Friday, 30 December 2011

"Hold on high their shameless heads"

After our Christmas meal the week before, only six people turned up for the meeting before Christmas. Light games were the fare.
Gloria Pictoria
Jon, James and me began with this fairly simple card game. Build up sets of cards in various colours, score points for having the most cards in a given colour during the 3 scoring rounds (whose timing is unpredictable), lose points at the end for cards in hand. The one complication is the fox, who prowls around rendering useless one set of cards. On your turn the fox starts with you and automatically joins your neighbour when your turn ends, however you can send him on ahead for a price.
In fact, the price never seemed worth having and, as chance would have it, the fox struck a different player each scoring round, roughly evening out the bad luck. Jon was ahead early but once I realised the importance of starting as many sets as possible I was able to take the lead...(scores may not be totally correct).
Philip 17 John 14 James I 12
From foxes to guns...

Ca$h 'n' Gun$ [thanks Andy]
Our festive funsters settled down for a game about shooting your friends and running off with all the loot. What could be more seasonal?
It quickly became apparent that if you want to do well at this game you should play with people that others would really like to plug with a bullet. So it proved as James, Jon and Gareth all found themselves staring down the barrels of numerous revolvers and the brave (Gareth) quickly found himself nursing injuries while the cowardly picked up shame tokens.
Paul's Bang Bang Bang card gave Andy a wound while he was preparing to finish Gareth off, thus saving Thomason's skin. But when it came down to the final reckoning Andy had kept his head down long enough to accumulate just enough cash to win.
Final scores: Andy $70,000; Gareth, Phil and Paul $65,000; James $50,000 and Jon $45,000
Not robbers but Indians next...(postive numbers in Coyote are Indians).

Coyote (thanks Jon)
As this was ‘party-game’ night, there wasn’t too much grumbling when Jon brought out a game that involved everyone wearing a headband to attach a card to their heads. Nice.
The game is basically a deck of cards which mostly have numbers from 1-5 on them, but also have some 10’s, 20’s and wild cards (-10 / - highest other card etc). Each player takes a card, and without looking at it, attaches it to his head, so that everyone else can see it. Therefore you can see every card apart from your own. Players then begin bidding an amount which they think that the total of all the cards doesn’t exceed, until someone decides that it is too high and challenges the previous bid ( a la Perudo). Players who have bid or challenged incorrectly then take a token (also attached to their head!) and when they have 3 tokens, they are eliminated. Last man standing wins. It sounds simple, and it is, but there is something very amusing about seeing another player with a “-10” on their head which they don’t know about, but something equally as frustrating about not knowing what’s stuck to your own forehead! Philip and James were the first to depart the game, closely followed by Gareth and then Paul. It was then left to a showdown between Jon and Andy, which Jon won in the final round.
This is actually a really fun game, and one that I enjoyed more than Perudo, as there is a lot more knowledge available. Definitely an enjoyable way to pass 20 mins, and worth it just to see Philip wearing a red headband.
Jon – won; Andy – 2nd; Paul; Gareth; Philip; James
Less bluffing, more fighting in our next game.... 

King of Tokyo (thanks Jon)
At the beginning of this game, there was a general rumble of discontent as several players appeared to be playing for the ‘points’ victory, rather than beating seven bells out of each other in Tokyo. However, this eventually changed when Andy was able to take out 4 other players in a single turn, leaving him in a fight-to-the-death with Jon, who was currently on 14 points and 3 health. However, a fortunate roll of the dice allowed Jon to pick up 3 points from rolling 3 two’s, getting another point for not attacking, and having enough energy to buy a card that gave an instant 2 points in return for losing 2 health. 6 points in one turn, and the victory was his. So much for having disdain for points victories……
Jon – won; Andy – 2nd; James; Gareth; Phil; Paul – all died

Linq (thanks Jon)
Trust James to bring along an obscure little word game that is actually rather good – although I’m not sure that Gareth was that impressed… Anyway, the concept is simple – players are secretly dealt a card, which either contains a word, or ??? on it (only 2 players have a word, which is always the same). Players then take it in turns to say a single word, and then a second word, and that’s it! The trick is that the 2 players with the words are trying to locate each other, whilst the others are trying to locate the ‘wordists’ whilst trying to get others to incorrectly identify them. Think - Dixit meets the Resistance (sort of….) We only had time (or the inclination) to play 3 or 4 rounds, but I really enjoyed it – a neat twist on word games. Can’t remember who won, but it wasn’t me……..

P.S "Hold on high their shameless heads" is from Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

"In for a Penny in for a Pound"

For me the whole evening was bold as...
I was eager to play this Martin Wallace game again, and Keith who had brought it was of the same mind. We roped James II and Shamu as new players. Keith explained the rules and I noted any little differences from my previous understanding.
Shamu was randomly chosen to start and, as Keith suggested, developed while Iron was cheap. So did James, while Keith and I built cotton mills.
I think Keith played the first Ironworks and he also made the first cotton shipment to the external market, neatly timed to balance his loan. I endured a couple of turns negative income before shipping two cotton mills at once, one to my port and one to the external market. Meanwhile Shamu shipped using James II’s port.
The canal age proceeded more or less prosperous with me and Keith putting down several level 2 structures and James II putting down a level 2 port. In fact my port, James’ port and Keith’s cotton mill were all flipped during the canal age, thus scoring twice. James II was clearly ahead after the first scoring, but his income was looking low.

With the coal mines already in place, railway building made an early and rapid start, especially as I had funds enough to build 2 railways in one action on a number of occasions. James II took out a second loan and began constructing shipyards, by dint of considerable effort cranking two out before the game ended. Meanwhile the Iron and Coal disappeared and indeed fell so low that I was able to replace one of James II’s Coal mines with one of my own as almost the last move of the game.
The final scoring revealed that my strategy was too heavily income-biased, while James II’s Shipyards paid off handsomely. Scores may not be totally accurate- James II took the scoresheet!
James II 110 Keith 103 Philip 100 Shamu 96
BRASS (thanks James).
A couple of weeks ago my friend Jess came over to see me. Among other things, she wanted to play a board game. She liked the box art on Troyes and said she'd like to try it. I said (for her being a non-gamer) it was quite complicated. Nonetheless I set the board up and proceeded to explain the rules. Jess has the shortest attention span of anyone I know and five minutes in she got bored and started to throw the pieces at me. So, the day after, it was good to go to The London Apprentice and play a game with some actual gamers.
        Keith had brought along Brass. Now a game based on the industrial revolution in the north of England isn't one I'd normally jump at due to the theme, but it did indeed look interesting.
        The game consists of two phases – The canal era and The rail era. It's played on a map of the north of England and players score points by developing industries in the major industrial centres of the time. To start with, only certain types of industry can be built. These in turn can provide resources (some of which can also be purchased from the open market) to develop more advanced industries. These can also go on to provide goods which can be moved along canal or rail routes to be sold for revenue. Also, your industries exist in a stack. As you develop industries and progress through the stack, the industries available to you become more valuable. The play is partially card-driven. The cards that you possess (more are drawn in  each of the players turns) determine which industries you are allowed to build and the locations in which you are allowed to do so. If you want to expand your empire (and do not have an appropriate location card), you must use your already built canal (rail in the second phase of the game) routes to move your your industrial influence to another location on the board. These routes, as I mentioned before, can also be utilised to move goods. The difference between these two actions is that to expand your empire to a new location, you can only use routes that you have built. Where as, when moving goods, you can use routes that other players have put in place. Thus building routes is an advantage to progressing in the game. In addition to this though, at the end of each of the two phases, canal or rail sections give you points. The more industries they link to, the more points you get.
        At the end of the game with the final scoring taking place, I managed to secure a slim victory, I think due to developing a couple of ship yards in the last few turns, which I fortuitously had the appropriate cards for.
James (me):112. Keith 104.Phil:100.Shamu:    97.
That game took all evening, but others had wisely started with a filler...

Felix the Cat in the Sack (thanks Jon)
The first 5 arrivees had a go at this popular filler. To my shame, I didn’t record all the details at the time, but I do remember scoring exactly the same as I started with. Paul, Noel and Andy also played and scored varying amounts of points (one of them scored less than me – but I can’t remember which one….!) but Mark was the victor, dropping out quickly in a number of early auctions only to collect a whole load of cats later on. Sack-tastic!
A little more brain burning in our next title...

Tikal (thanks Jon)
I don’t get to play this very often (which is probably ‘cos I don’t bring it along – it’s right at the bottom of my pile of games and would take an engineering degree to get it out…) However, it is definitely my ‘overall’ favourite game. It just seems to work beautifully – the rules are simple: place a tile, take 10 action points, score your position 4 times during the game. The theme fits really well, and the pieces look great (hence the background to our blog title). It is also a work-out for the brain, which can result in some serious AP if you’re not careful. Anyway, that’s enough gushing……
In this particular game, Paul and Andy were both brand new to Tikal (hence not playing the auction variant), but picked it up really quickly. All 3 players collected similar amounts of treasures, but Jon used his experience to cap a couple of early temples without losing too many workers. This resulted in him being about 12 points ahead of the others after the second scoring round. Paul and Andy both set up camps further into the jungle, and used these to good effect, to take control of nearby newly-discovered temples. When the last scoring round occurred, the rule of ‘last place scores first’ was used, which is a neat little ‘catch the leader’ mechanism. This resulted in Jon going last, but thanks to the last-minute placement of a camp and temple tile, and the fact that Andy had run out of new workers to bring onto the board, he was able to do a swift last turn and win by a few points. It had been a long game (c 2 hours) but very enjoyable and engaging. Note to self: must play it more often……
Jon 112; Andy 105; Paul 103
Our final report, is, after all...

Small World (thanks noel)
On noel's arrival mark was eagerly setting up Small World anticipating the arrival of dan, Lou and tom. Noel joined to make a possible 5 but despite the early prep we ended up with just Mark, Noel and Dan contesting the small world. Noel asked lots of reminder questions and was then deemed first to go by duty of his undoubted leprechaun lineage. Firstly he chose the Stout sorcerers and duly scored and used their special ability to immediately decline, picking up the seafaring skeletons. Mark started with the Trolls and established lairs in the north which were to give him some regular early victory points. When mark declined the trolls a turn later he picked up the pillaging amazons, putting him into an obvious early lead and a target on his races. Dan led the onslaught on the amazons with his wizards and giants while Noel got his seafaring skeletons to conquer the lakes, giving a regular additional 3 points per turn, before declining to pay full cost for the Bivouacking Ratmen. The Ratmen were able to decimate the remaining amazons which were still hanging on and there was too much to do for Mark’s flying dwarfs to regain the lead. Victory for the rat swarm.
Noel 111, Mark 96, Dan 92
NB: "In for a Penny in for a Pound" is from Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe. If you take a loan in Brass, you'd best take the biggest loan you can!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

"When there Was Any Fighting"

The evening kicked off with some monstrous action...
King of Tokyo
I arrived slightly late and took on the role of Alienoid, while Tonio began a gruelling round of staying in Tokyo- he made it but at the price of very low health. My arrival as fifth player added Tokyo Bay to the mix and everyone was soon flitting in and out, earning Vps. Someone managed to roll four threes for four VPs, and there were a few card purchases although I removed Wings from the agenda by refreshing the cards- I’d heard Wings was broken... (and support for this can be seen in a later session report) 

Anyway we reached the stage where everyone was on fairly low health and on my turn a fire blast (costs three energy, does 2 damage to all other players) became available. I quickly bought it, immediately killing Tonio and Paul and damaging the others enough to make finishing them off easy.

Another game followed, without me
King of Tokyo (Thanks Scott)
With new arrivals dropping through the door every minute, we started up a quick game before anything else.
Barrie, Paul, James II & Scott were keen on King of Tokyo and newcomer Shamu was roped in to join us.
Apparently Paul is an expert at this game, if only dying as quickly as possible was the goal, I hear he had about three turns in two games, after this game where his triumphant effort of being greedy in Tokyo early on led to a very swift death; Scott was riding Paul’s coattails to earn some points from Tokyo but left the battle just in time to recover some much needed health, then shortly after he set everyone back by buying a card to deal a nice chunk of damage to everyone, killing Shamu who had just had a spell in Tokyo, with James following soon behind with an aggressive Barrie on the loose.

The battle then changed and Scott was soon fully healed with Barrie keeping his head above water through his bonus healing abilities and it became a race for points, Scott had the advantage of some wings to avoid damage and enough health to sit tight in Tokyo. So despite Barrie’s best efforts to lose Scott points through cards, Scott soon acquired the 20 to win with Barrie stuck at around 13.
Scott 20, Barrie 13, James II (dead) Shamu (dead) Paul (dead – very quickly)
From Monsters to Real Estate...

For Sale (thanks Scott)
With more main games being started, Andy, Barrie and Scott decided to wait for the Kingdom Builders to finish, with Jon and James playing we should have anticipated it would take a while.
Rule 1 of For Sale: Don’t play with Barrie.

It was quickly observed between Andy and Scott that Barrie was going to be a real wildcard (and even Barrie admitted he was a crazy For Sale player), spending all his starting cash on just a couple of properties leaving Scott and Andy some tastier morsels for cheap as Barrie was handed the lowest cards for nothing because he had no money left to bid for half the property auctions. Fortunately for Scott, he had also grabbed some good properties early on so Andy had a balanced portfolio, Scott a reasonably good one and Barrie’s pretty poor.

This reflected in the cheque phase with Scott winning the majority of the top ones but there were some close calls, particularly the 26 that went for a song, poor Andy.
1st Scott – 99, 2nd Andy – 82 3rd Barrie – 66

From Real Estate to dice...

Perudo (thanks Scott)
Continuing with the lighter games for a moment longer, Andy hadn’t played Perudo before, we tried to explain that it was a bit like Nanuk but he hadn’t played that either so a quick rules summary and we were off. Andy was quick to lose his first die but got it back immediately with a successful call of “Exact”. Barrie and Scott were doing particularly badly while Andy held his own, Scott was first to a single die but survived long enough to see Barrie lose all his dice. Andy had 4 to Scott’s 1 and with a call of one four, Scott thought it would be safe to call exact but sadly, Andy had two of them.
1st – Andy 2nd – Scott 3rd – Barrie

Meanwhile, I had set off in a rather different gaming direction from Scott- long and rich rather than short and simple...

Players, from first to last in the turn order Dan (Louis), Mark (Rachel) Tom (Floyd), Louise (Caprice), Me (Ray)
Dan had played before and everyone except me had a basic grasp of the rules. Dan explained them to me and we started with the standard scenario. The game consists of 12 turns or days, with each character getting 6 units of Time to spend each turn (well except for Floyd who has 7 and Caprice who fluctuates between 5 and 7). Time is spent moving about the vast board, which shows locations on Earth, the Moon, and a space elevator between the two called the Beanstalk. The characters are investigating a murder. The idea is not so much to find out whodunit as to plant the evidence on the suspect you’ve already fingered as guilty. There is also a Conspiracy to unravel, which works a bit like a jigsaw puzzle.

Characters also have their own individual subplots and their own decks of light and dark cards. Light cards are played by your character for his/her benefit, dark cards from a particular character deck are played by the other characters to that character’s detriment. A neat little mechanic means you want to be playing dark and light cards with roughly equal frequency.

My character, a troubled private investigator who is struggling to deal with the suprising appearance of an old flame, has a special ability allowing him to draw 2 cards for 1 time once a turn- normally it costs 1 time per card. I used my ability almost every turn and always drew 1 light card and 1 dark card (rotating the latter between my opponents' characters). The increased card flow meant I played cards more often, which in turn meant I was messing with the other characters more often- which quickly made me unpopular.

For example on Dan’s turn 2 I played a light card which enabled to follow up a lead Louis was investigating. Later on I played another card which caused Louis to forget his wife’s anniversary and lose valuable favours. I forced Tom’s character (Floyd) to lose 3 time (half a turn) chatting to a priest, and also to jump off a building (Floyd is an android or ‘bioroid’ so he wasn’t injured, but it damaged the street!). Mark’s character Rachel is a bounty hunter and I was able to force her to lose money a little, although Floyd also helped out here by making Rachel lose an entire turn! I was less successful with Lousie's character, Caprice, because she was cautious about managing her cards.

Of course, I attracted a similar amount of fire against me, losing my entire turn, getting beaten up, being moved to the middle of the Beanstalk, and so on. Meanwhile the investigation into the murder and the conspiracy continued apace. My strategy tips said I should concentrate on the conspiracy. I did, but since everyone else was as well my efforts were not very effective. I wasted a couple of chances to place on “digging deeper” which allowed me to place a theoretically better piece. The conspiracy occupies a quarter or so of the vast board, starting with a piece in the middle with an ominous looking eye (which Mark claimed wasn’t present in his edition).

From the eye the conspiracy radiates outwards to locations on the edge which give a VP boost to certain things if they are connected to the centre. Also, any completion of a row of 5 pieces is worth 4 VPs to the person placing the final piece.

The conspiracy grew rapidly and was soon connected to most locations and became impossible to expand further. However, one of my light cards allowed me to rotate a piece before placing a new piece, which meant I made it possible to place pieces again, at the price of cutting off the conspiracy from the “VPs for political favours” location- cue anguished howls from Dan and Mark who had been collecting those favours. However, the new lease of life didn’t last very long as shortly afterwards Dan placed the last piece.
This was rather annoying since my subplot gave me “good baggage” for placing conspiracy pieces. All subplots accumulate baggage and if good baggage outweights bad baggage on the day the subplot resolves (usually 3, 6, 9 and 12) you get a better subplot and (at the end of the game) a hefty chunk of VPs.

Meanwhile the murder investigation went badly wrong for me when I was a little too obvious with my setting up and my evidence was revealed by a reporter hired by Caprice. Since everyone now knew who I was fingering for guilty, I abandoned the struggle and concentrated on obtaining good baggage the only way possible for me- buying favours at one location and spending favours at another for baggage.

A brief moment of hope surfaced when one of the suspects started hacking the police computers, threatening to wipe out all the evidence planted so far, but despite Rachel’s best efforts Caprice was able to apprehend the miscreant.

The game ended just before the pub closed and scoring commenced. The suspect I wanted to be found innocent was found guilty so I scored no points on the murder investigation. I did however complete my subplot, telling the old flame to leave, which got me more than half my VPs. Dan and Mark had been weighed down by bad baggage, some contributed by me, and it was Tom and Louise who competed for the victory.
Dan 31 Mark 28 Tom 61 Louise 59 Philip 25.

More Science fiction on another table...

Core Worlds (thanks John)
Although it's a deck building game it does not feel so much like one. You play ten rounds only and at the end of it, whoever has the most points win. You get points from acquiring cards either by buying them with energy or invading them if they are planets. You won't get to see most of the cards you acquire during the game more than a couple of times.

John, Scott and Andy settled down to play, what was a first game for all of them. Each player gets there own starter deck, which is the same apart from a hero card, which is different for each faction.

The game is a constant struggle to get military units into play and invade worlds which get added to your war zone and increases you energy. (The currency of the game). John was the first to get a second world (you all start off with a home world). All this meant though was that Scott and Andy got an extra energy from their power surge cards.

Everyone seemed pretty close at the end of the first sector. (There are five sectors, you play two turns in each). In the second sector a really juicy world came up. John could have taken it but he got greedy and tried to use a medibot as well which allowed Scott to snatch it away from him.

By the third section John and Andy had managed to get a lead in the energy stakes from Scott, but Scott was not too worried as he was getting more of the high scoring cards.

In the fourth round the players found they almost had more energy than they could spend, John and Andy not being able to use all of it.

The fifth sector is pretty different from the rest as it's the Core Worlds themselves and all about points. As well as some big scoring worlds there are lots of bonus points available. Even though the bonuses are written on the player boards no one had really looked at them closely and planned for them. Everyone grabbed as much as they could and then the game was over.
Scott's tactic of just going for the highest scoring card every time paid off in the end. Andy commented it was the third game in a row that John had finished with 1 point more than him.
Scott 36, John 24, Andy 23

Back to Earth now, but beware the Monsters!

Ticket to Ride with Alvin and Dexter (thanks Paul)
Having bought along my newly acquired Alvin and Dexter expansion the previous week, with no takers, I was prepared to do some convincing if I was going to get it to the table.

After all, Ticket to Ride is an excellent game in so many ways, which are recognised by its many fans, but one couldn't accuse it of being frivolous with its theme. After all, building railways is building railways and this game does it just fine, so why on earth would the official designer and publisher want to introduce an expansion that involved an alien in a flying saucer called Alvin and a godzilla-like creature named Dexter? Let's keep railways to Ticket to Ride, and creatures of that ilk can stay in games such as King of Tokyo. That'd obviously be the sensible thing to do, and after all, being sensible is what playing games is all about isn't it?

Certainly that seemed to be the consensus as Paul's invitations to join in were met by many unbelieving looks and 'well, it's just wrong...' comments.

However Paul was thrown a couple of lifelines by newcomer Shamu who was up for anything and also James who was a confessed Ticket to Ride fan and Paul had a suspicion that he'd be open minded enough to welcome the unusual mix of themes. So the three started to lay the board out and then benefited from Johan arriving and being very happy to join in with the game.

The rules for Alvin and Dexter are pretty simple. After the normal set up they are placed on cities chosen by the last and penultimate players in turn order. Once a city is occupied by the alien or monster they are then officially a 'city on chaos' and no track can be built to or from that city. Either can be moved on a players turn, in addition to a normal move by playing one or two locomotive cards and then moving the creature up to three or six spaces, respectively. Each time this happens the player that moves the monster collects a card for their efforts and at the end of the game the players with the most Alvin cards and the most Dexter cards receive a bonus of fifteen points. Also at the end of the game any routes that contain Alvin or Dexter have their points halved - both positive if the route has been achieved and negative if it has not.

Apart from being good clean bit of 'theme mixing fun', the expansion does add quite a lot to the strategy of the game. There is the obvious additional 'gotcha' element, but locomotives become far more valuable and there are more ways to win points.

These additional points actually swung the game for James as he ended up with the most Alvin cards and tied for the most Dexter cards with Paul - a haul of 30 which allowed him to take the game.

This time the game was actually fairly 'bitty' with no hugely long networks being created and North Eastern Europe in particular becoming very crowded. Alvin and Dexter occupied Central Europe for most of the game, making a few diversions to London and then over to Warsaw.

Shamu was new to the game and got into the swing quickly, being the first to take new routes. Johan made the only 8 track route collecting the whopping 21 points for doing so.

Before the final points were totalled up Johan was well in the lead, followed by Shamu, James and then Paul.

In reverse order Paul totalled up first, having achieved quite a few routes, the longest route and picking up one 15 point bonus, managed to put himself into a very healthy position. The other three didn't do as well with their routes, actually achieving a lower than typical total. The overall winner was James, who surprisingly only managed 2 small routes, but had picked up good points for laying long track, had no negatives and then picked up both Alvin and Dexter bonuses to give him the victory.

Overall it was agreed that the new expansion did add a lot to the game although we didn't really explore it fully and all players said they'd certainly play it again. Most of the naysayers from earlier did pay a visit to the game as it took place to casually ask how it worked and was it good, with some tell-tale looks that they may in fact enjoy it when they saw what it was all about.
James: 106, Paul 100, Johan: 89, Shamu 78(ish)

More fantasy for our last session report- after all, it is a...

Small World
Small World came out in the second half of the evening. The Ticket to Ride players were joined by Amanda so five players were competing for the overcongested world.

It was new to Amanda and Shamu, who after having played King of Tokyo and Alvin and Dexter must have thought that all of our games were monster themed. It's not true Shamu - hope you come back and find out.

Johan started off with some ghouls that stuck around for a long time in this game. He therefore declined his civilisation at the first opportunity and started to rake in large points.

Poor Amanda was nailed from, both sides, more by poor luck than vindictiveness. This is more than can be said when the players took Jon's advice (no he wasn't playing, but did display an uncanny sixth sense in pointing out to all players that Johan was on to attack), which everyone seemed very happy to do as he did take some good points hauls early on.

The momentum shifted to James who then started racking up big points, although it was obviously fun attacking Johan as he was still the main victim of attack.

Paul's points were never spectacular but were never low.

Shamu was in his first game of Small World but had played a lot of risk before, which may have stood him in good stead as towards the end of the game he was the one who strung together many rounds of 13+ points.

The end game proved decisive as Shamu racked up a win in his first trip to IBG.
Shamu: 88, Paul: 84, James: 73, Johan: 71, Amanda: 67

"When there was any fighting" is taken from Gilbert and Sullivan's the Gondoliers. Sadly there is no evidence Gilbert and Sullivan based their lyrics on King of Tokyo.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

"Much I'd Spend to gain my End"

Perudo (thanks Scott)
Kicking off the night was the usual treat of Perudo with Scott, Amanda, Philip & Emma. Philip who usually employs a risky strategy of bidding very high and hoping everyone rolled the same number but today was a different tact and instead lady luck said no, even with reasonable bids he would be called out and just miss out by one die or call exact and there would be 5’s in abundance (five’s were called quite regularly). So despite the change of tactic, Philip was out first and in a bizarre twist of fate Scott had lost his touch, too many weeks without Perudo and was soon out next. Leaving Amanda and Emma to battle it out, but Amanda had the edge with the number of dice and would usually be telling the truth, much to Emma’s demise as she had been expecting otherwise.
We moved on to another light game beginning with P...

Pinguin Party

Actually I have almost no memory of this game. The usual pile up of different coloured Penguins ensued, with the Purple Penguins getting pushed out early in the first game because “you don’t want miserable people at a party”. Everyone took chips most games. There was one game I didn’t take any chips, which probably contributed to my eventual victory.
Philip- 4 chips Scott, Amanda and Barrie- 5 or 6 chips.

Last Will
Amanda and Scott were keen to play Last Will which was recently new to them (although Amanda almost deserted us to play Puerto Rico which she is also addicted to); Andy and Philip were convinced to join and make us up to a nice complement of 4, Philip and Andy both being new to the game and a quick run through of the rules ensued.

Unfortunately for all they were not warned to be wary of Scott (possibly this is written in the Isleworth gamers rules and regulations), Philip had a great start, a steward to look after his pair of farms and plenty of animals, however it all came unstuck when he need to start selling them off while Scott and Andy were ensuring the prices stayed high on farms, which was bad for Amanda too who was also frittering away her money in farmyards. Andy and Scott had gone to house where Scott had his chef, lady and gardener stripping his assets while Andy just let his rot away and depreciate.

It all seemed to be going quite smoothly but as we got down to the selloff, Scott had ensured he kept some hectic days and a large ball to attend to just break the bank sooner than everyone else expected who all wanted another round and still had a property on their books (Scott had missed explaining the rule about houses being worth 5 more at the end of the game but everyone was in the same boat so it didn’t affect the standings).

Scott – minus 2, Philip – 19, Andy – 27,Amanda – 31

After Last Will, Andy was keen to play his copy of Oregon that he had acquired in the works sale for a mere £8 and needed someone to teach him the game, so Scott kindly agreed after a little persuasion, this was new to everyone else. Amanda seemed most confused about the rules and confessed they just went in one ear and out the other (she’s started tuning Scott out already!) but seemed to survive okay with a few pointers along the way.

Scott got off to a great start by showing everyone else what they should be doing when a railroad, a saloon and a boatyard all ended up together, using extra turns and jokers to maximise the turn and then re-flipping the extra turn and joker markers to do the same thing all over again next time. Andy was quicker off the mark to join in and make most use of the spaces before Scott took them all, leaving Amanda and Philip a little in the dust.

Philip made a good comeback and assisted Andy and Amanda along the way by getting himself some big scoring while also scoring them a little too. Not good for Scott who was clinging on to his early lead by a thread. Scott rushed his cowboys as quickly as possible and soon enough had all 14 in play with just enough points in mine tokens to clinch the win.

Scott – 66, Andy – 63, Philip – 58, Amanda – 44
Elsewhere was another Euro...(thanks James)

I picked this up for a song a few weeks back, and after a trial run with the Missus (who beat me as usual) I thought it would be safe to unveil on a Wednesday as it hit the sweet spot of several gamers... quick rules, plays in under and hour, nice looking board... ok as it happens only 33% of these plans worked out, but still... it’s higher than my usual average...

A game of tower building, using worker placement, but with coloured cards instead of meeples. Players can choose to buy tower parts, obtain gold, or build... pretty simple but for one interesting extra. Once a coloured card is placed in a zone, only cards of the same colour can be used in that zone for the rest of the round... and this makes the game pretty intense as you’re trying to maximise the cards you have but not wanting to get cut out of an area by waiting too long.

So, a slightly harder game to explain than I’d thought, but we got there eventually and with only one rule being screwed up (again, better than my average) we started. Jon immediately recognising the value of white towers started spending big... but quickly ran out of cash. Emma went for black (closet Goth you know), Paul red and I took green... and so it began.

Round 2 and Paul and Emma both started building brown, while Jon was sticking to White with a Green tower to compliment. Some tower tiles were embellished with gold which earned bonus points. Jon, showing his previously hidden fetish for bling was snapping these up left right and centre to create a building fit for JayZ.

Round 3 and the end game started to loom. I was trying to make sure I only built once each round but used 5-6 pieces and had by now managed to construct a green tower to rival Jack’s beanstalk. Emma was completing with this, while Jon had come unstuck with the white tower strategy as it kept running out of cash... his new tactic to counteract this was to stock up with as much money as possible... as would become apparent at the end. Paul had decided that he was going to compete with my Green tower and was building a Red tower of similar height. After the last round there were several bonuses available for bigger tower, most towers etc, so plans were starting to be set for the end game

Last round and there was a building frenzy... apart from Jon who was trying to gather enough funds to buy Northern Rock. Emma and James both completed their 5th towers and Paul extended his red tower to match my green one (‘Tower’ envy is nothing to be proud of Paul...)... but It was clear at this stage that only Emma and James were in the race for the victory.

Final scores are sadly lost to the winds of time (or less romantically a trouser pocket at home somewhere), but I clinched victory with bonus points over Emma in a close 2nd. Paul was making up the numbers and Jon had learnt a valuable lesson that bling might get you noticed, but shouldn’t be taken as an alternative for substance.

So, I like the game, (and not only cause I won )... it's definitely in the family arena in terms of complexity, but there is enough going on for gamers to be interested. And despite being 1 1/2 hours for a first time run through, it should be under an hour for future games. Better I think with 4 than with 2, as the decisions seem a lot more intense. will have to bring along again for a rematch, although I'll wait a few weeks so I can savour the win a bit longer

Elsewhere the fare was lighter still...
Montego Bay (thanks Jon)
£7.99 from The Works – with lots of nice-looking bits so was worth an outing. This is quite a novel little game, where players have 2 workers that they use cards to control their movement around some dockside sheds. Depending on where the workers end up will dictate their ‘rewards’ in the form of barrels of goods, and possibly coins. The trick is that all movement is decided simultaneously, and workers that end up on the same square often end up being relocated. Players then use their barrels to load ships at the docks, and score points based upon majorities in each vessel.
The game claims to be playable in 45 mins, and this turned out to be exactly right. The ships leave the docks in a fairly swift fashion and the endgame is soon triggered. Although the decisions that players have to make aren’t particularly deep, there is enough in the game to cause some head-scratching (especially for Paul….)
It turns out that Jon was the best docker, but only by one point from Paul, with the last round being crucial in terms of scoring points.
I’m definitely going to bring this along again, as it fits into the ‘45 minutes with a bit of meat to it’ category, which is always a bonus.
Jon 41; Paul 40; James 33; Emma 25
Another light game...

Diamant (thanks Jon)
Long-time-no-see for this fun little gem-hunting push-your-luck game. We used to play this a lot at the end of the evening, but these 8-player games don’t seem to have come out quite as often recently. Never mind, this was rectified tonight, and we were soon reminded of why we used to enjoy it so much.
First up we have Gareth (on a rare pre-twins visit to IBG). His modus operandi is known as the ‘run screaming out of the mine like a little girl as soon as possible’ strategy. For the first few mines, he sat smugly back after he had collected 4 or 5 gems, as other more adventurous souls ventured further on, only to be often hit by misfortune and disaster. Barrie and Jon were the bravest gem-hunters, often dancing hand-in-hand into the darkness, only to be confronted by an effusion of foul-smelling green gas (maybe Gareth had ventured this way after all…..)
In the final mine, Gareth was joined in his usual early exit by 2 others, resulting in a paucity of scavenged loot. Once again, Jon and Barrie were the last ones left in, but this time fortune favoured the brave and they were rewarded by myriad gems. They both jumped ship after a particularly rewarding cave, which was not quite enough to give the victory to Jon, as Johan had quietly amassed a small fortune in precious stones in previous rounds. The other 5 players were separated by only 2 points, with Gareth coming in joint last. Maybe next time, he will be brave enough to venture into the mine with everyone else……..
Johan 44; Jon 35; Emma 25; Barrie 24; Paul 24; James 23; Gareth 23
Another push your luck game...

Nanuk (thanks Jon)
The evening finished with the game that, once upon  time at IBG, used to be the closer of choice. In honour of Emma’s last appearance at IBG, it was rolled out again, to send her on her way happy (even if she did come last). Tonight’s game was characterised by 2 events – Gareth was devious every time (no surprise) and Jon played it honest all the way through (maybe slightly more surprising). During one round, an unlikely alliance of James and Jon were left to try to source 8 deer by themselves in 3 days. With only 4 in their hands it was looking unlikely, although the first 2 cards from the deck did indeed turn out to be deer. However, the miracle hunt did not transpire, much to the relief of the other 7 players.
James then chose to side with Gareth in not going on the final hunt, which turned out to be an even bigger mistake, as it proved successful and profitable. The final scores demonstrated that honesty had paid off for Jon, with a narrow victory.
PS – if anyone can think of a better and quicker way of scoring this game, then please speak up – the current method is appalling…….
Jon 9; Dan 8; Barrie 8; Gareth 8; Lou 7; Tom 4; James 3; Mark 3; Emma 3

P.S The title is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

"In First and Foremost Flight"

After an unreported game of Perudo, I gravitated to…
Jeff was back, and as usual he had a shiny new game to play. Eclipse is a space empires game of the “4X” variety: Explore, Expand, Ex… and Exterminate. Players start in control of their own home system and take it in turn to take actions- you can take any number of actions but the more you take the more it costs.

The game began with everyone (Jeff, me, Barrie and James II) exploring neighbouring systems. Some systems were available for take over straight away- Jeff seemed to get lots of these- while others contained hostile aliens called Ancients- I was particularly favoured with these, though Barrie and James also had a fair few. Systems also contained bonus tokens- worth 2VPs or some other benefit such as extra cash or a bonus piece of kit for your ships.

Exploration continued in subsequent rounds, but we also conducted research and built and upgraded spaceships. Barrie was the first to attack the Ancients, with a fleet of Interceptors equipped with extra Ion Cannons. Unfortunately the Ancients blasted Barrie’s fleet to smithereens, but he received a VP token as a consolation prize. A little later I attacked a different Ancients’ system using two Dreadnaughts. Their greater size meant they could survive the Ancient attacks and win the day. The bonus token for that system gave me a Cruiser.

Meanwhile both Jeff and Barrie were running into overstretch problems due to having too many systems and not enough cash (In a clever mechanic, each system you control uses an action token, permanently increasing your costs). Jeff managed to survive by not doing very much, while Barrie was forced to lose systems to pay off his debts.

Technology tiles filled up three rows on a display near the board, with more tiles appearing each turn. One way to earn VPs was to buy lots of tiles in a particular row- a strategy I ended up following though more by luck than judgement.

Jeff and Barrie both researched Plasma Cannons- twice the damage of a conventional Ion Cannon- and Jeff and James developed shields, reducing the chance of his ships being hit. Due to some lucky bonus tokens, Barrie ended up with an extra strong hull and an Axion Computer on his cruisers- the Computer increasing his odds to hit. I developed Fusion Engines for twice the movement but never got round to installing them on my ships!

My Dreadnaughts and Cruiser next tackled a system with 2 Ancient’s ships in, losing the Cruiser but winning the battle. In order to reach the next Ancients system in one move I developed Wormhole technology- but then realised I could use said technology to attack Jeff’s temptingly defenceless system. 2 Dreadnaughts and 4 Cruisers sailed in. Jeff built 2 Star Bases, which proved their worth at static defence by taking out twice their cost in ships and leaving me with too few ships to take the system.

I decided to leave Jeff alone and return to the fight against the Ancients- which James and Barrie had also got involved in. Jeff then offered me an alliance- worth a VP and boosts both sides’ economies.  I accepted and James and Barrie swiftly formed their own alliance.
Jeff launched a fleet of interceptors against the central system, defended by a massive computer core, which easily shot down most of his ships- those who survived fled.
I was gradually making my way along the lowest technology row, picking up such things as Advanced Science (extra science income) and the ability to build Orbitals (extra science or money income) and Monoliths (each Monolith worth 3 VP).
In the penultimate turn James toyed with the idea of attacking his ally Barrie, but was discouraged by the 2 VPs Traitor card. In the last turn Barrie decided to get his retaliation in first and attacked James, prompting me to attack him.

Barrie was everywhere victorious, his Plasma cannon, super-improved Hull and Axion Computer equipped Cruisers destroying my unimproved Cruisers and causing my Dreadnaughts to flee (ironically…). Barrie’s fight with James was closer but still a victory. If there had been any turns remaining his fleets might have conquered the galaxy.

As it was however the game ended just in time…
Philip 32 Jeff 21, James II 21, Barrie 18
Meanwhile more earthly terrors were found on other tables…
Letters from Whitechapel (thanks James)
A dark night in smoggy London town and something strange, someone otherworldly is stalking the streets for victims.... the sobbing and screams of god-fearing women and whimpers of hysterical bystanders lie in the mythical creatures wake. Grown men reduced to tears and battle-scared veterans left wondering how something so vile could exist on god's own earth...

Oh, no, easy mistake to make... it’s just James with a moustache on his way to Isleworth.

Noel, Jon, Emma and James all liked the look of this relatively new game which is basically a Jack the Ripper re-theme of the classic Scotland Yard premise. One player is the criminal Jack, who murders a new innocent victim (somewhat disturbingly called “wretch” in the game) and needs to get back to their hideaway. Everyone else plays the inspectors looking for clues and aiming to trace Jack’s path to discover his base and make an arrest.

As I’d read the rules in advance it was decided I would play Jack for the first game as it requires the most knowledge... not sure I really qualify for that status but it was too late to make changes and I chose 87 as my base... mainly cause it was just off centre which seemed like a good idea at the time.
Night 1 - So after some hidden placement mechanic for the police and victims I made my first murder (death by haloumi fish and chips) and started a getaway. I was playing it simple to start with, and perhaps in the long run this was a mistake. The main clue detectives have early is where the murder took place, so the quicker Jack can get away from there, the better. Next time I’ll use coaches in the first two turns to get as far as possible but this time I was taking little steps, and spend most of the night with the detectives hot on my trail. I did try a few ‘sneaky’ moves towards the end but despite making it quite safely home I had given a lot of clues to the main area of the hideout.

Night 2- Everyone knew what they were doing this time round, and to try something different I chose to make my second murder (death by setting up one of Phil’s games with 10,000 pieces) on the far left so that few inspectors were near me at the start and to try and push attention away from the hideout. Early on this worked and I managed to give the impression of going north while shooting back south to take a central route... until some Columbo like detective paused, and changed the area to investigate and caught whiff of my tracks.. From here on it was a case of trying to throw them off the scent while making sure I could get back, and again I nearly managed it only to leave some clues behind (a few moustache trimmings perhaps) 2 squares from home which effectively pinpointed my base to 1 or 2 locations... A last attempt was to take an alley to get to the base to make them think it was nearby... however this move was to come back and bite me on the 3rd night...

Night 3 ... the double murder night... By this stage I realised that the game was probably up so wanted to keep close to the base to try and close this one quickly... However this rather obvious tactic was quickly revealed by the inspectors and despite playing coaches early in the move the net was closing in. Then, 2 places from home a hitherto unseen rule was discovered saying Jack couldn’t play a special move (coach, alley) to reach home... and given I’d done that last round I was forced to recant and reveal my crimes from the previous night... and from here all was lost. Jon, Noel and Emma quickly narrows by base down to 2 circles, and encamped inspectors around them leaving me with nowhere to go... I did try to slip Emma a bribe that I would bring along next week my game with cute baby dragons but to no avail. Jack was arrested, confessed everything and sentenced to either a lifetime in prison or a single game of Battlestar Galactica,... whichever ended soonest.

So, thoughts... it’s a good game. Very good in fact, although I’m not sure if it’s a 2 player game, or a 6 player one. Certainly 2 players would work just fine, 3 might allow for some debate, but 4 already started to feel like perhaps there wasn’t enough ‘action’ to go around for the inspectors. I’d like to play again, both as the inspectors to see what life was like on the other side, and also as Jack as I really didn’t do the role justice and have a much better feel for what to do (and not to do) next time.

Now I just need to work out who to accuse of being a Cylon so I can complete my sentence and I’m off... no, what’s that... The sentence has been revised to a best of 5 set of Battlestar.... ??? Noooooooooooo...

A slightly different perspective on the same game…
Letters from Whitechapel (thanks Jon)
This was played with 3 detectives (Jon, Noel and Emma) and 1 Jack (James).  James had read the rules and did a good job of communicating them to the newbies.
At first, it seemed really difficult for the detectives to get anywhere near Jack, but it soon dawned on the detectives that during the first 2 nights it was less about actually catching Jack, and more about narrowing down the position of his hideout. During the first night, the detectives picked up a good scent, and tracked Jack somewhere into the middle of the board where he disappeared and declared that he had reached his hideout. The second night saw the miscreant hot-foot it off in a carriage, leaving the detectives with a mere whiff of where he had been. However, they then converged on a large intersection and discovered the trail. Detective Leprechaun (Noel) had a feeling in his water that Jack was at a certain location and tried a daring arrest – but sadly failed, as Jack had changed direction and was heading South. With one detective chasing him, 2 others tracked around to try to cut him off. 2 turns later, they searched for clues and found Jack’s current location as he tried to sneak past. Jack moved once more and then declared himself ‘home’ – leaving a mere 5 locations as possible hideouts. James then realised that he had made an error, and used a special token to do his final move (even though he didn’t have to) which narrowed his possible hideout location down further to only 2 spaces. Consequently, the detectives quickly threw a cordon around this area during the next night, which Jack was unable to penetrate and was arrested within yards of his devilish lair.
Playing the detectives in this game was quite fun – discussing the possible routes that Jack may have taken and the best ways to track him down. It was often difficult to mute this discussion whilst James considered his moves, which was the sign of us being totally immersed in the game. We talked afterwards about it probably working best with 3 players, which would make it a bit quicker but still give a good co-op experience for the detectives. Definitely worth a re-run soon.
Elsewhere the game was rather less subtle…

Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game (thanks Tom)
Dan was keen to show off his new purchase of Blood Bowl: TM, a card game adaptation of the Games Workshop staple. Tom was eager to give it a try and Ian was roped in from the horde looking to play Letters From Whitechapel.

The players set down to choosing from the six teams available. Tom immediately picked up the Dwarves, Dan stumped for Skaven, and Ian ended up with Chaos after a brief flirtation with Orks, ultimately being won around once Dan had reassured him that he would have a Minotaur in his deck. Soon after, John B turned up and chose Humans, leaving Elves and Orks to be sampled another day. Lots of tackles, cheating and general rough-housing followed, during which Ian tried to draft in new blood, Tom drew an extremely useless four Dwarven Longbeards in one hand, and Dan steadily accumulated staff upgrades and team upgardes (a tactic which would ultimately pay off).

Having establishing an early fan lead after the first two rounds, John was unfortunately called away and the game dropped down to three. The game then descended somewhat into a grudge match between the Dwarves and Skaven with one particular highlight card being swamped by both teams, whilst Chaos was left to easily pick up some fans elsewhere. Unfortunately for Tom, Dan’s one successful attempt to use his Assassin ability on Tom’s star player, coincided with another Dwarf being sent off for cheating and Dan’s Skaven Blitzer pulling off a 3 star cheat, leaving the Dwarves bloodied and broken on the Blood Bowl field.

This left Dan and Ian to battle it out for Blood Bowl supremacy and Chaos briefly looked to have won it. In the battle for the Blood Bowl trophy itself, it looked to all that Chaos had triumphed by a point. However, rather belatedly, Tom realised that he got an extra star point for any downed player drawing him level. Dan having the tiebreaker button, naturally deemed the Dwarves to have triumphed, depriving Chaos of three fans.

In the end game, Dan revealed his card that granted him an additional fan for each staff and tactics card in his possession, which took him into the lead with 46 fans… three more than Ian. Despite the Dwarves having won the Blood Bowl trophy, Tom came third; a pyrrhic victory of sorts.

A fantastic game which looks like it will become even more fun once the players get used to the strengths and weaknesses of the various teams, Tom has already asked for a copy in his stocking this Christmas with a New Years’ resolution to better his micro-management skills.

Dan – 46, Ian – 43, Tom – 38, John B – 17 (DNF)
The players now enlarged their ambitions from Sport to world domination, in the same setting…

Chaos in the Old World (thanks Tom)
Having now had a taste of the Warhammer universe with Blood Bowl, the unholy trinity of Tom, Dan and Ian set down for a game of Chaos in the Old World. Dan and Ian were both seasoned players whilst Tom had never played it before, although he was eager to give it a try.

Whilst Tom gamely worked through some Isleworth Apprentice Roasted Pistachios (TM), Dan and Ian explained the rules and set up the board, despite Tom’s assertion that he could pick up the rules as he went along. Oh, sweet naivety.

Perhaps it was a clever ploy of Dan and Ian to have Tom play as the subtle manipulator and politicker, Tzeentch. Then again, they may simply have overestimated his tactical nous as first turn, Tom steamed into Bretonnia, despite Bretonnia being subject to the Skaven, restricting the number of chaos cards playable in the region. When Ian playing as Khorne, naturally, pushed some of his minions into Bretonnia in order to try and obtain some easy dial ticks by killing Tom’s cultists, Dan and Ian were perhaps even more surprised when Tom countered this, not by moving away, but by placing down his Lord of Change, based on the fact that he was a pretty imposing looking figurine. Dan commented that he had never seen anyone play as Tzeentch this way before; there was good reason for this as Khorne routed all in its path.

With Tom on his mad frolic, a more interesting tactical battle was taking place in Tilea with Dan as Slaanesh trying to flood in cultists with a view to ruining the province. He was ultimately successful taking 10 victory points, with Ian taking second place easily as Tom had not even sought to contest the province, engaged in his own brand of quixotic justice in seeking to ruin Bretonnia. Finally, Tom tilted at enough windmills that he succeeded but this had all been to Ian’s great benefit.

Dan sought to rectify the balance by gaining a stronghold in Estalia but to no avail, Ian obtaining the required 50 victory points after only four turns. Despite the somewhat baffled expressions on Ian and Dan’s faces, good fun was had by all and Tom certainly would be keen for a rematch, if only to occupy The Badlands so that he can make some poor Springsteen based puns.

Ian – 1st, Dan - 2nd, Tom - 3rd
After Letters from Whitechapel, looking for something reasonably meaty to fill the last hour was the order of the day. Jon didn’t want to learn anything new, so he forced Noel and Emma to learn –

Mykerinos (thanks Jon)
This is a fairly straightforward area control game with a few twists thrown in. Emma went slightly overboard in placing cubes to claim a couple of parcels of land each turn. Consequently she didn’t quite have enough patrons for points or special abilities. Fruity Noel picked up a few Lord Lemons, whilst James majored on Lady Blackmore. Jon picked up some early Sir Browns, and then used their special ability to reserve the ‘5’ space in the museum for them.
In the last round, James had shed loads of cubes, and was about to toss his final one away as useless, when Nol reminded him that he had a spare Sir Brown and could therefore place in the last spot in the museum. This increased his final score by 2 points and forced a tie with Jon, which could not even be broken with a tie-breaker. Rejoicing in their shared victory? Probably not……..
James and Jon 51; Noel 40ish; Emma 30ish

P.S "In first and foremost flight" is from the Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan.