Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The cosy couples of IBG.........

Players: Daniel, James, Paul, Jim, Scott, Steph, Noel, Tanya, Adam, Barrie, Jon, Vicky, Maynard, Emma, Tonio, Keith, Ian

Despite Gareth being absent due to some parking-space fiasco (?!) there were still 17 IBG'ers gathered at the London Apprentice tonight, including a welcome return to 4 of our 'young marrieds.' It was good to see that we hadn't scared off Noel and Tanya, who made their second appearance at the club, whilst Vicky and Maynard returned after their African safari adventure (if you get a chance, take at look at their photos - even more awesome wildlife than we get in the Riverside Room on a Wednesday night....)

Whilst we're on the subject, what do you think that being a married couple at IBG is like? Cosying up together, whispering sweet nothings in each other's ears, playing footsie under the table, helping your spouse to win every game...? Yeah, on....

James had come clutching a bag of shrink-wrapped games, and it wasn’t long before he was tearing into them so that we could have a go at –

It’s a long time since this has appeared at IBG, but Emma’s enthusiasm was contagious so it wasn’t difficult to find some other players from amongst the early arrivees. The first hunt was doomed by Jim, but as there appeared to be more than enough fish in people’s hands, he stood alone. It turned out that Scott (as hunt leader) was lying through his teeth and we came up a poisson short, so Jim collected a hatful of animals.
3 more rounds were played, without a single innasuck making its way into the game, but as the polar bears appeared to be on their winter vacation, it didn’t matter too much.
Although the scores were quite close (as they always are in Nanuk), Jim’s early haul was enough to win him the game.
Jim 8; Steph 5; Jon 3; Emma 2; James 0; Scott 0

Next up, it was time to go back in time, forward in time and through time for a quick game of -

Back to the Future: The Card Game (thanks for this Scott)
The players were Emma, Steph, Scott, Adam and Dan. All of us except Dan had played before (specifically the other four of us all played it together on Sunday at Gameforce and it had run quite long with 5 players). It works like, and is designed by the same people who did Chrononauts.
There are various cards laid out for the timeline which is the same as at the start of the trilogy and extends through the series, some are Linchpins and some are ripple effects. The game gives players cards and playing those cards can affect other players, play items on the table or most desirably let you travel through time. Travelling through time allows you to change (flip) one or more linchpin cards where their effect ripples through certain other cards to flip them to their alternate reality side.
To win the game you have to have certain timeline events occur as indicated on your card and then de-invent time travel to ensure the timeline you want is stable. To de-invent time travel you have to change a particular linchpin but this one has a small draw deck of 5 cards and only one will be effective so it’s difficult to guarantee a win.
Unfortunately for Dan and Scott, Adam, Steph and Emma from the outset appeared to have shared goals and were soon flipping to see if they could prevent time travel after only a couple of linchpins were changed. Scott was locked out by Emma in even taking a turn at one point so the assembly line of time travel naysayers could have their shot at the win. In the end, one of them won, and two of them kind of won!

Looking for a game or two for 7 players is always tough and it was decided since the next table weren’t playing a particularly long game we’d start off short as well -

Snorta! (thanks again Scott)
Tanya and Noel joined us just in time to act completely crazy with 'animal noise Snap', the other players being Scott, Steph, Emma, Dan and Adam. With 7 players it was very tough to remember what everyone was and it was quite a riot, being in the middle of the room for maximum distraction to other tables...
We played for 5-10 minutes and I can’t quite remember exactly who won but I’m pretty sure it was either Noel or Tanya who were doing pretty well while the rest of us were suffering memory loss. There was lots of fun trying to make an owl noise from several players, from Emma’s “tweet tweet” to Stephanie’s stuttering “who....who?....who?!....hoot!”, then Adam reciting as many animals as possible when trying to guess Dan’s. Dan reluctantly accepted a loss until realising Adam hadn’t actually made the correct noise yet but Adam could remember it now - “Meow”.
However the funniest moment of the night was when Tanya sat down and immediately asked if Scott and Steph were married since they were probably having some sort of odd discussion/argument/agreement about something....

Jim had arrived early in order to get in the pre-arranged games Arkadia and Metropolys with Tonio, but due to unforeseen circumstances involving a lump of wood, Tonio was not expected to arrive at all. Jim quickly grabbed the table with the most light on it (his eyes grow dim with age) and managed to enrol Keith and Ian in a game of his shrink-wrapped copy of -

Egizia (thanks for this report Jim)
Jim explained the rules, the cards and principles of the game which for what is actually quite a simple game of resource management with multiple paths to victory but with much turn angst thrown in for good measure. Nothing new – even the theme loosely based around building monuments in Egypt is almost as old as the Pyramids themselves - but it is a well meshed set of tried and tested mechanics with a few minor twists to keep the game fresh.
Keith took an early lead grabbing much of the food resource as he sailed down the Nile, Ian and Jim floundering behind him taking whatever was left for them. But soon Jim was gaining a huge amount of stone but missed out on increasing his workforce to make use of the stone while Ian was steadily building up all his resources apart from Stone.
Towards the end of the game, Ian set up a situation for Jim to block Keith from the Sphinx cards (which award bonus VPs if certain conditions are met) but paid for it by not being able to later get into the areas he needed to complete his builds to meet the conditions on his own Sphinx cards – this one tactically clever blocking move was to cost him the game.
The end game scoring was done in the order defined in the rules and it was nip and tuck until Ian revealed his last completed Sphinx card to snatch the game. Jim had done the honourable thing by finishing last and some distance off the pace in his own game!
Ian 36; Keith 33; Jim 26

And “doing a Jim” is now defined as “explaining a rule and or feature and then not actually adhering to or using it during the playing of the game” after the bonus for building in the graves/Obelisk area was ignored for most of the game.

Meanwhile, over yonder at the dimmer end of the room, was El Grande’s little brother –

This was new to Paul, and Vicky and Barrie also needed a refresher. Maynard opined that he would do better this time than last as he now understood the alliance scoring at the end. We would see……
As always, this game moves along at a surprisingly fast pace. Before long, several provinces were being scored and Vicky had made good use of her fortification to double a winning score in one province. It took a while for any emissaries to make their way on to the board (as their point-winning potential is less obvious than placing houses in the provinces.)
About halfway through the game everyone seemed to go to sleep and allowed Barrie to take an easy majority in the single purple province, which included his fortification for a massive 16 points. By this time, Maynard and Jon had started placing emissaries and were set up for a few points at the game end.
With only one province left to score, the deck suddenly ran out for a second time and the game was over. Maynard and Jon had picked up several points from their alliances, whilst Vicky and Barrie had made good use of their roads. Jon had made the schoolboy error of being the only player not to place his fortification, and was consequently well off the pace.
When it came down to it, Barrie scoring double points in purple, combined with a double-point road was enough to give him a narrow victory.
Barrie 49; Maynard 46; Vicky 40; Jon 38; Paul 35

With the other tables still busy, the Snorta crowd decided to play a quick game of -

Apples to Apples (thanks once more Scott)
Traditionally played as a game to continue until you want to finish but since it was early in the night we decided to go with the rules and the first person to win 5 adjective cards wins. To describe the game in reverse fashion, it’s a bit like Dixit but without the pictures; instead you have nouns (All sorts of people, places and things), you have a hand on these nouns and each turn one player is the judge and draws an adjective. Everyone then plays a card they feel best fits that description for that particular judge and the judge decides in any way they like which card they think will win.
Such as Adam picking the ‘My Boss’ card to win for Temperamental or Steph picking ‘Throwing up’ to win ‘Scary’ (Scott having the unfair advantage of taking Steph to A&E that one night.)
Suffice it to say, Scott had the perfect cards for most players and just after once around the table had accrued his necessary five wins and the other table were wrapping up so that was perfect timing all round.

After last week's 'success', it was a return for -

Meuterer (thanks James)
At last, for me, a chance to have the game explained by Dan, Paul and Scott, rather than wading through a dodgy translation from the German… hard to believe but I’d place more trust in learning this game from Gareth than by reading the rules themselves… Which is strange as it’s actually quite a simple game once you know what you’re doing.
Each turn the captain sales the ship between 2 islands which each have a demand for specific produce. Players take it in turn to play supply cards for the selected islands and as they drop out they can pick certain roles for the ship, either roles that provide more cards, a higher payout, or a chance to mutiny or support the captain. Sword cards are played to determine the outcome of the mutiny and if successful, a new captain takes over for the next route. The skill of the game is in trying to foresee which islands are going to be visited and to stockpile supplies they need, and to time the mutinies correctly. The only downside is that the game really needs 4 players, not always possible, but otherwise it’s a great game.
So the game passed quite uneventfully, apart from when Paul twice forgot the rules (hmm, did I say a simple game… erm…) and stockpiled goods for the wrong island. Captaincy passed from Dan to Paul to James… not sure if Scott ever got to taste the trappings of power… and after 8 rounds James managed to pip Paul to claim the win…
Scott came last but as he let it be known was playing the ‘ruby’ variant (without actually letting anyone else know) and finished with 4 unused gem cards he’s claiming a moral (if deluded) victory…
At this stage I should normally list the final point’s totals here, but it would appear that they ended up in the wash with Paul’s underwear… so even if they were still available I’m not sure anyone would want to get too close....

Red Dragon Inn
(Report to follow)

Keith and Ian wandered off looking for something “meatier” or more familiar but Tonio had arrived regaling all with his tales of woe about his car, and the abandoned piece of wood he had driven over and the resulting harm this had caused to his car. He had also brought along the promised copy of - 

Arkadia (thanks to Jim again for this one)
With Paul joining the duo and Ian returning after finding no other game of interest to join, Tonio explained the game and we started.
The game itself could probably play quickly with more experienced players, but we all played rather uncertainly as the subtleties of the building and worker placement to gain different coloured medallions became apparent as we tried to manipulate the key element of the game, the exchange rate for the medallions. These were gained completing the boundaries of the building tiles that players had laid out, and then exchanging one of our 4 banners that allowed us two more workers and the chance to exchange our collected medallions for gold at the prevailing exchange rate (most gold wins the game).
Paul managed to produce a monster score on one of his banner exchanges of 52 gold – the rest of us had managed 20 or so at best – and it was this one shrewd transaction and manipulation of the market that most affected the final outcome of the game.
As Tonio had warned us, the game suddenly seemed to speed up and it was the last round as we all scratched our heads to find the best way to get the most seals and highest exchange rate for them. It was at this point Ian realised that he still had his last banner which was now useless to him and as it was impossible for any of us to recall how the game was set at the point he could have legitimately played the banner it was lost and it was this error that caused him to come last in the scoring.
Paul 94; Tonio 83; Jim 79; Ian 73.

Meanwhile on another table, there was the opportunity for some co-op action -

Ghost Stories (thanks Daniel)
We did quite well and had the game under control until a sudden rush of ghosts, including a few too many really nasty ones, got the better of us. The Monks were bumped off one by one in quick succession and the village was overrun with only six cards left till the appearance of the Wu Feng.
James and Daniel both lost.

Following a successful first outing a couple of weeks ago, it was now time to have another go at –

Noel and Tanya chose this game, and were joined by fellow newbies Vicky and Maynard and veteran (of one game!) Jon. Scott very kindly agreed to do a quick rules overview at the beginning, and then we were off and running. Jon remarked at the beginning that playing a trading / negotiation game with 2 married couples put him at a distinct disadvantage. However, as Vicky was quick to remind everyone, she and Maynard play boardgames with the ethos ‘every spouse for themselves.’ This can be confirmed with a quick check in the archives – Maynard’s second move in his first game at IBG was to eliminate Vicky from a game of Tsuro. Jon, therefore, did not need to fear any familial collaboration….
The main difference with the 5 player game as opposed to the 3-player game played a couple of weeks ago, is that each player has less stuff to trade each turn, but more people to trade with. This means that negotiations can sometimes be quite quick, but there were at least a couple of occasions where deals were made conditionally, based upon further trades made with a third party.
Early in the game (the second round in fact), Jon held a property space which Noel needed to complete a 5-piece Dim Sum restaurant. Jon felt that Noel did not own anything valuable enough to pay him at that point in time, but managed to broker a deal whereby Jon set up a protection racket, and Noel promised to pay him $20k each turn thereafter as compensation. Although there was no obligation for Noel to keep his end of the bargain, he proved to be an honest gent throughout the game and coughed up each turn.
Tanya quickly got herself into an unfortunate position where she had placed 4 parts of a 5-tile business, but in such a way as that none of them were connected until the missing 5th district turned up. This would prove to be an expensive district for her to purchase later on in the game.
Maynard had shown his hand a little early and placed 2 tiles of the 4-part Florist, which Jon exploited by subsequently collecting the rest of the Florist tiles in the game and putting down his own complete set. Both Maynard and Vicky had managed to get down complete 6-tile businesses, and in the latter stages of the game, the income was starting to roll in.
After the last deal had been thrashed out, the final income was collected, and Noel obligingly handed over his final $20k back-hander to Jon. Little did he know, but at that point he was actually $20k in the lead, but by handing that money to second-placed Jon, he also handed him the victory. Maybe next time he’ll be less of a nice guy……..?!
Jon $960k; Noel $940k; Vicky $780k; Tanya $760k; Maynard $730k

Saboteur was brought out, and then quickly re-boxed as it was realised that there was still time to fit in some ‘proper’ games, one of which was –

Dice Town
(Report to follow.....)

With about 30 minutes remaining, Tonio produced another 'new to the others' game –

Archaeology: The Card Game (thanks Jim)
This is a card set collection game with a not unsurprising Egyptian theme about collecting treasures and maps to make sets to gain points; the more of a set you collect or the fewer cards in the set, the more points the set is worth. Of course, the twist is that there is a “push-your-luck” element with Thieves (allowing another player to take a card from your hand) or Sandstorms (which affect all players reducing their hand size by half).
The game moved along at a fast pace and seemed to be anyone’s game until Jim managed to turn over 3 sandstorm cards in a row which meant only those who had already put down sets were in with a realistic expectation of a win and Jim had to discard two of his three Pharaoh cards (which had potentially been worth big points up until then).
Tonio 58; Paul 50; Ian 45; Jim 44.

All agreed that is was a fun, light, quick filler with a little too much luck but all would play again even though it was probably aimed more as a family game than a gamers game.

With Scott joining the remnants of a Thunderstone game (Steph, Adam, Barrie and Emma), we had another go at -

Apples to Apples (thanks again Scott)
This started as a small four player game with no end condition, just to play until people wanted to leave (or more accurately, when the pub staff reminded us they have a closing time).
Some interesting dilemmas in this game, Scott having to choose between Europe and Terrorists as most Corrupt, and Emma having a very tough time selecting between the Gulf War or Socks as the most Normal (the War almost won but Socks prevailed). Steph picked Baked Potatoes as the most Hilarious thing, (to be fair the options were not great) and there’s a whole other story about why Anne Frank may or may not be a good card to play on Hilarious.
Dan and James joined us towards the end and Dan is the wild card - he’ll pick the funniest card played, usually the polar opposite of that adjective...worth noting for the future.
Dan did well to get up to speed with the rest of us in terms of points after only playing a few rounds and James got a few too.
By the time we had to finish, Adam had accumulated the most, around 15, with the rest of us fairly close around 10, and James trailing just a little on 3 (but he had joined late!)

As mentioned above, Thunderstone also made an appearance, but that's all we know about it (apart from the fact that Barrie proclaimed loudly to the room at one point - "I've got a stone todger".......) And for those of you reading this blog who are not from the UK, please don't google 'todger' to find out what one is.....

Next week, we're sending an envoy of IBG'ers to Essen to bring back a pile of goodies, but there will still be plenty of die-hards left to play some games in their absence. See you there...

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