Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Who on earth am I......?

Players: James, Gareth, Barrie, Jon, Maynard, Scott, Steph, Daniel, Noel, John, Philip, Ian, Johan II

13 seems to be the stock number of IBG’ers at the moment, which is cool as it allows us to always have at least 3 games on the go at once. There was a warm welcome tonight to our latest European IBG newcomer, Johan from Sweden. Without wishing to stereotype people by their nationality, I think that he will probably have to be referred to as ‘Swedish Johan’, to distinguish him from our resident ‘Dutch Johan’. Rather spookily, they are both nurses too…….

Tonight saw a nice variety of games played, although there was a definite leaning towards those which involved ‘hidden identities’. The result of which was that by the end of the evening, there were a number of IBG’ers wandering about having a bit of crisis of identity, not knowing exactly who they were – Sheriff / Spy / Renegade / Geek? At least Jon was safe in the knowledge that whatever happened, it was a certainty that he would end up as a Spy……

So, with Steph positively pleading to play this as a starter we commenced with a 4 player game of -

Apples to Apples (thanks James for this info)
... no make that 5 players... no 6, ok 7,... 8 ?! With the number of players increasing quicker than the bids on Scott’s 'now up for auction' copy of Goa we realised the benefits of this game to begin the evening... I’m wondering what the world record is for the biggest game of Apples to Apples... ?
Now, apologies, but not realising I was going to write this up I have no notes... and being above a certain age my memory is vague. I do remember that Ian won though with about 6/7 cards, I got off to a hot start and then apparently fell asleep, I think Scott ended up with 4 cards, and (and this might be a little sketchy) Gareth might’ve got one.
Certain members amongst us, in lieu of having any tealeaves to read, like to use the adjectives won in Apples to Apples to gain insight into the personalities of each player.. so from memory (and, I admit , a rather large touch of imagination) I present a few examples of the kind of people we have along to the IBG:

Ian – Arrogant, Grimy, unreliable, unfriendly (and 3 more of a similar nature)
Noel – Subterfuge, Untrustworthy, Spylike
Gareth – Imprecise, Rule-befuddled
Jon – Devious, persuasive, Not-to-be-trusted-in-games-of-small-world-ness
Scott – Calculating, mathematical, Complex-quadratic-equation-solvingish
James – charming, witty, entertaining, suave, oh, and, inventive and massive-self-deluded-ness

(ok, I may have made a 'few' of those up... but Ian’s did come out something like that... honest!)

After that, it was an earlier-than-usual appearance for -

The Resistance (thanks to Scott for this one)
Scott’s plan to have a table of the Resistance all night started off well and first to the table were eight of us, with those only mildly interested being forced to play Revolution instead. There were a few comments like, "oh but this is an end of the night game isn’t it?" Its okay, nothing bad will happen, except if you’re on the wrong team....
Scott again had the good grace to join the league of spies, assisted with new-to-the-game Steph and untrustworthy Barrie (when he’s on the resistance side at least).
A lot of attention was deflected with teaching people the game, making it easy for the spies to go undercover and no-one dared accuse Steph of playing games, using an innocent approach of rules reminders (probably as a bluff) with Barrie playing that classic ‘fool’ tactic ("oh, if I’d played that card to look at what was played last round ,we’d have time to catch the spies but now we don’t - oh no! now they’ve got away with it...")
With 8 players it was quite tricky as there were three people sent on the first mission and Scott quickly put in the first sabotage, but there was enough deflection to not pin it down to anyone. Steph used her undercover ways to sabotage the next and by the third no-one had enough information to root out the spies and yet again it was failed.
A whitewash (or technically a red wash) for the spies.
Scott, Steph and Barrie – spies win; John, James, Maynard, Noel (I know, I was pretty sure he’d be a spy too), Gareth - lose

After Ian had shown some interest in a rematch, Jon did not need any more encouragement to bring out –

Daniel and Philip also joined in (more by default than anything else, as they weren’t interested in an early evening game of Resistance), but the rules are simple and so we were soon off and running.
Jon had a great first round, getting 3 cubes onto the board, whereas Ian failed miserably and ended up with the dreaded 5 Gold for the second round. Philip soon got into action by taking the Spy for several rounds running, which enabled him to remove some of Jon’s surfeit of influence from the board. Daniel started well and got several cubes into the Plantation, but after that seemed to lose his way, and chose to bid 5 Gold on single areas, that unfortunately were subsequently won by players with Force or Blackmail.
By the mid-game, Ian had been using the middle row of characters to good effect, and for a couple of rounds had 10 tokens to bid with – racking up plenty of support and influence in the process. However, as we have come to learn quickly in this game, it doesn’t take many rounds for the wheels to come off, and he was soon back down to a single Blackmail plus Gold again.
Jon had pretty much locked out the Cathedral and Town Hall, whilst Philip was gunning for the 50 support provided by the Fortress. There was quite a battle going on for the Harbour and the Market, with multiple cubes switching about at the hands of the Apothecary.
In the last round, Jon had 2 Blackmail which was enough to secure him the Apothecary, which he used to finally get the majority of influence in the Harbour, whilst forcing a tie in the Market. This swing of points in the last round ensured that he came out on top, with Ian (despite what the scores look like!) being close behind. Daniel wore a bemused look on his face all the way through, so you may have to ask him what he really thought of the experience!
Jon 189; Ian 127; Philip 91; Daniel 44

Apparently The Resistance can’t go on all night and the group split up. While waiting for the next table to reform there was a quick hand of -

No Thanks (thanks Scott)
This was requested by Steph, as it is her go-to game for a quick win; well, not today.
Steph took a big gamble early on and stole a few of the high cards away from Scott who was getting a bit too greedy with sending them around the table. This to’ing and fro’ing left Gareth in a nice position to sample a few cards here and there but otherwise avoid the big ones.
Gareth 38; Scott 58; Steph 91

Keeping with the hidden identity theme, Gareth was keen to try -

Shadow Hunters (thanks again Scott)
Steph and Scott also obliged, along with Dan, Ian and Philip. The game was new to a couple of people but it’s quick to catch on. With 6 of us there were a team of two shadows, a team of two hunters and a couple of neutral characters with their own agenda.
The game started off cautiously, no-one daring to attack anyone until they knew who they were, except Dan, eager to attack anyone within range. Scott was soon to follow with the attacks and they looked promising to be our Shadows. Scott was soon everyone’s target, if not already, and ended up revealing himself as a vampire to recover health after an attack.
Once the ball was rolling and health was spiralling towards death, Dan ended up being the first to die at which point he proclaimed victory! Being the neutral character with a death wish, wanting to be the centre of attention and the first to die to win. Scott was under the impression that the game continues until either the hunters or shadows are defeated but apparently not - any winning character stops the game.
Dan – won; everyone else - lost

With the first going so quickly, a new hand was dealt in and in an unfortunate turn of events, Scott believed Gareth to be one of the good guys early on (and as a shadow again, started launching the attacks) and when Gareth was nearly defeated Scott had switched to be the focus again (note for next game: refrain from attacking people too early, it makes you a target) and was the first to die. Gareth soon revealed himself as a shadow as well for a healing opportunity, his special power being that he can lie and had unfortunately lied to his ally, and Scott had wasted his efforts (as usual).
Gareth put up a valiant fight against the now revealed hunters Dan and Steph, while Ian and Philip as Neutrals seemed to favour Shadows and Hunters respectively. Ian was quickly bumped off and just Gareth was left to fight against three others, who were all rolling well and the game was over. Philip didn’t need to ally with the Hunters, he was hoping to raid a dead body for a necessary piece of equipment to win but sadly could not get the last piece, even though he had two out of three for most of the game.
Dan and Steph – won; everyone else - lost.

For the first part of the evening it was decided to stay in 2 large groups, and after a last-minute defection by Jon, it was a full-house for –

7 Wonders
This was new to Johan and Noel, but James did a good job of not confusing them too much and we were soon underway. As is common with this game, you don’t actually pay much attention to what is going on around the table, apart from the players on either side of you, so this report may be brief!
Warmongering did not seem to be a high priority with anyone around the table, apart from Maynard, who had become frustrated at his lack of success playing the pacifist in previous games, and therefore decided to play the aggressor this time. This had the knock-on effect of James also building a small army, which in turn made its way around to Jon. By the end of the game, only John had resolutely refused to get involved in such macho behaviour, choosing instead to build victory point buildings and Guilds (oh, and accumulating so much coinage that by the end of the game, the bank had run out). Unfortunately for Maynard, his neighbour Noel had decided to meet force with force, and ended up with more Military points than Maynard anyway.
In his first game, Johan was doing well and stacked up a lot of victory point buildings. Had he succeeded in defeating Jon’s army in round 3, he may have even been close to winning. Barrie tried the ‘Agricola’ strategy, of getting a little bit of everything, which we are finding is probably not the way to win the game. He also managed to be the one player in this game who built a duplicate (VP) building and was publicly shamed as a result.
James had focussed on cards that gave VP's in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and consequently posted a very competitive score. A large proportion of Maynard's total had come as a result of his collection of Scientific buildings, which the rest of the players had allowed him to collect almost without competition.
When the scores had been totalled, the result was very close, with the top 6 players within 7 points of each other, but Jon and John headed the field, and agreed to an honourable draw rather than work out what the tiebreaker was (actually it was coinage, in which case John would have sneaked it by a couple of coins).

Meanwhile, back in 'hidden identity' land -

Castle of the Devil (thanks Scott once more)
With Dan not interested in the Resistance but we had yet another hidden team game and so Scott taught this to the table after refreshing himself of the rules. This time pitting the order of True Lies against the order of Open Secrets who are racing against each other to collect the sacred items - Goblets or Silver Keys respectively.
No-one knows who is on their team at the start and during the game you need to work out who you are allied with and also get three Goblets/Keys. If you think you know who is on your team and that you have all the items you need between you and your team mates then on your turn you announce victory. If you get it right then your team wins, otherwise you lose (Ian described it a bit like Cluedo which I guess I can see the resemblance).
Primarily on your turn you will have one of two options, firstly you can start a fight with another player, you become the attacker, they the defender. Clockwise from the attacker, the players on the sidelines can either support the attack or the defence. Each character has a special ability that can be added to support the fight, if appropriate, as well as particular items. If the result ends in a tie then the aggressor gets to draw a card and this is the primary way for cards to enter the game, especially at the start. Otherwise the winner, either defender or attacker, gets to look at the loser's allegiance or their hand of cards and steal one, but not both at the same time.
Once players have some more cards, instead of fighting you can trade cards, you pass one to a player of your choice. If they accept it they give you one back and they involve various powers during the game and there are two special items (bags) which when traded give the trading player a chance to draw a card from the deck. When the deck is empty the bags become either a key or a goblet (putting 4 of each in the deck and making it easier for a team to get to the three they need).
On to the game, Steph seemed to be the favourite and within a short period of time had successfully won a large number of fights and knew the allegiance of everyone at the table, so who would she be chums with? Dan and Gareth knew who each other were early on too but with a mix of both supporting each other or going against each other it was difficult to tell if they were on the same team or not. The other half of the table, Ian, Philip and Scott were left with a fair number of failed fights, putting our trust in the other team members (and hoping we weren’t all on the same side and leaving the ones with the power to draw all the items).
It wasn’t long before Steph and Dan were flirting across the table with lots of secret trades and forced draws, getting them both a full hand of items. It wasn’t looking good. Some last minute passing gave Scott an item to pass away and stop that player from declaring victory (they have to accept the trade too) but was quickly shot down when Steph quickly passed it on with a card to move cards around the table.
Luckily Gareth could declare victory before Steph - he was obviously part of the Order of True Lies and successfully picked his team mates Ian and Scott. With three goblets in Gareth’s hands alone, we also had two keys between us so the other team couldn’t have won immediately anyway.
Gareth, Scott, Ian – won; Dan, Steph and Philip – lost

Looking for a quick filler, it was a welcome return to the strangely-titled –

This was new to Noel and Johan, and after a combined effort from the other players, the rules were (sort of) explained. After a couple of hands, it all starts to become clearer though.
In the first round, Johan got into a rather unfortunate run of putting down exactly the wrong card at the wrong time, and racked up a big total. Maynard was keeping him company in terms of collecting numerous bulls’ heads, whilst Jon managed to steer clear of trouble and ended on the sought-after zero points.
There was time for another round, and this time Johan had honed his tactics and ‘won’ the round on 6 points. Noel and Barrie were the big scorers this round, along with Maynard again, who was at least consistent (having scored 24 in both rounds). Despite having to take a couple of big cards, Jon had scored low enough in the second round to keep hold of his lead.
Despite the slightly random nature of this game, it is always lots of fun, with many cheers and groans (mainly from Maynard) during the ‘reveal’.
Jon 12(0+12); James 16(9+7); Noel 24(4+20); John 24(16+8); Barrie 30(6+24); Johan 36(30+6); Maynard 48(24+24)

It was now time to split the group of 6 up, with 3 of them opting for John's latest purchase -

Rallyman (thanks John for this report)
Three intrepid Rally drivers from the Isleworth Board Gamers had submitted their entry forms for the first annual London Apprentice Rally. Luckily they were all accepted. After a quick go through of the rules and a look at the first stage they were ready for the off.
As it was decided that John was the most experienced Rally driver he was first away. He roared away from the start line and was soon in a high gear. Next up was James and he also roared away after giving John time to get away from the start. The rally stewards then made a crucial mistake by letting Jon start before James had got far enough away from the start.
John continued on driving well but maybe a little cautiously. James meanwhile feeling the pressure from Jon tried to push it a little too much and span out of control. Luckily for James he spun out onto some grass so he did not damage his car. Jon seized the opportunity to roar past James. (Lots of roaring in rallying). A couple of tight corners negotiated well by all drivers saw this short stage come to a close, with James and Jon both nipping through a shortcut at the end.
Times for the first stage:
John 2:50; James 3:10; Jon 2:20

The second stage was a lot longer, with some fast corners at the beginning and end and a couple of very nasty hairpins in the middle. Jon started this stage in first place and made sure his lead was never in danger with some very smooth driving. James tried hard to push the pace and got away with a couple of risky moves before coming a cropper on the final bend. Again he span onto the grass. John obviously feeling left out by all the fun James was having also had a nice spin coming out of the last bend. These two spins meant Jon came home well clear of the other two drivers.
Times for second stage:
Jon 4:40; John 6:50; James 6:40

Total times: Jon 7:00; John 9:40; James 9:50

All of the drivers enjoyed the event and are looking forward to next year’s (week's, month's...) rally.

And the other 3 chose -
Stone Age (thanks Noel for this one)
Johan, Barrie and Noel set about developing their settlements in the thematic, intuitive game that is Stone Age. Despite this being an easy to pick up, quick-playing game with straightforward rules & strategy our 2 experienced players (and rules explainers) managed to make some basic mistakes in the game that surely would have seen them eaten by bears if the game was even more thematic...
This was Johan's first play but he quickly established a large resource collection and began to acquire some Tools to help him with subsequent hunts. The Tools were generally avoided by Barrie and Noel, and Barrie in particular made some early plays into the building stack. Noel then got involved with some early building and it was clear that these Stone Age communities would be quick builds with few 'Culture' cards in play.
Johan now put his Tools to good use, so to speak, and did some good work in the gold mines, quickly converting these into buildings. Noel's building plans had to be put on hold on 2 consecutive turns when he forgot to count the necessary resources to pay for the development cards, leaving him short for the building costs. However, those development cards, with their Meeple Multipliers would turn out to be crucial in the end game scoring. Noel also managed to gain a couple of the 'wildcard' buildings to good effect with high point scores.
Meanwhile, Barrie's building continued apace and at the endgame stage had a lead of some 15 points over Noel and Johan. At this stage the Development cards came good for Noel with a 32 point score from the meeple multiplier taking him past Barrie (who had misread his tool multiplier and ended up with the unsatisfactory result of multiplying 3 by 0).
Maybe minds were on the deceptions that were to come...
Noel 106; Barrie 88; Johan 83

And still, the other table were keen to switch identities again -
Bang! (thanks again Scott)
The night’s theme had now been firmly established - everyone except Scott wanted to play COTD again but something quicker would allow time for The Resistance again. So Bang was proffered from the table ‘o’ games and fitted perfectly to our theme.
Another one for Scott to teach as he had the most experience with it but the cards have lots of symbols and the player aid card doesn’t explain everything in enough details but a reading of the rules as we played corrected a few of the early mistakes.
Ian was the Sheriff with the rest of us hidden - one the Deputy trying to help the Sheriff; one the Renegade trying to kill off everyone but must kill the Sheriff; last of all are the Outlaws who just want to see the Sheriff bumped off.
There was a lot of Banging around the table with innuendos aplenty and Steph was quickly banged to death, losing one of the Outlaws. Fortunately for her, The Resistance was started up on the other table and she left to join them.
Gareth was the culprit but he seemed to be playing a renegade game, Phil was doing his Deputy duty of putting everyone else in jail and soon Scott, Gareth and Dan were all imprisoned while Scott was killed in his cells, never to escape (who also bailed to join The Resistance). It’s hard to say who was winning or losing, those that could leave the table or had to remain.
I hear Gareth was killed off next and then Dan, Dan stuck to his guns of not wanting to play The Resistance and Gareth joined the other table as well, leaving the Deputy and Sheriff to duke it out? That doesn’t sound right. Well Philip had played a good game and despite putting everyone in Jail was actually the Renegade and Gareth had played a respectable Deputy in hindsight but getting locked up in your own jail wasn’t his best move. Ian and Phil battled it out and rumour tells me that Philip won but all other witnesses were deceased so it’s anyone’s guess.
Philip – won; Everyone else – lost
And to round the evening off, there was only one choice –
The Resistance
With constantly increasing numbers of players at the beginning of the game, Steph dealt out the character cards about 4 times (not helped by actually dealing some of them face-up….) Finally, the number of players settled at 8, and the rules were hastily explained to newcomer Johan. With 8 players, you have 5 Rebels and 3 Spies, but as the hour was late it was decided to play without the plot cards.
Barrie was the first mission leader and instantly chose Johan and James to go with him. Although this mission succeeded, we have learned that this tells us little about the players’ identities. Noel suffered from his reputation of being devious, and as the next mission leader, his choices were ignored.
Scott, however managed to get his selections of himself, Johan, James and Barrie passed. However, a single ‘fail’ card revealed the presence of at least one spy. Suspicion fell on Barrie, partly due to his speed of choosing the first mission crew, and partly due to his support of Noel’s choices.
Therefore James picked himself, Scott, Steph and Johan for the 3rd mission. This appeared to have been an excellent choice, as the mission succeeded, further heaping suspicion on the protesting Barrie, who was still trying to point the finger at Johan (how rude...)
As the next mission required 5 participants but also 2 ‘fails’, there was general optimism that a choice of the previous 4 plus any other player would bound to be successful. Steph took rather a long time to decide who to take on her mission, firstly picking Barrie, but after several disapproving noises, picked Gareth. When the cards were turned over, to the surprise of 5 people, there were 2 ‘fails’ amongst them. All eyes turned to Steph, and Scott took the part of witness for the prosecution by putting forward a good case as to why she was the spy (taking her time to choose, and first picking Barrie). This sounded convincing, and if true, also meant that Gareth and Barrie were probably the other bad guys.
It appeared that Johan hadn’t quite grasped this, as he chose differently for his mission, but his ‘lack of understanding’ was forgiven as he was a newcomer. Jon (who had been unusually quiet up until this point) had decided that Scott’s arguments held water and chose himself, Johan, Scott, James and (against his better judgement) Noel for the 5th and final mission. Gareth and Barrie tried to protest their innocence, although Steph appeared resigned to her fate. The cards were collected and revealed. Was it a famous victory for the Resistance? Was it heck – 2 ‘fails’ were in the pile and smiles immediately broke out upon the faces of Steph, Johan and Jon, who had been conveniently sitting next to each other.
In this game, the ‘double-bluff’ by the Spies in round 3 (Johan and Steph both passing the mission) had been the key to their success, as no-one believed that neither of them would have failed this mission. A risky strategy indeed, but successful nonetheless, and yet another win for the Spies.
Steph, Johan, Jon – spies won; Noel, James, Scott, Barrie, Gareth – lost
And that was the end of a very enjoyable evening. I'm guessing that there will be the return of some Euro-fare next week, as there was a definite lack of cube-pushing tonight. But if there's one thing that you can be sure of, it's that there will be more opportunities for underhand spy shenanigans....

1 comment:

  1. Actually, Scott, I also won the first game of Shadow Hunters :p My neutral objective was to be alive at the end of the game. I was alive when Dan died, thus I also won! :D