Tuesday, 22 November 2011

"In First and Foremost Flight"

After an unreported game of Perudo, I gravitated to…
Jeff was back, and as usual he had a shiny new game to play. Eclipse is a space empires game of the “4X” variety: Explore, Expand, Ex… and Exterminate. Players start in control of their own home system and take it in turn to take actions- you can take any number of actions but the more you take the more it costs.

The game began with everyone (Jeff, me, Barrie and James II) exploring neighbouring systems. Some systems were available for take over straight away- Jeff seemed to get lots of these- while others contained hostile aliens called Ancients- I was particularly favoured with these, though Barrie and James also had a fair few. Systems also contained bonus tokens- worth 2VPs or some other benefit such as extra cash or a bonus piece of kit for your ships.

Exploration continued in subsequent rounds, but we also conducted research and built and upgraded spaceships. Barrie was the first to attack the Ancients, with a fleet of Interceptors equipped with extra Ion Cannons. Unfortunately the Ancients blasted Barrie’s fleet to smithereens, but he received a VP token as a consolation prize. A little later I attacked a different Ancients’ system using two Dreadnaughts. Their greater size meant they could survive the Ancient attacks and win the day. The bonus token for that system gave me a Cruiser.

Meanwhile both Jeff and Barrie were running into overstretch problems due to having too many systems and not enough cash (In a clever mechanic, each system you control uses an action token, permanently increasing your costs). Jeff managed to survive by not doing very much, while Barrie was forced to lose systems to pay off his debts.

Technology tiles filled up three rows on a display near the board, with more tiles appearing each turn. One way to earn VPs was to buy lots of tiles in a particular row- a strategy I ended up following though more by luck than judgement.

Jeff and Barrie both researched Plasma Cannons- twice the damage of a conventional Ion Cannon- and Jeff and James developed shields, reducing the chance of his ships being hit. Due to some lucky bonus tokens, Barrie ended up with an extra strong hull and an Axion Computer on his cruisers- the Computer increasing his odds to hit. I developed Fusion Engines for twice the movement but never got round to installing them on my ships!

My Dreadnaughts and Cruiser next tackled a system with 2 Ancient’s ships in, losing the Cruiser but winning the battle. In order to reach the next Ancients system in one move I developed Wormhole technology- but then realised I could use said technology to attack Jeff’s temptingly defenceless system. 2 Dreadnaughts and 4 Cruisers sailed in. Jeff built 2 Star Bases, which proved their worth at static defence by taking out twice their cost in ships and leaving me with too few ships to take the system.

I decided to leave Jeff alone and return to the fight against the Ancients- which James and Barrie had also got involved in. Jeff then offered me an alliance- worth a VP and boosts both sides’ economies.  I accepted and James and Barrie swiftly formed their own alliance.
Jeff launched a fleet of interceptors against the central system, defended by a massive computer core, which easily shot down most of his ships- those who survived fled.
I was gradually making my way along the lowest technology row, picking up such things as Advanced Science (extra science income) and the ability to build Orbitals (extra science or money income) and Monoliths (each Monolith worth 3 VP).
In the penultimate turn James toyed with the idea of attacking his ally Barrie, but was discouraged by the 2 VPs Traitor card. In the last turn Barrie decided to get his retaliation in first and attacked James, prompting me to attack him.

Barrie was everywhere victorious, his Plasma cannon, super-improved Hull and Axion Computer equipped Cruisers destroying my unimproved Cruisers and causing my Dreadnaughts to flee (ironically…). Barrie’s fight with James was closer but still a victory. If there had been any turns remaining his fleets might have conquered the galaxy.

As it was however the game ended just in time…
Philip 32 Jeff 21, James II 21, Barrie 18
Meanwhile more earthly terrors were found on other tables…
Letters from Whitechapel (thanks James)
A dark night in smoggy London town and something strange, someone otherworldly is stalking the streets for victims.... the sobbing and screams of god-fearing women and whimpers of hysterical bystanders lie in the mythical creatures wake. Grown men reduced to tears and battle-scared veterans left wondering how something so vile could exist on god's own earth...

Oh, no, easy mistake to make... it’s just James with a moustache on his way to Isleworth.

Noel, Jon, Emma and James all liked the look of this relatively new game which is basically a Jack the Ripper re-theme of the classic Scotland Yard premise. One player is the criminal Jack, who murders a new innocent victim (somewhat disturbingly called “wretch” in the game) and needs to get back to their hideaway. Everyone else plays the inspectors looking for clues and aiming to trace Jack’s path to discover his base and make an arrest.

As I’d read the rules in advance it was decided I would play Jack for the first game as it requires the most knowledge... not sure I really qualify for that status but it was too late to make changes and I chose 87 as my base... mainly cause it was just off centre which seemed like a good idea at the time.
Night 1 - So after some hidden placement mechanic for the police and victims I made my first murder (death by haloumi fish and chips) and started a getaway. I was playing it simple to start with, and perhaps in the long run this was a mistake. The main clue detectives have early is where the murder took place, so the quicker Jack can get away from there, the better. Next time I’ll use coaches in the first two turns to get as far as possible but this time I was taking little steps, and spend most of the night with the detectives hot on my trail. I did try a few ‘sneaky’ moves towards the end but despite making it quite safely home I had given a lot of clues to the main area of the hideout.

Night 2- Everyone knew what they were doing this time round, and to try something different I chose to make my second murder (death by setting up one of Phil’s games with 10,000 pieces) on the far left so that few inspectors were near me at the start and to try and push attention away from the hideout. Early on this worked and I managed to give the impression of going north while shooting back south to take a central route... until some Columbo like detective paused, and changed the area to investigate and caught whiff of my tracks.. From here on it was a case of trying to throw them off the scent while making sure I could get back, and again I nearly managed it only to leave some clues behind (a few moustache trimmings perhaps) 2 squares from home which effectively pinpointed my base to 1 or 2 locations... A last attempt was to take an alley to get to the base to make them think it was nearby... however this move was to come back and bite me on the 3rd night...

Night 3 ... the double murder night... By this stage I realised that the game was probably up so wanted to keep close to the base to try and close this one quickly... However this rather obvious tactic was quickly revealed by the inspectors and despite playing coaches early in the move the net was closing in. Then, 2 places from home a hitherto unseen rule was discovered saying Jack couldn’t play a special move (coach, alley) to reach home... and given I’d done that last round I was forced to recant and reveal my crimes from the previous night... and from here all was lost. Jon, Noel and Emma quickly narrows by base down to 2 circles, and encamped inspectors around them leaving me with nowhere to go... I did try to slip Emma a bribe that I would bring along next week my game with cute baby dragons but to no avail. Jack was arrested, confessed everything and sentenced to either a lifetime in prison or a single game of Battlestar Galactica,... whichever ended soonest.

So, thoughts... it’s a good game. Very good in fact, although I’m not sure if it’s a 2 player game, or a 6 player one. Certainly 2 players would work just fine, 3 might allow for some debate, but 4 already started to feel like perhaps there wasn’t enough ‘action’ to go around for the inspectors. I’d like to play again, both as the inspectors to see what life was like on the other side, and also as Jack as I really didn’t do the role justice and have a much better feel for what to do (and not to do) next time.

Now I just need to work out who to accuse of being a Cylon so I can complete my sentence and I’m off... no, what’s that... The sentence has been revised to a best of 5 set of Battlestar.... ??? Noooooooooooo...

A slightly different perspective on the same game…
Letters from Whitechapel (thanks Jon)
This was played with 3 detectives (Jon, Noel and Emma) and 1 Jack (James).  James had read the rules and did a good job of communicating them to the newbies.
At first, it seemed really difficult for the detectives to get anywhere near Jack, but it soon dawned on the detectives that during the first 2 nights it was less about actually catching Jack, and more about narrowing down the position of his hideout. During the first night, the detectives picked up a good scent, and tracked Jack somewhere into the middle of the board where he disappeared and declared that he had reached his hideout. The second night saw the miscreant hot-foot it off in a carriage, leaving the detectives with a mere whiff of where he had been. However, they then converged on a large intersection and discovered the trail. Detective Leprechaun (Noel) had a feeling in his water that Jack was at a certain location and tried a daring arrest – but sadly failed, as Jack had changed direction and was heading South. With one detective chasing him, 2 others tracked around to try to cut him off. 2 turns later, they searched for clues and found Jack’s current location as he tried to sneak past. Jack moved once more and then declared himself ‘home’ – leaving a mere 5 locations as possible hideouts. James then realised that he had made an error, and used a special token to do his final move (even though he didn’t have to) which narrowed his possible hideout location down further to only 2 spaces. Consequently, the detectives quickly threw a cordon around this area during the next night, which Jack was unable to penetrate and was arrested within yards of his devilish lair.
Playing the detectives in this game was quite fun – discussing the possible routes that Jack may have taken and the best ways to track him down. It was often difficult to mute this discussion whilst James considered his moves, which was the sign of us being totally immersed in the game. We talked afterwards about it probably working best with 3 players, which would make it a bit quicker but still give a good co-op experience for the detectives. Definitely worth a re-run soon.
Elsewhere the game was rather less subtle…

Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game (thanks Tom)
Dan was keen to show off his new purchase of Blood Bowl: TM, a card game adaptation of the Games Workshop staple. Tom was eager to give it a try and Ian was roped in from the horde looking to play Letters From Whitechapel.

The players set down to choosing from the six teams available. Tom immediately picked up the Dwarves, Dan stumped for Skaven, and Ian ended up with Chaos after a brief flirtation with Orks, ultimately being won around once Dan had reassured him that he would have a Minotaur in his deck. Soon after, John B turned up and chose Humans, leaving Elves and Orks to be sampled another day. Lots of tackles, cheating and general rough-housing followed, during which Ian tried to draft in new blood, Tom drew an extremely useless four Dwarven Longbeards in one hand, and Dan steadily accumulated staff upgrades and team upgardes (a tactic which would ultimately pay off).

Having establishing an early fan lead after the first two rounds, John was unfortunately called away and the game dropped down to three. The game then descended somewhat into a grudge match between the Dwarves and Skaven with one particular highlight card being swamped by both teams, whilst Chaos was left to easily pick up some fans elsewhere. Unfortunately for Tom, Dan’s one successful attempt to use his Assassin ability on Tom’s star player, coincided with another Dwarf being sent off for cheating and Dan’s Skaven Blitzer pulling off a 3 star cheat, leaving the Dwarves bloodied and broken on the Blood Bowl field.

This left Dan and Ian to battle it out for Blood Bowl supremacy and Chaos briefly looked to have won it. In the battle for the Blood Bowl trophy itself, it looked to all that Chaos had triumphed by a point. However, rather belatedly, Tom realised that he got an extra star point for any downed player drawing him level. Dan having the tiebreaker button, naturally deemed the Dwarves to have triumphed, depriving Chaos of three fans.

In the end game, Dan revealed his card that granted him an additional fan for each staff and tactics card in his possession, which took him into the lead with 46 fans… three more than Ian. Despite the Dwarves having won the Blood Bowl trophy, Tom came third; a pyrrhic victory of sorts.

A fantastic game which looks like it will become even more fun once the players get used to the strengths and weaknesses of the various teams, Tom has already asked for a copy in his stocking this Christmas with a New Years’ resolution to better his micro-management skills.

Dan – 46, Ian – 43, Tom – 38, John B – 17 (DNF)
The players now enlarged their ambitions from Sport to world domination, in the same setting…

Chaos in the Old World (thanks Tom)
Having now had a taste of the Warhammer universe with Blood Bowl, the unholy trinity of Tom, Dan and Ian set down for a game of Chaos in the Old World. Dan and Ian were both seasoned players whilst Tom had never played it before, although he was eager to give it a try.

Whilst Tom gamely worked through some Isleworth Apprentice Roasted Pistachios (TM), Dan and Ian explained the rules and set up the board, despite Tom’s assertion that he could pick up the rules as he went along. Oh, sweet naivety.

Perhaps it was a clever ploy of Dan and Ian to have Tom play as the subtle manipulator and politicker, Tzeentch. Then again, they may simply have overestimated his tactical nous as first turn, Tom steamed into Bretonnia, despite Bretonnia being subject to the Skaven, restricting the number of chaos cards playable in the region. When Ian playing as Khorne, naturally, pushed some of his minions into Bretonnia in order to try and obtain some easy dial ticks by killing Tom’s cultists, Dan and Ian were perhaps even more surprised when Tom countered this, not by moving away, but by placing down his Lord of Change, based on the fact that he was a pretty imposing looking figurine. Dan commented that he had never seen anyone play as Tzeentch this way before; there was good reason for this as Khorne routed all in its path.

With Tom on his mad frolic, a more interesting tactical battle was taking place in Tilea with Dan as Slaanesh trying to flood in cultists with a view to ruining the province. He was ultimately successful taking 10 victory points, with Ian taking second place easily as Tom had not even sought to contest the province, engaged in his own brand of quixotic justice in seeking to ruin Bretonnia. Finally, Tom tilted at enough windmills that he succeeded but this had all been to Ian’s great benefit.

Dan sought to rectify the balance by gaining a stronghold in Estalia but to no avail, Ian obtaining the required 50 victory points after only four turns. Despite the somewhat baffled expressions on Ian and Dan’s faces, good fun was had by all and Tom certainly would be keen for a rematch, if only to occupy The Badlands so that he can make some poor Springsteen based puns.

Ian – 1st, Dan - 2nd, Tom - 3rd
After Letters from Whitechapel, looking for something reasonably meaty to fill the last hour was the order of the day. Jon didn’t want to learn anything new, so he forced Noel and Emma to learn –

Mykerinos (thanks Jon)
This is a fairly straightforward area control game with a few twists thrown in. Emma went slightly overboard in placing cubes to claim a couple of parcels of land each turn. Consequently she didn’t quite have enough patrons for points or special abilities. Fruity Noel picked up a few Lord Lemons, whilst James majored on Lady Blackmore. Jon picked up some early Sir Browns, and then used their special ability to reserve the ‘5’ space in the museum for them.
In the last round, James had shed loads of cubes, and was about to toss his final one away as useless, when Nol reminded him that he had a spare Sir Brown and could therefore place in the last spot in the museum. This increased his final score by 2 points and forced a tie with Jon, which could not even be broken with a tie-breaker. Rejoicing in their shared victory? Probably not……..
James and Jon 51; Noel 40ish; Emma 30ish

P.S "In first and foremost flight" is from the Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan.

No comments:

Post a Comment