and the winner is the one with the best merchant ships at the end. Add some rules based on colours and a few pirate captains and that's the game.
In the first game James managed to trounce (I repeat the word to emphasize it's rarity) trounce Scott - although the proof of this has somehow since been 'lost' (conspiracy theorists might want to take note...)
In the 2nd game Keith joined in, and suddenly the complexity of the game doubled. I think it played much better with 3, a four player game might also be good to try sometime.
With more than 2 there is an added subtle psychology at stake ion trying to persuade other players to counter attacks so that you could gain cards against everyone else. Again Scott failed to make much headway and James took advantage of his one game of experience to win again. I think Keith was last seen nodding that it was a game worth checking out again, while Scott was last seen reaching for a copy of Tempus with thoughts of revenge...

It’s been a while since Gareth brought out one of his little card games that he doesn’t know the rules to……..

Gareth read out / explained the rules to what turned out to be fairly typical Knizia fare – a set collection game with a vampire theme (why?!) tacked on. It also has some of the most indiscernible colours in any game I’ve played, with grey and purple almost merging into one. The game does have a nice little ‘push your luck’ mechanism (do you lay your set down now or wait for possibly more cards later?) and also penalises the player with the lowest value in each colour.
It was as the game was drawing to a close that Scott and Jon noticed that they could not apparently lay any more sets down from their hands, as there were no cards left in the middle to pick up on their turns. However, they still had to lay down a card to the middle, so the next player was able to use this to complete a set. This seemed a trifle odd for a RK game, but it was shrugged off and the scores totted up. James (25) had won narrowly from Gareth (23) and Keith (22), with Scott (18) and Jon (16) bringing up the rear.
Unhappy with the strange game ending, Scott decided to read the rules a little more closely, and discovered that we had been playing it completely wrong all along. He breathed a sigh of relief as he realised that his poor showing in the game was due to a rules aberation rather than his own inadequacies. Phew…….

Meanwhile, Tonio had nabbed Daniel for a quick 2-player game -

Trax (thanks Dan)
This is an ultra-quick and enjoyable abstract filler with the added benefit that it plays straight out of the box. The game consists of a stack of identical double sided tiles where the player colours cross over or avoid one another. You take turns laying the tiles, sometimes forcing additional tiles into play, until somebody creates a loop or a line and receives undying adulation from the crowd of spectators.
Gameplay is vaguely similar to connect 4 or tic-tac-toe in that you are closing down your opponent’s opportunities to guarantee a win whilst trying to set up your own unstoppable endgame position. It’s more a game that you lose rather than win, either by missing your opponent’s game winning position or by accidentally creating one for them.
We played a few games which all ended fairly quickly then got caught up in the whole "what if?" scenario and started rolling back game losing moves to play on, turning it more into a co-op experience. By the time we had almost exhausted the tile stack we agreed to define the score as a Gentleman’s Draw.
Tonio 3; Daniel 3

With Philip otherwise engaged, Johan and Gareth decided to have a couple of attempts at the latest Game of the Month in 2-player mode-

El Grande (thanks Johan)
In the first game Gareth got the better of Johan by one point, which quickly prompted a 'revenge' match, which was won by Johan. The second game was much more tactical and psychological when Gareth made a crucial mistake at the beginning of the game and Johan afterwards became very adept at blocking Gareth.
Both were good competitive games games though and El Grande is surprisingly quite a good game with two players.
Game 1: Gareth 101; Johan 100
Game 2: Johan 84; Gareth 67

Meanwhile, James had drummed up some support for a little husky-racing -

Snow Tails (thanks again to James)
Another race game, this time on sleds pulled by husky dogs. James, Jon, Dan and Tonio grabbed their hounds in this race across the snow and ice. Being foolish men we of course opted for the hardest course rather than the beginners course to start with, lined with ragged chicanes, tree-lined ravines, rock filled ice slides, and finishing with a terrifying leap of death.
But none of these fears compared with the horror of trying to navigate the rule book trying to decide how sideways movement worked.... another good game that shoots itself in the foot with a rule book leaving more open to interpretation than the Conservative election manifesto. After several early (and somewhat sketchy) moves we finally reached an agreement on how things worked and from there the game played smoothly.
Cards can be played (from a hand of 5) on either one of the husky dogs, or on brakes. These cards decide how fast the sled goes and if it moves left or right. Hitting walls, corners, trees or each other causes dents (eg replaces a card in the hand with a dud) and having a balanced sled gives bonus movement. Quite simple once we'd worked it out, but still deceptively hard to control the sled from only 5 cards... as Jon will attest having driven into the wrong end of a sharp bend early on and picking up 2 dents early in the game.
Then Dan got too close to a tree on his way through a forest which left the way for Tonio and James to take the early lead. Everyone struggled through the thin ravine before Tonio's huskies look like they stopped to allow Tonio to write his name in the snow on the last bend and gave James a chance to take the lead. This was a lead he didn't relinquish clearing the leap of death like it was a hop of horror to claim first place.
Tonio followed to take silver and just behind was Dan in 3rd. Jon finally limping in last place having stopped en route to build a snow man and make angels.
Not a bad race game despite the frustrating start, and would be good to try this again now some of the pitfalls have been identified.
1st - James; 2nd - Tonio; 3rd - Daniel; 4th - Jon

Looking for a quick filler whilst the other games finished, this was a chance to have another go at –

Adios Amigos
For members of IBG and regular readers of this blog, you will be cognisant of the fact that certain IBG’ers do particularly well at certain types of games. For instance, Scott is a genius with little wooden cubes, Jon is the master of pointing the finger at others, and Daniel can think faster than any creature on this planet. So is it any wonder that in a game that is based solely on making instant calculations and shooting your opponents, that Daniel should triumph with ease?
Each round would go something like this – Jon and Dan (who were sitting opposite each other) would have a swift duel, usually resulting in Jon’s premature demise. This would be followed by Tonio and James staring at each other for a bit, whilst Dan picked them off too. (Actually, that’s a bit unfair as Tonio was pretty quick on the draw himself.)
However, Dan even had enough points in the bank to make a mistake during one shootout, requiring a payment of 3 gold to Jon. The moral of the tale? Don’t ever challenge Dan to pistols at dawn (or a game of Santy Anno or Galaxy Trucker for that matter…)
Daniel 24; Tonio 18; James 15; Jon 14

With all the groups now finishing at the same time, and with a few early departees, it was time to split into 2 groups for a mid-weight game to close the evening off with. For the first group, it was a trip to Egypt for some archaeological explorations –

This was new to James and Gareth, and Johan had played once before in the dim and distant past. It’s basically an area majority game where players are trying to achieve majorities in certain regions in order to be able to claim ‘parcels’ of land. With this land comes points and the assistance of a patron in future rounds. Players also have to decide if they wish to exhibit their artefacts in the museum, which will make their finds more valuable at the game end. It plays in 4 fairly quick rounds, and definitely comes in at under the hour mark.
Gareth and Johan pretty quickly got the idea of using the pyramids to block other players (ie Jon) - they had already spent the first part of the evening on an area majority game, so were well warmed-up! At the end of the first season, Johan had picked up the most patrons, whilst James acknowledged that he hadn’t done so well, as he had the fewest patrons and no cubes left either.
Gareth chose to major on collecting Sir Brown, who gave the benefit of being able to place cubes into the museum during the ‘digging’ phase. He also managed to nab the most valuable room in the museum for displaying Sir Brown’s artefacts, so was well set for a big end scoring. Johan managed to also book several valuable rooms in the museum, and was steadily racking up points as he went along. Jon tried to collect Miss Lemon, but was thwarted a little so instead went for an all-round strategy, whilst trying to pick up parcels with the most points on them. James also had several Miss Lemons and was quickly coming to terms with how the game worked.
When it came to the final scoring, Gareth’s Sir Browns did indeed give him a large score, but as he hadn’t quite managed to pick up a full set of patrons, he fell a few points short at the end. Jon and Johan were neck and neck, with Jon just pipping him at the post, courtesy of gaining the majority in a contested parcel in the last round to win a Lady Violet patron with 3 points attached. This is a fun little game, which packs a lot into its short playtime. Definitely worth re-visiting again.
Jon 46; Johan 44; Gareth 41; James 32

It's at this point that we leave our regularly scheduled programming, for a station announcement from our very own master of musings - IBG Dan..........

"I want to take a slight diversion to talk a bit today about Being a Bad Ass. This is partly due to playing Castle Panic with Tonio as the Evil Overlord, but mostly due to having watched Enter The Dragon a couple of nights ago. There’s that scene near the start of Enter The Dragon where the three main Bad Ass protagonists are musing on their reasons for joining the competition and, in the process, just how Bad Ass they are.
John Saxon tricks you with a day dream about this game of golf then gets back on track by knocking out three random banditos halfway into his par four. Bruce Lee goes all emo on us and plots vengeance for the death of his sister but that’s okay because you only have to look at the guy to know that he’s as Bad Ass as a whole truck load of Chuck Norris.
Then Jim Kelly dispenses any pretence of giving a damn and just thinks fondly of the time he whipped two redneck cops and went joy-riding in their patrol car.
Based solely on our game of Castle Panic, if Tonio were in one of those water taxis he’d probably be thinking about his favourite flavour of ice cream while humming "Baby Elephant Walk". I dread to think what would happen to him when he got to Han’s island but it probably wouldn’t involve a deleted Nunchaku scene. I’ll let Scott fill you in on the details but suffice to say all those games of Dungeon Lords don’t appear to have honed Tonio’s malevolent instincts a great deal..."

And now.... on with the show -

Castle Panic (thanks Scott)
Tonio and Dan were keen to have a go at saving/destroying a castle from/with Trolls and Scott and Keith were happy to try it out having never played before. Tonio is a firm believer in the Evil Overlord option and wanted to be the evil one this week (I’ll spare the obvious joke to save Tonio from pretending that he is deeply insulted by it)
The rules are simple but Dan and Tonio were at loggerheads from turn one as Dan refused to follow turn order and discarded and drew a card after trading a card. *Shock Horror*, Tonio couldn’t break his programming from being the game master while Scott and Keith just kept quiet.
The first half of the game was smooth sailing, a troll here, a boulder there, a bit of damage but easily repaired, at which point Scott enquired as to when the Evil overlord was going to do anything to try and attack us. With monsters so far being fairly easy to tackle we didn’t feel much panic, which may have had something to do with two barbarians played in subsequent turns with a bit of trickery from Dan (playing it before the deck was reshuffled and then shuffling it to the top to be used again). Tonio was suspicious...
But Scott had to eat his words quickly, as he had already been expecting after his sarcastic remarks, as Tonio pulled from the bag a couple of “draw three extra monsters” in fairly quick succession resulting in the board being ambushed. Dan, Scott and Keith fought valiantly to fight them off but four remained in the red section. Tonio pushed them all forward with 'red monsters move' and took away all our swordsmen with which to battle the monsters banging on the front door.
We were doomed - two castle pieces left in the middle and with only one potential barbarian to fight them away, it was over, all hope was lost. Yet Tonio was not satisfied with such as easy win, he wanted more damage, to show us he’s the boss and never to mock him ever again. Our people would tell tales throughout the eras of the Evil Overlord and never again get in his way. So he sent in a boulder. Despite all of his minions being in the same space on the board, he ordered it be rolled and with Mankind’s last hope, Tonio rolled the die and destroyed all of his own minions in one fell swoop. The people rejoiced, the Evil Overlord embarrassed in front of all his strongest monsters. With a quick check of his resources, Tonio had but a few tiles remaining in the bag and the castle was rebuilt in as much glory as it could regain with the couple of monsters strolling by being killed for fun.
While enjoying the feast of victory the heads were counted and Dan had scored most. Scott and Keith hadn’t sacrificed the integrity of the castle to get some selfish kills of their own, knowing that Dan was picking off all the easy targets each turn and drawing all the barbarians out of the deck and players hands...
Dan approx. 20; Scott 15; Keith approx. 10; Tonio – defeated.

To wind up the night, Tonio found another willing victim to play -

Trax (thanks again Scott)
There are symmetrical tiles with white and black tracks on them which you need to place to enclose an area with your colour or have your connected track stretch across eight tiles. Tonio pointed out the obvious losing moves you can get yourself into but how much attention Scott was paying was unknown, or it was too late in the night, since he enquired whether you could play it with more players, to which Tonio replied “there are only two colours?!”
The games were underway and each turn seemed to be a case of, one player tries to set themselves up for a win next turn, so the other player sends their track off in the opposite direction. Scott managed to get his track going across the board when eight tiles were hit and had won the first game.
A second game ensued where we had both got in to a winning position in two turns. Tonio had missed this fact about Scott and went on to place a tile so that he could get his track across eight tiles next turn but Scott enclosed his area and won the second game. It was too late in the day for Tonio as well.
Scott - 2 wins; Tonio – nil

Also played tonight were Traders of Genoa and No Thanks, which we await scores and reports for....

...and here they are! Thanks Keith for both of these:

Traders of Genoa
Traders is a game involving delivering messages, fulfilling orders and collecting resources. But primarily it's a negotiating game. Victory is determined by the most money after a number of rounds.
On their turn a player can choose up to five actions depending on their randomly determined start point. However, they can only take one (or sometimes two) for themselves. The remaining actions can be sold to the other players for money and/or goods and/or cards. But the actions taken might be affected by the negotiations. Here's an example...
Active Player, “I've rolled 3 and 2, so I'm starting here in Metals, and probably ending up at the Guild Hall. Anyone interested in the Post Office?”
Player 1: “How about 10 for the post office?”
Player 3: “I'll offer a split on Metals. I don't mind which I have”
Player 2: “I'll pay 30 if you go via Villa Collini”
Active Player: “OK – I'll take the split on the Metals and 30 for the Villa Collini. What am I offered for the Park?”
Player 1: “Nothing, but I'll pay 20 for the post office and we get one message each”
Active Player: “Sorry, I'm going to the Guild Hall”
Player 1: “How about 10 for the Park”
Active Player: “OK”.
After the negotiations have finished, the Active Player goes through their turn step by step, completing all their deals. So if you don't like making deals with other players it's really not the game for you.
Of course like most negotiation games there's also the option to form cartels and exclude the player who appears to be winning, but I don't believe any of us were far enough ahead for that to happen. In fact, we got off to a bit of a slow start. But after a few turns we were getting a feel for the value of actions and seeing a few competitive bids for resources. Then we got a couple of rolls where the active player started in the Marketplace. This has the side-effect of shortening the game by one turn, which got everyone rushing to deliver large contracts and messages in double quick time.
After a few rather frantic rounds the final scores were remarkably close:
Keith 520; Noel 510; Scott 495; Tanya 475

Tanya's score was artificially low because of a misunderstanding of the rules which left her collecting silver and copper which were worthless at the end of the game.

No Thanks
The goal of No Thanks is to avoid accumulating points, by paying score reducing tokens into a pot. So a card with a value of -19 will be played and people will keep adding +1 tokens until someone thinks it is worth taking along with the accumulated tokens. However, if you subsequently take an adjacent value, say -20, you would only score for one of them. This has the effect of giving cards different values for each of the players later in the game.
When we played, the scores seemed pretty even, with bid tokens sloshing back and forth among the players, but the final card made a huge difference. For Keith the card changed his score by -1 point, but for everyone else it was worth -39. So he was able to sit back and let the counters pile up and take it after 30 points worth of counters had piled up, for a differential of 37 points against each of the other players.
Keith -19; Scott -54; Tanya -61; Noel -61

And so the evening drew to a close. Archaeologists, Desperados and (not so)Evil Overlords would have to once again return to the real world for another week until next Wednesday, when they could return in order to once more adopt their infamous alter egos......

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Scandinavia Evening at IBG (and not an IKEA in sight).....

Players: Ian, Gareth, Philip, Paul, Barrie, Daniel, Jim, Scott, Steph, Jeff, Tonio, Jon, James

13 players again this week, and this time we had a cake to celebrate our birthday! Many thanks to James for bringing along that little sweetener. There was much debate about how to cut a cake into 13 pieces, but Tonio was able to apply his high-level mathematical abilities to the problem and came up with a solution - cut it into loads of little pieces. Such genius is surely wasted on the pupils of a local secondary school.....

Tonight saw an emphasis on all things Scandinavian, as well as more than one area-majority game played, a much overdue appearance by a certain gateway train game, and an unfinished Martin Wallace epic. Throw in a disgruntled James and you've got all the ingredients for a fine evening of gaming.....

On arrival, Scott and Steph were otherwise engaged (in a game!), so the next 4 had a go at –

Archaeology: The Card Game
Gareth started first, with Jon playing last, but by the time it got round to his first turn, a combination of sandstorms and thieves had reduced his opening hand to a measly parchment scrap. However, with the help of some maps he was later able to explore the pyramid and find enough treasure that he could trade for a valuable set of Talismans.
Ian was also putting some nice sets of artefacts together, but Tonio’s attempt to gather multiple coins was rather hampered by further unfortunate weather conditions which reduced his ability to have anything very valuable to exhibit at the museum.
But with a number of high-valued collections, Gareth led from start to finish and was declared the finest archaeologist since Howard Carter.
Gareth 67; Ian 60; Jon 57; Tonio 29

More early arrivals - Paul, Jeff and James skipped the usual early parade of card games (arrrrgh, more penguins) although notably they didn’t skip the menu, and opted for -

Ticket To Ride Nordics (thanks to James for this report)
Surprisingly, this is the first TTR game to hit the table at the Isleworth club. Not the cosy nicey-nicey Europe version with shared routes this one, no it’s a route-grabbing, first come first served race to link together places that need 2 buckets of phlegm to pronounce. James stumbled through a rules explanation, with some help from Scott pointing out the main difference between this and standard TTR in that locomotive cards are no longer wild in this game.
This is very much a game of taking the key routes early, if you have to visit some places in the north and the easy options are cut off there’s only the option of a 9 length piece of track… James took advantage of this and set about claim the centre routes to the North while Paul and Jeff built a base in the South. Didn’t take too long though before they noticed James could have a nice cosy route to the south and so they ganged up (Lifeboats style) to force James to take a detour. After this of course the gloves were off... 
Paul was working his way up the West coast, obviously not sure if it was a train or sailing game he was playing. Jeff at one stage had 5 different routes coming out of the same station… a strange strategy but I guess he must like it there. But when the dust settled James managed to race away with the game having lucked into a couple of late high scoring routes from top to bottom and managing to use all his trains up while Paul and Jeff had several left.
Personally I like this version. More cutthroat than Europe and not so dependant on the 6 routes as the US version. And for a starter game it certainly beats messing around with penguins…
James won; (not sure about everyone else...)

In addition to the other filler games going on, Philip arrived just in time to get a quick game in with Scott and Steph, who are all veterans of -

Race for the Galaxy (thanks to Scott for this report)
Everyone was playing quite quickly so it was difficult to keep track of what everyone was doing but in brief - Steph focussed on developments for the large goal and while tied with Scott for a while had secured it by the end. Scott went for the other goal of most cards with explore powers which he’d picked up quickly and held on to easily.
Scott focussed on rebels and collected plenty of Prestige because of his home world bonuses, keeping him Prestige leader the whole game. Unfortunately Philip had the 6 cost development to score extra for prestige and was collecting a fair few of them, almost stealing the lead from Scott. Steph avoided Prestige as she’s still not too sure about it.
The game was sealed once Scott could play two planets a turn and was throwing out Rebel worlds left right and centre ending up with 14 cards in his tableaux but no 6 cost developments, relying solely on prestige and card values. Steph and Philip fought over second place with some balanced scoring but not enough time at the end to complete any master plans.
Scott 55; Steph 35; Philip 34

At the end, Jon came over to observe how a game of RFTG should be played, i.e. as a filler game and not apparently as a 2 hour epic game played with 4 new players once upon a time. That’s probably why it doesn’t have such a good reputation at the club but it is a good game to get into, but you do need to devote a few games to understand what the cards actually do before worrying about what you should do to win.

Whilst waiting for Daniel to turn up, it was decided to get out another quickie –

Adios Amigos
This quick-fire Wild West shoot-em-up hadn’t been seen at IBG for some time but made a welcome return, with only Jon not having played before. The rules take about a minute to explain, and each round takes less than that to play.
Everyone (bar Jon) was quick on the draw in the first couple of rounds, but he eventually cottoned on to what to do (shoot Scott), and managed to win the 3rd and 5th rounds himself. These hauls of gold were enough to have him declared the fastest number-slinger in the West (of London).
Jon 24; Tonio 20; Scott 18; Steph 12

And now, we have a momentous moment - someone has actually written a report for the latest Game of the Month! -

El Grande (Ian - you truly are a hero...)
This was the 3rd or 4th outing for this high ranked area majority game, but the first time a report has been written…not sure what that says about the game, maybe everyone is concentrating too much on nefarious plotting and backstabbing to think about report writing or maybe its just not that interesting! I’ll let you decide……
The game started dramatically with Phillip playing a very high power card on turn 1, meaning he would be first to pick a special action. He had sneakily noticed that one of the cards drawn made all players send back all their ‘caballeros’ from a single region back to the provinces ie off the board, and that you couldn’t pick an empty region. Since all the players start with 2 caballeros in a single region as their starting position, everyone would have to send those 2 men in their starting region off the board leaving them with no-one on the board (except Phil who could play a single man into a different region before his special action). So a good evil start from Phil, getting into the swing of the game very quickly – the main selling point of this game being there is a LOT of interaction and ability to mess with other players plans.
Everyone else had to then build their forces back up, although you get to put between 1 and 5 caballeros on the board per turn depending on what special action you pick, so the loss of 2 was a blow to the others but not devastating.
In the first few turns Barrie picked several special scoring cards where a given set of regions gets scored while all the others don’t. The ones he picked benefited him the most but Ian was also in 1st/2nd place in some of them resulting in him getting a gain of several points out of Barrie’s generosity – opinions at the end of the game varied on how many points were gained in this way, but lets say it was 10 or so.
There are 3 main scoring phases in the game, and you get bonus points for winning outright the region that contains the King piece and also your own ‘Grande’ which is a bigger man in your own colour. Having benefited from Barrie’s generosity Ian took the first available opportunity to stab him in the back in moving some of Barrie’s caballeros out of his grande region and denying him the bonus points, also managing to damage a few of the other players at the same time.
Can’t really remember a lot of the other ins and outs; at one point Paul had a veto card which enabled him to cancel another player action, and there was much debate and table talk around who he should play this on, with most of the players urging him to gratuitously cancel one of Ian’s actions since he was in the lead at that point, but Paul choosing in the end to use the card more positively.
One other interesting point was towards the end where, in counting up scoring for caballeros in the ‘castillo’ (castle), Phillip managed to ‘inadvertently’ move Ian’s scoring marker, with another debate then following about what Ian’s score was at that point….I’m sure we arrived at the right answer. At the end of a closely fought game with a bit of controversy, the scores were as follows:
Ian 98; Gareth 86; Paul 80; Barrie 75; Phillip 75

Several of the players (well - Gareth) questioned the validity of the win given the controversial scoring and the benefit of Barrie’s generosity…..

After much deliberation, the 8 other players without a game split into 2 groups, with Steph leading the request to play –

With El Grande being played on another table, it seemed apt to also bring out its little brother for an airing. This is a very simple area-majority game to play – the rules being summarised in the ‘3-2-1’ sentence – ‘Use up to 3 cards to play up to 2 pieces in 1 region.’
Steph had played this before (which showed) and she was soon deploying strategically placed houses to pick up plenty of points. Jon had few houses (and no roads), but was dropping several emissaries off to try to claim alliances at the end of the game. He succeeded with 3 alliances, but as one of them only contained his own emissaries, they were not as valuable as he had hoped.
Jeff had scored well with his houses, but had failed to fully grasp the alliance mechanic (a common occurrence with first-time players) which affected his final score.
After the roads had been scored, 3 of the players were quite close, but Steph had scored well in all facets of the game which pulled her away from the chasing pack.
This is one of those games that packs a lot into 45 minutes and should definitely get some more table-time. 
Steph 58 (35 houses + 13 alliances + 10 roads); Jon 44 (25+19+0); Jeff 40 (32+0+8); Tonio 39 (28+7+4)

Meanwhile, Jim brought out -

Vikings (thanks to Dan for the following documentary...)
The annals of History are littered with fables and stories of the fearsome Vikings and their heroic deeds. Many were rumoured to be able to channel the very energy of the earth through their bodies, working themselves into a berserk rage and becoming unstoppable killing machines, much like Gareth gets when he forgets some of the rules. Possibly the most infamous Viking of all time was Elric Fiercebeard whose people laid waste to much of Northern Europe, plundering and pillaging the coast so far south they were the only Vikings to have a year round tan. Elric’s problem was a hopeless sense of direction and he very rarely had a clue what he was doing or where he was going. As a result he frequently had to stop to ask for directions and, Vikings being the cheeky scamps they are, no sooner would he have turned his back to work out thirty two degrees longitudinal from the meridian line than the village would be burned and plundered and he would be forced to start all over again!
With a mighty sigh he would lead his men back on board and look for the next place to stop. Elric’s mighty voyage is said to have lasted four decades, during which time he married twice, razed over two thousand settlements to the ground, and learned to ride a Zebra. And he only initially popped out to get a pint of milk.
Much like Elric I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing with my Viking horde. While everybody else raised nice efficient islands with kings, bankers and warriors to guard them, my guys spent all their time loafing in their boats aimlessly wandering the open sea. The vicious bidding system quite frankly defies the "family game" tag, unless you belong to either the Borgia or Manson families, and Scott in particular showed his dark side here.
Overall, Darth Agius romped home to an easy victory, James did quite well in managing his meeples on a plethora of neatly organised islands and Jim snuck up from way behind to seize third place with some very fat Vikings. My own Vikings were raided, presumably by the other players, while drunk in their boats and the resulting shameful loss of VPs in the final scoring put me firmly last.
Scott 1st; James 2nd; Jim 3rd; Daniel - last!

And sticking with the Scandinavian theme, it was another outing for -

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries (thanks again Daniel!)
In the frozen Fjords of Northern Norway, the Norges Statsbaner express winds its way across the harsh yet picturesque terrain. Onboard the venstrehendte vaskekone are no doubt enjoying their ristet ugle and jordbær melk as the smertefulle tog heads toward its destination. Of course I may be completely wrong about this - Google Translation leaves a lot to be desired.
In TTR: Nordic, the Northern coastline is a difficult place to build a rail line, requiring either a stack of cards or lots of valuable locomotives. In this game it was widely avoided, except by Daniel who was staring into space during most of the rules explanation, missed the bit where you could ditch route cards you didn’t think you could complete, and instead kept them all in hand. This put him in the position of having to connect pretty much every major city on the board, a feat which he managed to tackle with a certain amount of aplomb (and an unnaturally fortunate number of locomotive cards).
With Daniel busying himself mostly in the North, Steph and Jim tussled for the Southern routes. Steph played a controlled game, harvesting cards until able to claim the routes most important to her strategy, whilst Jim appeared intent on collecting virtually every card in the deck before raiding the route cards for prime links he could easily connect.
Once again showing his naivety, Daniel delved into the route deck late in the game to general amusement. However by this point he had a long uninterrupted route running the length of the board and so he managed to fish out two cards that were already almost complete.
The scores were totalled up with Jim just pipping Steph by a single point. Daniel started to race up the scoring track and would have secured victory by a large margin but for the one route card he couldn’t connect - a massive 24 point route which was closed out early on by the other player’s domination in the South, putting him well behind on VPs.
Final scores seemed to be Jim 99, Steph 98 and Daniel 97 but whilst packing up the game Steph found the "Most Routes" card, offering a whopping 10VPs to the holder. As it turned out this honour was shared by both Steph and Daniel.
"Flaggermus bærer en lue i kirketårnet" as our Norwegian friends Einar and Hanne might say. Or might not.
Steph 108; Daniel 107; Jim 99

With a little persuasion from Scott, and with Tonio’s assistance, Jon and James followed to join in a game of -

Tempus (thanks again Scott)
Scott had promised a light Civilisation game but it was by Martin Wallace and only Scott had played before so no-one could believe it and even afterwards I still don’t think they do.
The game plays on a randomly generated map, generated by the players but with everyone else being new, the land masses didn’t favour four good starting positions and even after a late take back from James (Gareth style), he still wasn’t happy with his placement; solution for next game, make Scott pick last or at least be aware when generating the map that if you are in last position you need to make enough feasible areas for all the players.
The game plays with each player having a number of actions available and a choice of 5 possible actions on your turn, either move your people, grow your people, fight another player, have an idea (draw idea cards) or build a city (if you have a large enough stack of tokens to convert to one).
The idea cards provide an action that can be performed or also they have a background colour matching a terrain on the board; they can be used either as their action and/or to add attack or defence points in combat if the fight happens in that terrain shown on the card.
Players are limited in the amount they can move, how quickly they can grow and how many ideas they can have etc. These values increase each round as some civilizations progress, the next row on the progress chart has a terrain colour and the player with the most tokens in that colour plus any cards played that match will get to progress to the next era first while everyone else will be delayed a turn before they automatically catch up to the current era, at which point another player or more will progress to the next era, so players can’t be left too far behind (unless your name is James).
During the game, Scott, Tonio and Jon all had some nice terrain to start, James was in a difficult position and after starting right next to Scott figured he would have more chance in an area he could at least grow his civilization. Everyone was able to expand without any conflict until the mid game where James decided to break out of his corner and head South to attack Jon (even though he had ships and could have sailed to the other side of the island, he wanted a fight). With a three on three attack and ties broken in favour of the defender, James just lost out on the card battle, crushing his hopes and dreams, then Jon retaliated to keep James in his corner, which didn’t seem to go down too well with James.
James continued to while away in his corner seeking revenge on the other three who were all apparently conspiring against him - even Tonio who offered to let people attack him to make it more fun for them (some sort of trap we assumed as no-one took up his offer).
James saved up some more cards and went after Scott this time, seeing as he looked like the most likely winner with the most cities on the board (the end game scoring by the way is value of cities plus 1vp per other regions occupied, so cities are good), James didn’t go for a city though as he needed control of the terrain type, unfortunately, despite playing 4 cards, Scott played two good ones and deflected the attack with ease. Again, this didn’t go down too well with James.
However, with Jon and James requiring intense thought in how best to progress their civilizations, we had run out of time and were one round short of finishing. We called it early and the last few actions of everyone was to build some cities and grab some points, which was fortunate for Scott as otherwise the last round of the game was likely to be, “let’s see how much of Scott’s empire we can destroy” round, as he had set-up little cities all over the board, two of them being right next to Jon as the spaces still available to place cities diminished rapidly.
The scores have been lost in time and space but the relative positions were as follows:
Scott; Tonio; Jon; James.

Despite some murmurings at the end and a general feeling of being cheated by Scott who knew the game (how dare he!), it seemed to go down well and there was interest for another game now everyone knows how it plays and what disasters to avoid. We may even finish it next time....

Also played tonight was Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, which Barrie apparently won. There was also a game of Wyatt Earp, which I believe that Jim will enlighten us about at some point.

And that was it. If Einar and Hanne are still tuning in (and from looking at our flag counter, someone from that part of the world is keeping tabs on us...), I hoped you enjoyed our foray into Scandinavian-themed games tonight. Maybe you'll get a chance to re-visit us someday.....

Until next week.....

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

"Happy Birthday to IBG.....!"

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

13 IBG'ers at the London Apprentice tonight on what was a very understated 1st birthday for the Isleworth Boardgamers. Yes, it was exactly 1 year ago (according to the blog) that Gareth, Jon and Barrie's little gaming nights were opened up to the wider community, and look where we are now - a monster has indeed been created.....

Anyway, tonight saw the usual mix of light card games, intense Euros, plenty of dice-rolling and a few drowned sailors thrown into the mix for good measure. And Steph also got a bit smarter. Read on for more details.....

Another night, another game of -

Pinguin Party (thanks Scott)Apparently there are still people who haven’t played this before, and it was James of all people, without a new filler card game of his own to try he had to finally bow to the pressure, so he was roped in along with Dan, Jeff, Scott & Steph for five rounds of penguin pyramid building.
In his current fame as king of the filler games, Dan managed to win while we obviously didn’t explain the very easy rules to James clearly enough who came last.

Dan 2; Scott 3; Jeff 6; Steph 7; James 9

With most of the IBG'ers through the door (although we were awaiting the arrival of newcomers Noel & wife, who unfortunately failed to materialise - hopefully another week?!) we split into 3 groups, with Tonio persuading Scott and Steph to try some of his games -

Saga (thanks Tonio)
Saga is a card game where each player controls a band of knights. Each knight is represented by a card in the players’ hands and is assigned a number and a colour. There are 6 different lands, each with its own special feature, and players compete to control the lands and gain “fame points”. The player with most fame points at the end of the game (when any player plays his/her last card) is the winner.
In this game, Steph and Scott made a strong start and the Gold Land (which is the only one to generate 2 fame points per turn, the others only generate 1) went back and forth between the two of them. Tonio took control of Field Land and set up a defensive force to discourage anyone from attacking, and for the most part this succeeded as a strategy. Scott soon realised that in order to do well you have to invest in hiring mercenaries (the original defensive forces in the set-up become knights for hire when lands are first conquered). He then took two lands off Steph in two consecutive goes and ended the game.
As Steph ended the game with almost all her cards in her hand she did not score as highly as perhaps she deserved. For Tonio, even being able to score a deployed army was not enough to catch up with Scott’s winning hand.
Scott 68; Tonio 54; Steph 16

Meanwhile, over on another table, it was time to roll some dice -
This was played with the maximum contingent of 5, and was new to 3 of them (although Jon had played once before using the online version). There is a lot of dice rolling in this game, but they are used in a novel fashion (influencing advisors based upon the totals), and the luck of rolling ‘badly’ is somewhat mitigated in a variety of ways. In fact, Jon rolled totals less than 7 (from 3 dice) on a number of occasions, but still did ok in the end.
Daniel and Jon both started by buying up buildings on the bottom row of the building sheet, and by the middle of the game, had both got the Embassy in operation (1VP at the end of every productive season). Jeff decided to lag behind in the building stakes, and consequently received the assistance of the King’s Envoy each year.
For the first 3 years, the invading hoardes which descended upon the kingdom in winter were of the more benign variety (Goblins on 2 occasions) which meant that they were fought off with relative ease. The game was being played with the expansion which replaces the die roll for soldier reinforcements, with chits for each player (valued at 0,1,1,2,3,4). Each round, the players choose which chit to play to bolster their army’s strength, and the unused chit at the end of the game is converted into victory points. This turned out to be mostly the ‘0’!
Daniel and Jon had been neck and neck for most of the game, but Jon managed to build a final building to just squeeze ahead in the last couple of turns. James blamed the yellow dice that Jon was using, which were practically invisible from across the other side of the table. Any excuse.......
As James has printed out multiple expansions for this game, it may well see some more table-time.
Jon 54; Daniel 43; James 42; Paul 31; Jeff 30
Back on Tonio's table, he had brought out an unpunched copy of a new game. And it was obviously so good that we have 2 reports -
Formidable Foes (thanks again Tonio)
Lots of green discs and 35 minutes rule-reading (with an unfeasibly high percentage of words beginning with “f”) preceded an enjoyable 90 minutes of monster bashing.
At the start of the game Steph seemed rather riled by the fact that Tonio going last gave him a points advantage. Also, Tonio and Scott seemed to have grabbed all the two-point monsters and Steph had to settle for one-point monsters every time!
By the end of the game this was all levelled out. A little friendly banter and a bit of stitching each other up, and the cave crawlers seemed to be making true progress through the labyrinthine dungeon.
Once the dumbest player token was introduced, Tonio did a fine job of keeping hold of the title despite his earlier advantages.
In the final stage of the game Steph’s hoard of power chips served her very well, as neither Scott nor Tonio were able to attack the last two monsters, despite being maxed on the wisdom track, due to a simple lack of power.
And now for a contrary view of the game (thanks to Steph for this report!) -
A game of player upon player, baring their teeth and fighting each other to the death! Or rather, a game where each player is quite amicable, strolling side by side, learning from each other’s strength and wisdom and facing instead horrendous monsters … some of whom look exceedingly adorable.
Basically, it is possible for a monster to be wiser than you. If you look like an idiot next to a monster, you must run off. If the monster looks at you and says “Dude, you’re way smarter than me…” it is instead them that run off in fright. Otherwise, you fight each other, roll a dice, pay the difference in ‘power chips’ and then adjust your wisdom to new levels to show that you are now far more knowledgeable because you have defeated smarter monsters than ever before.
Your turn is that you either run in pursuit of monsters, or you take the current supply of power chips, which will expand or deplete according to what other players do upon their turn.
You win by having the most treasure at the end (wisdom after all, ultimately counts for nothing), and treasure is gained in varying amounts from monsters that you kill. Most of the monsters net you 1 gold … some tougher ones get you 2, and then towards the end of the game they swiftly accelerate with 3, 4 and I can’t remember what the final two get you, but it’s a doozy. (There are 50 monsters in all).
As for how the game actually went, Steph fretted loudly and frequently about the sheer number of 2s that Scott and Tonio were snatching up. Tonio and Steph were in a tussle of saying “’ere, monster, whattaya say you go run after the other person and annoy the ‘eck outta them?” Towards the end, stuck in a sullen pout, Stephanie took a bunch of power chips when she could figure out nothing else to do.
This had a rather bizarre side effect. Despite feeling she was out of options, she had swiftly depleted the power chip supply, leaving the extremely wise and intelligent Scott and Tonio with all the intelligence they needed to outwit the strongest monsters, but with no energy whatsoever to face the battle.
The next few turns were frustrating ones for the two, as they struggled to gain what powerchips there were, and increasingly bewildered ones for Stephanie, as she realised all she needed to do was get a bit smarter, and then finally defeat the two monsters.
It was close in the end, but with the two largest trophies to her name, Stephanie did win the day with her power chips.
It was a good game and the theme was very enjoyable, but suspicion is we MUST have played it wrong....!
Steph 29; Scott 27; Tonio 22
Jeff had left, and so the other 4 Kingsburg players democratically decided on bringing out -
Lifeboats (thanks Daniel - who else...?!)
Depending on how you look at it Lifeboats is either a game of competitive negotiation full of broken promises and well stabbed backs, or it’s the tragic tale of a ship lost at sea and the terrible loss of life as the uncooperative seamen squabble and argue to the point where many of them would rather jump overboard than endure their comrade’s companionship any longer. I prefer to think that all those sailors who were left behind were rescued by Mermaids and taken to a secret undersea kingdom where they were fed peanuts and grapes by buxom Valkyries until their idyllic peace is eventually disturbed by Jacques Cousteau. If only they would spend more time bailing out their sinking boats and less time taking votes on their favourite colour they could probably all make it to safety on the same island. Then they could do something useful, such as creating a town of huts built from reeds and palm fronds, maybe with a few shops and government buildings, perhaps even a counselling centre where they could resolve their feelings of loneliness and isolation at being stuck on a desert island with nothing to eat other than coconuts. Or, they could build a huge pyre out of driftwood to create a shining beacon to signal passing ships. Although, knowing our sailors and their temperament, they would probably build a wicker man instead and dance naked around it after drinking too much seawater than is healthy. Some of them would eventually have to hop around the giant sacrificial effigy after the inevitable descent into cannibalism.
Right from the off there was trouble with the lead lifeboat listing to one side and one too many sailors onboard. The seemingly outnumbered James made clever use of his first Captain’s card to swing the vote in his favour and, after quickly surveying the number of heads in the boat, he unceremoniously grabbed Daniel by the ankles and tipped him overboard. This act of wanton skulduggery didn’t go unnoticed, nor was it forgiven. After the lead lifeboat was quickly raced to shore James found himself on the receiving end of the next two cries of "Man Overboard!" although another of his sailors was saved from being left behind when Paul nobly yet unnecessarily left an available space for him during one of the switching rounds.
A few more Captain’s cards made an appearance, Daniel and Jon threw one away each when trying to take over the same vote, although Paul used his to good effect. Daniel made better use of his second and third cards to first of all set Jon and Paul against each other in the second lifeboat, effectively leaving him in control of it, then rushing that same boat to shore.
This put Daniel firmly in the lead and set Paul to putting all his energy into catching up with boat number three in order to set up a big score for himself. Unfortunately for him he had more sailors left in the boats than anyone else, not having lost a single one till that point, so none of the other players were going to let him get away with it. Paul’s boat seemed to spring a number of sudden leaks and a Captain’s card from Jon made sure that the scoring would be a little more even when it finally reached shore.
The last two boats both sank, firstly due to what must have been deliberate scuttling by James who nonchalantly switched places into another boat after the realisation that the water should both be on the outside as well as somewhere below chest height. The final boat saw Daniel and Paul desperately paddling for shore but with crewmen strangely leaping overboard with salvation so near at hand the water ended up rising faster than it could be bailed and the last lifeboat went down just before it could reach safety.
After totalling up the scores Daniel and Paul were tied in first place, however the first boat back belonged to Daniel - despite having barely any score from it he encouraged everybody to rush it to shore right at the start of the proceedings and it turned out to be the game winning move.
Daniel 19 (first boat home); Paul 19; James 17; Jon 17

Tonio's table also had time for a couple of fillers -

Grab (thanks again Tonio)
This is nothing like Ra! (thanks Gareth). It’s nothing like Snap! either except that you shout "Grab!" when you want to take a pile of cards. The cards have positive and negative values (as well as some other bonus cards) but many cards only score if you have a pair of them so it is a little memory based. You can only grab three stacks so timing is everything.
We only needed to play three hands. First to win two hands wins.
1) Steph 30 Tonio 24 Scott 23 – First hand to Steph
2) Tonio 35 Scott 25 Steph 15 – Second hand to Tonio
3) Steph 38 Tonio 25 Scott 21 – Third hand to Steph - Victory to Steph

Loco (thanks Tonio)
This is another Knizia game with cards with numbers on...You play a card and then take a chip. The value of each coloured chip changes as cards are played. After playing four games that Tonio brought along, it was about time he won a game…
We played three hands and added the scores.
It went like this:
Round 1) Scott 27 Steph 20 Tonio 19
Round 2) Tonio 39 Steph 37 Scott 29
Round 3) Tonio 28 Scott 27 Steph 20

Cumulative Final Scores: Tonio 86 Scott 83 Steph 77

And as there were still a few minutes left, Jon, Paul and James decided to have a quick go at –

High Society
This was new to Paul, and as is common with first-timers, completely forgot the rule about the poorest player losing at the end. However, this turned out to be an extremely close game.
Paul picked up both the first 2 red cards (x2 / ½ ) to cancel each other out. James managed to pick up some good-sized status symbols along with the ‘1’ for thief-protection. Jon waited a little while to purchase anything, but with a late surge was able to pick up a enough cards to take him to 20 points.
The game finished with neither the thief nor the ‘-5’ card having come out, but with only 2 points separating the 3 players. And when the remaining money cards were revealed, it turned out that Paul was the poorest by only $1k. So, had Jon spent $1k more, or Paul spent $1k less, or James scored 1 more point or Jon scored 1 point less, then James would have won.
But they didn’t, so he didn’t…
Jon 20 ($28k); James 19 ($38k); Paul 18 ($27k)

Also played were Lost Cities, El Grande (will we ever get a report of this game?) and Alhambra. We might find out what happened in these games one day.....

So, we now go into our second year of playing games together. What will it hold for us all.....? (Prediction: Many new games; many purchases from Essen; many pizzas, penguins and pirates; much dice rolling [but not for Scott]; many Eurogames [but not for Daniel]; and many, many, many instances of IBG'ers 'doing a Gareth'.....)

See you next week....