Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Madness descends on IBG....

Players: Jeff, James, Daniel, Barrie, Jon, Scott, Adam, Johan, Steph, Lasantha, Paul, Philip, Gareth, John, James II (Tet), Alex

16 IBG’ers turned up tonight, including a return to last week’s newcomer Tet (now known as James II?!), who also brought along another newbie, Alex. It was also a welcome back to Jeff, who we hadn't seen for a while, but I think had an ulterior motive to come....

This evening, the hidden identity games were put to one side (apart from the current hottie, The Resistance) in favour of a mix of auctions, negotiations, dice-rolling and ‘only 50% of the components are included in the game’ games. There was also the opportunity for Barrie to bravely use his guitar as a lethal weapon, Daniel to bravely hide in a cupboard, and James to go completely insane whilst in possession of a loaded shotgun. Read on, Macduff…

First up -

Pinguin Party (thanks Scott)
In a much maligned fate, the penguins have not seen much table time lately due to an unfriendly bunch of IBG’ers who have no love for little penguins. Despite this, the early arrivals had a quick four player game in the absence of Apples to Apples or enough players (or indeed a copy of) the Resistance.
Scott, Steph, Lasantha and Adam all knew what to do and we were quickly under way. Nothing particularly painful to deal with and some arrivals turned up about half way through so we cut the game short, just long enough to get a win in for Scott & Steph.
Scott 0; Steph 0; Adam 2; Lasantha 3

Next up -

The Resistance (thanks again Scott for these 2 reports)
Hurray! A copy had arrived, and Steph did her best begging approach to get anyone else to join and so we got a six player underway fairly quickly with the addition of James and Barrie. Lasantha was next in line to learn the marvels of being a member of the Resistance, or at least just pretending to be.
James tried a little tactic while his eyes were closed and pointed at Steph in a vain hope to get her to laugh and thus confirm she was a spy, he heard a giggle but not from Steph and from its girlish nature assumed it was Lasantha; so he kept his eye on her, this would do little to help find the real spies though.
Fortunately Barrie was a spy, and I say fortunately as he is rather useful at giving himself away. I can’t recall exactly what occurred but the Resistance had picked amongst themselves some good teams early on, with Steph making the fatal mistake of trusting Scott, even after last week’s hounding experience; but this time it paid off and after seeing Barrie and Adam aligned to the same decision on a couple of occasions they were ignored leaving The Resistance victorious!
Resistance Won (Scott, Steph, Lasantha and James); Spies Lost (Barrie and Adam)

(the girlish sounding laugh was apparently Adam, or James is getting old and can’t discern noises very well anymore)

The Resistance
James and Barrie escaped and were quickly replaced by Gareth, Johan and Philip. Gareth and Philip weren’t “Steph” keen to play but they had attuned their logic quite well over the last few weeks. “Well, if the other table is playing Mansions of Madness and we’re waiting for this lot to finish playing Resistance then we may as well be in the game”
Straight from the off, Gareth was leader and picked Johan to go with him, the most untrustworthy people at the table and despite Scott not wanting it to go ahead on principle, no-one else objected and quickly there was a mission sabotaged. Gareth immediately pointed the blame at Johan with a “Oh, Johan”, which Scott had gotten used to meaning, “Oh Johan, (I’m framing you to be a spy, don’t be bitter about it later, it’s just a game)” but there were still two other spies out there and two fairly untrustworthy suspects so they both had to be ignored for a while.
Gareth ended up being ostracised on Scott’s gut of Gareth’s response and Philip had been whittled out too after another failed mission but he seemed to be aligned with Adam and thus we thought we held a strong team of resistance members; off we trundled on an ideal mission but it was sabotaged. But how, we were all supposed to be good? Scott immediately flipped Johan’s card, believing him to be the double crosser and we should have maybe trusted Gareth. No, Johan was good, Steph? Myself? Lasantha! No-one expected Lasantha to be evil. The Resistance will chalk it up to new player friendliness.
Spies Won (Gareth, Philip, Lasantha); Resistance Lost (Scott, Steph, Johan, Adam)

James, Jon, Daniel and Barrie had settled down as investigators for some Mansions of Madness fun, but halfway through the set-up, Jeff informed them that they had to depart whilst he did something evil and devious. Therefore, looking for some way to pass 15 minutes, James pulled out –

Light Speed
This game has to go down in the annals of IBG history as one of the strangest game experiences ever. Basically, everyone has a small deck of cards with spaceships on, which are shooting lasers in various directions. Players throw these down on the table attempting to aim the lasers at other people’s spaceships or the asteroid in the middle, and when the first player has finished, everyone else has to simply dump their remaining cards. In numerical order, the ships then shoot it out, and the player who shoots down the most ships wins.
The game also requires 4 sets of chips (not included, but fortunately the IBG’ers always have a spare set of poker chips handy) and a straight edge (also not included, but a paper napkin was a reasonable stand-in…)
I suspect that there is intended to be a level of strategy about how the ships are placed, but as Daniel threw his down in 4 seconds flat, it turned out rather randomly. So after much napkin-measuring, it turned out that Daniel’s strategy was a winner, and he romped away with a win, although the actual scores have fortunately been lost to posterity. The game did only take about 15 mins, which is perhaps its only redeeming feature…..

Meanwhile, at the table by the window -
Troyes (thanks for this one Paul)
Paul spotted Troyes loitering on the game table and having really enjoyed his only previous play was keep to rope in other willing die rollers to help construct a cathedral or two. He soon found two very willing participants in James II / Tet (owner of the game) and Alex (new to IBG, but who'd played Troyes with James many times before) and one 'difficult to read' enrollee in Philip. It also clicked that having pronounced the game TROY-EZ previously, that he was a fool and that James' French pronunciation TROY-AY must actually be correct, the title coming from the name of the cathedral town in the Champagne, and all.
Troyes was one of those games that no one knew anything about prior to last Essen, but it came away from the show having grabbed some very favourable headlines as it adds a new spin to the die rolling mechanism. It is certainly very 'Eurogame', attempting to ensure that even though dice are the main foundation of the game, that luck is very much minimised.
At the start of the game, the number of die are equal. Within a few turns Paul had taken over half of the red (aggressive) dice, but was feeling the pinch with only a few dernier to rub together, while James started to shed the die (willing or otherwise) but started to rake in the cash.
The comment from Alex very early on was that it was impossible to predict the winner until all of the points were counted at endgame, turned out to be particularly prophetic.
Philip soon made his intentions known as he too set about gobbling up all of the die slots and at at one point was rolling at least 5 red, 3 yellow and 3 white dice. Comments such as 'I've never seen that before' were heard from our more seasoned Troyes players.
Alex and James both jumped at the chance to use the goldsmith, who made an appearance in round 3 (of 6), and they both spent most of the rest of the game turning as many yellow die as they could muster into both money and victory points courtesy of some cunning Goldsmith alchemy. Paul joined in as it seemed like it was too good to be true, but maybe too little too late.
In round 4 the bank was officially bankrupt - another first according to James and Alex. IOUs to each of the players piled up where normally stacks of denier would be. This raised the question of this being an unusual game or if the design really should include more little round coins.
Due to the vast numbers of dice that Philip wielded for most of the game, my money was squarely on him to clean up and take victory, but actually at the end it was the die-poor and cash rich James that took the spoils, with Alex in second spot, both showing the value of the goldsmith, especially when used to excess, as Alex's earlier wise words came to mind.
James (Tet) 39; Alex 34; Paul 32; Philip 30
I really like the game. The iconography might take a little getting used to, but like most games after the first round everyone is there and it is a joy to play. I still can't get used to calling it by the correct name though. Repeat after me: "TROYAY, TROYAY, TROYAY......"
And now it was time for the pre-arranged game of –
Mansions of Madness (gratitude to sir Daniel for this epic...)
I write this in the knowledge that my words will likely be disregarded, spurned and mocked by those cube pushing fellows who do not comprehend the forces in this universe that transcend all of time and space. Yet still I must commit the terrors of what I have seen to serve as a warning for others, lest they too be drawn into the wretched descent of inescapable whispering darkness from which it is too late for me to escape.
A most curious occurrence happened at a recent meeting of the Isleworth board, card and dice game enthusiasts. A group of gamers sat down to peruse the latest feat of cardboard based entertainment from that reknowned producer of cyclopean thematic games, the very same manufacturer of the mighty Arkham Horror that is rumoured to straddle all of time and space and which is penned by the mad prophet Al'Hazred, choosing to situate themselves precisely at the table that is usually spurned by the common gamer due to what is whispered in dark corners as the influence of ancient elder forces from before the beginning of time, manifesting their darkly lugubrious nature as a bit of a wobble.
The strange happenstance that was to drive our erstwhile gaming group into the realms of madness, the unusual event that was to unleash the maddening horror of the great old ones upon the sleepy village of Isleworth, that idyllic garden previously unperturbed by the dark miasma of those powerful forgotten beings who permeate our subconscious, was the discovery of a charred and bloodstained journal. The horrific descent into madness that was shortly to fall upon the unsuspecting quintet derived from an impending sense of unease, an aura of dread that no individual could correctly ascertain as belonging to a definable earthly source.
A feeling of fortean dread began to permeate the atmosphere as they realised the much maligned and unexplainable wobble had inexplicably disappeared. The reason for this was quickly revealed; one of the legs of the table had been propped up by the application of a bundle of papers placed underneath it. With a mighty heave Barrie risked life, limb and sanity, pulling the papers free of the embrace of the weighty wooden table. The papers proved to be the heretoforementioned insanity-inducing journal, miscoloured with blood that was soon to be, by consensus, agreed to have come from only one source, that being the source of mortal man, or perhaps even that of something far stranger....
The horrific notion that this blood, the blood on the journal now held in Barrie’s shaking hands, could be from something so unexplainably horrific that it would defy the imagination, the very imagination now warped by forces ancient beyond time and space, that mountainously cyclopean scope of eternity, to even attempt thinking about how to possibly explain it, in words understandable by contemporary means, other than to mention that it was, indeed, a very horrific thought, beyond comprehension in the mortal plane, and quite possibly Cyclopean in nature, that cannot be classified or accounted for in the enduring and unavoidable attraction it enures in that most fragile of things, the Human subconscious.
Turning the charred pages with trepidation, the stoic Northener began to read the spidery handwriting contained within the necronomicomatic document (click to enlarge):

Flicking quickly through several pages which describe the state of the gardens in great detail, our hardy soul continues reading the terrifying passages from the cipherous tome with scant regard for the potential detriment to his sanity, such is the inexpicable, undescribable and longitudinously worded terrifying affect upon his mortal mind.

The next series of passages in that dreaded dark journal that was meant to be hidden from the sight of man lest its unexplainable horrors drive the weak-willed into paroxisms of terror, were scrawled in a manner that intimated the fevered manner of a person subjected to the most depraved and unimaginable cyclopean horror...

And it’s sadly there that the narrators words are cut short, the charred and blackened pages of the despicable text thankfully cut short by the charred and blackened edges that were charred and blackened beyond readability by something which had caused them to become charred and blackened.

Will there be a return to the Mansions of Madness? Quite possibly, and it will probably be cyclopean in nature.

James, Barrie, Jon, Daniel - all eventually lost.
(Technically Jeff won - although he did 'do a Gareth' at the end - but we all know the victory really belonged to the dice. Bonus points to James for heroically abandoning a nun in a burning building, surrounded by zombies, without any means of defending herself.)

Phew! Back on Table I, there were events of a much less cyclopean nature taking place -

I'm The Boss (thanks John for this report)
Five IBG'ers were all feeling warm and fuzzy so decided to play that friendly love fest of game known as I’m The Boss. There would be fun, laughter and good times. Oh who am I kidding, I’m the Boss would bring out the vicious and nasty side of Mr Happy. It’s a game of do unto others before they can do to you - and after as well for good measure.
The five venture capitalists were Scott, Johan, Gareth, Adam and John. Only Scott and John had played before so they were rubbing their hands just thinking of all the pain they were going to bring the newbies. The game started in typical fashion with extra cards being taken. Then the deals started to be made and the cards started to fly.
For the majority of the game most of the deals seemed to be made with the heads of families. It seemed every time someone got sent on a flight, Johan was there with a stop card. I think he must have got all of them.
After a particularly nasty deal was carried that left most player low on cards, it dawned on the players that if the other players don’t have cards they can’t block me. A number of deals were quickly closed with Scott making an incredible $18 million on just one deal.
Then Gareth drew three cards and an evil grin appeared on his face. What had he drawn? We soon found out as three times in a row he played one of the three 'I’m the Boss' cards he had drawn and made deals that particularly benefitted him and Adam. The 'I’m the Boss' cards also meant Adam got three goes in a row, including one where he matched Scott’s $18 million in one deal. The end was now approaching. John and Johan had pretty much been frozen out by the rest of the players. John nearly finishing on a very awful $8 million until Gareth took pity and included him in the last couple of deals.
Finally the roll was made to end the game and it was time to tot up. When the hot air finally cleared we all saw that Adam was the winner.
Adam $62m; Gareth $53m; Scott $52m; Johan £29m; John £23m

With 5 players left around and most games being suggested catering for four, the only one that seemed suitable was -

Power Grid (thanks again to our resident reporter, Scott)
There were some quick murmurs about you know who (Scott) being in the game, but if you watch closely, Scott’s Power Grid edge was lost long ago. Unfortunately, at the time of selection, Adam had popped off and upon his return we found out that he didn’t much enjoy Power Grid - enough to prefer watching the Madhouse instead. Sorry Adam, we didn’t know. Enough was set-up that the four of us continued (Gareth, Scott, John & Johan).
We played a faster map on Benelux, the trick being that an extra power plant is removed each round (the lowest), helping speed through to the better plants and stopping a power plant market stall. There was also a refocus on oil over coal with a slightly better starting and restock rate but this was quickly re-balanced when almost everyone started with an oil plant.
Scott got the luck of the draw in city building as he went centre left with a couple of houses, dis-incentivising too many people to go West or South, but then having everyone after him go North/East was rather useful, giving Scott the most room to expand early on and the board quickly became clogged for the others. Scott would also refuse to build to 7 cities to trigger step 2 with such an advantage with location; this however turned sour when we skipped straight to Step 3 in the power plants market (given that it cycles twice as fast) and Scott had the highest Power Plant at that time, giving him the last opportunity to expand and make the most of, well, anything he was saving for (serves him right really I hear you all thinking).
There then came the round of good plant buying, everyone was keen to get to a capacity of 17, so much so that bidding went through the roof for anything that didn’t require fossil fuels, as they were firmly up in the 7’s and 8’s after no useful nuke or garbage plants coming up at the right time. The fusion plant (6 cities powered for free) went in the 80’s and the large garbage (7 for 3 garbage) for 71 went first to John and Scott respectively. This left Johan and Gareth to have a little spat over a large coal plant. Gareth managed to trick Johan into a big bid and dropped out, picking up a cheap plant for himself, only getting him to 16 cities while the rest of us were at 17 capacity but he didn’t pay through the nose for it either.
The curtailed expansion early on had left networks a bit underdeveloped, and so cash saving was required to get to the magic 17 cities, this took a couple of rounds but even then most didn’t have enough to compete. Gareth and Scott were looking to be the contenders as their fossil fuel requirements weren’t as high as John and Johan’s, although Gareth did need to replace a coal plant with a wind one (and still only stay at 16 capacity). John and Johan were up first and didn’t hit their target fof 17. Scott tried his best to get there but with the usual Power Grid tradition, he was $1 short of getting the city he needed to secure victory. Gareth just needed to get to 17 and have more than $25 cash remaining to win on the tie-break which he did comfortably.
Gareth 17 cities(16 powered) $50; Scott 16 (16) $25; John 15; Johan 13

Time for a quick filler -

For Sale (thanks again Scott)
For Sale was looking lonely on the table and with only five players, we gave it a whirl, it being fairly well known, there was little to explain. Scott ended up collecting a fairly middling set of properties and Johan seemed to get more than his fair share of low ones, with the few high ones scattered amongst the others. The selling phase often had cheque values close together and Johan even managed to sell his cardboard box for $6,000, but not enough for the win.
Scott 56 ($3k cash); Johan 56 ($2k); Gareth, Adam and John < 56 (sorry, misplaced the score sheet)

With the stragglers remaining, we rounded up enough players and interest for a couple more games of (what else...?) -

The Resistance (more thanks to Scott for these last 2 reports)
James II and Alex were both new to it and they cottoned on pretty quickly but Alex had a potentially tough position of being a spy, playing with the plot cards thrown in and being fairly new to the crowd as well.
Gareth managed to be starting leader once again and gave Alex a card to look at the identity of someone on your left or right, he looked at Gareth’s and said some strange muffled words but eventually decided he would not reveal his identity just yet.
The first mission went ahead and it was successful, it was looking rather good for the resistance when Alex finally decides that he can now reveal that Gareth is evil and that he’s been undercover this whole time. Gareth was shocked and appalled and strangely, almost believable. Philip helped seed his fate by giving Gareth a card to show any player at the table his identity. Scott offered to prove Gareth innocent if he truly was and so Gareth picked Philip instead, who quickly confirmed that Gareth was bad. Yet the table didn’t believe that both Philip and Alex were good and so they must be bad.
With just one spy left, they couldn’t muster up a counter attack, particularly when one mission needed two fails to be sabotaged - poor Johan, he didn’t have a chance.
Resistance won (Scott, Gareth, Paul & James II); Spies lost (Johan, Alex & Philip)

The Resistance
With enough time to play another, everyone was keen, especially our new recruits. This time, the spies had started a devilish plot and within the first two rounds, Alex managed to look at both Gareth and James card and confirm they were good - they were also sent out on the 1st two missions which went successfully.
This was looking easy for the resistance, three confirmed good and two successful missions, but everyone was claiming to be good and everyone had a plausible case except maybe Johan, who in his way had looked at Paul’s card and confirmed that they were both on the same team - not that they were both good but that they were on the same team. “So you’re both spies then?” Scott observed, believing the three confirmed goodies to be on his side.
The chink in the armour occurred when Philip picked a different team than those confirmed, looking suspiciously like a spy but even more suspiciously, when the vote was cast to sent them out, Alex and Gareth were for it. Why would they be for it when they could be on the last good team and win it? There was something clearly wrong with that voting and the table descended into utter confusion.
In the end, trust needed to be placed in Paul and Johan, with Philip assumed to be the other spy, and James the real good member of their team. Yet James still trusted Alex from the first rounds and initially rejected the team of four resistance members (James, Scott, Paul & Johan). The rest of us put up a good argument and convinced James to trust us and that Alex was lying, this got through the second time round and the mission was of course very successful.
Phew, that was a close one, the undercover spies had given themselves away before they could do much damage.
Resistance won (James II, Scott, Paul & Johan); Spies Lost (Philip, Alex & Gareth)

Not a good night for the spies and if you look closely, Scott was on the good side every game, something to bear in mind for next week as he continues his streak of official resistance member, assuming it gets played of course. (Oh wait - of course it will be played.......)

Well, that is  quite enough cyclopean madness and skullduggery for one night, but I'm sure that there will be much more where that came from when you join us next week at the same time and place......

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