Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Deadly Sins, Wonders of the World, Dwarves, Itchy Years.....

Players: James, Scott, Andy, Woody, Emma, Philip, Sam

With a ridiculous amount of Bank Holidays looming up, it was no surprise that numbers were down at IBG, with yours truly also being on the absent list (but instead enjoying lying on a beach in sunny Norfolk....) However, it was a welcome to newcomer Sam, and a welcome back to Tim (aka Woody) who is hoping to visit us a bit more often in the future, who helped to bring the numbers up to a cosy 7.

Anyway, here's a round-up of what went on during the evening.

Race for the Galaxy (thanks Scott)
While waiting for the last stragglers to turn up, Philip proffered his copy of RFTG for a quick three player game between Philip, Scott and his friend Sam who he’d dragged along to play some games as well. Sam had played before but not with many of the expansions, so a quick rules overview was given by Philip and we were off.
Unfortunately I made the mistake of giving the scores to Philip who was just about to jet off on holiday for two weeks; so the best of my memory puts Philip the winner with a strategy of getting a ton of prestige and some useful VP consumption, Scott came a valiant second with Sam trailing a little keeping up with learning the new cards as he went.

Parade (thanks Andy)
Early birds Scott, Emma, James and Andy settled on a game of Parade while waiting for the handful of other hardy souls to arrive. It's a card game with an Alice in Wonderland theme, for reasons that escape us all. If you'd like a handy explanation of the rules then see last week's blog.
Emma started very neatly and after several turns had picked up no cards, while Scott and Andy had a few each. James, on the other hand, insisted there would be some kind of bonus for collecting the most of all the colours so picked up furiously whenever opportunity knocked. There wasn't, and this strategy didn't turn out so well.
Andy regularly forgot to take a card after playing one, until Scott picked up ahead of him and declared, after looking at it, that he wasn't putting it back. Andy's memory improved dramatically after that.
In the end it was a comfortable victory for Scott, with just a handful of low scoring cards, and Andy and Emma in second and third. James the magpie lagged some way behind, but don't know if these strategies will work until you try them, eh?

Agricola (thanks again Scott)
Once we had everyone we expected to arrive, the big games came out, since Scott was the only person who actually brought any big games, those were the two that got split across the tables. However table two of James, Emma and Woody, who opted to play Egizia, didn’t know how to play, so Scott was recruited to teach them while Philip explained Agricola to Sam, with Andy raring to go with another outing of the farming game.
As is usual in this game, Philip plays as many cards and bonuses as he can, with the notable occupation of “the oldest occupation”, allowing anyone to pay Philip some food for a Family Growth action from round 5. The rest of us avoided this availability, partly to avoid the steep food cost and partly to keep our in-game wives happy; but Philip used it to great effect. He was a little late to the family growing but soon caught up and had 5 family members well before the end.
Sam got his food engine going early and starting plowing some fields and sowing some grain, with an early pasture and animals as well, this seemed like a good idea at the time until it came to growing his family and needing extra rooms which were a bit more difficult to fund with other areas of his farm improved so early.
Andy seemed to be off to a running start with extra rooms and family members getting their farm ready but in the intervening period they had struggled to find food to keep their energy levels up and had to go begging a little at one stage. They recovered by getting a plethora of Major improvements and racking up a big score in cards, much more than anyone else but by the end had ignored getting much played in the farm leaving 8 spaces still unused.
Scott went early hunting for grain and played a card to start multiplying it in the harvest even without planting it and continued his focus on getting the first extra family member. He then recruited a couple of boars, not just any old boars but truffle hunting boars so whenever he went searching for wood he’d also come back with 2 or 3 food as well. This quickly kept Scott fed as well as denying wood to many of the others for their fences.
The scores were a lot closer this time round but Scott remained victorious, unfortunately for Sam, the newbie is always at a disadvantage.
Scott 36; Philip 29; Andy 25 (looked very promising until all the negatives were counted up); Sam 14

There may be enough demand to keep Agricola ongoing - some sort of game of the year maybe...

The Boss (thanks for this one James)
If our other halves were around this would obviously be the shortest game ever, but as we had the night off the opportunity was there to take over several of the major cities in the USA without having to find excuses why we hadn't finished the washing up.
James, Emma and Andy all put on their worse Tony Soprano accents and after a few rules we got going. This is a great little bidding/partial knowledge based game, similar in that way to Felix, the Cat in the Sack, but there's more going on. This game lasted 4 rounds and despite James being the only person to have played before, Andy's lightning quick uptake on new games once again took him into the lead.
Emma seemed intent on owning Chicago each hand, Andy seemed to focus on 1 or 2 cities and regularly picked up a nice haul. James (it slowly became apparent) didn't seem have a strategy. As the last hand revealed itself (a nice aspect of the game is a hidden ending) Emma thought she might've snared victory but Andy's lead just held up. We're gonna have to stop inviting him soon if he keeps winning :)
Andy 16; Emma 15; James 13

Egizia (thanks again James)
So in an unusual turn of events we ended up with only 2 big box games on the table. Agricola was snared by the addicts so we were left with Scott's other game, Egizia. Luckily it turned out to be a great game and so Tim, Jim and Emma all enjoyed the experience. Firstly though we had to pester Scott to explain the rules... not sure of the effect this might've had on his success in the simultaneous game of Agricola he was trying to play but I'm sure we'll get the blame if he lost... (phew - you were lucky there then...)
Egizia basically is a worker placement game with a twist. Each round 8 ships for each player are placed downstream on the Nile for various rewards but once placed the next ship cannot be placed upstream, so there is a constant pay off between wanting to be first to some nice bounty downstream, but not getting there too quickly. Points are earned mainly through building monuments with a lot of points available at the end in bonus cards. 5 trips downstream and that's the game.
If you'd overheard us playing you might have thought there was a religious conection with the game... mainly cause Emma decided early on that one of the characters looked like Jesus. Given this was also a 'special' character in that he could involve other workers when you used him to help in building, the tag stuck and throughout the game cries of 'I'm going to advance Jesus' or 'I'm using my Jesus' could be heard.... not sure this was the game makers intention...
So Jim took the early lead in this game, and after the first few rounds was already streets ahead. Emma and Tim were both collecting cards though. Emma was focusing on building the pyramid (too many Indy Jones films?) while James and Tim stuck to completing Cleopatra's Needle. The game did go through several rule queries given none of us had played before but we just about go it right... and there was always Scott to throw a meeple at if we needed clarification. After 4 rounds James's lead seemed unassailable as he kept building most rounds, but the pile of bonus cards in front of Emma and Tim were growning while James only had a couple.
So the final round - James scored first and sat, slightly smug (but with an inward unease), waiting to see waht bonuses would come out. The game does finish a bit like Stone Age here in that bonuses play a BIG part in the scoring so it's hard to know who's winning until the end. Emma scored and was close... but Tim had a pile of bonus cards about as high as the pyramid and after reeling off several 7/8/9 pointers in a row jumped ahead.
A really good game, given that we had no real choice of what to play. Certainly worth it's high ranking on BGG and a game that would only improve after a few more plays as you became more familiar with the cards available.
Tim 112; Jim 104; Emma 97

Thanks to James for co-ordinating the reports this week. We'll see you all again after the Easter weekend....

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