Wednesday, 29 June 2011

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

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 –

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 –

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

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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