Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Merry Christmas from all at IBG!

Players: Jon, Scott, James, Jeff, Gareth

Only 3 days before Christmas, but 5 IBG'ers had obviously done all their shopping and had enough time to kill to fit in a few board games....

Not much else to say by way of an intro, except that Scott had a pretty bad cold, which undoubtedly affected his game-playing ability, and James turned up late after having gone all the way to central London just to pick up a copy of ArgghTect! I'm guessing that there will be much head-clubbing fun going on in the Sinden household this Christmas.....

Jeff and Gareth were the first to arrive, and had a go at one of Jeff’s new acquisitions –

Magnum Sal
No report, but from an observer’s point of view, the board looked pretty but small, and there were a number of tiles and the ubiquitous wooden pieces. Other than that, I have no idea at all what the game is all about!
Gareth 118; Jeff 107

Scott and Jon were the next to turn up, and the only short 2-player game that they could find was –

Mamma Mia!
This was actually Jon’s shiny new, tin-contained ‘Mamma Mia Plus’ version, which has an extra ingredient type (shrimp), several more recipes and the ability to play with 6 players (obviously overkill when there are only 2 of you……. )
Now Scott is known to be the master of this game, due to his uncannily laser-like memory, so Jon knew that he would need all his culinary skills to combat this.
3 rounds were played, which were all very close, but a couple of slightl;y mis-timed recipes by Scott in the final round allowed Jon to just sneak the victory by 1 point. To be fair, Scott did have a major head-cold, which probably brought his game-playing abilities down to that of a mere mortal….
Jon 7; Scott 6

With James having turned up, there was the need for a 5-player experience. Power Grid and another of Jeff’s new games were the options available. The vote was split, and Jon had the casting vote. He opted for the new game, but as Gareth nearly burst into tears, he quickly changed his mind to –

Power Grid
Scott had a number of maps to choose from and asked everyone which one they would like to play with. The universal response was – “whichever map you’ve played the least….” As Scott was yet to try out the Russian map, we were consequently off to the ex-USSR for some power-producing fun.
Fossil fuels started off cheaply, garbage was non-existent, whilst uranium would soon enter the market. Scott started off by becoming an oil baron, Jeff also went down the fossil fuel route, Jon took a gamble on garbage and uranium, James picked up the first ‘1 unit of fuel powers 4 cities’ plant as well as some eco-friendly power, whilst Gareth also picked up some oil and coal guzzlers.
Gareth also decided that hoarding fuel was a good idea, but it only succeeded in making the fossil fuels more expensive for everyone.
The opening map positions proved to be crucial, as the Russian map has some very definite ‘zones’ to it. Scott cornered the South-East corner, which had a few cheap connections, but expanding further would prove expensive. The other 4 players jumped into a very crowded central / western corner of the map, which contained all the cheaper connections. Gareth was in the centre of this melee, and soon found himself blocked in.
Jon decided that turn-order wasn’t a priority, and quickly built to 6 cities. Scott and James followed a few turns later, and after some expensive leap-frogging, so did Gareth. Jeff resolutely remained on 5 cities, using only 1 fuel cell per turn and staying first in the turn order.
And there it stayed. Bigger power plants were bought, the cash slowly rolled in, but no-one would make the jump to 7 cities and trigger Step 2. Eventually, Gareth decided that he was losing the cash race (it was costing him at least 15 electros a turn to power up his cities, whilst other players were getting by on just 2 or 3 elektros) and he built his 7th city. As it happened, the Step 2 stall took so long that Step 3 then began on the same turn as well.
First in turn order was Jeff, and with the ability to power 15 cities from his power plants, he made a massive sweep across the map and was able to buy his 15th city with 10 elecktros to spare. Jon, Scott and James were also rolling in cash, and were able to expand to the maximum that their plants would allow. Having triggered the end of the game, Gareth was last to buy cities and was only able to get to 12.
Scott and Jon had tied for second place, but Jon had been benefitting from powering 6 cities for longer, and therefore won the cash tie-break.
This was a strange game (no Step 2) which seemed to have been partly caused by the strange Russian map. There is a large area with relatively cheap connections, but many of the peripheral cities have large connection costs. Therefore, there was little opportunity or advantage for anyone to make the leap to 7 cities, without spending a lot of cash and ending up last to purchase the newly re-opened cities on the next turn. With hindsight, Gareth should probably have done it earlier, as he was most disadvantaged by the stall, but that’s a difficult and unintuitive decision to take at the time.
All in all, a good game, even if it did have a slightly anti-climactic ending. Well-played Jeff, though, who played a very efficient game.
Jeff 15 powered (15 built); Jon 14 (14) - $83 left; Scott 14 (14) - $8; James 13 (13); Gareth 12 (12)

Jeff and Gareth then left to hang up their stockings, leaving 3 hard-core gamers to have a go at James's latest purchase -
Fresco (thanks to Scott for this report)
Jon and James had had a 2 player battle with it earlier in the day and Scott had played a few times before. It is very heavily a Euro, you have workers, a turn order mechanic, VP’s along with different paints, a random market to buy more, a mixing department to convert your paints and the Fresco itself where you will be using them up painting various sections, complete with dignitary to oversee your work and award extra VP’s if he’s in the right place.
James got off to an early lead to get the most sections completed while Scott spent much of the game getting up late and painting people’s portraits for cash (remaining cash being worth a fair few points at the end), Jon did a mix of the two.
If anything could prove that the game was quite balanced then it would be that we all finished one point apart in the final scoring. Scott had languished behind with a shortage of paint at the end and James finishing all of the sections he had his eye on, it was an impressive run of painting at the end for James. However, Scott had kept a small fortune behind his screen and earned 30 points for 60 cash in hand, although this didn’t win him the game, he was rich beyond his wildest dreams!
James 96; Jon 95; Scott 94

And that was it.

Merry Christmas to all - I hope that Santa brings you everything that you wish for!

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