Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The long and the short of it.......

Players: Scott, Steph, Ian, Iain, Barrie, John B, Keith, Maynard, Jon, James, Paul, Daniel, Tonio

13 IBG’ers again shared the conservatory with the regular folk of Isleworth for the evening. Apparently, seeing the green baize and the various games in progress, one punter remarked to the Landlord that it looked like a cruise ship in the conservatory. I guess that all we were missing was the sunshine, a constant rolling sensation and an elderly couple in the corner dribbling into their soup…..

But enough of holiday stereotypes, what actually occurred tonight? Well, the long of it was the game of Imperial that took all night, and the short of it was the title of John’s new Essen release about mountaineering. There was also a long wait at the bar, and a short back and sides for Barrie, but let’s get on with the gaming…

Tonight, we begin with an opportunity for James to pour out his heart:

"It has been a longstanding uninformed and malicious slur on my game playing behaviour that I like to pick on Steph. This could stem back to a game of Ca$h and Guns where I tried to shoot her every time (she was sitting next to me, I can’t reach much further), or perhaps a strategically logical move I made in El Grande to veto her potentially winning card. I’m sure she might point out several other occasions but each time I swear it was the most obvious move I could make. As a result, for a while, she ostracised me from playing at the same table as her… unless it was a game like Dixit which I am so very bad at really, you’d want me around just to ensure you didn’t come last.
So this week I arrived early with only the husband and wife team Steph and Scott around and it seemed like the perfect time to mend a few fences… a nice simple card game would be a gentle way to start the evening… I even let her have first choice of colour, which is the kind of gentleman I am - "

Relikt (thanks James)
The game itself is about collecting blue gem cards, while avoiding the red ones. Each player takes a coloured tent and there are cards from 1-12 for each colour in the game that are shuffled and handed out. Players take it in turn to play a card against each gem card and when a certain number of cards are played the colour with the highest total takes the gems… oh and there are also 7 ‘special action’ cards for each player that change the rules… eg swap coloured tents, take 2 turns, play a card face down etc… basically the aim is to stuff your neighbours with the red gems while trying to win the blue ones… in retrospect I should’ve realised at this stage that it might not have been the safest option…
So, despite my best intentions, I ended up spending the first 1/3 of the game seemingly picking on Steph (why does it always seem to work out this way?)…I was actually trying my utmost to target Scott (after all it’s always fun to bring down the euro-king in a few simple card games in retaliation for the sound thrashing I’ll get later in the evening when the heavier games come out), but it just didn’t happen.
After 5 minutes I could tell I was in trouble… and started to wonder if we were playing The Last Days of Pompeii as steam started rising from Steph’s side of the table. Then it happened… a small, almost inaudible snap and then the game changed into an allout, ‘lets give James a kicking’-fest… a theme which Scott seemed more than happy to accept. With 2 on 1 any hope I had of a successful outcome vanished and Scott ran away with the victory while I piled up red gem card after red gem card as the manic look on Steph’s face turned more and more crazed. At the close I think Steph came 2nd and myself a dismal, bruised and battered 3rd… but to be honest I was too scarred by the experience to keep count. I think we all know who wears the trousers in their relationship!
So next week, once again, I’m going to have to do my best to make amends… find something calm and relaxing to play… Hey Steph, how about a nice game of Lifeboats… what could possibly go wrong?

There were no husbands, wives or punch-bags on the next table. Just lots more gems and the odd massive snake -

There was a quick rules recap for Paul which took about 8 seconds, then we were off. During the first mine, the disasters came thick and fast, and a rockfall soon put paid to all 4 explorers.
In the second, all 4 were a little more circumspect, and all decided to leave at exactly the same moment. It was in the third mine that 3 of the cowardly-custards ducked out early, leaving Jon to soldier on alone. His bravery was rewarded, as he turned the corner to find 2 caves simply brimming with jewels. He filled his pockets and then fled before his luck ran out.
The final 2 mines were essentially a race for 2nd place, with Keith venturing the furthest in and claiming the largest prize.
Jon 51; Keith 37; John 26; Paul 23

And now, for the game with the shortest name in boardgaming –

This is essentially a race game, but instead of cars, chariots, powerboats or sledges, it is a race to climb the second highest mountain in the world. Players have 2 mountaineers in their team and they must get each one as high as possible on the mountain whilst surviving to the end of the game.
The basic mechanic is choosing 3 out of 6 cards to play each turn, which have movement or acclimatisation points on them. Movement points allow you to climb or descend the mountain; acclimatisation points keep you alive. The higher you climb, the more acclimatisation points you lose, and the more movement points you need to progress. There is also the weather to contend with, which changes from turn to turn, and will again remove acclimatisation points depending on which part of the mountain you are on.
All the players started off moving their mountaineers slowly along the lower slopes, building up their acclimatisation to its maximum permitted level (6). Then it was time for a push up the mountain.
The weather had so far been kind, with the storms being confined to the upper regions. James and John send both their mountaineers off in tandem, whereas Jon kept one of his in base camp and sent the other off alone. Consequently he was able to climb quicker, but was also the first to hit the bad weather. This had a detrimental effect on his acclimatization level and he was forced to descend before reaching the summit.
James meanwhile, had managed to time his climb well, and managed to get his first mountaineeple right to the top, and in the process managed to block off John’s attempted climb to the summit. John had pitched a tent just below 8000m and was using this to ride out a storm before trying again.
James sent his heroic climber back down the mountain, but the physical exertion had taken its toll as the poor mountaineer was close to fatal exhaustion on his return. By now, Jon had started his second climber out, and was scaling the east face of the mountain.
The game was coming to a close, and the players had to use the last 6 cards available to them. Jon had managed to keep some high movement and high acclimatization cards, and used these to climb quickly to the top, and then sit out the storm on his final turn. This was much to the annoyance of John, whose mountaineer had just popped his head out of his tent and decided that it was a nice day for a climb. Unfortunately, his view of the summit was blocked by Jon’s butt ascending into the distance, and he was unable to get past.
James’ second mountaineer was unable to climb all the way up either, and was forced to sit out the final turn below 8000m. The final scores were:
Jon 17 (7+10); James 15 (10+5); John 14 (7+7)

This game has a double-sided board (summer and winter) and 2 different types of weather, giving 4 levels of difficulty. We had been playing on the summer side with the easiest weather (John had been kind to us…) Another outing in more testing conditions would definitely be worthwhile.

Despite the recent Essen buzz, the proposed GOTM still ploughed on (and on, and on...) -

Imperial (thanks to Scott for this report)
This was Keith’s copy as he had yet to play his own and had only played once before, Iain had also played once before while Barrie and Ian were new; Scott having played a few times before took the lead with teaching.
Unbeknownst to everyone playing that there would be no simple game rules used for a first game which randomly assigns shares to players at the start; we instead played that you start with an amount of money and we go around each country and players can decide if they want one of the available shares or not.
The game looks very much like a war game, you have countries separated out, they can buy arms factories, produce armies and ships and take over areas of the board and invade other countries but instead of controlling one country you control whichever countries you have the most investment in - and it is usually wise not to get too attached to any particular one. The key difference is that the purpose of building more armies and invading territories is to increase your taxable regions on the board and when you take the tax action, your country gets some money and an increase in its share value and there is an investor option to pay out dividends on everyone’s shares in that country.
It is a rondel game with 6 actions and you can either do one of the next three available or pay from your personal cash to jump around up to 6 spaces.
After the initial investment in a country you can buy more at the end of each country’s turn, starting with the current owner so they always have the opportunity to top up their investment and stop someone else taking over; unless a player doesn’t have control of any country in which case he may invest in any country at the end of a turn.
Control of countries spread amongst the table, with the lucky owner of France getting a white flag as we couldn’t find their official one, with a few jokes about its appropriateness...
The early game starts off slowly as countries build up their tax base, most went with more factories, building some troops and expanding in to the neutral regions. Austro-Hungary managed to do a factory build along with a big push south but Barrie had kept only a small controlling investment, Scott took the opportunity to seize control and taxed the country for a high profit for himself as well; increasing the tax base of a country provides a bonus for the country owner as well.
This looked like a very promising move and Austro-Hungary quickly jumped up the value ranks, much to the disdain of Barrie who had been warned that A-H was one of the more difficult countries to handle because they were easy to manipulate, as the rest of the players would prove by a joint collaboration to take down the leader. France, Italy, and Russia all managed to take a piece of the action and took out A-H from North Africa, shut down two of their factories and left them just with a couple of remaining territories but no troops. A-H was paying the price of greed and trying to end the game by maxing out their share value before anyone could interfere, skipping producing more troops too soon.
Scott was now a bit locked; a lot of money invested in A-H and now little space to manoeuvre. This left everyone else to get their countries catching up. France was the next big winner, control having swapped back and forth between Barrie and Iain for a while, Iain now took full control and had taken A-H out of contention leaving a lot of tax bases taken. Italy and Germany had their forces pre-occupied and the UK was mostly producing ships.
However, a small miscalculation assuming France was going to run straight to the top was off by 1 and when it came time to finish the game they were one tax base short of finishing the game and this left the UK, run by Ian, which was not far behind to rush around the rondel and tax twice in time to end the game which Iain kicked himself for as he felt he should have kept paying round again to get France to finish first.
Despite A-H being crushed in the mid-game, the delay of France not finishing when expected allowed A-H to keep improving and Scott also had a good investment in France and some UK by the end, ignoring the huge investment by the end in Italy which was the worst performer and chalked up to more money at the start to invest in more shares total.
Iain with the big push in France and a healthy interest in the UK had still came second.
Barrie had done well with a ranged portfolio but had unfortunately had control stolen from him too many times when windfalls were upon him but had return the favour a couple of times by the end with the ability to invest in any country.
Ian with just the UK to support him didn’t have quite enough and Keith had too much in Italy as well, along with Russia which needed a more consolidated support from Italy which he had until Scott stole Italy from him to help save Austro-Hungary.
Scott 169; Iain 143; Barrie 135; Ian 123; Keith 123

If you've made it this far, you may be wondering what became of Steph, Maynard, Tonio and Daniel all evening. Well, (courtesy of the latter), it appears that as well as playing Funny Friends and The Boss, they also made the headlines again -

(Feel free to click on the image to take a closer look at the report.......)

Anyway, last but not least -
Founding Fathers (thanks for this one Paul)
Not at all happy with the way the American constitution was formed during Founding Fathers inaugural outing a few weeks back, (i.e. he came last), Paul was keen to put right some terrible injustices in the US (i.e. he wanted to do better), so managed to drum up support to revisit Philadelphia circa 1787 to see if one of the most significant documents in world history could be created more in his favour.
John the game owner, Jon the previous victor and James who'd wanted to play before but was out of the country were keen to play / roped in, and so congress was in session.
Founding Fathers is a rarity in the Jason Matthews stable, being multi player (typically only two people can play) and being fairly short in game time (typically many hours of political strategising are necessary). However there are some features of the game that are consistent with his classics such as Twilight Struggle and 1960, such as the incredible depth of historical research that gives the game such a rich theme, and the main mechanic being card driven with each card presenting the players with multiple options.
In explaining the rules to James, he listened very carefully to the scoring advice, certainly in as much as the score track only goes up to 30 and therefore it is worth taking any and every point that your cards may give you. So much so that after two articles of the constitution had been passed, James had such a lead that the other 'seasoned' players were scratching their heads and wondering how on earth they would manage to catch him.
Paul noted carefully that Jon's previous victory had been as a result of some fierce work in the debating chamber, gaining large amounts of endgame points in this way. He therefore focussed his first turn or two making sure his arguments were the loudest, including playing 'The Bore' card, stipulating that no one else could debate after it was played as this real life historical figure used to drone on so much that after he'd started no one else had a look in.
However part way through the game, James' intuition had him dive into the rule book and emerge correctly proclaiming that the scores for debates at the end of the game were less weighty than we had previously played (er, Gareth - please take note and 'void' Jon's previous victory on the spreadsheet ;) )
Articles were mainly won with the 'yay' vote, with the Small States doing particularly well. John started to pick up points for all of his delegates' 'nay' votes and all three previous players still debated hard, but canny and consistent point picking allowed James to maintain a very healthy lead.
The last of the four articles in the main chamber was decided by Jon, overturning a large states motion, which had a lot of knock on effect for several players and prompted some debate on him having cut off his nose to spite his face, because he lost an opportunity to win the motion.
This last turn allowed him to catch and overtake Paul and John, but not so James who just managed to keep the most influence in the creation of the constitution. Paul did manage to do better than last time (third out of four, instead of last), which left him unsure if it was a successful game for him or not.
James 27; Jon 26; Paul 23; John 20
Well, apart from a swift edit to prevent too many letters of complaint - yes, Ra has just as short a name as K2 - that was the end of tonight's proceedings.
I've given up trying to predict what will happen at IBG next, so your best bet is to just turn up this coming Wednesday and find out for yourself....

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