Tuesday, 15 November 2011

"And his legs will take Root and his Fingers will Shoot"

A brief prelude…
Memoir ’44 (Thanks Jon)
Jon and Paul got to the pub early for a pre-arranged WWII adventure. This was a classic Normandy scenario, with Jon playing the well dug-in but sparse Germans, whilst Paul commanded the plentiful, heroic Allied forces. Both players had rather bad luck in terms of cards drawn (Jon had no cards on the left flank so couldn’t use his artillery or infantry outpost, and Paul kept all his forces in the centre and left – and then drew mostly right-flank cards.)
Paul’s first intervention was a successful air-strike, which wiped out half of the German forces in the middle section. Jon therefore decided that waiting to be over-run wasn’t going to be much fun, so he advanced to the top of the cliff to try to repel the invaders. The Allies quickly climbed the left flank cliffs but then appeared to get stuck, which gave the Germans an opportunity to take some pot-shots at the forces sruggling in the shallow water of the mid-section.
The Germans quickly gained 2 medals, so, in an attempt to press home the advantage, and in a complete deviation from the history books, they descended the cliffs, advanced onto the beach and engaged the Allies at the water’s edge. This proved to be successful, and they were soon only one medal from victory.
However, there were now no German troops at all in the mid-scetion at the top of the cliffs, so the Allied forces who had successfully climbed the cliffs now pushed across to try to claim the medals in the forests at the SW corner of the battlefield. This was almost successful, but as their thrust took them into range of the German artillery, they were unable to complete their mission. Which left Jon’s troops to celebrate their emphatic victory with a BBQ on the beach
Jon (Axis) – won; Paul (Allies) – trounced

The evening for those of us not starting with WWII began with a quick game of Skulls and Roses. About which the less said the better (at least from my perspective!). Unfortunately for me, Jon did a report…

Skull and Roses (thanks Jon)
It’s been too long since we played this simple but fun game that Woody introduced to IBG. It’s also been too long between playing the game and writing this report, which means that I’m not entirely sure who won.
It wasn’t me (even though I successfully scored a point in the very first round), and I’m sure that it wasn’t Paul (who lost his skull early on and then was a little more cautious about bidding). Also pretty sure that it wasn’t Philip or Maynard, which by process of elimination leaves Woody. Actually, that makes sense, as his world-reknowned poker skills make this an ideal game for him. It was fun though…….
Next up…
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Skulls and Roses completed, I suggested Betrayal, as James II ha brought it again. Barrie made the fifth player to the four who had played a few weeks ago-and he knew the rules as he owns a copy so we jumped straight in. Emma played the young woman, Barrie the little girl, me the little boy, James II the old man (Professor Longfellow) and Alex the young man (Ox).

Exploration proceeded in all directions, with my character running up the stairs, exploring the Upper floor, finding the Mystic elevator which landed him on the ground floor and ending up in the basement when the floor collapsed underneath him. Meanwhile 2 others had reached the basement , James was on the ground floor, and Emma on the Upper floor.

Emma was looking for the toy monkey she had found in the previous game. She found a lucky rabbit’s foot and a picture box which she couldn’t open- and it was taken away due to an event happening to James when he looked in the closet…which seemed to exercise a strange fascination.

Anyway, Alex’s strategy of exploring the omen-rich Basement paid off and he triggered the haunt by finding a flower in a book. The scenario, “Offspring”, called for the player on the left of the haunt finder to become the traitor. That was Emma. She wasn’t too pleased but went away to read her secret instructions.

This scenario featured an “Evil Plant”. Perhaps the plant was originally a human being…in any event it was sending out dangerous spores that inflicted 1 die of physical damage on player characters. To destroy it we needed to bring the flower Alex had found to the room with the Evil Plant and use our Knowledge to defeat it (the Plant, that is).

The first challenge was to get out of the basement, since the basement stairs had yet to be located. However, they were found relatively quickly and soon the heroes were charging towards the Evil Plant on the ground floor, holding their breath to minimise Spore damage.

The Traitor? She was still upstairs searching frantically for the Toy Monkey. All she found was various dangerous events and items, which killed her… the Evil Plant was on its own (apart from the Spores of course).

It proved relatively easy to reach the plant and pass three Knowledge checks, Professor Longfellow being gifted in that area and also wearing a Mask which increased knowledge but lowered Sanity…

The victory description for this scenario describes the stench of blood and burning human flesh- confirming my earlier suggestion of lost humanity.

More horror…
Panic Station (Thanks Jon)
Jon was the only player to have played before, but James came over and explained the rules (which are complicated further by having an official and updated official version).
Jon was the host, and after a little pussy-footing around, he decided not to give a gas can to Noel, thereby heaping suspicion on himself. He then managed to manufacture a situation where he got to trade 3 times in quick succession with Maynard, depleting him of gas cans and then infecting him. Unfortunately, Maynard did not try to bluff that he had been infected, so it was now obvious who the bad guys were.
Meanwhile, Johan had managed to get himself trapped in room with several parasites, and had his butt chewed off. Woody took himself off to a quiet area of the station by himself (don’t ask…) whilst Noel tried (and failed) to blow Jon’s brains out.
Maynard then had to leave us, so James took over. This resulted in Noel and Johan both being infected, and as Woody had no human left, the game was over. Even though Johan claimed that he wasn’t infected (slight misunderstanding with the rules!) this had not affected the end result.
This is definitely a game to play a bit more often with the same players, to try to develop some strategies of how to win. It appears to be difficult for the host to infect someone without drawing attention to himself, but we’ll have to see if that’s still the case after a few more plays.

Elsewhere a rather less horrific scene was unfolding...

Oregon (Thanks Woody)
Woody and Tonio had clashed before and with Woody arriving complete with crisp new copy, Paul and Johan (1st timers) were on board for a four way game.

Oregon is a people and building placement game with a card & grid operating model. Points are awarded for placing your people next to buildings and visa versa. Clusters of three of your people together also gains bonuses. Finally, points at the end of the game are disclosed for any mining activity completed.

Rules explained, game on ... Tonio was off to a flying start, maximising use of this joker and extra turn cards a couple of times. Paul was quickly mining and gathered undisclosed bonus points. Johan tried to cover the whole board whilst Woody made steady progress. In the latter stages, Tonio's lead was whittled away and when Woody placed two churches in successive moves, he jumped ahead. As Tonio played the closing moves, Paul was some distance behind: However, his mining points brought him within 1 point of Tonio.
Woody93, Tonio 71, Paul 70, Johan 66

Two of those players now moved on to…

String Railway (thanks Paul)
After filling up the available space with multi coloured spaghetti last week with a five player game of string railway, James, Tonio and Paul found out what is was like with three.

Actually Paul and Tonio were waiting for James to explain the rules of another game to another bunch of people, so they had a crack at a two player game first, but Paul got the special two player rules wrong (which involve each player using two colours) and it was abandoned near the end. Tonio might have been winning, I couldn't be sure.

James suggested that they make the playing area a triangle, so after some debate about it being equilateral or isosceles, the mountain was placed in the middle and one river between Paul and Tonio, which discouraged either from crossing it for the whole game.

It was a pretty close thing for most of the game, with most of the action in the spaces between James and Tonio and James and Paul, due to the above mentioned river.

Paul had saved his long string until his last move and managed to eke out enough points for a very close victory, due to landing on James’ base station, and then in James' last move he gifted Paul a point.

It was noted that it isn't a game for high level competition as the nature of the string doesn't lend itself to precision and there will always be a few question marks over the little movements in a string or the fact that a station was moved slightly, but overall it was agreed that it is a very fun game.

Paul: 31, James: 30, Tonio: 29

Meanwhile, the evil plant safely disposed of we decided to do some farming…
Despite Andy’s misgivings, Emma was correct in thinking we could play both Betrayal at House on the Hill and Agricola in one evening. Me and Barrie made up the four for Agricola and we mixed the decks and dealt 10 cards of each type to everyone, discarding down to 7. Emma and Barrie hadn’t played for some time (over a year in Barrie’s case), while me and Andy were more experienced.

Barrie started by taking the Wood, while Andy played the Wood Cutter. Emma played the Resource Collector and I played the House Goat. Barrie played Reed, Stone Food, Andy plowed, Emma took some Wood, and I took 2 Clay.

In the next round I played the Charcoal Burner and built the Fireplace, while others gathered Wood. Barrie played the Fishing Rod.

The third round saw Barrie lead with Village Elder while I picked up 3 Reeds and played the Dock Worker. After that my memory fades. I managed to roast sheep for the first harvest, while Emma was building early stables. Andy had a huge pile of resources. Barrie fished in the first harvest, but somehow ended up 2 food short at the second harvest, taking 2 Begging cards. I was perhaps more puzzled than the others at this point, since I held the Mendicant!

Meanwhile I played my third and fourth occupations- Bread Seller (who proved completely useless as no one baked bread the whole game long) and Market Woman (who earned me 6 Grain over the course of the game). I was also able to expand by 1 room and be the first to grow my family (family growth arriving as late as possible). My minor improvement with my 3rd family member was the Animal Pen- 2 food a turn for the rest of the game=14 food! It requires 4 Occupations hence my haste to put them down although it has to be admitted I’m usually keen on Occupations anyway…

Andy was next to expand his family, having built 2 rooms at once, and  produced a third and a fourth family member before I could get my fourth and fifth. Emma and Barry picked up a third family member at around this time. Meanwhile the food accumulated on the remaining round spaces as Barrie pulled off his Well/Water Carrier combo (but not before taking a third begging card!) and added a Herb Garden to it, and I played a Swan Lake. Emma had purchased a Cooking Hearth, Andy had gone from Simple Fireplace to Cooking Hearth minor improvement and added a Clay Oven at the end, but Barrie steadfastly refused any sort of Cooking improvement.

I was only able to plow two fields (in which I sowed Vegetables), but managed to build all my fences with the help of Mini-Pasture (also used by Barrie), and a couple of stables with the help of the Dock Worker. I picked up one of each animal and the main defect in my farm, that I had not renovated, was fairly solidly compensated for by the Wooden Hut Builder. I also built the Basketmaker’s Workshop which allowed me to eat Reed in the last two Harvests.

Andy had meanwhile built a substantial farm with no empty spaces, the approved variety of livestock and a four room stone house. Emma and Barrie were rather further behind, despite Barrie’s use of the Swing Plow and Emma exploiting that with the Punner. When the game ended it was found that me, Barrie and Emma all had 5 improvements, Andy having less, so the 3 VPS from Village Elder were not awarded to him.
Philip 45 Andy 38 Emma 24 Barrie 17.
Finally, a cathedral in France...

Notre Dame (thanks James)
So, despite the appearance of several shiny new games in the pile of boxes the older classics are still getting to the table, especially with the Work’s recent sale pushing copies of a few of them into new and eager hands. I think Woody brought this along, but it was Noel, Jon, Maynard and myself who played... Andy was all set to be the 5th until someone flashed a copy of Agricola his way, and before your could say ‘major improvement’, in a puff of smoke, he was gone. Still some would call this a minor improvement on the Notre Dame table as the game would be quicker with 4. First time for me, but everyone else had played before so trying not to hold things up too much Noel breezed through the rules and off we went.

Early strategies seemed to be to gather cubes, being new I was trying to follow everyone else but after a while I liked the idea of ferrying my wagon around the board to steel other peoples bonus points. Noel and Jon shared the first Notre Dame bounty due to a selfless act of sabotage by Jon... hmm, Jon, selfless... not sure those words have been used together in a game report before ! round 2 was more of the same although by this stage Maynard’s love of rats was getting the better of him and he spent most of the rest of the game struggling to keep below the penalty level of 9. Perhaps Paul should bring Rattus along next week where I think rats are actually a good thing to have ?! The last round and strategies changed to turn whatever anyone had into points. I was still crusing around the board, while Jon and Maynard seemed to be piling all their pieces into the bonus sector. Noel had already claimed the bonus VP sector a while back and was making the most of it. The final hiring round was a bit of an anti climax as virtually n rats appeared. Probably good given nearly everyone was on or around 9 and maxed out, but could’ve been interesting with 5/6 rats in the last round when everyone would be panicking to change their focus back to rat extermination.

So final scores... Jon and Maynard has realised they were out of the running a few rounds earlier, but when Noel and myself counted we both had 62... I’m pretty sure the tie breaker included something about victory going to the eldest player, but sadly that bit of the rules had gone missing.

P.S “And his legs will take root and his fingers will shoot” is from the Nightmare Song in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe. The unfortunate tradesman being transformed into a flowering plant then produces useful groceries rather than harmful spores, however…

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