Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Turning on the power leads to shock result.........

Players: Scott, Barrie, Paul, Shirief, Philip, Vicky, Maynard, Tonio, Paul A, Emma, Barry, Ian, Jon, Gareth, Andy

We were back in the Riverview Room this week, with a bit more space to spread out our little wooden cubes. A healthy 15 IBG’ers turned up to challenge their little grey cells tonight, including an always-entertaining visit from Emma.

This evening saw a limited amount of love for this month’s GOTM, a bit more love for dice-rolling and co-op action, some visuoconstructive difficulties, and a completely surprise result at Power Grid, with a total outsider beating some of the seasoned veterans to a city-powering victory. (Best not mention that it was also a girl………)

The first game to be set up following the usual early-evening milling around was -

There hasn’t been much co-op gaming at IBG for some time, so it was nice to get Pandemic to the table again for some good old-fashioned ‘save the world from some killer diseases’ action. The heroes of this encounter were Jon, Tonio, Vicky and Maynard, although it was queried at the outset about how well Vicky and Maynard could work together, considering their usual competitive nature. However, they assured the rest of the team that they could actually play nicely together, and so the mission began.
Maynard chose the difficulty level as ‘medium’, and the roles dealt out were: Tonio – Medic; Jon – Researcher; Maynard – Dispatcher; Vicky – Scientist. The initial spread of diseases was concentrated mainly on Asia, with both black and red diseases taking a firm hold. The team avoided too many early outbreaks, and used Vicky and Maynard’s roles to good use, to cure both the red and black diseases.
However, a sudden onset of Epidemics brought about a number of outbreaks, and with the team on the verge of curing the blue disease, a chain of outbreaks in North Africa was enough to bring an end to civilisation as we know it.
Vicky and Maynard had indeed worked together well (just as well, considering that they are about to have their first baby...), but Maynard regretted his decision to set the difficulty level at 'medium'. It’s interesting to note that this game has never been won at IBG – maybe it needs to come out a bit more often, and at 'easy-peasy' level…

At the next table along was -

Power Grid (thanks Scott for this report)
Yet another week of 6-player Power Grid - just too many interested players recently, and we always used to have two copies that no-one wanted to play. That’s supply and demand for you. The contenders this week all knowing roughly how the game works: Andy, Barry, Barrie, Emma, Gareth and Scott. The map picked was one of the most different, that of China. In the first two stages of the game the power plants come out in a set order and there is always one less power plant available for auction than the number of players (except turn 1, plus a couple of other rounds too by mistake as it would appear the rules had been slightly mis-followed but didn’t seem to cause too many issues); no plants are redrawn until the next auction so what you see is what you get.
The resource prices start very high but the restock rate is also very high so they get cheap very quickly, but then greedy people start hoarding them for other nefarious purposes and then they don’t get restocked quite so nicely.
The map has pockets of cheap connections with higher ones between them; Emma had a good start, dominating the South of the board with only Barrie as competition who felt that owning Power Plants was much more important than getting cities on the board. Gareth made a miscalculation (he asked the rest of the table) at the start and ended up being stuck between three other players from turn 2 and left the four of us in the North to fight a lot more over positioning.
Emma was first to jump into step 2, with 8 cities when she only needed 6 while the rest of us were stuck around 5 a piece, it didn’t look good for the rest of us. We tried our best to stop her advancing too far North with some careful blocking (only Scott seemed to notice the impending doom though, as everyone else had their own agendas) and the last turn was quickly upon us.
Despite Gareth commenting that the game normally ends in a tie and cash is quite important, it would seem that today was not one of those days:
Emma 14; Scott 13; Barry 12; Andy 11; Gareth 10; Barrie 9 (but could power about 17)

And at the third table, Ian had successfully recruited Paul and Shirief to try out his shiny new copy of -

Alien Frontiers (thanks for this write-up, Ian)
Paul had played a couple of weeks ago so was nominated rules explainer, but we took our time to go through the rules pretty carefully before blast off.
The idea of the game is that you have dice representing spaceships that can be docked to gain resources and other goodies at various orbital facilities. You start with 3 ships but can make more up to 6, which really corresponds to additional actions. You then gather resources, ships and alien technology to help you colonise a planet in the middle of the board. This is divided into several regions, and you get VPs for each colonist module you land up to 7 (in the 3 player game), but also one additional VP per region ‘controlled’ ie where you have the majority of colonists. In a nice mechanic if you control a region you also have access to a bonus power unique to each one, ranging from a discount on ship building costs to a ‘relic’ ship that gives you an extra dice. Each building action also comes with a cost of resource, either fuel and/or ore.
The luck element of the game is that you need to ‘roll’ your ships each turn and then you’re limited in what actions you can take depending on the rolls – eg to build a ship you need to assign two dice the same AND pay a fuel/ore cost. The trick is in prioritizing what you want to do and what you can do within the rolls/resources you have.
Ian and Shirief both got off to strong starts by building additional ships and gathering resources. Paul fell behind initially because he just couldn’t roll a double to get into the shipbuilding facility. A couple of players made use of the Raiders Outpost that lets you steal resources from another player (s), both Ian and Paul figured that would be costly and managed to then grab a piece of Alien Technology that protected you from being Raided.
In the mid game Ian and Shirief looked strong and had several extra ships and colonies already placed, with Paul apparently behind. However he finally started to get it together and built up a strong fleet of ships. He also acquired Alien Tech that let him pay fuel to re-use a ship (effectively an extra dice each turn) and made good use of that, and started to catch up.
Ian got to a point where he had 5 colonists down and a healthy lead in VPs, and was starting to feel confident…maybe too confident as Paul and Shirief proceeded to ‘bash the leader’ in their next turns, both using plasma cannons which destroyed 2 of Ian's ships and then Shirief putting down a colonist to take away Ian’s control of the relic ship. So in one turn he had gone from 6 dice back to 3, and never quite recovered.
Paul then made good use of his ‘re-usable ship’ and other Alien tech and powers he’d built up to quickly lay his last few colonists a few turns later, sacrificing a couple of ships via the terraforming station that lets you turn ships into colonists cheaply but for the loss of a ship, and steal the win.
This was a very good game, quite a few twists and turns and possibilities for entirely vindictive attacks. It came as a surprise how quickly the end can come around since its possible to place 2 or even 3 colonies in the same turn by the end, so it will be interesting to see how people try to account for this in future games now we’ve seen how quickly things can accelerate at the end.
Paul 10; Shirief 8; Ian 8

And that left just Philip and Paul A to be in the unusual position of needing to play a 2-player game. So, they chose the current GOTM -

Troyes (thanks Philip for this one, also reproduced on BGG)
Both of us had only played one game before (not the same game), so we went through it quite slowly. I drew the cubes-in-the-cathedral and meeples-on-cards leaders and he drew the event cards and influence leaders. Initial placement was fairly even with me taking an extra yellow space and him an extra white space. He however took spaces which were more vulnerable to being pushed out than me.
The round 1 cards were Priest (use white dice to boost yellow dice), Journeyman (turn influence into money) and Diplomat (use red dice against cards). The event cards placed an extra grey meeple on of the empty white spaces and the black dice were easily swatted away.
I was start player and began by building the cathedral. Paul followed suit. I continued building the cathedral, buying a neutral white die. He took the diplomat, gaining influence on the cards. I took the Journeyman, converting my cathedral influence into cash. He passed and I placed a worker in a white space, pushing his worker out, before passing myself.
Turn 2 revealed the Blacksmith (use yellow dice to boost red dice) and two other cards I can’t recall (I think the white card turned white dice into red dice). The events continued, with a grey meeple appearing in a red space and pushing out another grey meeple in a white space. More blocks were added to the Cathedral, reaching as high as the third level in the ‘1’ column. I took the Priest ability, and another red space, while minting money with the Journeyman. Paul claimed one of the event cards.
Turn 3 saw the Joust (VPs for most red dice), a similar White Card (Vps for most dice) and the Sculptor (turn Yellow dice into VPs, worth 7 VPs to 1st player, cost 15). The events saw grey meeples replacing themselves in both red and white buildings, while my cube was knocked off the highest level of the cathedral. I placed several more cubes in the Cathedral to counteract this and was able to place a meeple on Sculptor with my high cash reserves from Journeyman. Paul took the card allowing him to turn white dice into red dice and continued to take on event cards. He had now hit the end of the Influence track and we didn’t bother recording influence beyond that.
Turn 4 saw the Drought event losing us both cash, which Paul was very short on, especially after he used one of his yellow dice to fight off a black die. I bought his white ‘6’ and used it on the cathedral, which disrupted his plans- he bought my white die in return, but ran out of dice and money quite soon after, while I flipped over some 1s for 4 influence, claimed Blacksmith and produced victory points through the Sculptor.
The game ended and with our leaders revealed the final scores were Paul 25, me 40.
Paul felt that Diplomat had been practically useless to him, whereas Journeyman certainly proved its worth to me. The game had lots of grey dice, which helped me because I had more money, and fountains of influence (He ended with 20+, I ended with 4 but I had been spending it quite freely on meeples and re-rolls and flipping dice).
Philip 40; Paul A 25

(In keeping with the spirit of IBG, it later transpired that there had been a few rules 'aberations', but whether it benefitted either player unduly is debatable...)

After having failed to save the world, Tonio had made a trip to the bar, and on his return he was delighted that the game of choice was his very own -

Whilst Tonio was out of the room, Jon and Vicky had been trying to set the board up, but were having little success. There were the right number of board pieces, but it seemed too small, and there were not enough holes for the connecting sections. Heads were scratched, rules were consulted, the box was searched for the third time and more heads were scratched. However, with Tonio’s arrival, he politely pointed out that the pieces were folded in half and simply needed to be unfolded. Jon obviously needs to brush up on his problem-solving skills a bit…..
The game was new to Vicky and Maynard, so Tonio and Jon did a joint effort in explaining the rules, although Maynard appeared to be a little in the dark for the entire game.
An early treasure hunt that Maynard had invested heavily in, stalled in the mountains, and did not come to fruition for the entire game. Jon and Tonio picked up some reasonable treasure cards, but when the first cursed treasure came out, it was Maynard that was left without an amulet to defend himself. The next cursed treasure came out at the start of a huge haul, which left Jon with the only bona fide treasure, and Maynard again having to ditch his largest card.
Although the game starts slowly, it rattles on at a fair old pace, and the ending turns up in rather a hurry. So when the final chest of goodies had been unearthed, and the gold pieces were counted, Tonio had proved to be the finest treasure-hunter, pipping Jon by a single doubloon. Vicky was only a couple of gold pieces behind that, but Maynard’s lack of amulets, and lack of gold in general, left him a bit further behind.
This is a fun family game, that plays in under an hour, and is worthy of making a more regular appearance at games nights.
Tonio 28; Jon 27; Vicky 25; Maynard 8

With no other way out, Gareth forced the Power Gridders to move along to a game of - 

Shadow Hunters (thanks again Scott)
Philip was added to our motley crew. With 7 you have an abundance of Neutrals and just a team of 2 vs 2 for the Shadows and Hunters.
There was no love lost and the fighting began out of the gate between most, in particular, Gareth showed his distaste for Andy giving him an alarming 7 points of damage in one fell swoop (he must have blocked Gareth’s plans in Power Grid, but then we all tried to do that). However, there appeared to be a vendetta against Philip as well and as a low HP neutral he didn’t last very long. By this point we knew Andy was a Hunter and he didn’t last much longer once Gareth and Barrie revealed as Shadows to use their healing/attack abilities.
Much later than expected, Gareth was bumped off next leaving two neutrals (Emma & Scott) and Barry vs Barrie. Emma and Scott concocted a little plan as Emma’s ability was that she could pick the win condition of one of her neighbours, and chose Scott, so if Scott won she won. Scott had agreed to help her in this regard but quickly stabbed her in the back which may sound very mean of him, but to win, Scott had to be in the last two remaining characters alive, which meant just having one other player at the table (whoever survives out of Barry vs Barrie).
So at this point Scott and Emma had won, despite Emma feeling duped into a false pretence of a partnership, the fact that Scott killed her so they both could win was irrelevant. Barrie had been particularly mean and was partnered with Gareth, so Scott and Barry took him down leaving most of the table victorious, although most of them had died and left to play something else at this point.
Winners – Barry (Hunter) & Andy (Hunter - deceased), Scott (neutral) & Emma (neutral – deceased)
Losers – Barrie & Gareth (Shadows), Philip (neutral)

And to close the night was a trip down memory lane –

Ah yes, my children, this is what we used to play together before they invented all those shiny new games about spies and resisting something or other. You know, you can’t beat an old-fashioned trip down a gold mine with a few friends and enemies – and not a geologist or profiteer in sight.
As you might have guessed, this was ‘vanilla’ Saboteur, which is lots of fun as long as there are enough saboteurs on board. In order to give them a fighting chance, we tweaked the rules in the second round and ensured that there were definitely 3 saboteurs amongst the 8 miners each time. I can’t for the life of me remember who was a saboteur each time, but the good miners still won each round and Gareth still managed to behave like a saboteur even though he was a good guy for once.
Philip also managed to stay in keeping with the 'step back in time' theme, and made one of his 'less than subtle' examinations of a destination card, which even Arsene Wenger later admitted that he had also actually seen.
Happy days….
Tonio 8; Jon 6; Gareth 5; Barry 5; Shirief 5; Paul 3; Philip 3; Ian 1

And on that happy note, we dispersed into the night, promising to reconvene at the same time and place next week.....

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