Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Ye Olde Isleworth Boardgamers step back in time......

Players: Jon, Gareth, Paul, Russ, Ian, Iain, Philip, Scott, James, Johan, Emma, Jim

Amongst the 12 IBG'ers gathered at the London Apprentice was a welcome returnee, Russ, who we hadn't seen for a number of weeks, and simply turned up to trounce us all at a couple of games. There was also an appearance made by the first comedy hat of the season - this year modelled by Emma, as opposed to our resident millinery expert, Tonio.

This week, the IBG'ers decided to abandon 21st century London, and instead transport themselves far back in time, with the majority of the games that they played based in the pre-1600's. This was a time of dubious haircuts, strange clothing, unintelligible speech and questionable personal hygiene practices. Right up our street then.........

Either Ian or Paul (or both) had suggested that some of the early birds have a go at the ‘yet-unplayed-at-IBG’ –

This was originally going to be a 3-player game, but after Jon and Gareth wandered in it was up to 5. Fortunately, both Gareth and Jon had played before (although a long time ago) which resulted in Jon asking for a quick rules recap. Gareth pooh-poohed this (“you must remember how to play this, Jon!”) and then immediately was caught out trying to take both money and cards as his action during an early turn. Hmmm....
Anyway, Gareth started the game in typical fashion, picking the assassin and thief as his first 2 characters. Paul began as the King (nobly admitting to being the oldest at the table) and this privilege rarely left him.
Russ played the early victim well, having been assassinated and ‘warlorded’ in the same turn. However, everyone else seemed to take pity on him and left him alone for the rest of the game (big mistake).
Ian and Paul got several buildings down nice and early, whilst Jon bemoaned the fact that Ian chose Jon's character to thieve from by default (it was the only one he could remember….)
Time passed (quite a lot of time in fact), and Paul finally built the magical 8th building. The scores were totted up, and it ended up with only 4 points between all 5 players – and it was ‘victim Russ’ that came out on top, having rebuilt his city to impressive effect.
This is a fun game, but the hour it took to play is just too long. Building to 7 buildings may be the answer…
Russ 28; Paul 26; Ian 24; Gareth 24; Jon 24

By a happy set of coincidences, not only was Emma at IBG after a wee absence but Jim had brought along one of her favourite games - 

Lexio (thanks to Jim for this set of reports)
Scott, eager for his “building game” fix, and a “curious passer by” in the shape of James were roped in and the rules and end round scoring were explained, a practice round was played and then the game proper were played.
It was not an exciting game with everyone seemingly having reasonable but not powerful hands, several rounds consisting of ever increasing single tiles being played, some raises only being the colour and not the value of the tile. So after the 5 rounds, the steady attrition and a couple of players being left with 2’s in their hand at the end round scoring resulted in a win for Jim (at last!)
Jim 210; Emma 158; James 123; Scott 105

With chants of “more”, Emma was clearly up for another game. James wandered away looking to play a different game and was replaced by Phil, Scot had a quick look around but returned to attempt to avenge his loss, Jim and Emma retained their seats.
All players having played before, their was no need for a rules recap but there was a wee delay as the players sorted out everyone again having 149 points in poker chips. Counting clearly not a strong suit for some.
If anything, although more raucous and with some interesting hands (Emma played a Full House of 2’s and 1’s early on in one round but that bravado proved her undoing taking very little part in the rest of the round), the players seemed almost evenly matched.
Jim had adopted a practice of waiting for everyone else to take their tiles and he would have what was left, and this clearly was a sensible tactic because the final scores revealed yet another win for Jim ("far out, man" - as we used to say in prehistoric times!)
So, this round resulted in the the same positions, with Phil replacing James. The observant among you will notice that the point total is 20 short of what it should be. Did I mention that counting was not a strong suit for some? Adding the 20 to any players score would make no difference to the result and not wishing for a repeat of the “who has too many chips” episode at the start of the game Jim sensibly kept quiet.
Jim 180; Emma 156; Phil 131; Scott 109

The players decided that because there were no other games finishing soon that a third game was in order. Could Jim come first again for a hat-trick of wins? Would Scott finish last for a hat-trick of loses? Would the 149 points be evenly distributed at the start of the game be evenly distributed without a recount?
Of course a recount was necessary to find the missing “2 points”. No names, no pack-drill but did I mention that counting is not a strong suit for some?
Once all players had 149 points, a much tighter but still raucous game was started and the level of competitiveness for some had clearly moved up a notch or two with most players determined to do better than the previous game.
This was demonstrated rather bizarrely by several players trying to offset their “bad luck” with tile selection by either selecting tiles for other players or “stealing” tiles from other players face down pool of tiles! It is just the kind of wild and crazy thing we do at IBG!
For a while, it looked like the “inverse tile selection” was having the desired effect. Jim was the one suffering as his points dwindled away. The hat-trick of wins looked increasingly unlikely.
The turning point of the game came mid-way through. Jim had a nice hand of lots of pairs and a low value single and had steadfastly refused to break them up passing on many turns. Suddenly Scott was about to get the lead and had 4 tiles ominously split into a group of three and a single tile to Jim's 12. Could he really have a three–of-a-kind and a single of any value? That would win the round and gain him many points. But Scott was such a bluffer (amongst other things!) as Jim had learnt to his cost last week playing Haggis with him. After some clearly painful thought process, Jim decided to break up a pair of 1’s and take the lead. Jim then “walked through” his entire hand playing out only pairs, then his remaining 1 tile and then finishing with his low value tile. And a good job because Scott really did have a three-of-a-kind and a single tile left in his hand! How close was that?
From then on, Jim could do no wrong in later rounds and won the game for a third time (come on – that’s what I’m talking about!). Scot had a much better game and Emma swapped places with him while Phil held his 3rd position with a remarkably similar score to the previous game he played.
Jim 196; Scot 152; Phil 136; Emma 112

Meanwhile, the 'final four' tried out this new (very old) game -

1655 (thanks James for this one)
Subtitled: Romanes eunt domus...or something like that. A neat little card bidding game based around gaining favour with carious cardinals (no, not in the ‘modern catholic’ way) in order to win the vote to select a new pope. Probably not going to be a big hit at the Vatican but worth a shout at the Apprentice for Iain, Johan and James.
So to start with players are given 2 ‘orders’ which, if fulfilled, give extra votes at the end. There are 3 piles of cards and a ‘first go/winner in a tie’ card. One pile are cardinals (worth 1 vote), one holds ‘political’ cards which can give you extra votes, extra cardinals etc and the last is action cards which allows rule breaking. 18 cards in each pile. 18 rounds in the game.
During each round players bid using gems with the winner picking first, loser picking last etc. At the half-way stage, players get some extra money and have to discard one order. When the white smoke appears (one of the last 4 rounds) then votes are tallied and the winner gets to control the Catholic church and spend the rest of their days waving from odd looking cars, kissing babies and wearing silly hats.
So, given this was a first experience for us 3 the game was slow to start while we grappled with all the icons (another day, another new card game, another 15 symbols to memorize…). The bidding also stuttered while we were trying to work out what made sense. But the game does move fast… turn over new cards / play action cards / bid / select cards… not a lot of slack in the game play.
At the halfway stage Johan managed to bag the most money from cardinals, both he and Iain were fighting over who could get the most King Philippe’s (bonus votes) in play while James was collecting other cards enabling the player to buy votes with gold at the end. This game also invites a lot of back stabbing play (from my understanding 1655 was chosen as a particularly bad year in terms of corruption at the Vatican) as the action cards allow players to kill cardinals, bribe them to swap sides, switch cards with other players etc… lots of room for losing friends.
James struck lucky at one stage as Johan played a card to steal one of James’s cardinals that was immediately counteracted by James’s card to get the cardinal back. Also action cards at the end were being played every round as it could be seen the game was about to finish.
And then the white smoke arrived… the western world held it’s breath as the new Pope was announced to be…James (by a point).
So pausing only to reform Christendom and to beatify Stephen Fry, all that was left was to search for all that hidden gold....
James 17; Iain 16; Johan 15

I think that we all liked the game, 30 minutes at most once you know what you’re doing. Worth another run out and I think the bidding will be a lot more ruthless now the relative values of available cards are known. Also I think with 4 it’d be an even more cut-throat game.

With the first games all finishing at similar times, the 3 groups took the unusual decision to all play longer games, the first of them picking a recent purchase of Russ -

Troyes (thanks Russ for this one)
Is it like Kingsburg? Well a bit.
A game where we revisit the desire of Pope Urbain IV to have a cathedral built in his home town of Troyes, one of the few games to sell out at Essen 2010 and a game that I had picked up primarily as it had the same designer as Carson City.
The central mechanic is rolling your ‘hand’ of dice and then using them in turn to fight the events and activate the characters in order to gain influence and victory points. Despite the dice this is a fairly heavy Euro, and the option to buy your opponent’s dice out from under them gives great interaction which I often find lacking in such games. Trust me, when someone buys your much needed ‘6’ for a measly 2 deniers it doesn’t feel like it’s been bought, it feels like it’s been stolen.
I finally managed to be free on a Wednesday and brought Troyes along to IBG as it was one of my favourites of the Essen 2010 crop (along with London and 51st State), Jim had already expressed an interest in giving it a go (as he has a pre-order in) and we quickly recruited Jon and Paul to join us. Sadly it plays a maximum of 4 so we weren’t able to accommodate anyone else. I launched into a rules explanation which was a bit haphazard, reassured everyone that I’d yet to win a game and we were up and running pretty quickly.
My piece of tactical advice was that I’d spent most of my previous games concentrating on the religious cards (which mostly mess with the dice rolls in some way) and that the winners had mostly concentrated on the events and the military card. I then proceeded to completely ignore that advice as I hadn’t had a chance to use the ‘Monk’ before (allows you to turn one white dice into 3 yellow of the same value), quickly showing the use of such cards by buying up a load of influence at the Pub and by the end of the game, 3 of us had men on it.
After a couple of turns I was noting furrowed brows around the table - it was clearly heavier than both Jon and Jim were expecting. Dice have a way of saying ‘Come play with us, we’re easy’, but they were frankly just teasing us in this game. Everyone but me had picked up a few points from events, the cathedral had barely made it past the foundations, mostly due to some shoddy building work by migrant workers and multiple interruptions of work. Influence wasn’t really short and the red dice seemed to not want to roll above a 3 so a lot of our dice were eaten up by the attacks, resulting in most events staying on the board for the whole game. Still I felt I was doing badly in the points war until the 3rd turn when the Sculptor was turned over and I still had 3 cubes on the Monk. Jon beat me to the 6 point slot with a group of yellow dice, but I jumped in next paying Jim 2 deniers for his white 6 and immediately scoring 11 points (Monk made the white 6 into 3 yellow sixes worth 6 VPs on the Sculptor and 5 VPs for the second place on the card).
The next couple of turns involved me stealing white sixes wherever I could find them. I say stealing as I’d been kicked out of almost all my buildings and had 4 dice and no white ones, and scoring another 12 points from the Sculptor alone. Other than me only Jon scored a good number of points from the Sculptor, though Jim did move in later (sadly missing out on the bonus points for being one of the first to get in).
The game ended after the prescribed 6 turns, (having taken about 2 and a half hours in total including the rules explanation) and our secret characters showed scoring for money, influence, numbers of men on cards and number of men in the main buildings. The final scores were:
Russ 45; Jon 43; Paul 33; Jim 27

My last action had moved my influence from 9 to 10 meaning I scored 2 more points from Jon’s secret character meaning that I didn’t have to look up the tie breaker – there isn’t one – and that I won for the first time (though of course against 3 people that had never played it before!).
In retrospect I think Jon played the best game, spreading himself out so he wasn’t dependant on any one colour of dice and doing a bit of everything while still earning points. I grabbed the Monk as I’ve always been short of cash in previous games, but the Sculptor allowed me to turn that early investment into a pile of points which of course was really lucky for me and had something like the Goldsmith come up I would have been second at best.
I’ve not seen such an ignored cathedral before and all of us (except Paul I think) lost some points for not being present on one level or another.
We had to rush out fairly quickly afterwards. I continue to enjoy it, some interesting things happened with a different group especially with letting the black dice go round the table as influence wasn’t seen as very valuable, though I think I’ll explain the rules better next time.
Paul said he enjoyed it and I know Jim isn’t cancelling his pre-order. Jon seemed somewhat bemused by his second place, but the more I play with him the more I think it’s all an act!
So more Caylus than Kingsburg, but certainly enjoyed by all.

Scores only I'm afraid......

Gareth 39; Philip 37; Johan 29; James 21

And finally, a very welcome return to an old favourite -

Power Grid (thanks to Scott for this report)
With Ian and Scott keen to play Power Grid (it not having been played for quite a while now), Iain was also persuaded but the other straggler James was less so. Luckily, James was interested in London and Emma was happy to swap and play PG instead (she really did offer, there were no bribes involved I swear...)
With maps aplenty, Scott picked one of the new Essen released ones, that being Japan. The defining characteristic being that the map is long and thin so players are allowed to start two separate networks. Some of the cities have two 10 slots (with just one 15 or 20) and some have only two available slots (10,15 & 15,20), which no-one seemed to notice until they became a hindrance later on.
Scott refreshed everyone’s memories and made Emma chuckle by referring to the cities as “sillies” (unintentionally). Scott’s vocabulary has obviously been tainted by Steph’s New Zealand twang and created a demon of pronunciation.
With everyone up to speed we began with some quick expansion early on by all parties. It soon subsided when the initial batch of cheap cities had gone and most people had opted to start a second network to extend their coverage later on. There were a lot of coal plants currently in use but costs hadn’t escalated too high yet; oil was becoming increasingly cheaper though.
Emma usually insisted on extending her network as much as possible even though she was beginning to struggle with powering them all or doing so efficiently when buying fuel last. Ian was doing well with a good capacity and efficiency and raking in more money than the rest of us. Scott’s expansion was struggling a little being hemmed in on all fronts by expensive connections and aggressive players, so he sat on less cities and hoped for the best in Step 2. Iain had diversified his fuel requirements but looked to be paying quite a lot to keep them going, he caught a break when the first big oil plant came out and Scott couldn’t afford to keep outbidding him, fuel prices for oil being rather low since there hadn’t been many coming in to the market.
When step 2 hit, Scott ploughed his savings in to getting some good territories, trying to clog up the middle of the board to stop players travelling through the centre, leaving himself with as many options as possible. Emma was now boosting her efficiency with wind and hybrid plants at the expense of capacity, Iain went for to higher capacity but was needing to spend more on fuel, eating away at this cash for expansion. Ian made a few more plant purchases but regretted them soon after, conflicting with himself over whether to buy plants or more cities.
Step 3 occurred pretty quickly after, and Scott had again found himself with the least cities which proved fortunate in the power plant market, picking up a big oil plant for cost, his capacity now at 18; however Ian was at 16 capacity and looked like he could build to 17 and end the game powering more than everyone else. Scott built as far as he could to 16 and Ian was just a few dollars short of getting to 17 so even if he could do so it wouldn’t be good if Scott had enough money to win on a tie-breaker.
We went in to a last round and unfortunately for Emma, her low capacity but efficient plants hadn’t been upgraded in time and her capacity was stuck at 16 which she built to comfortably. Ian didn’t have much choice and had to settle for just a capacity of 17 while Iain jumped all the way out to 19, paying heavily for a big plant. This would be his downfall - with such a big requirement for oil and coal which were now close to selling out, he could only build to 15 while Scott got to 18 and walked away victorious.
Scott 18 powered; Ian 17; Emma 16; Iain 15

It was fairly close, though Iain could have avoided upgrading his plants and raced for a victory earlier. Ian was just a few dollars short the turn before and Emma just needed to get her hands on a slightly bigger plant. An interesting map in terms of cities, even with two networks possible, it’s very easy to get caught out and be forced to pay a lot or avoid expanding.

And surprisingly, those were all the games that were played tonight. At least the last one ventured into the 20th century! I've also just noticed that tonight's offerings must have had the least inspiring box art that I've seen for a long time. Good job we don't spend all evening just staring at the boxes...
Next week will be our first session in December, and just a quick advance warning that there will be no games night on 15th December, as we are having our IBG Christmas Meal. If you'd like to come and haven't booked yet, then drop Gareth an email (see top of the blog page), post on our guild forum at BGG, or let us know on Wednesday.
See you next week!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Sharpen those reflexes......

Players: Adam, Steph, Scott, Iain, John B, Jim, Gareth, Vicky, Maynard, Tonio, James, Paul, Philip, Jon

14 IBG’ers turned up tonight, including the welcome return of Philip, who has now re-settled in new accommodation and is back at IBG with a vengeance (game of Agricola anyone?)

This evening was definitely an oportunity for the ‘young-uns’ to shine, with at least 2 games requiring players to have lightning reflexes to do well at. So it was no surprise that Steph triumphed in one, but the second victory went to Jim. Now, Jim may not be ready to draw his pension just yet, but he is old enough to remember Decimalisation, which gives him a couple of years on a few other IBG’ers. So I’m not sure what gives him his super-fast reactions – maybe it was those funny liquorice sweets that he was munching all night…

First up - a game that didn't reach an official conclusion, but, to prevent a tantrum, James was graciously awarded the win anyway -

Pinguin Party (thanks James)
A quick and harmless (given James and Steph were involved) game of Penguin Party while waiting for others to arrive. Scott appears to have a goal in life to make this the most played game at IBG's... not sure if that's a good or bad thing...
Anyways, we only had time for one hand before enough others folks showed up to start something a bit more solid... James was more than happy to stop given he'd just completed his first ever round of using all his cards... Which, I guess, made him (ME!!!) the winner.
James 0; Scott 1; Steph 1; Iain (who was new and didn't get a chance to get a full handle on the rules in 1 round) 4

Next up was a recent acquisition of Jon’s; the clumsily-titled –

Jon picked this up from TK Maxx recently, who seem to be currently selling off a number of games by Queen’s Games cheaply for some reason. Anyway, Gareth, Paul, Jim and Scott joined in, and after a quick rules explanantion they were off.
The premise of the game is that all players are fish merchants, attempting to buy and sell seafood at the most advantageous prices. The mechanic for buying the fish is a kind of ‘open’ auction, where players take it in turns to be the auctioneer, selling fish to the first player to jump in.The first thing worthy of note is that this game comes with a fully functioning bell – the type that you would find at a hotel reception. This is used in the auction phase – the first player to ring it gets to buy the seafood on offer at a set price of 10e.
Players can only sell fish when it is their turn to be auctioneer, and if they do decide to sell, all players who also have any fish of the type being sold will lose their most valuable one (unless they are storing it in their ice-box). Scott immediately picked up on the fact that you could screw over other players by deliberately selling off seafood of a type that they were also collecting, to make some of theirs ‘go bad’, and this behaviour perculated to everyone else sat at the table.
As the game progressed, everyone started to get a bit trigger-happy with the bell, and increasingly small lots were being bought for 10e. Taking into account the fact that each fish was only worth a maximum of 3e when sold, Gareth still couldn’t prevent himself reaching out and ending an auction for only a single fish and a card that enabled him to dump up to 2 ‘bad’ fish. Unfortunately, he only had 1 fish to dump, and with Jon selling off his Flounders, Gareth was forced to lose the single fish that he had just picked up. With investments like that, maybe Gareth should consider a career in banking...
By half-way through the game, several players realised that they now had less cash than they started with, and were wondering whether a ‘do-nothing’ strategy would be viable. This was probably as a result of the small lots that everyone was buying, although Jim and Scott seemed to somehow be managing their purchasing and stock control well, and were starting to rake in the profits.
By the time that the game ended, Paul had made a loss, Jon had broken even, Gareth had just tipped into a profit, and Jim had narrowly edged out Scott for the victory. On reflection, 4 players may be the sweet-spot for this game (more chance to win auctions and sell fish), but this certainly has promise for a bell-ringing 30-minute filler.
Jim 58; Scott 57; Gareth 35; Jon 30; Paul 22

Over on another table, making another appearance was this Essen release -

London (thanks to Paul for this report)
Gareth managed to persuade Paul and John to go for something with some weight, so they chose to try the game of the month, London. John had played only once (the previous night), Gareth was becoming an old master and Paul had never played. After an explanation of the rules, and Paul taking his first turn, another game finished and Philip was invited to join the building fun, so Paul was able to benefit from two rules explanations - much to his benefit as he never pays much attention.
Paul started off by taking a loan out and buying up The City. John's comment was immediately that he'd played Martin Wallace games before and therefore was only too aware that it is almost always necessary to go into hock to accumulate VPs. And then John proceeded to play out the rest of the game without any debt at all!
Gareth's tip was that when building, try to build as much as possible. He ended up with 10 stacks, and so put his money where his mouth was. Paul had nine within a few turns and attempted to manage the number of paupers that he accumulated, but ended up with a few too many empty stacks at the end of the game.
Philip built well but also welcomed many paupers, and John seemed intent on filling the poor house.
Towards the end of the game, most people felt that it was coming to an end a bit too soon, so tried to drag it out to have at least one more 'city activation' each, which was accomplished.
Gareth's last activation sewed it up for him, managing to keep the pauper level to the minimum. Paul was a few points behind, and then became further due to the pauper factor. Philip was also dragged down by the paupers, and John by same and some, taking him into the negative.
Gareth 36; Paul 27; Phil 10; John -15

And on the 4th and final table -

Finca (thanks James again for this one)
Finca.. not a statue by a cockney Rodin but a game about fruit delivery in the Mediterranean. Almost the polar opposite in climate to a dreary wet and wintery night in Isleworth, but enough to entice Maynard, Vicky, Tonio and James for the experience… perhaps feeling if they sat close enough to the board it might provide some additional warmth. In this game we included all the Spielbox El Razul expansions, so despite Tonio and James having played before this variant was new to everyone.
Both (expansion) drought tiles came up early so immediately there was a fruit shortage for most of the game. Plums especially seemed popular, with an early run ending up with Maynard snaffling the last few and forcing everyone else to return their stash… The knives were quickly out…
Tonio (his experience proving decisive) quickly build the first 1-6 run and took the 7 tile plus the first Finca. I think it was at this stage he felt confident enough to proclaim to the room that he was ‘trouncing’ everyone else… but there was still a way to go yet… we were hoping these words might return to bite back at the end.
James then took the 6 tile, but at this stage Maynard was struggling with only 2 and 4 tiles and Vicky seemed to have struck a black spot being unable to complete her run of tiles.
Then the killer blow… Tonio was just about to throw a wobbly with a move he didn’t like when suddenly he noticed that if he used his 10 fruit bonus tile he could move El Razul, claim 3 deliveries and nab the 6 tile. As this realisation hit home his pained grimace suddenly morphed into a one of uncontrollable glee, similar to the kind of look Dr Evil would have while describing his plans for world domination to Austin Powers and from here on the result was a formality.
Despite Vicky, Maynard and James’s best efforts trying to avoid giving Tonio any more fincas, he still managed to pick up a couple and soon after brought the game to an end. No scores (lost in the wash again?) but the positions were:
Dr Evil - 1st; James - 2nd; Vicky - 3rd; Mini-me - 4th

With 6 players looking for a game we decided to split into two groups of three to help choose the games as Scott and Jim were keen to try -

Haggis (thanks Scott)
This card game only plays 2 or 3 player; Jon was the other lucky player to join us, at least at the start.
Jim went on to describe how the game works much like any other climbing card game, but with the differences to how this worked. At the end Jon looked utterly confused, at which point he confessed to never playing Tichu, Lexio or similar such climbing games which would have been a good thing for us to check beforehand; so Jim explained the game some more. (I've played K2 - doesn't that count as a climbing game...?)
We played out a practice round to start and stumbled a bit when it came to scoring, but Jon had gone out first and won the practice round. At which point another table finished what they were playing and Jon quickly bailed to play something else leaving Scott and Jim to play some real rounds.
We played about three or four rounds that seemed to go very quickly with big plays possible with only two players. Jim had been crushing Scott, especially from one round where he hadn’t gotten rid of any cards. Scott checked the rules and we realised a fundamental difference we’d missed in the game, that the suits were important and when you played sequences (straight, pairs, three of a kinds etc.), the cards needed to follow suit rather than be anything.
So we restarted with the correct rules and in round one, Scott made a high card play towards the end leaving him with only four cards, Jim decided to stop him but Scott had mistakenly (accusations of bluffing were raised but I don’t think credit is possible for that) left himself with four cards that couldn’t be played immediately together but were good enough to beat out the rest of Jim’s hand which had now been drained.
Jim went on to win the next two rounds, wise to Scott’s bluffing ploy and Scott leaving himself with just one or two cards without being able to topple Jim.
The last round was a perfect round for Scott who had inadvertently gotten hold of the precious highest bomb, which nothing could beat. Scott played out his cards with Jim seeing Scott’s four cards remaining, but failing to believe anymore that Scott could have a good set of four cards left in hand (he just wasn’t that cagey was he). Therefore, the round ended very quickly with Scott scoring a windfall to win the game as we ended to join up with the Londoners where we could play Time’s Up.
Round 1 - Scott 62, Jim 19
Round 2 – Scott 10, Jim 31
Round 3 – Scott 9, Jim 67
Round 4 – Scott 134, Jim 12
Total – Scott 215, Jim 129

Jon had left the Haggis party to play an undecided game, which eventually turned out to be –

Jungle Speed
For some reason, Snorta had been requested, but Adam decided that “Snorta on speed” would be a better option, hence this game hitting the table for the first time at IBG. This is basically a glorified version of Snap with the added bonus of having Steph dig her fingernails into your knuckles at every available opportunity.
This is one of those games that I’m sure Daniel would excel at, but as he wasn’t available, it was a much more even contest. Iain had a few problems with the ‘special’ cards, wanting everyone to simultaneously reveal cards at every opportunity, whilst Jon just had problems identifying 2 identical shapes from 18” away. Also, he had hardly covered himself in glory at Cash-a-Catch, and as this was his 2nd “quick reactions” game in a row, the omens were not good.
As it turned out, Steph proved to be the best at recognising shapes and grabbing a wooden stick from the middle of the table, and was declared the winner.
Steph – won; Adam, Ian, Jon – didn’t

In order to mix up the tables, a quick game was needed whilst Finca finished up, hence another outing for –

Archaeology:The Card Game
This was new to everyone apart from Jon, but after a very quick rules explanation the game was underway.
Adam was able to exhibit the coveted broken cups early on, whilst Steph built up points with some pot shards and parchments. After much to-ing and fro-ing, Jon managed to get some talismans down for a healthy score, whilst Iain was struggling to exhibit anything.
However, it soon became obvious that Iain was collecting the rare but extremely valuable pharaoh’s masks, but with 3 cards in hand he was suddenly subject to Steph playing the thief. Rather than allowing Steph to pick a card randomly, he casually threw one over, remarking that it didn’t matter which one she picked. This unfortunately gave the game away that his other 2 cards were also masks, and when Adam subsequently picked up another thief, he knew where to go for the goodies! The result of this was that Iain achieved the lowest ever recored score in the history of playing this game, whilst Adam had exhibited just about enough old rubbish to win by a few points.
Adam 67; Jon 55; Steph 53; Iain 5

Finca had now finished, but Archaeology not quite, so Tonio pulled out -

Exxtra (thanks Tonio)
Tonio went first and was promptly denied a scoring throw by James knocking him off the ladder. Modest Maynard scored a couple of high moves and as the game was declared over when the other table was finished playing, Maynard had us licked! Vicky put up a good fight, but it was not enough!

Maynard 10; Vicky 9; James 5; Tonio 4 (Oh, losing at my own game again?)

With the tables now mixed up a bit, James found a couple of willing volunteers to join him down at the –

On opening the box it was obvious that this game included cardboard chits – a lot of cardboard chits. And unfortunately, James appeared to have given the box a jolly good shake-up before turning up tonight, resulting in the game-within-a-game of sorting them all out before the game could even be set up. Anyway, once order had been restored to cardboard Rome, the game could begin.
This is an unusual game, which includes auctions, dice-rolling, set-collection and resource management, all set in the world of Ancient Roman outdoor entertainment. The game is played over 5 rounds, with the players’ highest score in any one individual round (usually the last) being their final score.
James started off by lagging at the rear, meaning that he could steal a tile from the leader (Jon) each round. Iain bought a Loge in the first round, which allowed him to roll 2 dice each round (instead of 1) to manipulate where the various dignitaries ended up. Jon put on a show each round, but bemoaned the roll of the die, which only advantaged him on 2 of the 5 rolls.
In the last round, Jon was unable to buy more than 1 item, which left both him and Iain with a surplus of apparently useless cash. Therefore Jon forced Iain to pay 54 denarii for a set of tiles in the last auction, whereas Jon then picked up an equivalent set for just 8. However, this move was to prove crucial at the game end…
Due to the scoring mechanism, it was impossible to tell who was going to win until the very end of the game, when all 3 players put on a large show, and ended up 1 point apart, with Iain and Jon tying for first. However, as the tie-breaker was cash, Jon revealed his huge pile of unspent denarii and took the victory.
Although this game was incredibly close, it was noted that had any of the players rolled a different number on the die in the last round of the game, then the result could have been different. Begging the question – is there too much luck in this game? (Answer – probably not….)
After having played with 3 players, the general consensus was that the auctions had little tension, with most lots going for their minimum bid. With more players, competition in the auction may increase, resulting in tighter resources and an even more interesting game. Worth another outing (but please, James – bag up those cardboard chits!!!)
Jon 77 (61 denarii); Iain 77 (0); James 76


Ghost For Sale (thanks to Tonio for this write-up)
This game was brought to the table by Tonio and had been an impulse buy, partly to his fellow Italians, and partly because it was (appropriately) in a sale. It turns out the game is “better than we thought” according to most people at the table.
The premise is that players each take on the role of an entrepreneur wishing to cash in on the recent interest in all houses of a haunted nature. There are two rounds, in which each player (semi-blind) bids for Haunted Manors and then Haunted Castles.
Before each round there is a declaration round in which players declare whether or not they have seen a ghost in a particular property. However, before making these declarations, each player has decided whether or not they are going to tell the truth, and the number of actual ghosts has a bearing on the value of the property at the end of the game. Then, before the bidding proper begins, players bid for opportunities to gain information about whether a player was lying or not. Phew! (I realise that the summary above makes the game sound really complicated but it is not. It is pretty simple, especially if you read the rules for each section as you play first time through.)
In this game, Adam and Steph insisted that we entered into our roles and so the declaration round established the mood of the game well. Steph, convinced that she could read us all, did not bid in the information round. Unfortunately her intuition was wrong, and if anything she gave others more information than they would otherwise have had.
Maynard was quite insistent that we should not try to analyse his decisions as he had no idea of what he was doing. (I don’t think he was alone in this.) Even so, by the end of the first round it was still anyone’s game. Tonio over-bid on what turned out to be a poorly haunted property, having totally misread the information he gained in the earlier round.
Having spent a large amount of money on (not particularly useful) information in the first round, Tonio did not enter the information bidding round in round 2. (If you make a losing bid you get your money back, so that way everyone has a chance of getting something.) So in round 2 Maynard was the clued-up one, and he certainly used it better than Tonio had in Round 1. There was much haunting and hooting and the Adam was getting worried that he had no properties, being out-bid a number of times. Due to the “losing bidders get their money back” rule, Adam was unbeatable on the final property, which had just the right number of ghosts to make it the most desirable property in the game – not too few, and not too many.
Adam 14; Maynard 11; Steph 9; Vicky 7 ; Tonio 5 (yet again losing at his own game!)

It was towards the end of the evening; some heavier games had been played and it seemed the time was right for something light. So we turned to -

Time’s Up: Title Recall (thanks to John B for this report)
We split into two teams of three to play. A couple of the players were not that keen, but gamely went along anyway. Team one was Gareth, Philip and John, team two was Jim, Paul and Scott. That worked as a good mix as John and Scott were the only two who had played before and John and Jim were the more 'mature' players (golden oldies who might know any of the golden oldies...)
As usual the first round was a mix of easy, not so easy and a couple of titles that only one or two of the players even knew what it was. Just to add to the fun, we had managed to select two Queen songs and two Abba songs. So saying Queen song or Abba song as a clue gave a 50% success rate.
There always seems to be one title that gets guessed wrong more often than any other. For some reason this time it was Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run which at least 6 times was guessed wrongly as Born in the USA.
Anyway the first round was hard fought and at the end of it both teams had 24 points.
The second round proved that team two were either better with less (one word clues), or had better memories as they dominated and picked up 32 of the available points.
As it was getting late we decided to skip the third round, which is a shame as that’s usually the funniest round of the game. So, the final scores were:
Team two (Jim, Scott, Paul) 56; Team one (Gareth, Philip, John) 40

Somewhere during the evening, Funny Friends was also played, but as no-one has let on what happened, we'll never know exactly what occurred.

And without wishing to hasten the inevitable, I thought I'd just mention that there are only 4 more IBG games club evenings before Christmas (15th is the Christmas meal). Ho ho ho........

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

"He came last in a train-based Eurogame........?!!!"

Players: Maynard, Vicky, Jim, Scott, Steph, James, Jon, Paul, Tonio, Adam, Barrie, Gareth, Johan, Rob

14 IBG’ers tonight, back in residence in the Riverview Room again, and with a very warm welcome back to ‘smiley’ Rob, who we haven’t seen for several weeks (although he did meet up with a few other IBG’ers at Essen). There were many new things at IBG tonight – mainly games of course, as we are still in the post-Essen honeymoon, but down in the bar they were also breaking in a new barman. I believe that Barrie is still standing at the bar trying to order a chicken pie and chips……

We also had the usual mix of monsters, dwarves, gluttons and traitors – but enough about the IBG’ers, let’s find out what games they played (and prepare yourself for a shock result…….)

First up for the early birds, the current ‘light and fluffy’ game of choice is –

Apples to Apples
James, Steph and Scott were halfway through the game when Jon arrived, but the more the merrier, so he jumped right in. We were also playing with a dummy card played by ‘the house’, and as it turned out, the house was quite an astute player. It chose to play ‘Indiana Jones’ in response to the adjective ‘perfect’, and  it deemed Florence Nightingale to be a good example of someone ‘honourable’.
In complete contrast to this, leftie James decided that feminists were not ‘shallow’, and Steph completely denied the concept that ‘being in love’ could be described as ‘hot’. Jon’s response to this was to invite Steph to come round his house at 10.30pm on a Friday night to see just how hot being in love could be. He quickly retracted this offer when James misconstrued this to mean that Jon was hitting on Scott’s beloved. Scott, meanwhile, kept his eyes firmly on his hand of cards the whole time…….
Anyway, to summarise, James somehow won just about every card going, Jon and Steph won hardly any, and the house came in second with a score of 9. Consequently, the house was immediately evicted and not allowed to play any more games for the rest of the evening.

Back for a second outing was -

London (thanks Gareth)
A fun evening, with Barrie in good voice singing along to a number of eighties classics, a rare appearance by Rob and Johan trying to screw over Gareth again, who then got his revenge later on.
London became the new game of the month by default, Gareth quickly ran through the rules for the two new players Rob and Johan. Hopefully he didn't miss too much out this time!
The game moved pretty quickly and after about 90mins we were adding up the scores and reviewing the game.
Rob 'Rodney Trotter' was cautious with his money, expanding slowly but making sure he didn't go into debt.
Johan 'Harold Steptoe' lacked cash when needed and took a long time to control and expand his boroughs on the board.
Barrie 'Del Boy Trotter' expanded quickly but incurred heavy loans that he was unable to pay back at the end of the game.
Gareth 'Arthur Daley' generated a lot of cash early on giving him a lot more flexibility towards the end of the game, which allow him to take the win.
Gareth 56; Rob 32; Johan 31; Barrie 16

It was now time for another Essen purchase, but this time an older game. James had managed to pick up a German version of – Scott brought along his new toy of Poseidon and had attracted the attention of Jim. Maynard happened to be looking for a game as was drawn in towards us, deciding to also reserve a space for Vicky.

Fearsome Floors
This was played with 6 players, so that each player used 3 tokens. Everyone had played before, except for Tonio, but a quick recap of the rules was provided for everyone’s benefit.
Adam and Tonio managed to make some nice suicidal moves, and after about 30 mins, James had got 2 of his tokens quite near the exit, so it was decided that the game should be played until someone got 3 tokens out. Unfortunately, this extended the game for a further hour, when James and Jon both had their 3rd token escape on the same turn.
This is a fun game, but things we have learned from this experience are:
  • 6 players are too many;
  • players can over-analyse their moves if not careful;
  • don’t ever play until someone gets 3 tokens out;
  • when several players have taken out their phones and are checking the footbal results / downloading games / looking at pictures of themselves on the IBG blog, the game has overstayed its welcome.
James and Jon - 3 tokens escaped; Adam, Steph, Paul – 2 tokens; Tonio – 1 token

And now, for an (underwater?!) train game of Scott's. Surely only 1 winner.... -

Poseidon (thanks for this report Scott)
Despite having read the rules beforehand, Scott had to check a few things and it turned out to be quite complicated to explain but was much easier once we got going. The game is about building a shipping empire in ancient Greece, you start with some money and you can found new nations or buy in to other player’s nations. The game uses a similar mechanic to the 18xx games but this is apparently a simplified version to be playable in an evening.
Each nation has a starting position on the board and from there they can send out their exploration ship to lay trading posts, these will earn money for the nation when they send their fleet of ships out to visit it. The stock of trading posts for a nation is also the same stock used for merchants which are the ownership markers of the nation (shares) so a nation has to decide whether it will use its markers to expand its empire or to issue merchants and have more money in the nation.
The game has set number of rounds - 5 merchant rounds to start new nations or invest with others, interspersed with 2 or 3 exploration rounds to expand your network, purchase ships for your fleet, and to send the fleet out to earn money for each merchant in player’s hands.
There are also phases to the game that are dictated by the purchase of ships. Ships must be bought in order and once a level 4, 6 or Endless ship is bought, a phase change occurs and older ships will disappear that were now too antiquated.
The game began very cautiously, everyone started a nation at the lowest possible price and bought 4 merchants for themselves, except Scott who started his just slightly higher in value to be first in the exploration rounds.
The first two exploration rounds grew the empires slightly and everyone bought one or two ships with which to support their fledgling nation’s income.
The middle of the game was a slow growth until someone bought a four ship and triggered phase two. At which point, nations are allowed to release more of their merchants and get the nation's money for them. All of the companies raised some money and the market was flooded with merchants.
By now, everyone had recouped enough money out of their nation and merchants to start a second nation; Jim was the only one who didn’t, deciding instead to invest in other people.
Towards the end of the game we were speeding up. Once the first 6 ship was bought the market was filled with the remaining merchants as people needed to fund the best ships. Scott got himself in to a predicament, having two nations with only a 4 ship each and having already released all of the available merchants, and the 4 ships were about to disappear when the first Endless ship was purchased. Jim made it his mission to buy one as soon as possible and with the last new nation on the board he had plenty of money to buy up lots of ships forcing the last phase of the game. Vicky and Maynard had wisely kept money in their nations and not sent their fleets out every turn; Scott had been greedy and as a result needed to fund two ship purchases out of his own pocket resulting in a big chunk of money gone right before the end of the game.
Maynard 2,803; Jim 2,583; Vicky 2,465; Scott 1,805

A very intriguing game, took a bit longer than expected but we were all new and some poker chips could have sped it up a little too. It will have to be played again soon if for nothing more than Scott to redeem himself...

Well, if you've picked yourself up from the floor after that shocker of a result.......

After escaping from the slimy nasty in Fearsome Floors, the same players were persuaded by Paul to take on a slightly more abstract game in -

Metro (thanks to Paul for this one)
Although the art nouveaux images and blurb about the 1900 world exhibition tries to set the game up as a Paris based train game, actually it is about tile laying and route following, giving good opportunity for generating points for yourself and also for thwarting others. The idea is to build tracks for yourself that cover as many tiles as possible, whilst getting more points that anyone else.
James having wiped the blood-stained 'Fearsome Floor' with us previously, didn't really seem to be too bothered about doing well, other than the omnipresent chance to get at Steph, of course. Just as well, as everyone else was bothered, and made sure that they vented their pent up feelings of frustration in the direction of James' black track, by minimising them at every possible opportunity.
Adam and Steph had played before, and their experience quickly told with some nicely intricate patterns, Steph, short and Adam, gamewinningly - one track earned him more than half his points, and more than the winning margin. As he pulled so far in the lead, no one else seemed to notice when Paul wrote down his final score as 54, but Adam obviously did, insisting that it was written up as 56, and let's not forget it!
Paul and Jon disappeared downstairs for a drink, debating the shapes on the tiles and if it was indeed possible for trains to collide. Jon - the answer is 'no', the tracks are so laid out that it just can't happen mate. My game and I checked.
Adam 56; Paul 32; Tonio 31; Steph 29; Jon 28; James 12

Meanwhile, back on the 'London' table -

Modern Art (thanks again Gareth)
James joined us for a game of Modern Art. Basically a bidding game with a number of different mechanisms to bid for paintings offered by the players.
A fun, not too serious game that lasted about forty five minutes, lots of new bidders jumping in at the last minute before the makeshift auctioneer's hammer came down.
By the fourth round Gareth has a second win of the night, followed by Rob and then James.
Gareth 362; Rob 341; James 280; Johan 255; Barrie 172

As previously mentioned, Jon and Paul went to the bar to get a drink (and to have a heated debate about train tracks), and while they were gone, James defected to another table and Adam persuaded Steph and Tonio to join a game of –

Bacchus’ Banquet
When Paul and Jon returned from the bar, they found Tonio lamenting the fact that this choice of game was nothing more than a glorified version of Fluxx, but he (graciously) agreed to play anyway. This is a ‘hidden roles’ game along the lines of Bang, where players have different victory conditions based upon their characters.
Steph drew the Caligula role, and after a few rounds only needed another good slurp of wine to win. Unfortunately, Jon (as one of the conspirators) had 2 daggers in front of him, and having worked out that Adam was also a conspirator, they contrived to get the 3rd dagger in play and plunge it into the heart of Steph.
Paul and Tonio had been trying to stuff their faces with food and drink, but had not quite been greedy enough to win.
Overall verdict: Not Fluxx, but not Power Grid either. As long as it doesn’t go longer than 30 minutes, it’s a fun filler for up to 8.
Adam and Jon – won. Steph died. Paul and Tonio lost.

Despite a number of IBG’ers leaving at this point, there were enough willing punters left for a quick game of –

There were 6 players in this game, which is one of those unfortunate numbers that means there could be 1 or 2 saboteurs. And for the first 2 rounds there was only 1. And for the first 2 rounds it was Jon. And for the first 2 rounds, he lost miserably.
During the first round, Jon managed a small amount of subterfuge towards the end, as he had looked at all 3 destination cards and managed to persuade everyone that the gold was elsewhere. His plan succeeded for about a minute, until the good dwarves dug up some coal and realised that they had been tricked.
In the second round, Jon used a rockfall, which was successful for holding up mining operations for a couple of turns, but with 5 good dwarves on repair detail, the digging soon resumed, and the gold was discovered.
For the last round, Jon was spared the shame of being evil all game, and Tonio and Adam took up the reins. Unfortunately, they fared no better, and despite a desperate rearguard action, they finished with broken tools and no reward.
It was proposed that next time (in order to give the saboteurs more of a chance) we play with the ‘broken tools’ variant, whereby good dwarves can only share in the gold rewards if they have no broken tools in front of them. Might even things up a little…….

And then it was time to pack up and make our way back into the cold night air. The IBG'ers will be back next week, same time, same place, and I'm sure that Scott will be among them, keen to resume normal service again......