Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Yanks come over and help to save the world (except that this time - they really do........!!!!!!)

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Players: Gareth, James, Woody, Scott, Barrie, Emma, Jon, Paul, Barry, Vicky, Maynard, Ian, Johan, Noel, Tonio, Amelia

16 happy gamers turned up to the IBG tonight, including another of Paul’s friends, Amelia, who had come all the way over from Rhode Island in the US of A. She was actually a friend of Paul’s wife, whom he had hijacked to come along tonight, but to be fair, Paul needs to claim all the friends he can get. As Amelia sticks sharp implements into people’s bodies for a living, so we were careful to keep our distance….

Ticket to Ride is having a much-overdue renaissance at IBG, and combined with the usual fare of dice-rolling, auctions and random card games, it was another fun-packed evening. Oh, and we also herded up some elephants and saved the planet for good measure….

The early arrivees were 'rewarded' by being persuaded by Gareth to use up a number of precious minutes of their life to play -

5 Alive (thanks James)
Before I start can I just mention that Woody won this game… that’s WOODY… it just felt very important to make sure that everyone was aware of this fact early on in the session report. That’s all.
So, the game formally known as “5 Alive” (Board Game Rank: 5964) but recently rebranded as “Gareth’s Game” was brought out to start the evening for the lucky 5/6 people who’d turned up early enough. You would think by now everyone would have learned to disappear at the first sign of Gareth opening his bag and uttering the phase ‘I’ve got something new with me that I’ve not brought along before’… but as everyone was still scoffing their dinner any negative responses were muffled by the sounds of chips being devoured and so it was too late to hide under the table before the cards were being dealt. Pausing only to complete the weekly ritual of double checking Gareth’s rules explanation, and correcting 25% of them, the game commenced.
You remember that old card game… on your turn you play a card and then the next person plays either a matching number or suit etc… etc… etc… ? The one where everyone thinks they know the same game but it always transpires that they all play a different set of rules (So, Aces reverse the order… no, aces mean the next player picks up 3 cards… no, aces mean you can play another card unless the previous card was a 2 in which case the next player can only play the 7 of diamonds unless they’re jewish… etc)…? Well, this is that game but the designers also wanted to include a blackjack element so you have to play cards so that the total doesn’t go over 21. In a way, a nice analogy for the maximum age group that might be interested in playing this.
Everyone has 5 lives (nicely over-produced in the shape of 5 stick men on a plastic stand that don’t stand up properly anyways and so rend themselves pointless unless the players can’t count up to five… admittedly a risk in America where the game is made.....) (apologies to all our transatlantic blog-watchers....) and by doing things in the game such as going over 21,… or breathing… you lose a life. Play continues until someone loses 5 lives or no one is left breathing….
So, did I mention that Woody won yet ? Well it should come as no surprise that he was doing well in the early stages… and by mid game he was still ahead… not by much it should be said, but still winning… then as the end game approached Woody was looking more and more confident in his position before the final round. And then, while everyone else started to consider the option of losing through the stopping breathing end game scenario… Woody raced ahead to triumphantly seal first place and in a way I guess gain a sort of immortality at being best at ‘Gareth’s Game’…
Congratulations to Woody. The King of ‘Gareth’s Game’.
Woody won and the rest of us came 2nd to Woody

Avoiding Gareth’s ‘interesting’ card game, Jon produced his new copy of –

Botswana
This was a present from Jon to his 7 year-old daughter last weekend, but dad managed to sneak it out of the house to bring along this evening. It is a re-theming of Quandary / Loco, although the gameplay is exactly the same. However, it replaces those boring single colour tiles from Quandary, with a selection of nicely-sculpted miniature wild animals. Definitely an attractive feature for 7 year-old girls, and also apparently to Emma, who nearly fell off her chair in delight when she saw them. Sorry Emma – you had already signed up to Gareth’s ‘interesting’ card game – you’ll have to wait for another time to play with the animals…..
This game was played in 4 rounds, the first scoring incredibly highly (most of the animals ended on ‘5’), with Amelia shooting into an early lead. The next 2 rounds scored much lower, helped by Barry finishing the round off, even though his animals scored practically no points.
By this stage, Jon, Paul and Amelia were within a few points of each other, but in the last round, Paul just managed to manipulate the cards to his advantage and came out on top.
Paul 75; Jon 72; Amelia 67; Barrie 52

With a dreadful record at IBG of having played 4, lost 4, it was time for another go to cure some killer diseases –

Pandemic
This was new to Amelia, but Paul, Jon and Tonio managed to cobble together a rules explanantion that left her only slightly confused. Paul had chucked in one of the elements of the ‘On the Brink’ expansion, which identified one disease as ‘virulent’ and made it slightly worse every time an epidemic card was pulled out. But the easiest level was chosen, so spirits were high.
Things started well for the Anglo / Italian / American team, as they swiftly cured, and then eradicated the blue disease. The first epidemic card was drawn, and although it didn’t cause too may problems, it identified ‘Red’ as the virulent disease, which started to grow in intensity. Hotspots were breaking out in Johannesburg and Sau Paulo, but the team focussed on the black disease, which was also cured.
Meanwhile, the red disease was starting to spread wildly across Asia, and 3 members of the team were dispatched to the area to prevent a disaster. It was a battle that was on the edge, as at one point, the red cube supply sank to zero, and there was a desperate flurry of activity to treat the disease and get some cubes back into the supply. Tonio then came up with a master plan that would see himself and Paul fly to Bogata in order to swap some cards, with a view to curing Red and Yellow in a few turns time. Amelia was also shipped to this destination (leaving Jon to fight off the continent-engulfing red disease on his own) so that she could use her special ability to furnish Tonio with more cards.
The scene was now set – there were 2 diseases to be cured, but the world could be saved in 3 turns. However, there was still a final epidemic card to be revealed and only 6 cards left in the deck. Jon got lucky and after treating the red disease (think – sticking plaster on gunshot wound) he managed to avoid pulling the epidemic card, or causing any more Outbreaks (currently on 6). Tonio cured the Red disease and also avoided causing another epidemic, so it was left to Paul to relocate everyone in the same location for a team hug and cure the Yellow disease.
This had come down to the wire, as there were no cards left in the deck, and the bottom one was the elusive 4th Epidemic. And so it was proved – this game IS beatable (just) – and it’s a lot of fun into the bargain. Maybe it’s time to ramp up the difficulty and throw in a dastardly Bio-Terrorist for good measure……..
Amelia, Paul, Tonio, Jon – all won

And now time for a classic -

Ra (thanks Woody)
Barry, Emma & Woody sat down for a game of RA. Woody had never played and it was clear Emma & Barry were a little rusty on the rules. There were a few incidences of ‘oh, I nearly forgot’ and ‘another thing’ .... anyway, RA’s were everywhere and the first two rounds were over in shot .. which loosely translates into ‘Woody was very slow on the uptake and was still thinking of making his first bid when Round 2 was over’ ... a quick and low scoring game saw Emma win.
Emma 34; Barry 23; Woody 6!!!

After an enjoyable game through the islands of Venice in San Marco, Gareth, Barrie and Noel moved north for -

Ticket to Ride: Switzerland (thanks Noel for this report)
All had played several times online and on IPads before without the inconvenience of holding 47 cards (Barrie), placing trains, counting score or knowing exactly how those tunnel cards worked (Noel, Barrie).
Initial card selection gave Noel a couple of high scores if he completed the long journey from Austria through to France while Barrie and Gareth tried to get from Austria and Germany south to Italy.
Perhaps jaded from all the direct conflict earlier in San Marco this was a gentle affair with no aggressive blocking manoeuvres despite it definitely crossing Gareth's and Noel's mind on several occasions. Barrie stockpiled cards but failed on 3 occasions to get through a green tunnel with particularly unkind draws requiring 2 or 3 additional cards.
Tunnel cards were scarce during the latter half of the game but when Noel picked up two to complete his crossing into Austria he shortly after finished the game with two random 4 train routes, leaving Barrie and Gareth with an uncompleted route and trains in garage. Some non-automatic scoring after gave the win to Noel.
Noel 119; Gareth 82; Barrie 75

It's been a few weeks since we played this great card game -

7 Wonders (thanks to Maynard for this one)
This was new for Emma and Barry. James and Maynard explained the rules, and we started a quick round.
Maynard aimed for his favourite topic: the sciences. Nobody else seemed to be going for them and he amassed 28 points for these. A last-minute arms race avoided too many military losses, and he finished with a total of 49.
Vicky had a more balanced strategy, picking up quite a few blue VP cards, the three wonders and a few armies, also finishing with 49.
Emma was initially learning the various symbols, and ended up with 20 blue points, a set of sciences for 10, some military victories and one wonder, finishing on 40.
James took a pacifist approach, only building armies at the end, but not enough to avoid defeat from Barry and Maynard. He also had a more balanced strategy, including a purple card that leeched science card points from Maynard. This left him with 42 points.
Barry went for the aggressive military strategy (with help from his second wonder) and gained 18 points on red. A balanced selection of almost everything else gave a winning score of 53.
Barry 53; Maynard 49; Vicky 49; James 42; Emma 40

With the world-savers having waited for the 7 Wonders crew to finish, there were now a number of IBG’ers looking for something fun to do. And what is nore fun than rolling a shed-load of dice to determine who should be the –

King of Tokyo
This was a 6-player game which meant that Tokyo Bay came into play, allowing 2 monsters to potentially be in Tokyo at the same time. The game started in a predictable fashion, with some hit-and-run raids into Tokyo. James decided that card-accumulation was the name of the game, and managed to purchase a card that allowed him to heal other players in return for a non-negotiable 2 energy cubes. This had the twin effect of keeping everyone’s health up, whilst allowing James to purchase even more cards.
Amelia and Barry were focussing on collecting points, but Tonio was the first player to allow his health to fall to a dangerously low level. Jon was without mercy and rolled the requisite 4 attack symbols to finish him off.
The next time round, Paul and Jon were both in Tokyo, and it was James who was down to only 3 health points (despite having a veritable deck of cards in front of him.) Jon only needed to roll 3 attacks in 18 dice but failed to roll a single one! James, Amelia and Barrie heaved a sigh of relief, as a combined attack from both Jon and Paul could have wiped them all out, but James used his lucky survival to punish Paul and kill off his character.
However, all this macho behaviour was in vain, as Barry was only 3 points from victory and had a card which effectively gave him 3 re-rolls. He proved to be a far better dice-roller than Jon and sealed the points victory with a roll to spare.
This was a fun game again, and the fact that any of the players could have been eliminated near the end kept it tense and interesting. As long as James keeps bringing it, I think that it will get played…
Barry 20 points (5 health); Amelia 14 (8); Jon 10 (3); James 5 (3); Paul – dead; Tonio – dead

It was 10.45pm, and Barrie vetoed The Resistance, and so the final game of the evening to hit the table was –

Felix the Cat in the Sack
Rather than play with James’ slightly dubious Chinese version, Jon had brought along his newly acquired German copy, where, for some reason, Felix is called Filou.
Anyway, the long and the short of it was that Jon bid too high too early, and effectively put himself out of the rest of the game. Barry spent much of game collecting coins, and despite then picking up a zero-value collection of cards for 12 coins, he finished with a flourish, picking up 20+ points for a song.
But it was James who came out on top, after having not picked up a single card, but simply taken coins all game. Just goes to prove – there is more than one way to skin a cat……..
James 50; Barry 47; Paul 41; Jon 33; Amelia 23

Also played tonight, but with no details were:

Ticket to Ride: Europe
Gareth 119; Scott 118; Maynard 108; James 101; Vicky 83

San Marco
Barrie 70; Johan 60; Noel 56; Gareth 50

Revolution
Ian 187; Barry 111; Johan 89; Noel 72

Alien Frontiers
Ian 11; Woody 8; Scott 7

And that was it - the bar-staff were collecting glasses and it was time to wend our merry way home. For some, a short skip across Isleworth, for others, a 3316 mile trip across the ocean. Whatever – we’ll be back again next week….
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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Monster Raving Loonies.....

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Players: Gareth, Philip, John, Scott, Jon, Paul, James, Paul A, Andy, Barrie, Woody, Emma, Tonio, Amanda

14 IBG’ers assembled for some more dice-rolling, token-flicking, card-collecting, cube-manipulating fun. It was a very warm welcome to our latest recruit, Amanda, who was dragged along by Scott. However, she stayed for the whole evening and even made noises about returning again, so we obviously didn’t frighten her too much. Scott even chose not to play anything by Martin Wallace, to make sure that she was broken in gently…..

Tonight was the night when the 2011 Formula D season got underway (the 2010 season was rather truncated, so we’ll see how this one goes….) and the dice were also in evidence in many of the other games. There was also the introduction of a monster-ravaging filler based in Japan, and James sulked because he didn’t have enough flicking to do. Ho hum……

Tonio had press-ganged the early birds into playing Terakh, and I think that James may be telling about this ‘experience’ at a later date…. The next few to arrive sat down for some good old-fashioned dice-rolling fun -

Perudo
This was new to Amanda, who did very well to pick up the concept and concentrate on the game whilst also trying to eat her dinner. Jon proclaimed himself to be ‘rubbish’ at it, but then proceeded to do rather well. Scott started strongly but then called Amanda a liar once too often and paid the price (and lost some dice into the bargain…..) Paul A was the first to lose all his dice, closely followed by Scott, then Amanda. At this point, Gareth had 2 dice, Jon 1. With Gareth rolling two 4’s, and Jon a 6, Jon had nowhere to go and Gareth was duly victorious.
Gareth -1st; Jon – 2nd; Amanda – 3rd; Scott – 4th; Paul A – 5th

After last week’s successful (if rather long) introduction, James had brought back –

Catacombs
This time, Paul and Jon teamed up to defeat James as the Dungeon Master, controlling his hordes of evil minions including the Gorgon. Paul and Jon worked well as a team, blasting their way through the early rooms without much trouble. James looked on patiently. Paul and Jon then bought some new equipment and fought through another room. James looked on impatiently. Paul and Jon then used their cash to heal themselves, almost back to their starting levels. James looked on in a kind of apathetic sulk.
Then came the final room. James came out of his stupor and brought out the Gorgon, whose special ability meant that she could incapacitate an adventurer on one turn, then kill them on the next. Jon’s Barbarian went beserk straight away, but made the almost fatal mistake of not picking on the Gorgon, but instead took out some of the lesser monsters. This meant that James was able to then kill off the Barbarian and the Thief, before the Wizard summoned forth a helpful skeleton to distract the Gorgon and allow the Archer to get in a final killing blow.
Several things were evident from this game:
  • There is not a lot for the DM to do in the earlier rooms if the Adventurers are semi-competent.
  • The game is still a bit long for what it is.
  • We (and by ‘we’, I mean ‘James’) got a couple of rules wrong which favoured the Adventurers.
The general post-game discussion concluded that maybe the game would be better (and quicker) if just the last 2 rooms were used, and the Adventurers started on slightly less health. This would give the same game experience, but might help alleviate the problem of sulky Dungeon Masters….
Jon and Paul (Adventurers) – victorious; James (sulky DM) – not victorious

And now time for some serious dice-rolling -

Formula D (thanks Scott for this report)
Gareth finally got to restart his wish of starting a Formula D tournament, maybe one day we will get past the basic rules, but for this one with 7 of us and most new to it, even more streamlined rules were used. We each got a car with 18 points of damage to use up which you can use however you like so you haven’t got a specific allocation for tyres and engine etc.
Playing in starting position order Gareth (how convenient he rolled a 20), Woody, Tonio, Scott, Paul, Amanda, Emma.
Like usual it can be quite tricky to change your positioning in the game unless someone rolls far too high for a corner and loses some momentum to allow you to overtake; unless you are someone like Gareth who rolls exactly what he needs to reach the next corner and he stayed in the lead throughout. He was crowned victorious with ease, the rest of us had some other racers to deal with and it would often end up quite clogged on the corners and most of the straights with lots of dice rolling to see if you’d damaged your neighbour. Much to Emma’s disappointment, to take damage you need to get 1-4 on a D20 - she always looked to see if the number 4 had slipped out of the damage area every time she rolled one.
Woody has been awarded with most disappointing racer for starting in second and then slipping back a place on almost every corner, perhaps he wanted to be next to Emma who he tussled with on and off the track. Perhaps it was the complicated rules that after reading them for 5 seconds realised that we had explained all the information he ever needed to know - change gear up or down, roll dice, move car. Repeat.
Scott came under Tonio’s fire early on for not taking Amanda’s turn for her (something Woody had been hounded for, “Don’t move my car” was Emma’s favourite saying of the night) and letting her decide for herself how adventurous she attempted to be on the corners. It looked like it could all go pear shaped at the start but it soon reined in and she competed with Tonio for third place after Scott was hot on Gareth’s heels. Sadly, Tonio got the third place and his smile was firmly planted as he got to stand on the podium.
Paul managed a consistent race starting and finishing in fifth place although at some points he was gaining and others falling far behind but Woody and Emma did a good job ensuring they were in the bottom two. Emma tried to overtake Woody on the last corner (with a 0% chance of success as Woody was a step ahead having already stopped twice on the last corner) and having quite a battered car anyway it was death or glory. Emma picked death.
Gareth – 1st; Scott – 2nd; Tonio – 3rd; Amanda – 4th; Paul – 5th; Woody – 6th; Emma – Did not finish

This was the last outing for the GOTM –

Troyes (thanks to Philip for this one)
A four player game, three of us had played before. The new player, Barrie, was starting player, followed by me, John and Andy. Initial setup saw me taking 2 White and 2 Yellow, Barrie taking 2 Red and one of each, John 2 Yellow and one of each and Andy 2 White and 1 of each.
The cards were revealed, and the events removed one of Barrie’s meeples from the Palace and lost everyone 3 money. Barrie saw off the one Black die and attacked the money losing event. I bought into the Miller, as did John. Andy used the Archer. Barrie also used the Archer, finishing off the event he was fighting. There was a rush to get cubes into the cathedral and I placed a 3rd meeple in the Bishopric.
Second round cards were Templar (1 White die to 2 Red dice) Blacksmith (Boost red dice) and Hunting (get influence from Red dice). The events knocked a grey meeple out of the Palace (effectively locking us out from the 1,2,3 palace spaces) and a cube off the Cathedral- mine as it happened.The Black dice defeated, I raised some money through the Miller, now giving me 6 gold for every 4 Yellow pips. Archery continued, Andy taking a couple of events and Barrie one. I bought into the Priest. The others favoured the Blacksmith, one of them Hunted, and there were various meeples entering buildings and pushing out other meeples. One of the pushed out meeples was one of mine in the yellow building, and I spent my last influence rerolling a yellow die to put him back in.
Third round cards were Pilgrimage (points from dice of any colour) Joust (points for having most red dice in front of you) and the Sculptor (Yellow dice to VPs). The events included lose 2 influence, which didn’t affect me, but zero influence was still not a good place, so I bought some red dice and went Hunting, pulling a meeple from the Yellow building. Having Hunted I was able to go into Sculptor, using the Priest to boost my VPs. The others continued their onslaught on the event cards, with Andy taking Templar for future use. I was able to reoccupy the Yellow building later in the turn.
That set the course for the rest of the game. My white dice were used on Priest and to get me 3 cubes in the Cathedral (fortuitously, one on each level). Yellow dice raised money with Miller If necessary but mainly went into Sculptor, earning 7-8 VPs per batch with the +9 boost from Priest. I used Hunting one more time when low on influence and also invested in Pilgrimage. Everyone else merrily fought the event cards, with some diversification into Pilgrimage and Sculptor. On turn 5, with the lead coming up, I put a meeple in the Palace to fight off the Black die. The game ended awash with money and with the other three players high in influence. John had also placed one cube on each level, but Andy and Barrie had only one level taken and so lost 4 VPs each. The character cards were Cubes in the Cathedral (me), Money (John) , Event cards (Andy) and Influence (Barrie).
Philip 50; Andy 47; Barrie 45; John 40

This game saw a clash between two styles of play that have been denounced as broken on BGG, the Archer and the Sculptor+Priest (Or Monk). Despite the apparent victory of Sculptor, I would observe that most of the players were concentrating on red dice and event fighting, while I had little competition for yellow and white dice- in particular no one tried to dislodge me from the Bishophric.

And now - yet more dice -

King of Tokyo (thanks again Scott)
The game of giant monsters battling it out over Tokyo, their traditional stomping ground. At this point Paul decided he would get going  (he has a long drive back to Isleworth and all...) leaving the remaining six of us from Formula D to take arms against each other.
There are two ways to win the game - be the last monster standing or the first to 20 victory points. On your turn you roll six dice and you get two chances to re-roll. There are 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, energy, healing and attack on the sides. The numbers are easy; if you get three or more of them you score that many points plus 1 point per extra dice, four 1’s will get you two points. Each dice with a heart heals one damage up to your maximum of 10 (you can’t heal if you are crushing buildings inside Tokyo), you can collect energy which can be used to purchase special power cards (extra dice, bonus actions/healing/ VPs etc. – it’s a huge deck, you’ll probably not see all the cards in even a handful of games).
The attacking is very strange, as you don’t pick a player to attack as such. If you are the first person to roll attack symbols then you go into Tokyo (you get 1VP for entering Tokyo – the board that comes with the game is purely to stand up your creature and clearly show that he’s in Tokyo), after that if anyone rolls attack dice then they attack everyone inside Tokyo (except if they are in Tokyo and they attack everyone outside Tokyo), with 5 or 6 monsters alive there is room for two in Tokyo and after that point only one. If you get attacked in Tokyo you have the option of running away, allowing you to heal and less likely to be targeted but if you are brave enough to stick around you get 2VP at the start of your turn if you are still in Tokyo.
We all selected our monsters and began (they look different but they all operate in the same way). Emma quickly selected the ‘cute’ dragon despite it being called Mega Dragon, the shame that Emma has now inflicted upon his reputation will see him shunned from anywhere half decent worth fighting over.
At first we all seemed quite eager to attack, that was until Tonio started collecting cards to hurt us more and successfully rolling lots of attacks, after which point we spent most of the time recovering from Tonio’s fiery breath (*insert your own joke here*). Gareth built up some extra healing and after an early stint in Tokyo for points was then just sitting by the wayside rolling 3’s and hearts.
Scott spent most of the game collecting energy for cards and keeping alive from all the attacks but by the time he had a fist full of special powers the game was nearly over. Amanda did her best impression of an evil monster performing regular attacks on Tokyo but quickly fleeing to heal.
Emma’s cute dragon didn’t fare very well and was the first to die, we suspect of shame. Woody dealt the final blow and this was quickly followed by Woody’s demise at the hands of Tonio - those two just can’t play nicely...
The VP totals were getting quite high and it was close between those alive - well not Scott, who forgot about the winning conditions while he was getting juiced up.
In a bizarre twist of fate, we let Gareth win yet another game; this makes three in a row and some sort of record most likely. Scott blamed the dice since they had been a vital feature in all the games thus far this evening.
Gareth 21; Amanda 17; Tonio 15; Scott 6; Woody & Emma - Deceased

After reading John’s session report from 2 weeks ago, Jon had asked if he could have a go at -

Biblios
This game was new to both Barrie and Jon, so John did a good job of explaining the relatively simple rules. During the game, not a lot of positive church cards came up, so the dice tended to lose their value rather than gain. This is a difficult game to play well on a first outing, as it is not clear how many cards of each set you need to pick up to ensure a majority. There is a player aid on the inside of the box lid describing the card distribution, but it is the most ridiculously obtuse aid I’ve ever seen, and may as well have been giving directions to the nearest McDonalds for all the sense I could make out of it.
Anyway, when push came to shove, Barrie misunderstood the scoring, and collected tons of just one colour, Jon tried to collect 3 colours (but not enough of any of them to score) whilst John and Philip scored with 2 colours each. However, John’s colours had higher dice values which mean that he had won. Some interesting mechanics, and a quick play time, so definitely worth another outing.
John 7 (3+4); Philip 5 (2+3); Barrie 2; Jon 0

We now hopped on the IBG merry-go-round, and when it stopped, Paul and James hopped off together -

Yomi (thanks Paul)
Paul had been wanting to play Yomi for a while, due to Tom Vasel's rave reviews on the Dice Tower and had arranged for a couple of decks to be shipped from the US with some incoming friends. In the meantime, James magically came up with a full set so they met early with the aim of playing the two player game before anyone else arrived. Tonio was there early too, and being the kind hearted peeps they are, fell for his sob story and agreed to play the game that he has been asking people to play for weeks.
Later on that evening, P&J managed to manoeuvre themselves into a place where they could play the two player game without feeling too antisocial.
Yomi is a fighting card game. The word means 'reading' in Japanese - like 'reading you opponent's next move'. Each deck is a character and is filled with attacks, throws, dodges and blocks. It is unashamedly 'rock, paper, scissors' (as played by 2 potential candidates in this week’s “Apprentice”) in as much as each move will beat something else, but also be beaten by something else. Players can also throw combos together and of course each character has their own special ability to be able to, well do something rather special.
Each player starts with 100 hit points, and the first to bring their opponent down to zero of less wins. In Paul's case his character could play three aces and inflict 45 damage.
James decided to play the part of a gambling panda, so his special ability was to do random stuff if he managed to inflict damage, so piling on the misery.
Only one round was played and it was a learning experience. There is a good mix of luck and skill, but both left thinking that to play really skilfully, you'd need to know how to really get the best from your deck in terms of combinations and also to know the weak points in your opponents deck. There is a lot to it that wasn't apparent from the rules, but was very apparent when confronted with two decks of unfamiliar cards.
Paul ended up winning as he managed to unleash his 45 point attach mid-game, and although James made a valiant effort to claw back, it was never going to be sufficient. But the scores were really incidental, and only after a few games would they be really worth counting.
Paul 12 points left (won); James -6 points left (lost)

And with not a single die in sight -

Skull and Roses (thanks for this to Scott again)
To wrap up the night, the survivors from King of Tokyo (all 6 of us) tried our hand at bluffing each other for the win instead of just rolling the best dice. This seemed at particular odds with Gareth who managed to keep his record of being first but this time he was first out of the game having pushed his luck far too much.
For the rest of us we were locked in a battle of trying to figure out who had their skulls left. Initially you would think that Emma only had skulls and she would always seem to play it, this had been bad news for Gareth but Woody finally figured out the best time to select it and managed a successful reveal with Emma. Scott and Tonio were still from time to time trusted to not put their skulls in the mix but people never learn, Amanda seemed to always play roses but people had already fallen foul of someone else before finding out whether she had played her skull or not, or even if she had one left.
Woody, with his early lead and dwindling set of tiles, was eager to get in the win and not let the others play too many tiles. This had the effect of bids getting quite high to almost always trying to turn over everything successfully. This rarely panned out and eventually everyone (well not Gareth who had left the table some time ago) was on a half-win with the next successful call the winner.
Because it was his game, we let Woody have the honours of bidding five when the rest of us had just played one tile, he slowly turned them over to reveal that we had all had the intentions of winning the game this round, he was just hustling us earlier and we fell right into his trap.
Woody – winner; Amanda, Scott, Emma, Tonio – half-way; Gareth – Out of tiles

James had been frustrated by bringing this along, only to see other people having fun playing it whilst he was sulking in his catacombs. No matter, he was able to summon up a few volunteers just before the end of the evening to play –

King of Tokyo
Scott did a good job of quickly explaining the rules, and so the dice-rolling fun was soon underway. After a number of conquering and re-conquering forays into Tokyo City, Barrie was finally killed off, followed soon after by James. It was therefore left to Philip and Jon to duke it out, and when Jon failed to roll the requisite dice to score the 3 points needed for victory, Philip killed off his final 3 life points for victory with his next roll. Lots of fun, and a perfect filler for the end of the evening. Could well be a keeper.
Philip – won; Jon - 2nd; James – 3rd; Barrie – 4th

And with Philip, fresh from his Tokyo-stomping victory, rushing out of the door to catch his lift, that was the end of another successful evening of boardgaming with the Isleworth Boardgamers. Catch up with us next week to experience more of the same…
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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Flicking Good Fun at IBG...........

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Players: James, Emma, Keith, Paul, Jon, Johan, Noel, Andy, Mark, Scott, Philip, Ian, Tonio, Gareth, Barrie, Maynard, Woody

17 IBG’ers again rocked up to the finest public house on the north bank of the Thames, to pit their wits against each other in a selection of the finest board and card games on offer today. This included a welcome return to our token Irishman, Noel, after a few weeks away, and the continued presence of Maynard who is obviously making the most of his pre-infant freedom. One of the IBG’ers also had a birthday tonight, but I promised not to mention who she was……. (ooops….)

Tonight saw a real variety of games played. There were a few abstracts, a couple of auctions, some ‘classics’ as well as some newer fare. There was even the opportunity to get up out of your chair, stare a zombie straight in the face and utter in a blood-curdling scream – “I’m gonna flick you to kingdom come!” (That is, if you could decide which is your best flicking finger, of course…..)

First up was a new game to IBG -

Catacombs
Keith, Paul, James and Emma were already underway in this game when Jon walked in, but as Paul was taking control of 2 characters, he generously offered one to Jon so that he could join in too. This is a ‘dungeon crawl meets maual dexterity’ game. Really? Yes, really!
One player plays the dungeon master (I really tried not to use that term, but never mind…), and as it was his game, that privilege fell to James. The other 4 adventurers work together to attempt to travel deep into the dungeon, fighting all kinds of despicable monsters as they go. The dungeon is made up of a series of rooms, which are essentially game boards with wooden obstacles sticking out of them. The adventurers start at one end, and the monsters at the other. Each individual adventurer or monster is represented by a wooden disk, and these are flicked at each other in turn, in order to try to cause damage points. The adventurers have special abilities which they can call on at certain points, which, if used effectively, can help overpower the numerous despicable foes in front of them.
When Jon joined the game, the adventurers were still in the first room, which was only occupied by 4 monsters. They had obviously been ruminating for some time, as James was becoming a little frustrated – “Hurry up - this is an EASY room – you’ve only got 4 monsters to beat – wait until you get to the room with 13 in it – I’ll have you all for breakfast…!” Stung by this criticism, Paul invoked his “go bananas” special ability, and attacked 4 times in a row without stopping. Nice.
And so it went on. This game was characterised by a number of things:
  • The adventurers took a long while to plan their strategy, only to realise that when push came to shove (or flick), they didn’t actually have the manual dexterity skills to pull off their plans.
  • Emma doesn’t know which finger she favours when flicking
  • Emma doesn’t like being given advice
  • Keith has a tendency to flick his disk about 3mm only. Not useful.
  • Jon’s wasted childhood of endless games of Subbuteo finally paid off as he threaded his disk through the eye of a needle to take out some stubborn zombies
  • Paul enjoyed getting in a rage
By the time that the final room turned up (James was licking his lips in glee), the adventurers had started to get a feel for the game (but were still rubbish at flicking). However, a combination of Paul’s rage, Emma’s arrows and Jon’s magic spells (and despite Keith’s attempts to shove Paul into the firing line) managed to see off many of James’ monsters before they could use their numerical superiority to good effect. Their rotting corpses were soon strewn all over the dungeon floor, and the adventurers congratulated themselves on their reasonably straightforward victory.
James decided that he had played a sub-par game as the DM, but I’m sure that he will spend every waking minute between now and next week, brushing up on his single-digit disk-propelling skills.
Emma, Keith, Jon, Paul – all won; James – lost (big time)

The looong game of the night was -

Power Grid (thanks Johan for this one)
Only Andy and Johan had played PowerGrid before, so the evening started with explaining the rules. We played Germany. As with most people who are PG virgins… there was a lot of cautious auctioning and buying.
Noel at one stage was in a very good position having acquired two windfarms and a nuclear plant, but stalled due to the unavailability of good powerplants that would take him further. Mark was initially very coal dependent and often in front, so he had to fork out quite a bit of elektros to power up his plants. Johan and Andy played quite conservatively, where Johan initially was able to power up four cities, but then was overtaken by the others due to their buying.
Step three was reached with all players being able to power up 8-10 plants. After another round, Johan had acquired sufficient elektros (250) to build up to 17 cities and power 16 of them (13 elektros left) . Noel was able to light 15, Mark 14 and Andy 10. Andy thought there would be another round and did not buy enough resources to power up all of his cities. He would have had 15 as well. Congratulations to Mark and Noel who played PG for the first time and played it well!
Johan 16; Noel 15; Mark 14; Andy 10

On another table, the current GOTM was played -

Troyes (thanks Philip for this report)
Following on from my rather embarrassing misreading of the rules a fortnight earlier,  I embarked on a 4 player game with three players who hadn’t played before: Scott, Tonio and Ian. The victory condition cards in play were Influence (Tonio) Cards (Scott), cubes in the Cathedral (Ian) and meeples on cards (me).
I drew Start player and, after explaining the rules, and examining began placing meeples. I ended up not getting any yellow dice, with 2 white and 2 red. In a related development Ian had 3 Yellow dice and 1 white. Tonio had 2 yellow, 1 white and 1 red and Scott had 2 white,1 red and 1 yellow. The Greys of course had the 2 remaining red dice, spots 1+2.
The cards were revealed as Archery (roll black dice, 3+s get you hits on event cards), Tithing (collect 1 Yellow die from each opponent for free to form a group of Yellow dice) and Journeyman (swap influence for deniers). The event deck got off to a flying start with heresy (everyone loses 2 influence).Ouch!
After seeing off the black dice, I paid 2 deniers for Tonio’s red 6 and slammed it straight into Archery, getting 2 hits off three black dice. The first round continued with several cubes being loaded into the Cathedral, Ian fighting the starting event with his yellow dice (Journeyman seeming unattractive given low influence levels) and my buying a yellow die and pushing Tonio out of the yellow building. Someone polished off Heresy and Scott and Tonio and me were able to pass out early while Ian continued for a round, getting us needed cash.
Turn 2 saw the cards Tax Collector (collect money from people in the Yellow building), Chivalry (turn one White die into 2 Red dice) and Blacksmith (boost a group of red dice by +5). The events were Succession Crisis, which kicked Scott out of the red building, and the one that makes everyone lose 3 deniers. Tonio had rolled a red six and a white six, and after much deliberation put the white six in the Cathedral. Of course, someone bought the red six from him. Not sure what else happened this round. Tonio pushed me out of one of my spots in the red building. The Cathedral continued to be popular.. Ian invested in the Blacksmith. Scott went into Archery, killing the 3 deniers event...everyone ended about the same time.
Turn 3 saw Captain (1 VP per event card you have a cube on, does not include completed events(?), Pilgrimage (use dice of any colours to get VPs, is free to enter but the divisor is 7 making it tough to get a good return) and Goldsmith (get VPs and Cash). Event cards saw Scott kicked out of the Grey and the Red building. Tonio invested in the Goldsmith, as did I. Scott collected some cash from everyone with Tax collector and Tonio kicked a grey meeple out the Red building. Scott also went into the Blacksmith. I bought some dice and went on Pilgrimage, and kicked Ian out of the yellow building.
In turn 4 the events kicked Tonio out of the red building and Ian out of the grey building and added a couple of cubes to two event cards, but they moved back in at my expense, bringing me down to 2 yellow dice and 1 white die. Scott finished off the event that was chucking people out of the grey building. Ian spectacularly failed his Archery (1 hit off 5 dice!), and Tonio joined the crowd at the Blacksmith. I was able to put a single white die into Tithing.
Turn 5 saw me as Start player again, up against 3 Black dice, which hurt both me and Scott (sitting next to me and having rolled three ones on his 1 white and 2 red dice). I was however able to recover a little with Tithing, putting the dice into the goldsmith. Having seen Tithing at work Ian also invested in it, and I became the last player to use the Blacksmith. All of us were using the Blacksmith against the events quite successfully. Tonio used Journeyman to get some cash form his influence.
In Turn 6 Ian was able to tithe into the Goldsmith while I scattered some arrows over the events. However, Tonio’s archery then finished off the events I had started, while Scott took the Captain slot, so I changed plans and went into Chivalry. But there were no white dice left by the time it got round to me again, so I went into Journeyman instead, making 1 influence into 6 gold. My influence had been low all game and lowering it would make no difference to the influence card , but if the deniers card was out there 6 deniers would make a difference… The others were mostly fighting events and finishing the Cathedral.
I lost 2 VPs on the Cathedral and scored nothing for cubes in the Cathedral or influence, but got the full 6 VPs for meeples on cards. Scott had the 6 Vps for influence but was also hoping for the deniers card to be out there.
 Philip 39; Scott 35; Tonio 35; Ian 29

In retrospect Archery proved pretty disappointing given all the hype about it on the geek. Tithing was probably a better idea for the first turn, but neither I nor anyone else saw it. Journeyman proved unpopular due to low levels of Influence. Blacksmith and Goldsmith are strong, Pilgrimage seems weak (although useful for the meeples on cubes card).
Scott was definitely unimpressed with the game- he particularly disliked the randomness of what got victory points at the end. Ian said the game was a bit too complicated for what it was. Tonio had been complaining all the way through the game but I think that might just mean he likes it!

And now, Gareth had decided to bring out some of his back-catalogue -

Hare and Tortoise (thanks Woody for this one)
A pretty decent family game and one to get the kids learning maths .... so therefore, a group of adult board game players struggled ! ... only joking. Object is to get from the start to the finish, moving places according to how many carrots you eat. Must get rid of your three lettuces at certain points around the course before you can finish. Finally, must finish with less than a certain number of carrots. Various other features to make the game more strategic and interesting, so worth a try.
Woody shot off like a hare. Gareth had a clear plan of attack and Maynard decided he wanted to roll the dice as many times as he could and try to get a ‘1’ .. meaning he would miss a turn! Positions chopped and changed with Woody managing to get home far quicker than his skill and understanding of the game should have allowed. Gareth’s strategy got him home in a close second. Despite Woody shouting ‘1’ every time Maynard rolled the dice and him getting said ‘1’, he followed home in third with Barrie an unfortunate last!
1st - Woody; 2nd - Gareth; 3rd - Maynard; 4th - Barrie

And Gareth's second offering of the evening -

Member’s Club (thanks again Woody)
An interesting card and betting game where you the braver you are, the better the returns. Careful selection of which order you place your cards and how many of each ‘suit’ is required to try and make your bets pay. Worthy of another game, perhaps with more players.
Gareth 21pts; Maynard 12; Woody 5!

After a period of waiting due to other games not finishing at the same time, Jon, Barrie and James finally sat down to a 3-player game of –

Small World Underground
After last week’s rather mammoth 5-player game, there was a determination from all concerned to move this one on a bit quicker. This was achieved, although the game still took well over an hour. I failed to keep a detailed record of who did what this week, but these are the highlights:
  • The river running down the middle creates an interesting dynamic, with often having one player on one side, and two on the other, which can unbalance things a little.
  • Barrie unleashed the Balrog at one point, which spent most of the first part of the game decimating Jon’s races, before coming to rest in a region that then became unconquerable.
  • Jon decided to experiment a bit with the race combinations, so spent 11 coins over the course of the game (and passed up the opportunity to pick up 5 coins on another race) in picking what he deemed to be the ‘most interesting’ combinations.  (That was one of his excuses for scoring so poorly, anyway…!)
  • On the last turn, Jon had to decide whether to attack Barrie or James with his new active race. He chose to give Barrie a little bit of a hiding, which as it turned out, probably gave the game to James – which I hope that James remembers.
Overall, this was a fun game, although it still suffers from the problem of having too many powers / effects to worry about at the same time (eg race / special power / relic / popular place) – which slows the game down and makes it difficult to get a handle on who is in a strong position. The original game is often characterised by players trying to subtlely suggest who is doing well, and should therefore be the next target (“Ooooh – 12 points in one round – well done!!!”) However, there wasn’t any of that going on in the 2 games of SWU that I’ve played so far. Maybe it was due to unfamiliarity with the new races and powers etc, but I suspect that it may also have something to do with not easily being able to assess how strong a position each player is in.
Anyway, it’s probable that I’ll sway more towards the original game (with the excellent Tales and Legends event deck thrown in) for my Small World fix in the future….
James 97; Barrie 90; Jon 74

Now, it was gateway game time -

Ticket to Ride:Switzerland (thanks Paul)
With three people left to play something, Keith, Emma and Paul pulled together the trains and train cards from Ticket to Tide with the map and modified rules from the Switzerland edition - a simple three player game where all players were familiar with the base game.
The few minor modification for this version include only having 40 trains, only being able to use locomotives tunnels (although in Switzerland that wasn't much of a draw back) and picking locomotives like they were normal cards. With Switzerland being land locked there were also long route cards from countries bordering the Swiss with multiple choices of routes for big points.
Scoring was done using Keith's chosen variant, by scoring all track points at the end.
Zurich was quickly established as the 'hub' city where all players needed to go, and managed, although maybe not in the most efficient way as is often the case with Ticket To Ride.
Emma did leave herself exposed by making one route plan very obvious by placing track at either end of a short hop and some unclaimed 'joining track' in the middle - but claimed that it was a bad way to play by taking it from her, and as it was her birthday both Paul and Keith decided to play nice. On any other day of the year...
Paul got loads more routes quite early on and quietly set about linking all countries. Keith got his routes once a bit more committed later and gambled on being able to link the east and west. Emma's newer routes later required less of a gamble.
Paul eventually wiped the floor with everyone else, closing out the game, claiming the longest route, the highest track points and completing all of his routes. Emma got nearly all of hers and Keith failed on a couple of biggies bringing him down by 25 points.
Paul 134; Emma 88; Keith 54

Maynard was looking to make an exit, so Paul and Keith tempted him with a short game of -

Ingenious (thanks again Paul)
It was indeed short and gave Keith an opportunity to avenge his defeat at Ticket to Ride with a resounding victory. The game was new to Maynard, but very simple to pick up, which he did in no time. Paul had played a bit before, but as it he found out, was a total novice compared with Keith, who reached the end of his board with all colours apart from one, while Paul and Maynard were battling it out for second place from very early on. In fact Paul managed to pip Maynard for second by a point, even though his average for each colour was much less than Maynard's, one colour held Maynard back.
Keith 14; Paul 9; Maynard 8

And for the second time tonight -

Ticket to Ride: Switzerland (thanks James)
A rare occasion where a games gets 2 plays in the same evening, but Gareth was very keen to squeeze this into the last hour and Barrie and myself more than happy to indulge, even if it did mean missing a game of Resistance at the table next door.
Barrie and Gareth had both played copious times before on their ipads and were professing a sound knowledge of the game (whilst bemoaning that they actually had to shuffle cards themselves rather than pushing a button to do this… what kind of lightweight gamers are they?) In their defence we were using the teeny-weenie cards from the original US edition, but still, you’d think they’d never played Dominion before….
Basically it’s vanilla TTR rules, but with some route cards involving countries instead of places, and some offering a choice of multiple destinations. Pretty simple and very little opportunity for even Gareth to get the rules wrong… although he did pull a fast one early in the game proclaiming that there was a typo on the board (Brig instead of Brio on the card) and used this to take a new route card… hmmm, hmmm…
So what happened… Lots and lots of cards in the early rounds… everyone up to about 20+ before the first train was laid. Not sure about anyone else but I found I wasn’t paying that much attention to the other trains on the board whilst collecting my own sets. Unlike the Nordic’s map which is more compact and far more prone to blockage, this map felt big enough to accommodate 3 strategies and so routes could be taken in order rather than having to grab the bottlenecks early and try to fill in the gaps. Having a couple of country to country cards from east to west I was spreading across the middle while Gareth and Barrie seemed to be building routes in the north.
To be honest, not much happened during the game, apart from few tunnels failing to get completed. No one really interfered too much with other tracks and everyone seemed to be getting to where they needed to be…
I was the first to collect more route cards, always a promising sign to judge how you’re doing compared to others and it looked promising that I’d like France to Austria. Then, as things started to approach an end game Barrie suddenly went on a route collecting spree I think picking up new route cards 5 for 5 goes in a row… trying to make up for the shortfall in points gained with routes from all the bonuses with the cards. Gareth then brought things to a close taking a couple of small 2 and 1 routes to use up his last trains.
Gareth counted first and hit 96, I started off with -9 for failing to complete a route to Lausanne (cursing the lack of red cards available towards the end) but having picked up a few lucky (already completed) routes from my new routes collection I ended up with a whopping 113... all eyes turned to Barrie who had almost a full deck of route cards to work through. Not a promising start as he noticed that Martigny was not in Italy (the clue is in the name Barrie) and begun by going backwards… in the end a lot of the cards were low value and although he’d completed more cards than anyone else he could only ruffle up 97 points… enough to pip Gareth…. until Gareth added on 10 for his longest route.
So the moral of the game would appear to be that iPad victories are worth nothing in the real world… and that shuffling is for real men.
James 113; Gareth 106; Barrie 97

There were some valiant efforts to get enough players together for a final game, which only eventually succeeded when Emma revealed that it was her birthday, therefore everyone should play -

The Resistance
Emma needed a rules recap, but then proceeded to play a masterly game, brazenly claiming that Woody was a liar after he had looked at her played mission card. As Woody is such a good bluffer himself, that did add an element of doubt to a game that was characterised by Ian not sending himself on any mission (his protestations of “I always play like that” were met with cries of “yes, and you’re always a spy!”)
Paul also managed to drop himself in it by claiming that both himself and Scott were good, when it soon became clear that at least one of them was a spy. With the scores at 2-2, Jon was left to decide between Emma and Woody as the final spy and chose…..wisely. Emma was indeed the 3rd evil one, and their plot had been foiled at the last.
A quick check on an i-Phone also revealed that that is the last time until 2016 that we will have to play this game, as that is the next time that Emma’s birthday falls on a Wednesday…….
Woody, Jon, Scott, Philip (good guys) – won; Emma, Paul, Ian (spies) - lost

Also played tonight was Quandary and Perudo.

See you next time!
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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Barrie gets very, very excited (actually, he wasn't that excited but I just wanted an excuse to post a picture of a Housemartins record)........

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Players: Barrie, Gareth, Maynard, Jon, Emma, John, Scott, Paul A, Philip, Paul, Andy, Woody, Karl, Ian, James, Russ, Fi

17 IBG’ers filled the Riverview Room at the London Apprentice this evening, including a very welcome return to Russ and, more importantly, his wife Fi. Last time she joined us she wiped the floor with everyone, so there was a general feeling of nervousness that went round the room when she entered… A complete newcomer welcomed to the group was Karl, another friend (yes – he has more than one….) of Paul’s.

Tonight saw another dice-fest, along with the arrival of 3 new games. One of them was a shiny new copy of Small World Underground, direct from the publishers to Barrie's hot, sweaty little hands. And as he was so excited about his latest acquisition, it would have been rude not to have joined in with his fun....

Tonight's first new game was courtesy of John -

Constantinopolis (thanks for the report, John)
Four intrepid merchants (John, Scott, Paul A and Philip) went looking for fame and fortune in Constantinopolis. One very important difference between this game and nearly all other games is that the track running around the outside of the board is for tracking fame points and not victory points. So how do you win the game you ask? By having the most fame points of course, so they are nothing like victory points...got it?!
It’s a game about resource management, economy and trade that starts slowly and gathers pace as players get access to more and more resources and more options of what to do with them. The game lasts for nine turns.
Each turn starts of with a auction for player titles, which give an advantage and determine turn order. For the start of the game these were determined randomly. Though there are five titles with only four players, apart from the last turn of the game only the first four positions were used for the rest of the game - with people sticking with their starting position for most of the game. The positions give you extra contracts, one extra resource, 4 gold, buy a wall or two extra contracts and priority buying one building or two extra contracts.
Scott and Philip changed places a couple of times and John and Paul changed place late in the game as John tried to make sure Paul did not buy all the wall pieces (there were bonus points for wall pieces).
Everyone starts with one production building, which produces two green (cheapest goods), a ship and 30 gold. Main aim is to produce and sell / convert your goods. All the players bought another red building on the first turn so they could draw more contracts. (drawing as many contracts as possible is a very good thing).
There was some differences in the commercial buildings (put resources in get something out, usually cash and fame points). And utility buildings (sell goods for more, get building cheaper etc). There are also public buildings which cost a lot and give only fame points. There were some comments about these being expensive and probably would not be bought. (They were)
The game is about fulfilling contracts, in other words sending resources and passengers on ships to foreign ports to get gold and fame. So most of the game was spent building up to the last two or three turns. Scott was the first to buy a second ship which doubled his capability to fullfill contracts. Philip and Paul soon got in on the game buying Medium ships and getting the ability to make long voyages, which give extra fame points. John was the first to get a large ship which carries the most and gives the most bonus fame points.
Scott had got a nice little number going now where he could process some of his resources and then buy them back for less at the market and then use them to fulfil contracts. Philip was almost staying with him but John and Paul were starting to lag behind.
On the last couple of turns with quite large amounts of money coming in Scott and Philip started buying those expensive public building and racking up even more points.
When the game ends all ships at sea reach port and make money and score points so the last turn everyone bought a large ship and sent every ship they could to sea. When the dust settled it meant another economic game that Scott had won!
Scott 55; Philip 50; John 42; Paul 41

Following on from this, they then tried out this 'super-filler' -

Biblios (thanks again John)
Scott and John had played before, but Paul A and Philip hadn’t. Biblios is a game themed about collecting sacred manuscripts at a monastery. What it’s really about is collecting sets of cards in different colours. At the end of the game whoever has the most in each colour gets a die with a number between 1 and 6. The player with the most dice pips wins.
The game starts off with drafting. With four players each player gets to draw 5 cards one at a time and gets to keep one card, put one card up for auction latter in the game or put the rest of the cards into a common era that the other players can choose from.
Paul was the first player, but it’s very hard when you first play to know what cards are actually good ones. We had a couple of draws where the three cards in the common area were a 2, 2 and a 1 gold card. Cue a little bout of juvenile humour to the last player to choose.
Throughout the game Scott and Paul seemed to get most of the church cards. These are play immediately cards which allow you to add or subtract from the values on the dice. It’s quite hard to tell who is doing well in what colours during the draft as you only see some of the cards each player is getting, so it can be a tricky choice.
When the draft is finished the last part of the game is auctioning of the last cards one by one. If it’s a money card you bid a number of cards (Race for the Galaxy style), if it’s a manuscript or church card you bid money cards. You can tell a lot more about what colours people are strong in during the auction as you see what they bid for. There were a few cards where there was some heated bidding but the majority went quite cheap. Philip had been collecting money during the draft (or it seemed it) as he seemed to be able to bid more money that the other players. A couple of the 1 Gold cards did not fetch any bids.
At the end of the auction Scott, Paul and Philip all won one die and John won two. But it was not over yet. Although John had won two of the colours and so got two dice, the combined total was only five while Scott and Paul’s single dice were also 5. So it was a three way tie. The tie break is most Gold left, so it went to Scott with 7, John had 5 and Paul 3. Philip’s dice was only a one.
Scott 5 points (7 Gold); John 5 (5); Paul 5 (3); Philip 1

And now for some more dice -

Yspahan (thanks Andy for this one)
The latest in a line of games just asking to be pronounced terribly, Yspahan is about camels, souks and a big fat bunch of dice. Or is it a bunch of big fat dice?
Anyway, Paul set about explaining how the thing works to first time players Woody, Andy and Karl, a friend of Paul's making his first appearance at the club.
And the new boy made good early headway by managing to fill a couple of big scoring neighbourhoods to score some nice points and grab the lead. It wasn't too long before Woody was bemoaning his misfortune with the dice and saying he was playing for last place – nobody actually believed him, mind. Andy got a jump on the other players in the construction stakes while Paul leapt ahead of Karl by spreading his resources well. 
A severe camel shortage was affecting all players though, meaning construction and sending workers to the caravan was slow, which kept scores low.
However by early in the third week Andy had managed to build all six of the buildings on offer which provided a handy points bonus and helped give him a decent lead. Paul made maximum use of the supervisor and camels to send people to the caravan in the final few turns in a late bid for victory but came up just short in a photo finish. 
Andy 73; Paul 71; Woody 63; Karl 58

And now, even more dice -

Alien Frontiers (thanks James for this write-up)
Ian brought this to the table again after last week's initiation and quickly found willing accomplices in Russ and his wife Fiona… and at the last minute I managed to sneak in the 4th spot due to turning up late. So after a brief round of rules the game set off to seek out new life and boldly go where no man has gone before (or, as it is more commonly known,…. Hounslow).
Ian and myself had played before so the early advantage was with us. I lucked out going first which gives a big advantage in ones ability to take ore for a cheap price. Seeing this Ian and Russ triggered a few smuggler attacks early on, stealing lots of precious resources (mostly from me… grrr) which set up the tone of the game quite nicely… this is very much a bash the leader kind of game with several ways of stifling your opponents, ranging from mild (taking a docking station) to vicious (destroying a dice or stealing cards) .. nearly all of these I think were used on others at some stage in the game.
It was around here that the traditional Isleworth ‘at least one rule needs to be screwed up’ screw up occurred as we let Fiona use a dice at the Terraforming Station when she only had 3 dice available. Rules say you must have more than 3 to do this… D’oh… Sorry Fi. As a result she was left with 2 dice for several rounds trying to roll a double before we saw the error and gave her a dice back, somewhat sheepishly. It felt bad to have made this mistake… now we know how Gareth feels most games...
So Russ was first to the Relic Ship (extra dice) until Ian decided this was too powerful and slapped an Isolation Field on him to take it back. Soon everyone (apart from Fiona) was upto 5/6 dice and raking in the resources each move. One thing that’s nice about this game is that you can achieve a lot with just a few dice and some cards… although this can cause a bit of action point paralysis as players try to work out the optimum moves, especially as given the fluid nature of the availability of docking stations it’s not easy to plan much in advance.
By midgame Fiona was doing her best given her early setback, but it was looking hard for her to catch up. Russ hadn’t landed many colonists but was collecting any piece of Alien Technology he could find (or steal). However Ian and myself were pushing ahead with colonising the planet, picking up the bonuses and threatening to trigger the end game scenario.
I was looking at finishing quickly as I could see a winning potential in ending the game quickly and managed to get down to 2 colonists. Then Ian spotted this and triggered a multi player all out war on me (he’s actually a nice guy if you met him socially). I quickly found myself back down to just 3 dice, but only needing to get one colonist landed so it was clear the game would end in 2 turns at most. This is where the focus of the game changes quickly from getting resources and buying dice to maximising VP from the moon and from Alien Tech cards. I think the secret to doing really well in this game is to be able to recognise the exact point you need to refocus your goals.
So there followed a few frenzied rounds of landing colonists, trashing Alien Tech cards to use the more powerful bonuses, but when the dust had settled in the end no-one could stop me (cue evil laugh… ha ha HA) from interplanetary domination.
Personally I’m starting to really like this game, fun, interactive and pretty simple to play… probably the only flaw is the potential for longish gaps between turns… ah well can’t have it all.
James 9; Russ 7; Ian 6; Fiona 5

Tonight, Barrie had come along to the London Apprentice more excited than a schoolboy in a sweetshop. The reason being, that he seems to be about the only person on the planet to have got his hands on the latest DOW release –

Small World Underground
Jon had pre-booked a place at the table (and read the rules on Barrie’s behalf…) and was joined by Emma, Gareth and Maynard – all of whom had played the original game previously. The main differences between this game and the original are: new maps (with prety garish colours); a river running through the map which is crossable (at a cost) but not normally conquerable, and the main difference, the introduction of relics and popular places which confer special bonuses on their owners. Oh, and there are 15 new races and 21 new special powers to play with too - plenty to be going on with.
 As Barrie had most recently visited a cave (?!) he was designated start player, and chose the Royal Gnomes. These were immune from any special powers or race abilities, as well as having a single region that was totally immune from conquests. Maynard chose the Vengeful Mudmen, which received extra race tokens for each mudpool region occupied. Unfortunately, he soon maxed out on the number of tokens available so couldn’t take any more, and the Vengeful ability did not really come into effect as no-one was attacking him!
Gareth started out with some Immortal Ogres – a race which could conquer all regions at 1 less token than usual, and could not be killed. He used these to good effect and spread out quickly. Jon took the Flocking Drow (cue juvenile jokes) which gain bonuses for not bordering other races and staying in adjacent regions. Therefore Jon took up residence in a corner of the board and hunkered down. Emma was the last to start out and chose the Vanishing Shadow Mimes. Well, they weren’t orignally Vanishing, but the Shadow Mime ability allowed them to choose any power out of the 6 on offer.
During the first round, everyone attacked one of the monster regions, and were rewarded with either a Righteous Relic or Popular Place. Jon’s relic was the Flying Doormat, which he used to fly across the map and steal Gareth’s Scepter of Avarice (double the points gained from any one region) from under his nose. The fact that Gareth was in the toilet when it took place only added to the deviousness (and funniness) of this act.
As the initial races spread out a little, it was suddenly evident that very little attacking was going on. Barrie’s races were immune to powers or abilities, Gareth’s couldn’t be killed, and Maynard could bite back hard at any attackers on his next turn (as well as replenishing his army with further tokens). Combined with the fact that a number of the relics and places were conferring bonus coins, most players decided to sit tight and let the Victory coins roll in.
As he was gaining fewest coins, Gareth was the first to decline and picked up some Mining Mummies, which had been passed over 5 times already and therefore had a nice little bonus attached to them. There were stacks of these Mummies, but they required 1 extra token to attack any region, which meant that they started slowly but soon spread out. Emma had meanwhile also declined, and her Vanishing ability gave her an instant bonus but meant that she had no decined race on the board. (Gareth had taken advantage of this sudden exodus when bringing on his Mummies.) Her replacement army – the Shield Spiderines – rather ignored their arachnid ability in favour of the fungi-related special power, which probably limited their coin-earning abilities.
Not to be left out, Barrie brought on some Thieving Kraken, which obviously spread out down the river (again diluting the amount of confrontation). Maynard had become fed up with his stuck-in-the-mud Mudmen, and turned instead to some Magic Iron Dwarves. These accumulated some powerful offensive abilities, with the introduction of their Silver Hammers, so much so, that Maynard was raking in 17 coins per turn at one stage.
Jon was the last to try something new (as he had been successfully collecting 14 coins per turn with his single race), which was prompted by Barrie deciding to muscle in on his SW corner of the board. He brought on the Vampire Flames, and immediately started to use his lava-inspired ability to try to halt Gareth’s Mummy army. Gareth complained that Maynard should really be the target, but Jon pressed on regardless, over-running a couple of Popular Places in the process.
In the final round, Barrie announced that the Victory Coin stash had actually run out – an indication that the scores were going to be high. As the game drew to a close, no-one seemd to have an inkling as to who had won, although Maynard was seen as a likely candidate. When the coins were counted, the scores were indeed high, but also incredibly close. As it turned out, Gareth’s late surge with his Mummies had been just enough to get his neck out in front, and vindicated Jon’s decision to target him in the last 2 rounds! Emma’s lack of a declined race followed by a defensive replacement was probably what led her to falling behind a little at the end.
Gareth 118; Barrie 113; Maynard 110; Jon 108; Emma 70

This game had taken just over 2 hours to play – which is far too long for a game of Small World. However, all the races and abilities were new, and there was the added complication of the relics and popular places, which required constant reference to the player aids.
I found that the regions on the map were less distinct than in the original game, and the addition of all the relics and places on the board made it difficult to work out exactly what was going on (the ‘romantic’ lighting in the Riverview Room didn’t help in this regard either!) Perhaps 5-players on its first outing was ambitious, so I’m keen to give it another go in the near future, before I pass judgement on Small World’s latest incarnation!

With just under an hour to kill, Founding Fathers was unfortunately shelved in favour of –

Keltis
Where this game stands in the Lost Cities evolutionary scale escapes me, but I think that it is something like the boardgame based on the card game based on the board game based on Lost Cities. Whatever, it is essentially multiplayer Lost Cities, and as such, is a cracking good game.
James explained the rules, but conveniently misinformed everyone on the game-ending conditions – fortunately this was rectified before it did too much damage…
All the players started 4 paths, apart from Woody who decided to go gung-ho for all five. Not a game-winning strategy…
Jon had a number of low-value brown cards so headed off on that path, which contained a few precious stones as bonuses. James somehow managed to lay numerous cards on each of his paths, and got 2 of his stones into the ‘game-ending’ section of the board. Paul was doing well until Woody suddenly drew everyone’s attention to the fact that one of his runs of numbers went down as well as up. Admitting that he had inadvertently ‘done a Gareth’ (the universal IBG phrase for having ‘bent the rules somewhat’…) he did his best to take back the advantage that he had received from this action.
Although Jon managed to get his ‘double your points’ token to the highest level, his other chaps had not quite climbed high enough to overhaul James’ impressive progress on 4 paths, which had benefitted from a number of ‘free moves’.
This was a nice way to end the evening, and Woody was keen to play again on another occasion, now he knew what not to do….
James 36; Jon 32; Paul 17; Woody 17

By this time, Scott and Philip were at a loose end -

Race for the Galaxy (thanks Philip for these reports)
In the first game I had Aquatic Uplift Road, Uplift Gene Designers, and the Uplift Goal was on the table, so New Sparta was an obvious homeworld and I went straight into Trade Produce, picking up Uplift Code. Meanwhile Scott had Galactic Developers and was busy developing away- in turn 3 Uplift Code and Galactic Power Brokers collided, keeping the Prestige even. I had meanwhile Settled Former Penal Colony.
By the time I settled the Gene Designers (claiming the goal) and Produced. Scott had gained 2 Prestige from Pan-Galactic Security Council (settle and consume). He now had a prestige recycling run of spend a prestige for 3 cards from GPB and then discard 2 cards for a prestige on PGSC. We decided this meant he was continually “gaining” a Prestige and so getting a card for it.
Despite this neat trick, Scott was mainly churning out cheap developments while I settled Blaster Gem Runners, developed Drop Shops, and settled Alien Battlefleet. My military power settled a couple of high scoring worlds (Rebel Home World, Alien Sentinel), before Scott’s expanding tableau ended the game. I was able to develop Alien Tech Institute on the last turn and the result was a comfortable - 
Philip 52; Scott 39

The second game saw my opening hand contain Alien Rosetta Stone World and Deserted Alien Outpost. With Alien Research Team as a home world and the Alien goal on the table I immediately went into Alien strategy with Explore settle, only to be distracted during Explore by Colony Ship and Imperium Blaster Gem Consortium. As Scott had called Explore-Develop I was able to Settle the IBGC before returning to the Aliens.
I think Scott was playing Old Earth, but he seemed to be still in Galactic Developers mode, calling Explore Develop for the first 5 or 6 turns of the game! He did manage to claim the “one power in each phase” goal on turn 1, which was impressive! My tableau developed slower than his but with an emphasis on quantity as Alien Rosetta StoneWorld and Alien Uplift Centre (which I discarded the Outpost to pay for) made their appearance and I began a trade cycle with the benefit of IBGC’s 2 cards and 1 vp.
Scott had developed various things such as Pan-Galactic Mediator, Terraforming Engineers Interstellar Bank and Galactic Markets - I also developed Galactic Markets, and then Pan-Galactic Affluence, which put me ahead in the prestige stakes. Again Scott’s expanding tableau ended the game a bit earlier than I would have preferred, but I was able to play Alien Data Repository on the final turn, and the result was an eerily similar -
Philip 49; Scott 39

The Alien Frontiers crew had finished their game and had decided to come back down to earth to finish off the evening -
 
7 Wonders
(Report to follow)
 
Also played tonight was Quandary (the over-produced version of Loco), but I haven't got any scores for that one I'm afraid.
 
And so, another Wednesday evening came to a close. The dice, cardboard and cubes were locked safely away until next week, when they will once again become the playthings of some of the finest minds in South West London....
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