Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Abandon ship....................

Players: James, Gareth, Vicky, Maynard, Jon, Paul, Tonio, Scott, Dan, Russ, Mark, Paul A, Ian, Andy, Philip, Johan, Barry

Another good turnout tonight, with 17 IBG'ers congregating in the London Apprentice for some fine gaming action. It was a welcome return to Paul A, who we seem to have lured away from LOB, as well as a 'long-time-no-see' to Russ and Mark. There was also a first appearance for Canadian Barry, who had the good grace to spell his name differently from founder-member Barrie, which makes things simpler on the blog.

This evening turned into a session of relatively long games, which were preceded by an attempt to try out the expansion for an old IBG favourite, Saboteur. Unfortunately, all the players opted to abandon this game faster than a bride's nightie, for reasons that will be explained later....

Becoming the opener of choice these days, the early birds had a go at -

This was new to Paul and Mark, but is easily explained and quickly played. As usual, Scott somehow managed to collect almost no cards. Maybe sitting to the left of Tonio is the key? Gareth pushed the patience and goodwill of the other players to the limit, by taking back 4 turns in succession, but it was good to see that all this mind-changing and slow, deliberate thought was worth it - he came dead last....
Scott 3; Mark 8; Tonio 12; Jon 15; Paul 18; Gareth 25

We now had 12 players, but rather than split up, Tonio persuaded everyone to join in a mammoth game of the new expansion to -

This game took about 20 minutes to set-up and explain, and about 4 minutes to play, basically because Tonio broke the cardinal rule of the Isleworth Boardgamers - "Know the rules to your game before you try to introduce it to other people!!!!" 
Saboteur itself, is a fairly straightforward affair - you're either a  good guy or a bad guy; the good guys want to find the gold; the bad guys want to stop them. However, Saboteur 2 adds in a whole host of new roles, action cards and ways to score. And as it is language-independent, it takes some explaining.
Despite some desperate attempts by Tonio to explain exactly what was going on, reading from a translation of the German rules (which Gareth of course then spirited away to peruse at his leisure), the game itself was a chaotic affair, which resulted in the gold being discovered after only about 15 cards had been played. No-one could then work out exactly who had won and why, so the whole group exitted stage left.
The last that was heard of this game was a shout of joy from Tonio about 10 minutes later - "Don't worry guys, I've found the French translation of the rules - it's all become clear now.....!!!"
(Actually, this expansion does look like a lot of fun, but it will need to be played with a few player aids and a lot less than 12 people next time...)

OK - onto the games which were not abandoned halfway through -

Agricola (thanks Scott for this one)
Another week, another game of Agricola for Andy and co. (Philip, Scott and Maynard this time), returning back to the basics with Scott’s copy and the gamer deck, despite Philip’s attempts to spruce up his own with a new shoe box...
Everyone had recognised the power of extra family members this game and it wouldn’t be too long before everyone was using four or five members, Philip and Andy trading in stables to build extra wooden rooms early on helped them max out at five first; as such, there was even more competition than usual for actions.
Philip played his usual tactic of numerous Occupations and even the trusty ‘oldest profession’ to help keep the family growths coming. Most of us had kept fairly balanced but Scott had got himself an edge with a few more Major improvements than the rest and both Andy and Scott had got themselves a stone house by the end, Philip had let Andy get away with a second renovation at the end and missed getting it himself. He tried to save some points on the farmyard by filling it with pastures and not losing any negatives like the rest of us but it wasn’t quite enough. Despite Maynard’s grain and vegetable conglomerate, having the most unused spaces at the end had cost him big.
Scott 38; Andy 32; Philip 30; Maynard 26

Meanwhile, on table 2 -

Tikal (thanks James for this report)
The last outing for the game of the month… (not sure why games of the month seem to run only until mid-month, but then trying to understand the inner workings of Gareth’s mind is akin to beating Scott at Agricola while simultaneously beating Phil at Race to the Galaxy and trying to understand the rules to Saboteur 2…)
Gareth, Paul A, Tonio and myself took the opportunity to give it a go, this time using the auction rules. Tonio was trying hard to hide his confidence after several recent victories but no-one was buying it. This time he announced he would try a different strategy… one which, as the game progressed, could best be summed up by the phrase ‘let someone else win’.
So as usual 2 players decided to head north and 2 headed East, and before long Tonio and Gareth were squabbling over a few tiles to get the early advantage. Paul and Gareth were also grabbing treasures quicker than James at a Car Boot. The first scoring round worked out perfectly for Gareth who netted a whopping 14 points. Everyone else could only look on in dismay. Over the next few rounds I managed to corner off the top left with a couple of 4+ temples while Gareth and Tonio still duked it out for some tiles at the bottom.
Paul seemed singleminded after the treasures which was good for the rest of us given Gareth’s stockpile. The 2nd scoring went pretty much as the first, Gareth taking the lead due to his amassed wealth of Mayan necklaces and trinkets.
It was around now that sulky Tonio began to make an appearance as each move was accompanied with some comment about how he’d made a mistake earlier in the game, or was running out of options. Even the pickup of a 5 temple tile did little to raise his spirits. OK, I had just pinched and capped his lovingly build 8 piece temple… so I might have had something to do with it... Still it was good to have grumpy Tonio back after a few weeks where he was winning games. Felt like old times again.
The game was coming to an end but still no 3rd Volcano… it became obvious that the last 2 scoring rounds would be close together. The auction rules do make the volcano rounds very interesting to run through and hard to play. Do you try to bid early to take a tile and therefore have 2 sets of 10 before a scoring round. Do you bid early and take the volcano while you’re ahead on the tiles? What order would be best for the scoring to happen in if you could manipulate the bidding… there’s a lot more going on than in vanilla Tikal. So by this stage Tonio and Gareth were just about declaring war on each other on the same tile they’d been disputing since turn 1 - much to the benefit of Paul and me who were happily working our way in other parts of the board. Gareth managed to make himself a 10 temple close by a tent at this stage so kept his nose in front.
Interlude: at this point the question was posed… “so….. if the temples are built up with the concept being that you are uncovering each level by clearing away the shrubbery, why are the explorers only given spades and not some shears or a scythe?”
… For a while it looked like the game would drift to a halt while we all pondered on this quandary… until the spell was broken by Gareth saying ‘whatever’ and we got back to it.
So, to the 3rd volcano. Positions pretty much stayed the same although I ended up 3 points behind Gareth at the end… It was looking like a 2 horse race at this stage but Gareth had the better treasures and the 10 temple… Paul’s treasure hunt was gathering steam although the supply was running low at this stage. Tonio was muttering to himself and bemoaning his adopting of a new strategy for this game, we would’ve asked him to elaborate but truth be told we were all a little scared….
The last turn saw some jockeying for position and the final 5/6 tiles were all placed and then the final scoring round started. Paul and Tonio at this stage could see they weren’t going to catch up but were still able to push a score of 100. However it was here that the game changed as Gareth had not noticed that one of his 6 temples was claimable by me and I was able to snare it.… later he admitted he’d forgotten about this tile as he was distracted by another move he wanted to make… a fatal error! So with this, and another 6 temple I picked up a hefty 46 points in the last round.
Suddenly Gareth was worried as he’d lost 3 temples in the scoring round and didn’t have the explorers to get them all back. He’d been planning to use his supervisor to take one of my 6 temples on his last go but he no longer had the moves available and this scheme was in tatters. Eventually he had to settle for 37 points leaving himself still 5 points adrift.
Great game (although I would say that!) with a close finish and everything coming down to the last few rounds. The only downside for me anyways was that it took just over 2 hours to play which is on the long side for a Weds evening, but otherwise, once again, Tikal showed why it’s one of the best games out there. 
James 115; Gareth 110; Tonio 99; Paul 95

And on table 3, the 'long-time-no-see'rs were joined by Daniel, for a go at a new game to IBG -

Android (thanks, of course, to Dan for this piece of pulp fiction...)
"What the hell do you call this McClusky!?" the Chief slammed his fist down on the files scattered across his desk. "I gave you one job to do this week and this is the total screw up you give me? Detective noir McClusky, there are certain conventions you need to stick to. Like constant rain on dark grey streets, femme fatales, grizzled voiceovers reminiscing on perilous moments. What you give me as a report on your assignment is... is... this?" He swept his hand over his desk to highlight his point then reached for a bottle of scotch, pouring himself a good measure. He only filled one of the two glasses on his desk and I felt the dryness in my mouth as he took a good gulp.
"Sir, with respect it wasn’t that kind of assignment..."
"With respect, this wasn’t the goddam kind of report I was expecting from you. Where are all the salacious details on the crime? Where are the step by step notes of what you were doing with your time all night long? Where is my report McClusky?" I hadn’t felt like this since that business with the Norwegian at the Taj Mahal - that was a nightmare I thought I’d never escape from.
"Chief, everything that happened is there. How about the way Rachel overcame the rift with her father, got herself back in order and saved the life of her best friend? Or how Louis escaped the pressure of corruption and patched things up with his wife, even if he did keep one eye on the case while they were on a date?"
"That’s exactly what I’m talking about McClusky. Nobody wants to hear about that guff. There was a murder, you were on the case, so who did it?" he growled while jabbing his finger at my chest.
"It’s not as simple as that Chief. With the conspiracy surrounding the case and the murder of one of the suspects it’s difficult to know if the person convicted was really the one who pulled the trigger. They were certainly involved but nobody truly knows to what extent..."
"What are you trying to tell me here? I thought this was a straightforward murder case?" I could sense his mood was changing and decided to press home my point.
"I’m only telling you that this isn’t a simple case of murder deduction. Take Caprice - a synthetically grown human, her sanity tormented by latent psychic abilities, successfully fighting to break free from being considered the property of a corporation and to have herself recognised as truly human. She’s the key here, the one who solved the case as well as putting the conspiracy together. At the same time she managed to get half the corporations in New Angeles wrapped around her finger, owing her a stack of favours. There’s no doubt that she was the most prominent figure in the whole investigation. But it’s the story of how she got there and the things she achieved that led her to that point that are much more important than how the case was tied up. And that’s the report that I’ve given you. Sir."
The Chief gave me a long hard look, took a swig from his whisky glass and picked up a sheaf of pages. As he gave them a read through, I glanced out the window at the grey city streets, dark in the moonless sky. For a while there was no sound other than the rain falling against the window and I was briefly reminded of the dame - yeah, she was bad news, dangerous to get involved with but impossible to say no to. I snapped back to reality when the Chief set his glass down and cleared his throat.
"Okay McClusky, I’m going to run this. This time. I don’t want another screw up from you." With that dismissal I grabbed my trench coat, doffed my fedora and headed out to the city; that harsh mistress always demanding and always unforgiving, yet still preferable to being in the Chief’s office when he’s in the mood to chew you out. Yeah, Chief Wooden can sure be a hard son of a bioroid at times...

Yeah, you're right Dan - I would make a bad-ass Chief.......

OK - back to more regular fare -

Tichu (thanks again to Scott)
In an attempt to get everyone at IBG to play this, Scott brought out Tichu as the post-Agricola game. Andy proclaimed that he really wasn’t very good at it so he was paired with Scott, despite Philip being totally new to it and Maynard being on the losing team with Andy last time.
We played a practice round and in typical style, Scott and Andy finished first and second, which would have got them a nice 200 points had it not just been the practice.
We moved on to a couple of real hands and Scott feeling a bit over confident and dismissive of his opponents abilities called “Tichu” and spectacularly lost to Philip who played his cards before anyone had noticed he was getting close. Scott and Andy also managed a negative score in the collected cards so it wasn’t looking good.
A couple more cautious rounds saw Andy and Scott edge back up with a successful Tichu from Scott cancelling out his earlier losses but it was cut short to play other games so technically Philip and Maynard won.
Philip & Maynard – 190; Scott & Andy – 110

With a couple of games finishing at the same time, the merger resulted in a game of -

Shadow Hunters (thanks James again for this report)
So with claims of 'better than The Resistance' ringing in my ears I had to give this a go... one of several hidden identity games doing the rounds at the club and the only one I'd not yet had a chance to play. Joining in the fun were Gareth, Tonio, Maynard, Phil and Scott...
So characters were dealt, 2 shadows, 2 hunters and 2 liberals in the middle. It's a dodgy game at the outset as no-one really knows anything about other characters... starting a bit like the first round at the Resistance where players generally just go through the motions to try and start gathering evidence.
As a result, fighting someone was more an act of revenge over previous gaming vendettas rather than being anything meaningful within the game. I obviously went for Tonio, as did Gareth; and Scott and Gareth also traded blows... and as the game progressed slowly some players started to learn a few secrets from the others... such as Gareth's penchant for frilly underwear, Phil's love of Origami and Tonio's obsession with the Scissor Sisters... no, hang on, I've got that wrong... although it would've been a far more interesting game if that were the case...
Scott then learned something about Tonio that seemed to make them mortal enemies... (maybe that Tonio really doesn't like Power Grid...?) Gareth also attacked Tonio despite not knowing anything about anyone and as a result Tonio's character was pretty much doomed.
This is where the game comes alive as characters start to reveal themselves. Tonio outed himself first, basically wanting to do something before he died... and as it happened he was on the same side as Gareth. Eyebrows were duly raised... Maynard revealed himself as a neutral who just had to be alive at the end to live ('the coward' I believe the character was called) and Phil as another neutral who wanted the Hunters dead (perhaps..., I forget exactly Phil's character...sorry Phil!)
This left James and Gareth about whom no-one else knew anything except that they were on opposite sides.
Scott was next to die, which left Maynard in a kingmaker position... being able to win if either James or Gareth died and able to attack both on his turn.... For some reason (be warned Maynard, vendettas take a long time to go away at the IBG) Maynard chose to smite me with his wrath and the game was over. Hunters won (or perhaps the Shadows, I'm not sure)... in terms of IBGers Gareth and Maynard both definitely won and Phil might've (I forget). Tonio also tried to proclaim victory as he had been on the winning team, but as he was dead his claims were duly ignored while we'd all moved onto Wits and Wagers which (truth be told) looked like much more fun...

Nice segue, James -

Wits and Wagers (thanks again to Scott for this summary)
Like everytime we play this game, the first 5 or 6 rounds were totally pointless as everyone bets all their money in at the end anyway (except Gareth who figured his best odds were not to gamble all his money away since he had been accumulating the most throughout so far - but that only got him third...)
Tonio and Scott put their money on Scott's answer which, for once in a very very long time (and never before on anything remotely attributed to geography), was the correct one and got them both a tidy sum, leaving Scott with an extra 10 over Tonio as it was his answer and their bet was the same.
Losers were: James, Maynard, Jon & Philip who ended up with nothing and a better understanding of fools and partings of money.
Basically, Jon and Maynard were the same player and Maynard had left with his head held high entrusting Jon with his loot. The key words being 'Jon' and 'trust' - the two rarely pan out successfully.
Scott 130; Tonio 120; Gareth 90; Philip, James and Maynard / Jon - 0

Also played tonight on the small table in the dark was -

Now, Ian was supposed to be regaling you with his triumphant victory, but has yet to put quill to parchment, so I'll give you the abridged version -
  • Newcomer Barry got early control of a Speakeasy, and everyone was nice to him and let him rake in the profits because he was new and came from Canada
  • Ian's early strategy was non-existent
  • Jon got within $5k of victory, but was then totally bashed by the other players, making the game go on for another half-an-hour (not that I'm bitter or anything....)
  • Ian's late late strategy was better than his early strategy and he edged Barry out by a measly $1k at the end
  • This game is great for 90 minutes (just don't bash the leader at this point!)
And that was that for another fun-packed week at the finest Boardgames club in West London. Stay tuned for another exciting episode next week at the same time. Until then - remember to make sure that you read the rules thoroughly before playing a new game.....

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