Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Bring it again Dan or "You get a good spadesman"

The evening began with a dice game, but for a change it wasn’t Tumblin’ dice (although the distribution of winners and losers ws not dissimilar)

Perudo (thanks Jon)
Ian won with 4 dice left
2nd – David; 3rd – Emma; 4th – James II; 5th – Jon; 6th – Scott; 7th – Philip (with the most amazing over-bidding ever seen!)

Next on the agenda (for me) was a bit of Terry Pratchett.

Discworld: Ankh Morpok
By now several others had arrived, including Tonio, who showed interest in Discworld. I tried to gather a couple more players, and was initially spurned, Jon going so far as to pretend not only that he couldn’t hear me but that I didn’t even exist, but finally managed to find three wiling extras. Since the game doesn’t take five, one of us had to bow out, and Ian was first to do so, leaving me with three new players.

The game was soon underway and much amusement was found in the cards from Tonio and David, who are Pratchett fans, though not so much from James II, who isn’t. I of course had seen the cards before. This time I heeded my own warning about keeping $5 spare, but James didn’t so I saddled him with Dr Whiteface (reduces your hand size permanently). I encouraged the others to stop me winning by pointing out when I was getting close. Despite the assistance of Gaspode the Wonder Dog, I proved unable to combat the efforts of all three opponents and was soon not close to winning at all. Both David and Tonio drew lots of cards early and found themselves saddled with too many poor quality cards.

A fair number of random events happened over the course of the game, including Explosion and Earthquake (both ineffective), Trolls (who became a target for assassination), Bloody Stupid Johnson (who rendered James’ newly built Scours apartment useless) and a Fire at the end (which destroyed 2 buildings). At one point I had a decent hand and hopes of playing for the win in a turn or two, only to see Tonio play the Chair of Indefinite Studies and swap hands with me.

The merry dance continued with everyone thwarting everyone else’s chances of winning, until the deck ran out, making James the winner as Commander Vimes.

Galaxy Trucker
Looking round for our next game, my eye alighted on Galaxy Trucker, which Tonio had taught me and James a few weeks ago. Tonio was predictably eager to actually play his game, and David was quickly taught the rules. The usual mixture of Meteorites, Pirates and Planets with valuable commodities ensured, and everyone was doing pretty well until round 3 when the Pirates started having ridiculous requirements, like ten guns (ok, Tonio managed to meet them…) Damage swiftly accumulated, with James losing most of his batteries to a single pirate encounter. The game ended with a triumphant win for Tonio.

While we were playing Discworld, others were excavating…

Pergamon (thanks Jon)
Noel had brought this out for a couple of weeks running, and Jon had been sufficiently intrigued to request another outing. Ian was also attracted by its Euro appearance, and Dan chose it as the lesser of 2 evils rather than Power Grid.
The game revolves around a selection phase which provides cash to excavate, and the necessary permissions to excavate to certain depths (with more valuable artefacts being deeper). This is followed by a mini-jigsaw phase, which results in sending exhibits to the museum – and maybe giving them a spit and polish for good measure.

Ian took a risk early on and was rewarded with a wallet full of cash. He used this to good effect and soon had a couple of valuable exhibits in the museum. Dan started out in bold fashion, slapping down his meeple on the highest cash value square – only to be retracted a few seconds later as he decided that his cojones weren’t quite as large as he first thought… Noel was using his previous knowledge to carefully accumulate artefacts, whilst Jon decided to exhibit little and often.

There are 12 rounds, but they fairly rattle along, and before long the final scoring round was reached, and it was no surprise that Ian had come out on top. It was a surprise that the experienced gameowner Noel had come third, although maybe he was just being nice to the newbies (probably not…) All in all, one of those games which feels like a reasonably meaty Euro, but in the golden ‘sub-60 minute’ timeframe.
Ian 25; Jon 22; Noel 18; Dan 9

They then turned to dice:

Quariors (thanks again Jon)

Shed-loads of small dice. Monsters. Plenty of symbols and text. Dominion with Dice.

Dan had played before, so explained the rules, which are not particularly complex. As is common with deck-building games, a first play is always affected by players’ unfamiliarity with the cards (or in this case dice). Therefore, at least 3 of the players followed the rule of ‘if it’s expensive it must be good!’ Noel was plagued by some rather unfortunate dice-rolling (his monsters never seemed to get into play), whilst Ian brought out a couple of meaty chaps that quickly totted up his points. The game ended when the requisite number of dice pools had been exhausted, with Ian just pipping Dan to the win.

My opinion? If I feel the need to build decks, I think I may prefer Dominion. If I feel the need to roll dice, I’ll stick to Tumblin’ Dice. If I feel the need to roll dice and fight monsters, I’ll take King of Tokyo. What it is to have such choice…..
Ian 9; Dan 8; Jon 6; Noel 4

And finally to cards…

Wyatt Earp
Ian had exited, but the remaining 3 had time for something else, so Dan brought this nice little rummy variant out of his bag. It is easy to pick up, and plays quickly, so was ideal for the end of the evening. The game end condition is when someone gets to $25k, and after a big second round, Jon had reached $24k. However, Noel played a judicious Hideout on Jon in the third round, and as all the Wyatt Earp cards had apparently disappeared from the deck, he couldn’t remove it until it was too late. This gave him an appalling 3rd round score of $4k, allowing Noel to squeeze past him for the victory. Nice card game – bring it again, Dan.
Noel $30k; Jon $28k; Dan $18k

Meanwhile Electricity and Egypt had been the themes on Scott's table (thanks Scott)

Power Grid
Despite Emma’s best efforts for Roborally, everyone else jumped in to other games and left Scott, Barrie and Emma. Barrie suggested Power Grid and we were all happy enough to play.
We picked China seeing as Emma did well at that last time and thought she might do again. We began and the Garbage plant was hotly contested and Emma couldn’t get it after Scott bid a fortune for it. Then Andy walked in and with no other game to play we restarted with four players.
Scott was less interested in garbage this time and Emma was happy to get herself a bargain, and no sooner had we completed the first auction (again) but then John walked in and we set-up a 5 player game!
This time there was more interest in the garbage plant but Emma stuck to her guns and won the rubbish, then when any other rubbish plants came up later in the game she was first to buy them, earning herself a reputation of hanging around the bins a lot. Scott went cheap with oil and started in the middle of the board, Emma tried to secure the cheap corner of the board for herself but Andy thought he would share it with her, much to her discontent, especially since the rest of the board was rather crowded with Barrie in the middle and John to the South, John had himself a nice wide open space but the connections were quite expensive.
We trundled along nicely until John finally could afford 7 cities while the rest of us were quite squeezed in our area of the map.
Step three took a while to come and there was a real lack of high capacity plants, this was good for Scott who got one early and was poised to end the game shortly, John bid very high to get himself enough capacity but fell short on the city building front as a result. Andy and Barrie got themselves big plants too but couldn’t match the full 17 of Scott. Emma had benefited from limited competition from the rest of us and some good plants but not quite enough capacity.
Scott – 17, Emma – 16 (30 cash), Barrie – 16 (15 cash), Andy – 16 (5 cash), John – 15
That’s the scores I remember anyway, they are open to dispute from anyone else’s memory.
Something else we could all agree on, having side-stepped Roborally a second time. This didn’t go very well for Scott due to his uncanny ability to find the Ra tiles from the bag. In the first round, Emma got herself a lead in Pharoahs while Barrie focussed on Monuments, John was diversifying while Scott tried to get a bargain and with two Ra spaces left managed to draw two in quick succession before any positive tiles came out.
In the second round, John got the pharaoh lead and some nice floods, Scott got a nice hand of river tiles but sod all to water them with.
Towards the end, Barrie kept his monument focus as the rest of us had won very few of them and despite not scoring well earlier he ran away with the game with a huge end game score. John was close behind with high suns, pharaohs etc. while Scott and Emma never seemed to get the bargain they were looking for. Emma maybe could have done a little better after her highlight of purchasing one flood tile for the 13 just to stop Scott (who later picked one up that round)
Barrie – 1st, John – 2nd ,Emma – 3rd, Scott – last

P.S “You get a good spadesman” is from the Nightmare song in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Their Finest Hour or "So Adventurous a Tale"

The evening once again began with Tumblin’ Dice, first a three player and then a five player game

Tumblin’ Dice

Game 1: James II 95; Jon 88; Paul 53
Game 2 was remarkable mainly for the immense enjoyment Woody (who wasn't even playing) derived from seeing me miss shot after shot....
Game 2: James 75; Paul 73; Jon 72; Emma 47; Philip 25

Then we moved on to a massive eight player game of Emma’s new purchase…

Dixit: Odyssey (Philip’s version)

The familiar game is enlivened by a board and some special cards to indicate guesses- and with 7 or more players everyone can make two guesses (bonus points for a correct single guess). Soon the cryptic clues were being considered, the cards were revealed and the guesses were made.

Both Jameses were playing, but James I left after one round, having attempted to guess card 9…, while James II went from strength to strength, successfully guessing other’s clues and also attracting plenty of wrong guesses to his chosen cards. Jon’s “Their finest hour” turned out to be a Rooster getting 1st place on the podium rather than an attack by fighter planes or a rabbit landing on the moon (complete with specially adapted helmet). My own clue “Prosperity” had apparently been used for the exact same card when Emma played the game at Tringcon. Not surprising for Dominion fans, since said card shows a Cornucopia (for some unexplained reason, one trapped in a block of ice). The cards continued with such clues as “Apocalypse” and “ain’t so Artful now”- the latter being guessed by almost everyone as a picture of a street kid down on his luck. By the time we got round to the final player –Emma- we had exhausted the pack and were drawing the cards again, so it was perhaps just as well that James II guessed correctly for the 6th time and reached the finish line.

As a special treat, we have an alternative narrative of the same game. It is the same game, though you might not have guessed it…

Dixit Odyssey (same game, from Jon’s perspective)

Emma had brought along this new version of this creative game, and then announced that she had to leave at 9pm. So, we humoured her and joined in a 7-player game. The difference with this version is that it can now handle 12 players (supposedly) and you can vote for 2 different cards instead of just one.
The first point to note is that the voting chits have been replaced by voting ‘cards’ that you place 2 pegs in to indicate your choices. Except that the pegs do not stay in the cards. Classic schoolboy error. The worst design decision since Olaf the Hairy, High Chief of all the Vikings, accidentally ordered 80,000 battle helmets with the horns on the inside.
The second point to note is that working out the scoring takes forever. FOREVER. And the art isn’t as good either. Hence, the game was willed to as quick a finish as possible, with James I managing to exit prematurely, and Jon and Woody casting mournful expressions after him. I can’t remember who won, but several of us lost (45 minutes of our lives…) 

The players now divided, with Andy, me and Alex diving into Andy’s newest purchase…


Only I had played before, so I explained the rules as the components were spread out over the table- just as well that I had appropriated a large and well lit surface.

I adopted a rather obvious strategy of building the Hotel (activate for 2VPs) on turn 1 and trying to score 2 VPs with the Architect on other turns. Alex went for a Dam/Golfcourse combination which was soon earning him 3 VPs a turn. Andy played more subtly, shipping goods and keeping a close eye on the Parliament.

This allowed him to enact suitable bills, including a Water subsidy which netted him 6 VPs before I spent my last money on bribing it away. By this time I had added the Inn (activate for 1VP), since Andy had scored 2 Vps with the Architect earlier in the turn. I was apparently in the lead at this point- but the others had built more buildings…

Andy prised me from the Parliament building to enact a Money Subsidy- giving three VPs to Alex and none to himself. In the final turn Alex spent his money on Rum and shipped it for 6VPs, which lead to a narrow victory.
Alex 68, Phil 66, Andy 65

The three of us played a quick filler…

Get Bit

This simple and silly game features robots getting eaten by a shark. Each turn you play a card and move your robot. The robot furthest behind loses a limb and picks up his cards. Lose four limbs and you are out of the game. After an initial round where Alex discovered that low cards were bad I lost three limbs in quick succession, and the fourth shortly thereafter. Andy only lost one limb the whole game, leaving him the inevitable winner.

Alex now sat out while me and Andy played…

Penguin Party
In the two player game many cards are removed to keep up the uncertainty. Both of us seemed to have fairly balanced hands and with the pyramid base being only 7 cards it didn’t take long for some colours to be blocked off. The scoring was very close in both games and ended in a tie.

Going back in time both actually and thematically, while we were enjoying Dixit: Odyssey, Noel, Johan and James I were doing a spot of digging in Ancient Greece.

Pergamon (thanks Noel)

On Noel's arrival, James needed no persuading to jump out of Dixit and Noel set up Pergamon which he had brought and played before. After one quick rules run through and a promise of a 30minute game, Johann arrived. After a second rules run through (please note 2nd rules run through including the end game scoring bonus) and still promising a 30 minute game Johann, James and Noel started excavating treasures and displaying them for points.

Johann and James displayed plenty of tat for regular VPs while Noel focused on high quality older artefacts focused on collecting the bonus points on each of the 4 scoring rounds. This took him to the win with 28 points, with James on 27 and Johann on 22 asking for a 3rd rules run through to try to get that final point. James in particular had the longest and most polished exhibit and thought he should get extra points for that... but that must be one of his different games.
Noel 28, James 27, Johann 22

The same three joined up with three more from Dixit for…

I'm the Boss (thanks again Noel)

After going unplayed last week, several IBG'ers were keen to get Im the Boss played and with 6 free gamers after a slightly longer than promised Pergamon, this pure negotiation game was brought out. Paul and Johann who had played before reassured everyone despite the slightly concerning 1-4 hr time frame on the box.

After a few rounds of card taking, Johann got the negotiations going and concluded the first deal with a small profit. This made him an immediate target and Noel used some cards to take his investor card and James did the same to Paul, continuing a 'healthy' rivalry from last week. Noel and James I used these early to get in as minority investors in most deals. Jon and James I played for the big deals and Paul and Johann card collected to try to get their investors back. The game finished quickly in 45 minutes, mainly due to a rule interpretation that deals could be concluded quickly by grabbing and slamming down the deal counter. As such, offers were made and accepted quickly. Snooze you lose in this game.

Checking through the geek pages suggests that most play with a 'Going once, going twice, gone' conclusion to a deal. Certainly this would give more strength to the negotiation aspect of the game rather than quick deal sealing which did quicken the game but felt a bit unsatisfying.

At the end of this frantic game, Noel and James II shared  the win with $40, with Jon on 39 and Johann on 30. James I & Paul both lost. If only they could work together...
Noel $40 James II $40, Jon $39 Johann $30, James I <$30, Paul<$30

The group now abandoned Capitalism for Revolution…

Revolution (thanks James I)

So, after a short deliberation over what to play next Noel took out his copy of Revolution plus un-punched expansion and the thought of being allowed to pop out fresh counters from cardboard drove Jon into such a frenzy that he’d already torn apart the expansion wrapping before anyone could stop him. The effect of fresh smelling cardboard on a grown man can never be underestimated !

So while Paul, James, James II and Johan held back Jon until the foaming had subsided, Noel started to set up.

6 players, new boards, some new bits and a whole new building to colonise. Fun stuff indeed. No really change to the rules, but 4 more roles to select each turn and with 6 players a strong likelihood of more conflicts which is really where the fun part of the game hits home.

Early on James (II) took the initiative, managing to place several counters and pick up lots of bonus points, James (I) was close behind with a run of 3 rounds when he managed to play to Force-Blackmail-Force tactic successfully… For some reason Jon’s pawns were the early target of a few moves which I’m assuming were due to long standing grudges likely from previous games of Small World or the Resistance. It’s possible Johan had spent the first ½ dozen rounds at the bar as he was still on 0 points around a third into the game.

By mid game Noel and James (I) were contesting the Harbour and Courthouse, James (II) was in full control of the Cathedral and the new building (the palace) and the Guardhouse was generally preventing anyone from extracting revenge. Jon, Johan and Paul were playing the long game (or perhaps had fallen asleep, it was hard to tell) and had pawns spread about but not attracting too much attention.

This game generally starts out slowly as pawns get placed and then from mid game on folks realise that the end is just around the corner and the more interaction options start to get selected moving other pawns on and off the board and switching things around. And this game was no exception. Jon had a few rounds where he was manoeuvring to control the Town Hall and the Market, James (II) continued to rack up support over pawns and kept control of a few buildings. Noel took firm control of the Harbour… to be honest not sure what buildings Paul was owning at this stage, the portaloo perhaps?

So to the end game… it took a few turns where people could’ve ended the game but chose to move different pawns, and this played right into my benefit as for the last round I had a dozen forces and blackmails to use. With literally the last move of the game I managed to not only take control of the Town Hall but split control of the Palace and thus deliver no points to both Noel and James (II) who’d been squabbling over this for most of the game. As points were tallied this move totally annexed any opposition and I managed to win by a landslide, with Jon sneaking into 2nd place ahead of James (II), and Noel slipping back to last place. I guess you’ll not be bringing along next week then Noel ?

James (I) 142, Jon 105, James (II) 97, Johan 77, Paul 57, Noel 55

At some point earlier in the evening, there had been another game of …

Get Bit (thanks Paul)

Get Bit appeared on the games pile, courtesy of James. Jon, James II, Emma and Paul asked James nicely if they could play it as it was small and there was only a small time period to fill. He said 'no' so we took that as a 'yes' and dived in for some 'sharks chomping swimming robot' action.

A very simple game with a fun, although unnecessary theme slapped on top. Four robots are out swimming one day when an apparently iron-deficient shark decides that they'd make a tasty snack. The robots obviously lacked some team spirit, when swimming away from the shark keep leaving their mates behind to get chomped.

The game is actually supplied with a plastic shark that has a flip-top head that snaps shut with a satisfying snap, and robots that actually do lose limbs when the shark has its fill.

The robots line up in front of the shark and the players try hard to keep them from being in last place. The mechanism for doing this is to play cards with numbers on - all players start off with the same set. All players decide on a card to play, setting it face down in front of them. When the cards are revealed, the lowest card swims to the front - safe they think - but no, as the next highest then swims in front of them, with the distinct possibility that they end up at the rear again as fish food. However if two players play the same number, both cards are discarded and the robots swim nowhere.

So it is a bit of bluffing, a bit of working out which payers are likely to play what and yes quite a bit of luck.

In this game James II was first to have all four limbs chewed from him, hitting Davy Jones’ Locker with a clank. Fairly shortly after one hand meant that either Jon or Paul would go out, but either option would leave Emma as the winner. As luck would have it Jon got bit first, leaving the scores as:

First: Emma, Second: Paul, Third: Jon, Fourth: James II

Well, the sharks were out tonight… and that was just the players!

P.S “So Adventurous a Tale” is from “Behold the Lord High Executioner” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A New Grudge Which is Born Today or “The Shares are a Penny”

Another week, another meeting...
The evening started off with Tumblin Dice:
Game 1 Woody 127 Jon 116 James 91 Paul 71
Game 2 James 28 Jon 28 Woody 26 Noel 23 Paul 19

Which was followed by a quick game of Coloretto: I sat out setting up my latest acquisition (see below) instead.

Coloretto Scores James 28 Jon 28 Woody 26 Noel 23 Paul 19

More players had now arrived and various games were brought forward. We’ll start with another light dice game (thanks Paul).


Quarriors was just some of the 'hotness' which John B brought along, raved about by Tom Vasel and climbing the rankings.

It has been simply described as 'Dominion with dice' which isn't far off the truth. Everyone starts off with the same set of dice which are stored in a pouch. Each turn they pull out six and roll them, and then act on the results, which may include rolling more dice, buying more dice, casting spells or launching some creatures (which need to be paid for with other dice from their roll). A monster which is put forward automatically attacks any other creature on the table that has previously been put forward by anyone else.

Points are scored by putting forward a creature that was rolled and paid for, and having that creature survive until that player’s next turn, i.e. having them survive all attacks from the other players. If a monster survives, the player not only gets points, but gets to discard any dice that they don't want and therefore make their aggregate rolls more powerful.

So instead of managing a stack of cards, players manage a bag of dice.

In this game, John kicked off and it took a while for Dan to become the first with points on the board as most of the 'starting' creatures were put forward and then killed off by the others before a round had passed.

Paul had managed to buy one of the big beasties which had the ability to take the attack and defence characteristics of any other monster on the table. This, more by luck than judgement, got him the first big score of the game.

John followed suit with a starter creature. Paul made some nice rolls and managed to put himself into quite a commanding lead, with Dan and John keeping him in their sights as they also managed to keep some of their creatures alive.

You may be forgiven for thinking there were only three players in the game, but you'd be mistaken as James was also playing. Knowing this, you might justifiably assume that James was playing a different type of role to everyone else - maybe the games master - and therefore didn't score points or do anything of note. No - actually James was in the same boat as the rest of us, it was just that...well, James hadn't scored any points or done anything of note. A reviewer with a kinder heart might have simply neglected to mention this and let James' lack of scoring go unnoticed, but, well, I'll let you draw your own conclusions. Whatever conclusions they are let me categorically state that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the grudges that James holds and brings back to the table weeks later (although it might well have something to do with a new grudge that is born today).

So the game progressed along a similar vein with Paul pulling further into the lead as he'd managed to ditch some of the lower value dice, and Dan and John vying for second place.

The general consensus was that there was a good dollop of luck in the game and that it'd take a few games to work out how to 'play' the luck, but if a player gets a healthy lead then it is difficult to catch up.

Consequently, when Dan had the option to extend the game or to bring it to a close, and he chose the latter, mercifully putting James, still on zero, out of his misery.

Even James admitted that it was quite fun, and even Paul couldn't quite bring himself to say that it was all pure skill, although it certainly didn't take anything away from the feeling of pure pleasure that he will get when typing in the scores below.
Paul: 11, John: 4, Dan 4, James 0

Meanwhile, on another table a metaphorical world away…me reporting this time.

Ankh Morpok

Martin Wallace’s latest design, featuring the Discworld’s most famous city. Players take on a secret identity and place minions, build buildings and cause trouble. I’d played it twice on Saturday at Tringgcon but was happy to play it again. Alex was also keen, being a Discworld fan. Woody, with no knowledge of Pratchett’s works gallantly joined us to even out the numbers…

The first game saw me as Chrysoprase (objective: make money) verus Alex as Lord Selachii (objective, control areas) and Woody as Lord Rust (same objective as Lord Selachii). I quickly selected the Scours as the cheapest area to build in which would get me an income. Alex spread out rapidly, and soon I was trying to stop Alex as much as meet my own goal. Woody professed confusion. Possibly it was a cunning plan, but we never found out, as I soon proved unable to stop Alex winning.

For the second game, Alex dropped out, leaving me and Woody.
I was Lord Vetinari (get agents in 11 areas, a tall order as there are only 12 areas in the game). He was Dragon King of Arms (get  trouble markers in 8 areas). I had a shrewd idea of his identity quite early on as he not only went out of his way to cause trouble but also built the one building that allows the owner to generate trouble (appropriately in the Shades). I wasn’t doing too badly, having managed to make a large amount of money via “Harry King”, and both of us being quite close to winning, when I foolishly played Rincewind, causing a Random Event to occur. The event was “Demons from the Dungeon Dimensions” Alex correctly  observed that the Things in the Dungeon Dimensions aren’t Demons. Nevertheless the effect was devastating for me, as the Demons occupied 4 areas, causing trouble and meaning that the areas did not count for my objective. Fortunately Demons are susceptible to assassination. In a tactic I should have pursued earlier I now built the building that allows its owner to remove trouble markers- but even so Woody was able to outpace me and win easily.

Not trouble but trains was the focus on the next table- though it seems Noel managed to cause plenty of trouble just the same (thanks to Jon).

Chicago Express
After last week’s successful outing, Noel did not need much persuasion for another. And with Andy just turning up, that made a happy band of 3 aspiring train barons.

This game turned out very differently from last week. Firstly, there were only 3 players, which made the distribution of shares completely different. Secondly, we had a spoiler in our midst, whose sole aim in life was not to see the glorious expansion of the infant locomotive transport system, but instead, to sabotage it at every possible opportunity.

Despite warnings from last week, Jon again managed to obtain 2 red shares, with Noel picking up the other. Andy quickly picked up a couple of blue shares, and this paid dividends (literally) in the first 2 rounds as his income grew.

By the middle of the game, Andy had majority shares in both blue and yellow, whilst green was shared out equally (causing the line to stall just after its starting point). Noel had one share of each company, and Jon simply had his 2 red shares and a green. It was at this point that Noel realised that it wasn’t particularly in his interest for any of the lines to get to Chicago, and systematically either blocked them off or drove them into the unforgiving mountains (boo hiss…….).

Anyway, the final share was issued, bringing the game to an end. Andy had undoubtedly been earning vast quantities of income during the game, the only question being, had he paid too much for the numerous shares that he had acquired? The answer turned out to be ‘no’, as his final tally was in 3 figures. The other 2 players were within a few dollars of each other, with ‘the rotten spoiler’ just pipping Jon for second place.

I’m really enjoying this game, so I think that it may well turn up at IBG again in the future…
Andy 107; Noel 93; Jon 89

Although a fourth table (Gareth’s) played in the Year of the Dragon and St. Petersburg, there are no reports of what happened. Meanwhile the Ankh-Morpok and Chicago Express players rounded off the evening with everyone’s favourite game starring Rowan Atkinson…(thanks again Jon).

5-player Bohnanza to close out the evening. Nice. Woody had only played once, so a rules explanation was required. Apparently he had hated it the first time round. I’m not sure that his opinion changed much following this experience either…
A quick summary of the playing styles of the various competitors:
Noel: Calculating and calm, in typical Irish fashion. A twinkle in his eye, but a dagger in his hand….
Woody: Refused to trade (with Noel!) at the beginning. Realised this clearly wasn’t working and accumulated a huge hand of cards. Went trade-crazy towards the end. Card-playing interspersed with a variety of expletives…
Philip: What you see is what you get. No games here. “I’ll trade this for that.” End of. Refreshing… (came last though…)
Andy: An English version of Noel without the Irish charm…
Jon: A happy, carefree trader, just seeking to help out his fellow-players wherever possible, regardless of the cost to himself. (Disagree?! You should have written this report then….)
Jon 18; Noel 13; Woody 12; Andy 10; Philip 8

“The Shares are a Penny”  is a quotation from the Nightmare Song in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Of Her Own Free Will, or From Cough Mixtures to Cables

The meeting began with me and Emma appearing, but neither of us had brought any games, so we had to wait for others. Paul, James, Jon and Tonio arrived in quick succession and we decided to play one of the few available short 6 player games

Santy Anno (thanks Jon)
No-one could remember the rules properly. Paul and Emma hated it, hence it finished one round early. Everyone else was thankful that Dan wasn’t playing.
James 12; Tonio 11; Jon 10; Philip 9; Paul 1; Emma 0

Jamaica now made her appearance (cue “she went of her own free will” joke from Jon) and five of the six Santy Anno players embarked on it.


Another night, another family game courtesy of James. Actually, this was one that Jon had shown an interest in recently, and along with other willing recruits – Emma, Paul and Tonio – they made up a band of 5 bloodthirsty pirates.

The gameplay is simple enough – it’s basically a race game around an island, picking up treasures, doubloons and goods along the way. These latter goods are used to pay your way from port to port, and the doubloons and treasures are also used to calculate part of your final score. Movement is decided by the start player rolling 2 dice and deciding which will be the ‘morning’ number, and which the ‘evening’ number. Players have 3 cards in their hands which have a variety of actions for morning and evening, and they simultaneously decide which to play. Actions are then resolved in a clockwise order. Any pirate ship landing on a space with another ship instantly battles, with the loser usually losing goods. The first player ‘home’ gets an extra 15 points, with everyone else scoring points depending upon how far round the island they had travelled.

Jon managed to misunderstand the rules at the beginning (probably ‘cos he was stealing James’ chips at the time) and finished his first turn no further forward but having lost all his starting goods. Tonio and Paul got quite a bit of wind in their sails and were soon halfway round the island. James had managed to take part in a number of naval engagements, and had not fared well. Emma was drifting along enjoying the view.

We had just got through our deck of cards once (cue rules discussion on how to proceed) when a double 6 was thrown. Jon was the only player to have his ‘move forward morning and evening’ card in hand, and shot forward 12 spaces in a single turn. Moving forward a further 6 on the next turn was enough to bring him into Port Royal and finish the game. Everyone else was still languishing outside of the scoring zone, which, despite his lack of treasures, gave Jon a comfortable victory.

Jon 23; Paul 13; Tonio 12; James 12; Emma 5

Meanwhile I had bailed out of Jamaica to play Pergamon…


Noel and his brother Paul had some experience playing this 2-player while I was new, which is at least some excuse for my dismal performance. The game is about digging for and exhibiting Ancient Greek Artefacts. The deeper you dig the more money you have to spend, but the most valuable artefacts are buried deepest.

Turns proceed with, first, a curious quasi-auction for money and turn order- more money meaning later position, but if you get greedy you can end up getting less money and going last.

Secondly players have the opportunity to dig. The artefacts come in several different types (mask, vase, etc) and have to be joined together in a one-dimensional jigsaw puzzle to make a complete exhibit. Exhibits go into a kind of hall of fame where they earn vps but gradually sink in value as newer, more valuable exhibits appear and with each scoring round.

By the first scoring round Noel and Paul had completed 15-20 (4-5 Vps) fame exhibits (and Noel an additional 4 fame (1VP) one) whereas I had only managed about 8 fame (2 VPs). The game went on in much the same way for the remaining rounds, although in the final round I was able to “polish” my exhibit with my remaining money, which pushed it up to a reasonably high value.
Paul P 39 Noel P 31 Phiilip 21

I now wandered over to the erstwhile Jamaica table and ended up in space….

Galaxy Trucker

Tonio had mentioned the possibility of Galaxy Trucker earlier and so when I saw Alex, Lexia and James (III) eyeing up the box I was quick to nudge Tonio into teaching the game to all four of us, none of whom had played before. Unfortunately this meant he had to sit out, it being only a four player game.

The game has two distinct phases, one in which the players construct space ships out of tiles depicting various components and the cables connecting them and a second in which the spaceships are tested to destruction as they hurtle through space getting hit by meteorites and attacked by pirates (and also picking up goods for delivery (possibly including cough mixtures...), if they make it through the course). The two phases occur three times, with progressively larger spaceships and more dangerous obstacles.

In our first voyage we quickly discovered that loose connector cables (going into empty space) are bad- they cause components to be knocked off by small asteroids, slow you down when you encounter space dust, and the person with least loose connections at end of voyage receives bonus points. However, most of survived with nothing more than minor damage- the exception being James when the Slavers took all his crew, leaving a derelict hulk floating in space. Alex was ahead in the race when the music stopped and picked up the bonus for least loose connectors.

The second voyage was even more successful than the first, with everyone finishing the course and only taking minor damage. High points were scored for delivering goods by everyone except me- I decided to try for speed instead, but still only managed second to Alex’s third.

In the third voyage we were allowed to use Aliens, who needed extra life support and occupied crew slots in exchange for boosting guns and engines. Tonio had left us to our own devices now and our ships soon came under heavy fire. Components were blasted off, taking other components with them, batteries ran out, and an epidemic devastated the crew, alien and human alike. The ship with the least engines came under heavy fire twice- the first time it was James who took the punishment, but by the second time James had already lost all his crew and was out of the race so Alex got shot up, losing almost a whole wing of his spacecraft. I was able to finish first with a hefty cargo and win least loose connections, but Alex’s points in the first couple of rounds were still enough for the win.
Alex 47 Lexia 39 Philip 30 James 17

Meanwhile a few of the remaining Pergamon and Jamaica players had fused for some light games, starting with a train game.

Chicago Express (thanks Jon)

Encouraged by Noel, Jon brought out this train / investment game which has seen a couple of outings at IBG in the past. With none of the players actually having played the game before (although James had cunningly tried out the i-Pad version), there was uncertainty about how much was an acceptable bid for shares at the beginning of the game. However, everyone was in the same boat. Jon managed to pick up 2 of the 3 red shares on offer early in the game, with James picking up the third. Noel and Paul II were soon auctioning off a number of other shares and soon had a multi-coloured portfolio. James opted to purchase only one other share for the whole game – a tactic which wasn’t going to win him the game but did allow him to do surprisingly well.

Jon and James worked together to drive the red company all the way to Chicago, picking up some tidy dividends along the way. Noel and Paul pushed the blue company along too, but as Jon also had a share, there was less incentive to focus on expansion in quite the same way. The other companies got stuck in the mountains and did not get far.

The game ended surprisingly quickly with 3 companies running out of shares, and when everything was totted up. Jon had romped away with it, with James’ circumspect approach having secured him second place.
All agreed that it would be good to play again, although next time, there would be a concerted effort to stop one player getting a majority of red shares.
Jon 76; James 62; Noel 50; Paul II 48

By now Tonio had taught the players Galaxy Trucker and was able to join in a new game.

Sultan (thanks Jon)
Another new filler courtesy of Jon. Basically a blind bidding game / set collection game where each round there are 3 jewels of varying values on offer, and players play bidding cards face-down onto the jewels that they want. As there are 3 jewels on offer, and 5 players, there will always be competition for at least one jewel, whilst at least one other will always be uncontested.

The funniest moment came when Tonio had pulled out 3 diamonds (the least valuable jewel) and played his first card. Paul was next, and rather place his card on one of the 2 identical empty spaces he chose the same one as Tonio. Cue much mirth from the other players, and much gnashing of teeth from Tonio.
When the dust had settled, Noel’s quiet collecting of the diamonds had earned him a tidy bonus, and with it, a runaway win.
Noel 61; Jon 36; Paul II 32; James 28; Tonio 24

The evening was rounded off with IBG’s favourite dice dexterity game.

Tumblin Dice
So with Jon’s home baked board (and I’m pretty sure he’s built in a few modifications to assist his own game play) once again coupled with my dice (can’t be too sure about Jon’s dice anymore either) we had a couple of fun evening ending runs with Tumblin Dice. Such a great game really, and worthy of more than an end-of-evening filler like status.

Game 1 was Paul P, Noel, Jon and myself but despite some newcomers to the game there was no taking of prisoners. Jon and myself shot into the lead, while the brothers battled out for bragging rights at the breakfast table. After 2 rounds Jon was ahead by 9 and Noel by 6. In Round 3 I managed to cut Jon’s lead to 7 while Paul took the lead to 2: couldn’t be closer ! Was a strange last round as everyone scored big and with totals of 33,32,40 and 33 you can see how close things were. Noel ended up ahead by 96-93 over Paul for 3rd place, while James , despite initially fearing for the worse managed to drag back the 7 points for an honourable (?) tie with Jon.
James 131 Jon 131 Noel 96 Paul II 33

Realising we could sneak in another game before the pub set the dogs on us, Jon and me decided to try and resolve the tie. And once again it was neck and neck over the 1st three rounds. I took a good lead after 1, but after 3 rounds there was just 1 point between us and on the last round, 3 dice in it was still anyone’s game.

Then disaster (or did Jon manage to sneak in one of his home made dice I wonder) struck. I took aim at a cluster of Jon’s dice that were simply begging to be dispatched, but instead took out a couple of my own dice. Now, I can’t be sure but I might’ve caught a glimpse of Jon’s hand under the table manipulating a few switches as my die made an almost imperceptible 10 degree change of direction away from his dice hmm or lets be generous and say perhaps it was just the lighting But from here there was no way back for me. Jon dribbled his last die in for a score and took
the title.
 Jon 126 James 96.

P.S "From Cough Mixtures to Cables" is taken from the Nightmare song in Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe.