Tuesday, 13 December 2011

"In for a Penny in for a Pound"

For me the whole evening was bold as...
I was eager to play this Martin Wallace game again, and Keith who had brought it was of the same mind. We roped James II and Shamu as new players. Keith explained the rules and I noted any little differences from my previous understanding.
Shamu was randomly chosen to start and, as Keith suggested, developed while Iron was cheap. So did James, while Keith and I built cotton mills.
I think Keith played the first Ironworks and he also made the first cotton shipment to the external market, neatly timed to balance his loan. I endured a couple of turns negative income before shipping two cotton mills at once, one to my port and one to the external market. Meanwhile Shamu shipped using James II’s port.
The canal age proceeded more or less prosperous with me and Keith putting down several level 2 structures and James II putting down a level 2 port. In fact my port, James’ port and Keith’s cotton mill were all flipped during the canal age, thus scoring twice. James II was clearly ahead after the first scoring, but his income was looking low.

With the coal mines already in place, railway building made an early and rapid start, especially as I had funds enough to build 2 railways in one action on a number of occasions. James II took out a second loan and began constructing shipyards, by dint of considerable effort cranking two out before the game ended. Meanwhile the Iron and Coal disappeared and indeed fell so low that I was able to replace one of James II’s Coal mines with one of my own as almost the last move of the game.
The final scoring revealed that my strategy was too heavily income-biased, while James II’s Shipyards paid off handsomely. Scores may not be totally accurate- James II took the scoresheet!
James II 110 Keith 103 Philip 100 Shamu 96
BRASS (thanks James).
A couple of weeks ago my friend Jess came over to see me. Among other things, she wanted to play a board game. She liked the box art on Troyes and said she'd like to try it. I said (for her being a non-gamer) it was quite complicated. Nonetheless I set the board up and proceeded to explain the rules. Jess has the shortest attention span of anyone I know and five minutes in she got bored and started to throw the pieces at me. So, the day after, it was good to go to The London Apprentice and play a game with some actual gamers.
        Keith had brought along Brass. Now a game based on the industrial revolution in the north of England isn't one I'd normally jump at due to the theme, but it did indeed look interesting.
        The game consists of two phases – The canal era and The rail era. It's played on a map of the north of England and players score points by developing industries in the major industrial centres of the time. To start with, only certain types of industry can be built. These in turn can provide resources (some of which can also be purchased from the open market) to develop more advanced industries. These can also go on to provide goods which can be moved along canal or rail routes to be sold for revenue. Also, your industries exist in a stack. As you develop industries and progress through the stack, the industries available to you become more valuable. The play is partially card-driven. The cards that you possess (more are drawn in  each of the players turns) determine which industries you are allowed to build and the locations in which you are allowed to do so. If you want to expand your empire (and do not have an appropriate location card), you must use your already built canal (rail in the second phase of the game) routes to move your your industrial influence to another location on the board. These routes, as I mentioned before, can also be utilised to move goods. The difference between these two actions is that to expand your empire to a new location, you can only use routes that you have built. Where as, when moving goods, you can use routes that other players have put in place. Thus building routes is an advantage to progressing in the game. In addition to this though, at the end of each of the two phases, canal or rail sections give you points. The more industries they link to, the more points you get.
        At the end of the game with the final scoring taking place, I managed to secure a slim victory, I think due to developing a couple of ship yards in the last few turns, which I fortuitously had the appropriate cards for.
James (me):112. Keith 104.Phil:100.Shamu:    97.
That game took all evening, but others had wisely started with a filler...

Felix the Cat in the Sack (thanks Jon)
The first 5 arrivees had a go at this popular filler. To my shame, I didn’t record all the details at the time, but I do remember scoring exactly the same as I started with. Paul, Noel and Andy also played and scored varying amounts of points (one of them scored less than me – but I can’t remember which one….!) but Mark was the victor, dropping out quickly in a number of early auctions only to collect a whole load of cats later on. Sack-tastic!
A little more brain burning in our next title...

Tikal (thanks Jon)
I don’t get to play this very often (which is probably ‘cos I don’t bring it along – it’s right at the bottom of my pile of games and would take an engineering degree to get it out…) However, it is definitely my ‘overall’ favourite game. It just seems to work beautifully – the rules are simple: place a tile, take 10 action points, score your position 4 times during the game. The theme fits really well, and the pieces look great (hence the background to our blog title). It is also a work-out for the brain, which can result in some serious AP if you’re not careful. Anyway, that’s enough gushing……
In this particular game, Paul and Andy were both brand new to Tikal (hence not playing the auction variant), but picked it up really quickly. All 3 players collected similar amounts of treasures, but Jon used his experience to cap a couple of early temples without losing too many workers. This resulted in him being about 12 points ahead of the others after the second scoring round. Paul and Andy both set up camps further into the jungle, and used these to good effect, to take control of nearby newly-discovered temples. When the last scoring round occurred, the rule of ‘last place scores first’ was used, which is a neat little ‘catch the leader’ mechanism. This resulted in Jon going last, but thanks to the last-minute placement of a camp and temple tile, and the fact that Andy had run out of new workers to bring onto the board, he was able to do a swift last turn and win by a few points. It had been a long game (c 2 hours) but very enjoyable and engaging. Note to self: must play it more often……
Jon 112; Andy 105; Paul 103
Our final report, is, after all...

Small World (thanks noel)
On noel's arrival mark was eagerly setting up Small World anticipating the arrival of dan, Lou and tom. Noel joined to make a possible 5 but despite the early prep we ended up with just Mark, Noel and Dan contesting the small world. Noel asked lots of reminder questions and was then deemed first to go by duty of his undoubted leprechaun lineage. Firstly he chose the Stout sorcerers and duly scored and used their special ability to immediately decline, picking up the seafaring skeletons. Mark started with the Trolls and established lairs in the north which were to give him some regular early victory points. When mark declined the trolls a turn later he picked up the pillaging amazons, putting him into an obvious early lead and a target on his races. Dan led the onslaught on the amazons with his wizards and giants while Noel got his seafaring skeletons to conquer the lakes, giving a regular additional 3 points per turn, before declining to pay full cost for the Bivouacking Ratmen. The Ratmen were able to decimate the remaining amazons which were still hanging on and there was too much to do for Mark’s flying dwarfs to regain the lead. Victory for the rat swarm.
Noel 111, Mark 96, Dan 92
NB: "In for a Penny in for a Pound" is from Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe. If you take a loan in Brass, you'd best take the biggest loan you can!

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