Wednesday, 4 May 2011

One in the oven (no....not Kate and William).......

Players: Jon, Woody, Steph, Johan, Vicky, Maynard, Scott, Andy, James, Alex, Paul, James II, Gareth, Barrie, Noel, Tonio, Mark

The numbers are climbing back again following the slumber of the Easter break. Tonight’s IBG’ers included a very welcome return to Noel, who has been sunning himself (and working, apparently…) in the US for a couple of months. It was also a first appearance by Mark, a friend of Andy's (who is himself turning into a complete boardgames evangelist...)

Jon was late to arrive tonight following a last-minute turfing emergency (his excuses get more and more bizarre…), but he got there in time to join in a few games and organise the troops for some quality report writing. But the big news of the night is that IBG will soon be having its 3rd baby, as it was fantastic to find out that Vicky is 6 months pregnant (and not simply ‘slightly fat’ as Johan observed….) Congratulations Vicky and Maynard – just don’t let the little one get in the way of boardgaming……..

First up -

The Resistance (thanks Scott for this one)
Getting to the table much less frequently these days is the world of traitors and spies in amongst the resistance force.
With a crowd of eight to kick off the night we had Scott, James, Paul, Alex, James 2, Maynard, Steph and Woody. Scott was our illustrious leader to kick off the proceedings and unbeknownst to most of the table he was amongst the legion of spies with Steph and Alex as his compatriots, possibly some of the most regular spies at the table so this could be over quite quickly as surely they would be caught out easily.
Scott led off with some card giving of a card to his spy mate Steph, allowing her to have a look at a character card on her left or right, James pointed out that a spy always gives it to another spy and Scott wasn’t about to break tradition as a spy was accessible to every legitimate resistance member. Steph picked Woody and claimed he was good, marking the start of a beautiful friendship.
Looking like a legitimate end of the table, Scott, Steph, Maynard and Woody trundled off on the first mission (which was really mission number 3) and it passed easily, well why wouldn’t it?
James was up to lead next and with some useful card draws had devised a cunning plan - he would go on mission 1 needing just three people, send Scott, himself and Maynard. Maynard could look at a played mission card and Scott could make James play his face up to prove his innocence. This was a sticky situation for Scott who sacrificed his identity to go along with most of the plan but avoid revealing James’ card and play a sabotage to get a successful mission in for the spies.
Scott tried his best to deflect the attention at James and a possible Maynard who could have been playing a tricky game with Woody and for the most part it created a bit of a mystery although Paul was not particularly fooled. Scott was not hot on the spies’ heels, he was for the most part quiet and failing at providing sufficient logic to why James was the spy - a spy if ever they saw one - they fortunately seemed to have forgotten the beginning of the game when Steph seemed to be his best friend.
On it continued and as fate would have it James 2 ended up with a card to look at his neighbour, obviously he picks Alex and declares him a spy and it’s just unfortunate that you can pretty much guarantee he draws one every game but he did his best to tarnish James’ name.
Paul was still under the charms of Steph who plays the confused gamer card very well, I’m sure it’s an act but it’s very convincing. Paul took himself on a mission for the first time along with the other successful members of the end of the table, Maynard, Steph, Woody and James 2 who can always be trusted to be a good guy. This seemed agreeable to everyone else since Alex and Scott seemed such obvious spies and there needed to be two to fail this one. Funnily enough no-one played a sabotage card, it was 2 -1 to the resistance.
Alex was the next leader and tried to prove his innocence by allowing the table to pick four members to go on the mission without him if they were so worried. Steph managed to wheedle her way on, James being the one to be dropped from the last successful crew. This was passed, with some declines from the spies to try and add some confusion and Steph completed her civic duty to fail the mission. It was 2-2 and one mission left, the one that needed all of the real resistance members to be on it.
There was enough doubt that no-one could really be trusted and Woody and Steph were conspiring in the corner to how they would engineer getting the leadership to them if the wrong team was selected. The rest of the table did pick an acceptable team though with Steph, Woody, James, James 2 and Maynard. Once the dust had settled and the mission was going ahead, Scott and Alex were smiling and before the cards were turned everyone felt a queasy feeling in their stomach that if anyone was a spy, then it was Steph. Steph who had been plotting with Woody from the beginning but didn’t force a leadership change as they could have done and James had remembered all those previous games where Steph double crosses the table.
With a big cheer, the spies had done it, despite two being out from practically the beginning. You can always rely on Steph to fool everyone else.

And now - the banner game of the IBG'ers -

Tikal (thanks Noel for this report)
No messing around with fillers for the first game of the night for Gareth, Barrie, Noel and Tonio as the (excellent) game of the month Tikal was set up. Everyone had played before and after a quick summary card and auction rules recap the auctioning began.
Barrie made some great early moves maximizing use of his 10 movement points to develop some temples and get plenty of meeples in the north east region of the jungle. Noel and Gareth split their explorers between encroaching into Barrie’s empire and developing the southern edge while Tonio drifted around the middle picking up a few treasures and wondering how long the game was going to last.
While Barrie and Gareth excavated temples a plenty and set up camps early, Noel decided to get a lock on some consistent points and capped off a 4 and 6 temple. He was planning to go around capping more little temples until he was reminded that would break the game and he was limited to the two. Meanwhile Tonio collected treasure.
Now there were scraps a plenty in the northern reaches between Gareth and Barrie, with Barrie capping a 10 temple and Gareth consistently scoring plenty of temples. Noel had a relatively clear run in the south west corner with several good sized temples controlled by just one or two meeples. Tonio meanwhile scooped up some more treasure.
When the 3rd round of point scoring came in with Tonio scoring a plenty from his pile of amulets and gold that Noel, Barrie and Gareth realised their fatal mistake in ignoring most of the treasure. Tonio then brought out the camera and started to get some artistic snaps, such as in the header to the IBG blog, of his winning position. Tonio closed out a couple of temples in the last round to seal an emphatic win to add to last week's triumph.
Tonio 124; Noel 106; Gareth 105; Barrie 97

IBG just wouldn't be IBG without something shiny and new -

Alien Frontiers (thanks James)
Ooooh, nice new game smell… Scott duly delivered my promised copy of Alien Frontiers and without much ado I managed to persuade (no threats required) 3 others to check it out in all its newness. Paul, Alex and James (II).
On a basic level it’s a cross between Kingsburg (dice, worker placement and 'rewards from owning buildings' and Mission: Red Planet (planet colonization and area majority). What’s not to like, dice, spaces ships and aliens… it’s even got lasers ! Dice are spaceships, you roll them and depending on the rolls certain docking stations become open to you. You can collect ore, fuel and discover alien artifacts but the main goal is to launch colonists into space to regions on the moon in order to gain VP and bonuses for controlling areas. It’s a lot of fun as there’s lots of room for sneaky attacks on other players and even more room for revenge… in fact I suspect the main reason that Paul and myself came 1st and 2nd was that it was hard to tell for most of the game whether Alex and James (II) were trying to win or just trying to beat each other round the head with strange alien weaponry… Hint for future weeks, make sure you’re nice to Alex or James (II) as you don’t want to get on their wrong side…
So in the early stages we were all trying to get a handle on the game… I managed to launch a few early colonists and gain some bonuses as a result while Paul was collecting Alien Artifacts. Alex was aiming for the biggest fleet while it would appear that James was aiming mainly for Alex’s skull… The end game scenario is when one player has placed all their colonists and given VP are mainly allocated for placing colonists it would seem that in general the first person to place these should have an advantage. This seemed not to be lost on the players as the mid game turned into a lets beat up on me funfest. At about the 2/3 point I think colonists on the moon had evened out… apart from James who seemed to be playing a different game and only had 1 of his team on the moon while the rest were no doubt better employed plotting revenge on Alex. It’s a nice (?) part of the game that you can steal supplies from other players, destroy their space ships move around their colonists… lots of room for a good time there. One of the moon regions gives an extra dice and this became a battle ground for most of the game with control changing hands and cards both disabling this bonus and re-enabling it… fun stuff.
Paul moved into the lead towards the end which gave me a good chance to nudge the other players to start attacking him. One particularly successful piece of persuasion probably made all the difference in the end as Alex was convinced at the last minute to change his plans to take out one of my ships and instead take one of Paul’s. This moved Paul back to only 3 ships (dice) at the time which proved to be quite a handicap towards the end of the game. Good to see all those games of Resistance honing my persuasive skills...
Suddenly it was noticed that I only had 1 colonist left to place and with the potential roll of a 6 (or triple) which could bring an immediate end to the game focus shifted to grabbing as many VP as possible and manipulating the territorial control in place on the moon. Moves were suddenly carefully planned (the only possible flaw with this game for me is the potential for lots of pauses as tactics are considered as there’s not much chance for strategy given the inability to know what dice you’ll roll on your turn)… However, despite the best intentions of the other players to send me to sleep between turns I managed to launch my last colonist and take control after a couple of turns.
Really good game… a sign of this being that Alex and James were already discussing how to get a copy themselves. It’s definitely worthy of the current hype surrounding it on the Geek.
As for me, I’ll put this win down to being the owner of the game and the unwritten rule to always let the games owner win their first game… that and the fact that there’s obviously some unfinished business between Alex and James…. Anyone for a game of Lifeboats?
James I 9; Paul 6; James II 5; Alex 5

And continuing its renaissance thanks to 'Farm Boy' Andy -

Agricola (thanks Andy for this write-up)
Scott, Maynard, Andy and first-timer Mark plumped for a game of the ever-popular Agricola, which shows no signs of losing its recent appeal. Maynard gave a good explanation of the myriad of rules for Mark's benefit and play, using the relatively new G-Deck occupations and minor improvements, got underway.
Andy went first and had the luxury of holding starting player for several turns, which meant Maynard got a bit bogged down because he was in fourth spot each round. Mark made a good fist of getting his farm going with some early fields and a pasture and Scott made good use of the Family Counsellor occupation to grab extra food on several turns. He was swimming in the stuff at one point, which led to him getting a bit complacent and nearly ended up leaving himself short of food after growing his family but got away with it.
Andy managed to edge ahead in the family growth stakes but was struggling to feed the hungry blighters, which held him back later in the game. At least he avoided any of the dreaded begging cards this time out. Mark ended up with quite a few empty spaces on his farm but had a nice collection of sheep and pastures to bump up his score.
Maynard also had several vacant spots but had grown his family to the maximum size and given them a sturdy stone house to live in. Scott cashed in on the Meat Pie minor improvement, which ended up giving him six tasty bonus points at the end of the game, and took three extra points from one of Andy’s occupations for the player with the most number of fields giving him a comfortable win with an impressive score. 
Scott 50; Andy 36; Maynard 20; Mark 14

Jon had turned up at this point, and arrived just in time to sit through the last couple of rounds of -

From the 2 rounds that I observed, it was obvious that Steph was on another planet, offering a clue that contained the word "wood" (Wood = Timber = Justin Timberlake = JT's hit single...?!). Woody was very much on planet earth, but unfortunately he was playing with a mad woman, a pregnant woman and a Dutchman. No contest.....the pregnant woman (Vicky) came out victorious....

Woody then pulled out a recent acquisition, promising simple rules and plenty of bidding and bluffing. Neat summary really, of -

Skull and Roses (thanks Woody for this write-up)
Our first play of this new game ... simple to learn, but like all good games, it’s all about developing your tactics and gameplay. Each player has three rose cards and one skull card. The idea is to balance the order in which you place your cards with the need to win bids and trick your opponents into turning over a skull and therefore fail their bid. Failed bids result in the loss of a random card for that player, two successful bids in the game means you win !

Game 1
Started off with Jon and Woody trying to make bids and failing, resulting in both losing two cards very quickly ! Johan intelligently (that's the first time that those 2 words have ever been together in a sentence...) sat back and observed while others bid away with mixed success. Soon Vicky and Steph had both made a successful bid each and looking in a strong position. Jon tried to fight back but found himself out of the game having lost his last card. Johan then made a successful bid and with both him and Vicky still holding all four cards, it looked like a straightforward battle. However, after Woody had made his first successful bid, Steph suddenly found herself down to two cards, but was either of them a skull ? We found out when Woody made another move and succeeded with a bid of 5 .. with that, he had won the first game.

Game 2
Now we had all got a little better idea of the concept and the balance between bluffing, bidding, being generally devious and smack-talking each other into overly confident bids, we decided to have a second go. A very different game this time, whilst in the first game, all bar Jon had made a successful bid, this time only Woody did so. Jon managed to hold onto most of his cards this time, whilst everyone else was losing them left, right and centre. With two successful bids and no reply from the other players, Woody picked up a second win.

In summary, a jolly good 20-30 game which requires tactical thought, deception and a poker face! Worth another outing soon .....

Looking for another filler, Jon suggested a go at James' (dubious) copy of -

Felix the Cat in the Sack
This was new to all apart from Jon, so he made a quick attempt at recalling how to play before getting going. Vicky managed to hoard a lot of 'mice', which resulted in the bank running out of chips on several occasions. Johan made an enormous bid for an excellent hand early on, which meant that he was pretty much out of any bidding from that moment on. Jon picked up a few nice cards but was also running low on chips, whilst Woody seemed rather bemused by what he should be doing, not helped by the fact that he had to pick up -16 worth of cards in a single round.
Vicky's scrooge bidding (or is it the 'nesting' instinct?) ended up winning her the day, with Woody left scratching his head.
Vicky 53; Jon 45; Johan 40; Woody 24

High Society
Game 1 - Gareth won; Tonio 2nd, Barrie 3rd; Noel 4th
Game 2 - Tonio won; Gareth 2nd; Barrie 3rd; Noel 4th

Shadow Hunters
Noel and Gareth Hunters - won; Tonio Neutral - killed; Barrie and Stephanie Shadows - Killed

And to book-end the evening, another shot at -

The Resistance
With 9 players, there are only 3 spies to 6 good guys, which can be a tough one for the spies. Using the new rules about picking missions in any order, Gareth picked Noel, Jon and Tonio to come on the first mission. It passed without a hitch, and Noel had also received a card from Gareth which enabled him to proclaim Jon as 'good'. Noel subsequently picked himself, Gareth and Jon for the 3-person mission, which again passed. With the last mission needing 2 'fails' it was a fairly simple choice for Jon, who allowed James I to join the party and it was a complete whitewash for the resistance - not a single fail card played all game.
As it turned out, Tonio, Paul and Woody were the bad guys. With hindsight, Tonio probably should have sabotaged the first mission and tried to blame one of the others, but we are still learning the strategy of playing with the new rules, which means that bluffing on the first mission isn't always a good move.
Gareth, Noel, Jon, James I, James II, Alex - Resistance won; Woody, Paul, Tonio - spies lost

Also played at the beginning of the night was a round of -

Steph 19; Scott 20; James - a lot!

A great night of gaming, with a nice mix of old and new, in more ways than one. Stay tuned for more of the same next week.....

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