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....

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