Tuesday, 24 January 2012

"Shepherds and Ploughmen"

We abandoned Eclipse for some rather more down-to-earth subject matter...

Agricola (Thanks Andy)
Agriholics Phil and Andy were joined by Tonio, who hadn't played this game for almost a year, for a bash at some 17th century farming. The early rounds played out with Phil accumulating enormous amounts of building material using his Resource Seller occupation. Andy getting a bundle of clay due to his Clay Worker and Tonio putting out his Mushroom Collector, which gives two food in return for leaving behind a wood each time you take wood. But then he didn't really take that much wood, which held him back later in both room building, which stopped him growing his family, and putting up fences.

Andy took the first fireplace and bagged some sheep, which gave him a handy food bonus, and Phil, despite having the House Goat, which gives an extra food each harvest, ended up scratching around a little for food. Tonio used his Raft to get the supplies he needed. Phil then more than made up for his early feeding problems by taking the first Cooking Hearth and snatching the next herd of sheep and soon he had something ridiculous like about 18 food, which solved his feeding woes for a while. Family growth appeared in round five and Andy managed to take it first, before Phil built two rooms and quickly moved to four family members. Andy renovated early and Tonio revealed his masterplan by playing the Wet Nurse, which allows him to take family growth when he built a room, and the Spinney minor improvement. This, much to the disdain of Andy and Phil, meant that he would take one of their hard-earned units of wood each time they used the three wood space. Humph.

Andy continued accumating minor and major improvements and made a late attempt at getting some baking going, taking the Clay Oven from under Tonio's nose. Tonio managed to avoid begging by eating some raw grain but he built two rooms and immediately gained an additional two family members meaning things were finely poised heading into the last few turns. Phil played a rather belated Woodcutter and Wood Deliveryman which just about provided sufficient wood for his fences.

But Andy played a last round Braggart, which gives bonus points for the number of improvements the owner has put out, and he managed to pip to the post Phil, who had a much more rounded farm (he had animals!) but a couple of empty spaces. A thoroughly enjoyable game.
Andy 40, Phil 37, Tonio 26

Another game by the same designer was played on another table...

Ora et Labora (Thanks John)
Three Isleworth Board Gamers decided to lay the newish Uwe Rosenberg game. Scott had never played before, John had played twice and Gareth had the game but had been put off by what looked to be five different rule books in the box.

The first thing to do was decide whether to play the Ireland or France version of the game. John mentioned that he thought the Ireland version was a bit easier, so of course Scott wanted to play France. Cooler heads prevailed and off to Ireland they all went.

Unlike Agricola and Le Havre resources are fairly easy to come by, the trick to doing well is having the right resources. Scott soon got a pretty good resources engine up and running and for most of the game had a big pile of various resources including plenty of cash. He soon expanded his land and quickly had plenty of room to spread. John spent most of the game with a comfortable amount of resources and land but always lagging behind Scott. Gareth went for a more minimalist approach with less resources and less land that the other players.

Scott concentrated throughout the game on getting as many settlements built as he could and although it was John who built the Castle it was Scott mostly using it to build new settlements. He eventually got all but one settlement in play.

John also tried to go for settlements but focused so much on making sure he had the 30 food for the final settlement that he did not have the energy to build it, doh.

Gareth had gone more for lots of building that created goods worth victory points, though he also managed a couple of good settlements.

The game ended with everyone wanting another turn or two.

First up you score the settlements, Scott 134, Gareth 87 and John 84
Then the buildings, Scott 82, Gareth 80 and John 63
Finally goods, Scott 6, Gareth 45 and John 13
Which meant Scott had won.
So congratulations to Scott who despite spending half the game with his head in his hands muttering 'There are just too many choices' managed to win in the end.
Scott 222, Gareth 215 and John 160

A rather lighter game was played elsewhere... 

Ticket to Ride Asia (Thanks Paul)
Ticket to Ride now has several additional flavours - one of the latest being a joint expansion "Ticket to Ride Asia - the Team game" and "Ticket to Ride: Legendary Asia". The former was the more unusual and, although Jon and Paul had given it one outing already, the fact that there were four people looking for a game and as there are teams of 2, it needed 4 or 6 to play - too good an opportunity to miss.

It was thought to be a good idea for Jon and Paul to play on separate teams as they were the only others to have played this version before. Maynard, it transpired was a TTR veteran on the iPhone, whilst Woody hadn't played any form of the game before. Jon and Paul had in fact been on the same (losing) team in their previous game and James (one of the previous victors) couldn't resist the opportunity to shout over from another table that it would be a competition to see who the consistent loser would be.

The rules certainly add a new twist or two. As well as the new board spanning from Western Pakistan to Eastern China and the necessary new route cards to match it is a team game. The players in each team of two must sit next to each other and place a rack between them. Both the route cards and the train cards may then be held in an individual’s hand, allowing only that person to use them, or be placed in the team rack, allowing either team member to make the most of them. The location of the cards is determined by a few simple rules and there is the opportunity to take a whole turn to place up to 2 personal route cards in the team rack.

Both team members have 27 train pieces to place; the game ending when the total combined trains within a team is 4 or less.

One interesting facet of the game is that play is carried out in a clockwise direction and therefore each team has two moves before the next team has a chance to play. With careful coordination this can be used to good effect, particularly when blocking. But tactics cannot be discussed and the contents of a players hand must be kept secret from their team mate, therefore coordination is key to the game, and it was difficult to get right.

The game started with Paul and Woody laying many more bits of track, but their coordination went awry part way through, with Jon and Maynard usurping them quite easily and finishing with only one piece between them, having completed all six routes quite significantly ahead. Paul and Woody had just managed to complete all six routes but still had quite a bit of unused track, to little avail as the experienced team were far too far ahead.

Jon therefore escaped being the only one to lose two games in a row - kindly leaving that honour to Paul. He pretended not to care too much as he was pleased to get his new game to the table, but is only too aware that he's on a rather long losing streak in all games that needs to be dealt with soon.

Scores: Jon and Maynard: 146, Woody and Paul: 109

 From trains to  WWII...

Memoir ’44 (thanks Jon)
Due to the arrival of the Winter / Desert board from Santa, Jon was finally able to break out his Eastern Front (ie Russian) expansion with James this week. Apart from having a snowy board / tiles, and new minis, the major change is that the Russians have a slightly different method of sending orders to the troops. In order to simulate the Russian ‘Political Commissars’ who dictated to the generals what should be done, the Russian player must decide a turn in advance what card to play. This makes it almost impossible to react quickly to what your opponent does, and forces you to make a slightly longer-term strategy. Jon chose to play the Russians, and James manipulated the Axis forces (which, unusually, were Finnish). This scenario saw the Russians in a strong defensive position within a couple of Finnish towns, but there were numerous Finnish ski-troops to contend with who could move 3 hexes and still battle. There was also a contingent of Russian troops and armour in the South-Eastern corner, trying to break through a Finnish road-block by a frozen river.
The ski-troops made a swift attack on some isolated Russian troops and armour in the North-West of the map, but were unable to deliver a killer blow. Fortunately, the Russian Political Commissar had foreseen this move, and was able to counter-attack with some success. Combined with some withering support from a bunker on the edge of town, the Russians were able to scoop up 3 early medals.

However, Jon had run out of any left sector command cards, which allowed James to finally pick off 2 of the weakened Russian units. The Russians then concentrated on attacking the road-block, but the heavily-sandbagged position was proving tough to break through. The Finns then opted to move through the trees to counter-attack, and whilst taking out another Russian infantry unit, they left themselves rather exposed and were quickly annihilated.

It was beginning to look bleak for the home team, and despite trying to bring their artillery within range of the last remaining Russian armour, they had enough weakened units to allow the Russians to close in with a decisive blow, picking up the 5th and 6th medals. However, had the dice fallen a little more kindly (or luckily…) for the Finns, then they were certainly still in with a shout of victory too. Fun to play with a new board and army – I’m sure there will be ample opportunity for James to take his revenge!
Russians 6; Axis (Finns) 3

 One card game to another...

6Nimmt (thanks Jon)
8 players – 15 minutes to kill – ideal conditions for a long overdue return for 1 round of this game of high skill and strategy, where the most astute and intelligent player is usually rewarded with victory… And so it proved to be, with Jon playing his cards to almost perfection, picking up only 2 bulls’ heads in the process. Groans and cheers in equal measure as always.
Jon 2; Dan 5; Woody 7; Paul 17; Maynard 18; James 20; Tonio 22; Soren 33

 More cards...
Verrater (thanks Jon)
3 weeks running now, and it seems that this game has finally clicked with Woody. He scored in every round bar one, and held the lead from round 4 until the end. Maynard did very well in his first game, scoring heavily in the first 3 rounds and picking up just enough points in the following rounds to hold onto 2nd place. Jon went for the offices at the end, but even those 6 points gained were not enough to trouble the leaders. And the least said about Paul’s efforts the better (except that he made another valiant effort to pick up 15 points in one round, and only just failed. One day, Paul, one day…..) Lots of fun and head-scratching again.
Woody 24; Maynard 19; Jon 18; Paul 12
Cards again ...

Gloria Pictoria
The fox was once again among the chickens as the four of us settled down for Gloria Pictoria. I don’t have the scores but I remember winning!
Philip 1st, Tonio, Scott and Andy other.

P.S "Shepherds and Ploughmen" is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore.

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