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........

1 comment:

  1. A good night. Archaeology was definitely not my proudest hour...