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.

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