Wednesday, 26 January 2011

“Excuse me, could you tell me the way to Lithuania please….?”

Players: Gareth, Barrie, Keith, Philip, Scott, Maynard, James, Paul, Tonio, Noel, Jon, Johan, John

13 IBG’ers hunkered down in the Riverview Room at the London Apprentice, including a very welcome return to Noel (who had left Tanya at home holding the baby…) who we hadn’t seen since before Christmas.

Tonight was definitely not an occasion to be a geography-phobe, as there were maps everywhere. Everything from modern-day Europe to turn-of-the-century North-west England, it was imperative that you knew your Danzigs from your Denmarks, otherwise you were sure to get your Runcorns in a twist……And to top it all, we have a challenger for Gareth’s title of ‘most rules wrongly explained in a single game’ – shocking……

First up, the early birds decided to catch some fish –

With Tonio tucking into one of the largest plates of food I’ve ever seen, the other 4 early arrivees had a go at ‘the game with the bell.’ This was new to James and Keith, but a quick recap from Jon (who had forgotten how to play his own game) and we were underway.
Scott started as he meant to go on, deliberately selling a fish type which caused others (ie Jon) to lose some of their own stock. Keith was somehow accumulating the UK’s fish quota on his own board, whilst Jon also managed to get some lobsters on ice. James looked bemused.
When all was said and done, Keith ran away with this one (probably due to his hand being about 3mm away from the bell at any one time), with Jon in a not very close second. Scott and James were the red herrings, bringing up the rear after just about having made a profit.
Keith £102; Jon £82; Scott £49; James £46

The next few IBG'ers to arrive decided to play a game to find out exactly who was -

The Boss (thanks Maynard for this report)
The Boss is an interesting deduction game that can be agonising to play, as each player is forced to give up information that can help their opponents. Having said that, there is a deep sense of satisfaction when suckering someone into making the wrong choices!
The game shows you a set of cities, each of which has a different group of cards associated with it. For example, Kansas City has three cards – one showing two “money”, one showing three “money” and one showing a gun. Detroit has five cards - four money cards from 1 – 4, but also one card with a gun as well. Each of these piles of cards is shuffled face-down and one card is chosen at random and put face-down under the city. The rest of the cards are shuffled and dealt out to the players to give them each a hand of five cards.
Each player has a group of gangsters – some regular which can be used each turn and some “occasionals” which can only be used once. The players use these to take over cities – the player with the most gangsters in a city at the end of the round wins the hidden card.
Maynard is The Boss
Each player takes turns to optionally place one or more gangsters on a city, and then is forced to reveal one of the cards in their hands. This reveals information about the likelihood of the hidden card being good, bad or indifferent – but it’s possible to bluff either by revealing misleading cards or by placing gangsters on a city in the hopes someone else will take it over. Each city’s cards are also different colours, so players have to show the backs of their hand of cards to give other players info about who knows what.
The game got off to a random start with Maynard taking a bet on Detroit and also aiming for a safe position in New York. Tonio went for Cincinnati and the others took over cities which weren’t obviously duff, resulting in one of Maynard’s gangsters being shot dead, Tonio being banned from Cincinnati and scores of 2 and 3 for Maynard, James and Paul.
Following rounds proceeded with highlights including: Tonio knowing whether Cincinnati was worth 3 or worth being banished, while unable to play there; Maynard failing dismally to sucker in other players but winning some points nonetheless, and Paul making some solid gains using Chicago (a special city where the most recent cards from other cities are collated and the controlling gangster gets half of any winnings).
Some lucky hands gave Maynard an additional advantage in the third and fourth rounds, battling with Paul for the lead. Tonio was far behind having failed to take advantage of some logic in the second round to take a city which was guaranteed to be a winner (assuming nobody was bluffing or playing badly!).
The final round saw a turnaround in his fortunes, picking up two cities for lots of cash and making a solid step forwards to avoid fourth place. Maynard and Paul tied for first, and after a quick check of the rules the victory went to Maynard due to him having a one more gangster remaining unused. 
Maynard 14 (won tiebreak); Paul 14; Tonio 9; Barrie 8

With the other table just having started The Boss, there was time for a short game that played with 6. Amid groans of protest from Scott, John B produced –

Travel Blog: Europe & USA
Just as Scott thought that he was to be subjected to 30 minutes of geography-induced torture, his knight in shining armour swept into the room in the form of Philip, clutching a copy of Race for the Galaxy. Moving faster than Speedy Gonzales, Scott was gone in a puff of smoke, which created just enough space for the newly-arrived Noel to take a pew. And everyone was happy once again.
Anyway, after the musical chairs had finished, John explained the rules to the game, which turned out to be fairly straightforward – plot a journey around Europe using the shortest route possible (with a few twists and turns thrown in for good measure.)
The first thing that became clear was that some people’s geography was much worse than others (step forward Jon), whilst other people just liked to take their time to carefully plot their route (step forward James).
The long and the short of it was that the scores were remarkably close throughout the game, but it was Noel who recorded the victory by a measly 10 Euros from Jon. He was undoubtedly helped by the fact that he is a ‘foreigner’ (well, he’s got an Irish passport anyway…) but it was probably fair enough considering his gentlemanly loss to Jon at Chinatown by a similar amount a couple of months ago….
Noel 310; Jon 300; James 280; Keith 250; John 240; Johan 200

As already mentioned, Scott had left the European travellers to travel further afield -

Race for the Galaxy (thanks Scott for this one)
Praise to Philip for saving Scott from the torture that is Travel Blog, not because it’s a bad game per se, but it involves knowledge of Europe or US States, neither of which ever appealed to Scott, or any form of Geographic knowledge to be exact. So instead we had a quick game of Race, for a warm up this week.
It was looking to be a rather fortuitous game for Scott, drawing the rebel worls with prestige for playing rebel cards and a handful of cheap ones to get an early lead in prestige and raking in most of the goals and collecting some suitable 6 cost developments as well. Poor Philip didn’t stand a chance:
Scott 64; Philip 31

With Brass still some time away, Gareth joined us for a second game and we quickly got him to sign some paperwork that confirmed he did indeed want to play Race for the Galaxy. Despite only having played the base game, Gareth seemed happy to jump in at the deep end and although he lost, he did well to keep up with all of the rules and icons thrown at him. Although I suspect he was more concerned with eating his meal than events happening in the game...
In this game Philip got his revenge with a much better starting hand of a doomed world, which was quickly replaced by something much more horrific and extorted prestige out of the game like wildfire. We even got the prestige game to end condition with Philip having 15 of it (although he had also ended it on building twelve cards). Luckily Scott had drawn and played one of the big Prestige scoring cards, keeping Philip’s score in double digits.
Philip 72; Scott 47; Gareth 27

Noel was looking for something ‘fairly meaty’ to play next, and with Brass already oversubscribed, his attention was immediately drawn to the incredibly dull box art of –

This was brought along by John, and was new to all the other players, so after the initial set-up, he explained the rules (well – most of them…!) This is fairly standard Euro fare – collect resources (wooden cubes of course) from an abstracted map of Europe in the days of Yore, to fulfill contracts to earn money to buy victory point cards. Throw in a few random factors and a couple of nice plums (!) and you’re away.
Noel started off as he meant to go on – selling one contract to buy a bonus card which enabled him to quickly start fulfilling other contracts. John also got his engine going pretty quickly, whilst Johan and Jon meandered around Europe picking up as many cubes (sorry – resources) as possible.
It was at this point that Jon worked out that the bonus cards that he had did not tie in with the locations of his contracts, which meant that he was simply picking up large quantities of largely useless resources. However, 3 of his contracts required a supply of coal, which unfortunately was being snaffled by Johan who was sitting on his right. As there appeared to be no way to get this resource, and with his other contract being for Newfoundland (very costly to travel to), meaningful progress was painfully slow.
Johan had by now started to fulfill some of his contracts by piggy-backing onto Jon’s recent trip to Bohemia, but Noel was racing away and had soon worked his way up to the level 8 contracts (only 2 short of the max.)
Meanwhile, John was raking in the cash in a single-minded kind of way. Sure enough, as soon as he had 14 ‘Taler’, he cashed this is for a bonus card which gave him a VP for every cube in storage. He then went on a cube-hunt, and hoovered up every spare resource he could find on the map.
Jon had finally got some iron, and on his final turn travelled to Italy to fulfill 3 contracts, but this wasn’t quite enough to lift him out of 4th place.
When the scores were totted up, John had scored a massive 18 points from his bonus card, to end on 54 points. Noel had scored 54½ (thanks to a bonus card that gave him ½ VP’s for something or other), but John insisted that this was rounded down – “You always round down in Eurogames…” being his mantra. Obligingly, Noel rounded down, so there then followed a quick flick through the rules to discover the tie-breaker (time-tokens), which as it happens, Noel had more of. A slightly less quick flick through the rules then revealed that ½ points do not in fact get rounded down, which left Noel the clear winner and Jon only ½ point shy of Johan.
Noel 54.5; John 54; Johan 38; Jon 37.5

(Postscript: A post-match analysis revealed that in the finest traditions of IBG, John had actually taught his own game wrong to the tune of 3 fairly important rules (including the fact that cubes could exchanged 4:1 for any resource to fulfill a contract). Don’t do that again, John, or you’ll have replaced Gareth as IBG’s most infamous rules explainer…!!)

Another main game being played on the next table came in a box about the size of a shipping crate -

Planet Steam (thanks to Scott again)
With a couple of hours to play and a game required to accommodate 5, Keith had kindly brought along Planet Steam in its giant (read: vastly oversized for its purpose) box that was attracting a lot of attention. Of the games on offer Scott proposed it and had to convince the masses that a game in such a big box doesn’t take a whole day to play, in fact we could do it in the 90 minutes it says on the box (read: probably, but you can’t put doubt in people’s minds when it comes to economic games). Tonio enquired as to the gameplay and Scott attempted a brief summary and Tonio finished with "Is it like Settler’s then?" "Erm..... yeah it’s a bit like Settlers" came the reply to keep Tonio’s interest high.....

If you want to find out what happened next, then Scott has gone beyond the call of duty this week and written a fantastic blow-by-blow account of this game, which is published in all its glory over on BGG (along with some very cool B&W photos taken by Maynard). Check it out here....

Final scores:
Scott 624; Maynard 580; Tonio 541; Paul 516; James 458

And on the third table was Game of the Month -

Brass (thanks Keith)
I think it's time for a little analysis of the players options in Brass. Rather than focus on the pricing I'm going to look at the two longer term objectives, income and victory points. This question was triggered by Keith's unexpected victory despite lagging behind on the income track for most of the game.
I'll compare the values of the Level-2 building tiles, since most players will build a large number of these tiles.

Option Actions Revenue VP's 

Canal/Rail 1 0 3-4
Coalmine 1 7 2
Ironworks 1 2 7
Cotton Mill 2 5 2
Mill & Port 3 8 4
Shipyard 2 1 18 (shown as two actions because an advance is needed)

Early in the game it's necessary to build up income and there's little demand for coal. So the obvious choice is to build Mills which yield around 2.5 revenue steps per action. However, from the beginning of phase 2 demand for coal appears and mines yield 7 revenue per action which makes them much more attractive.
Towards the end of each phase victory points become more important. So players need to focus on building ironworks (7vp/action) which will allow them the advances needed to build shipyards (9vp/action). If these are not available building additional canals/railroads is the third choice.
So, how does this relate to our game of Brass? During the canal phase of the game Phillip took out large loans to build several cotton mills and completed the phase with a double shipping action. So, despite being behind on the income track for much of the canal phase he ended up ahead at the end with cash in hand. The other players all borrowed £30 from the bank and finished the phase with very similar incomes and VPs.
At the start of the railway phase Phillip appeared to be in a strong position, with coal mines rapidly boosting his income. While Keith appeared to be lagging as he built Ironworks and failed to capitalise on some rail building opportunities. However, Phillip continued to concentrate on income development after the middle of the railway phase and failed to turn his strong financial position into VPs. Gareth and Barrie mopped up many of the other opportunities on the board with one building railways and the other constructing a shipyard.
In the final scoring, Keith's ironworks just weighed in ahead of Barrie's shipyard:
Keith 114, Barrie 106, Gareth 93, Phillip 90

And that was the end of that. I think we all learned something tonight - whether it be that Armenia and Slovenia are nowhere near each other, or that Planet Steam is nothing like Settlers of Catan - we all came away a little wiser.

More pearls of wisdom are to be gained by turning up at the Isleworth Boardgamers next week at the same time....

No comments:

Post a Comment