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.....

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