Tuesday, 27 March 2012

"Our Duty is to Spy"

Another performance from myself as the railroad idiot...
Railroads of Europe
My memories of this are fairly dim. I started by bidding for first place so I could take the Major something in Paris card, which gives+1 income for every link built into Paris, no matter who builds it. Unfortunately this only allowed Scott to build the most lucrative Paris link, and I proceeded to build too much track early instead of focusing on delivering cubes. Somehow, despite my track building, I failed to complete any Major Links (which are specified for the Europe map), while Scott easily completed four or five of the eight available. Soren went into Russia while Jon concentrated on South-east Europe. Scores are guessed, but the relative position is true enough.
Scott- 48, Soren 40, Jon 39 (or was it the other way around?) and me 32.
A more co-operative venture on another table...
Flashpoint: Fire Rescue (thanks Paul)
After tales of Tonio being left in a house that collapsed due to excessive fire damage without rescuing sufficient fire victims, the brave teacher was willing to look fear in the eyes and play again. Dan was the fire fighting veteran, with Maynard and Paul playing the novices.

The chosen characters gave Tonio another chance to get close to the flames as he took the one that allowed more efficient fire extinguishing, Maynard to identify victims from afar (although he soon changed this to one that enjoyed riding the fire engine), Paul an extra action each turn and Dan to boss everyone else around.

Throughout the game the flames came and went with regularity. A combination of Tonio marching right up to them to stamp them out and Maynard waiting until a quadrant was full of fire before ridding the house of vase swathes of flames managed to keep them to a manageable number, while the fire victims were being steadily lugged to safety, quite often by Paul with Dan shouting orders from the safety of the ambulance.

The game was won when the count of rescuees got to seven, but Maynard and Tonio were having too much fun on extinguishing duties, so Dan's suggestion of playing on to see how many we could rescue was agreed with. By the end of the game, the maximum count of ten victims were outside the house convalescing in hospital, with Tonio being the sole body inside the house. Dan, Paul and Maynard did play with the idea of letting the house collapse on him 'just for fun' after all the hard work was done, but nothing could stop this team and he too made it to safety to bring the game to a resoundingly victorious end.
Tonio, Maynard, Dan, Paul: won. The evil flames: lost
From fire-fighting to gambling...

Lords of Vegas (thanks Paul)
Maynard had to catch a ride home so couldn't join in with Lords of Vegas, so it was up to Paul, Dan and Tonio to fight it out on the Nevada strip to see who would build the most successful casinos.

The cards seemed to favour Tonio to begin with as his casinos were all within close proximity to each other, allowing him to build relatively untouched. Dan and Paul seemed to draw next to each other for the first few rounds, meaning that most of the interaction took place between the two of them. Dan attempted to find 'fair' solutions to their problems by making offers to Paul, most of which he turned down. Dan had multiple tiles in one particular casino, but the dice were against him, so it took a long time to allow him to take it over - the inevitable being dragged out painfully for him, but much to Paul's pleasure.

Things were neck and neck until about half way through the game, when Tonio's isolated gambling dens allowed him to inch more and more into the lead, with Dan and Paul relatively close to each other bringing up the rear.

Paul got a bit lucky as 'the strip' was turned twice very early on, but was still a long way behind Tonio as the end game approached. At one point Tonio had so much cash that he uttered the immortal phrase 'I've realised that I don't have to worry about strategy because I can just buy whatever I want'.

Poor Dan struggled as he missed out on the strip a few times.

Paul then decided to put all of his eggs in one basket in a vain hope of catching up the leader, by building two large 'Tivoli' casinos at once, which were both on the strip. The last four turns of the game saw two Tivoli's come up and then the strip at the end, which somehow allowed him to draw level with Tonio on points, and pip him for the victory using cash as the tiebreak.

One interesting point during the game was that Dan corrected a rule that both Paul (who's game it is) and Tonio had been playing since the game was purchased. They'd been playing that the boss of a casino was the one with the most dice pips showing in that casino, but it is actually the owner of the highest die in that casino. This makes it harder to take casinos over and subtly changes the game.
Paul: 49 ($87m cash), Tonio 49 ($60m cash), Dan 29
A different game to end the evening...The Resistance (thanks Jon)
There was a time, not too many moons ago, when every evening at IBG finished with a large ‘social’ game of some description. This tradition has fallen by the wayside recently, but is definitely worthy of resurrection, so Gareth pulled out this old favourite to re-live the good old days.
And just like the good old days, Jon and Gareth were accused of being spies, even before the role cards had been distributed…unfair on Jon, but fair enough for Gareth, who was indeed a spy in the first game. (Actually, he was even caught ‘spying’ at Johan’s role card in the very first game, which had to be re-started as a result!)
Anyway, the first game saw newcomer Neil, Gareth and Philip play the role of the bad guys. Neil and Gareth were smoked out quite quickly, whilst Philip managed to fly under the radar, although did miss an opportunity to fail an early mission. Consequently, the good guys won.
The second game started with Scott showing Neil his role card, who proclaimed that Scott was ‘good’. Suspicion again fell on Jon and Gareth, but was this time proven to be unjustified. Jon then forced Scott to show him his role card, which revealed that both Neil and Scott were dirty spies. The final spy (Soren) was smoked out in the 4th mission, and so it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the good guys would win again. However, Scott was the first mission leader for the final mission, which obviously did not go ahead. Then, Scott played a vote of No Confidence on Philip’s mission choices. With Soren, Jon and Neil next in line, and with Neil holding another ‘No Confidence’ card, it suddenly dawned on the jubilant Resistance team, that the mission leader would change hands five times, creating an automatic fail and an overall win for the spies.
There was indeed much muttering and cursing from the blue team, whilst the reds sat smugly, revelling in their hollow victory.
Whatever, it was great fun, and hopefully it won’t be another 6 months before it hits the table again.
Game 1: Jon, Johan, Barrie, Scott, Soren – won as the resistance; Neil, Gareth, Philip - lost as spies
Game 2: Scott, Neil, Soren – won as spies; Jon, Gareth, Johan, Barrie, Philip – lost as the resistance

P.S “Our Duty is to Spy” is a quotation from Utopia Limited by Gilbert and Sullivan

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

"The Idiot, Who, In Railway Carriages..."

The evening started in traditional style...

No Thanks (but thanks all the same to Jon)
Whilst people were arriving there was time for a couple of rounds of this nice little card / bidding game. Barrie played the first round in gung-ho fashion, picking up numerous cards, but ending the round with a number of runs, which left him in second place. Philip had achieved the nirvana of 0 points, but everyone else was closely placed with only 10 points between them.
In the second round, Philip was hampered by running out of chips, but still had time to unnecessarily pick up the ‘32’ card to screw Jon over. Scott scored lowest this time, but it wasn’t quite low enough to prevent Barrie from being the overall winner.
The less said about Jon’s overall score, the better……
Barrie (25+14) 39; Scott (29+12) 41; Stuart (30+23) 53; Philip (0+76) 76; Jon (35+68) 103
Things then got a lot bigger...

Railroad Tycoon
Scott had brought this Martin Wallace Train game and Jon, Soren, Andy and I joined him on the enormous board representing the eastern half of the USA.
Each player starts with a secret Tycoon objective- mine being to issue the least Shares. Shares are loans of $5,000 each but cost $1,000 a turn and are worth negative Vps at the end. Since you start with no capital you are almost forced to issue shares (although it is technically possible to avoid them entirely with a well placed government land grant).

The round starts with a turn order auction. I didn’t bid much for turn order and consequently never won, while Soren bid high and won often, issuing shares where necessary to do so. Since I was after Soren (the auction is just for going first) this shouldn’t have been a problem for me...

Most of us started on the East Coast, with me and Soren fighting for the New York-Baltimore are and Soren and Scott fighting for the more southerly Baltimore-Mobile area. Jon started even further South and largely avoided fighting, as did Andy with his investment in the western side of the Appalachians as far as Chicago.

Soren followed a deficit spending policy, issuing vast numbers of shares and building all over the place, enabling him to make high value deliveries towards the end of the game. Andy followed an opposite policy, issuing only one share in the whole game and making lots of small deliveries. Curiously the two methods were roughly even, at least according to final score. Scott, Jon, and I pursued a middle way, but I failed to stop the game was ending and concentrated on setting up a high value delivery which never actually materialised. Jon on the other hand deliberately tried to end the game as he was running out of cubes to deliver. Nevertheless the result was something of a photo-finish.
Jon 45 Scott 43 Soren 40 Andy 40, Philip 39.
Elsewhere the focus was less the Industrial Age than the...

Stone Age (thanks Neil)
Having mentioned Stone Age when I arrived it was kindly unboxed and I sat down to my first game with Barrie, James and Alex. They decided that I looked so similar to the start player figure that I had to go first. Barrie clearly had us on the ropes early on picking up good building tile points. James followed tack too and it was soon a two horse race. He also had an incredible knack at throwing 6s. I thought I was creeping up at one point and then fouled up the order I resolved my meeples. Live and learn. Alex meanwhile was determined to feed his people and hit the civilisation cards, sharing out resources with gentlemanly generosity. So we came to totting up. Barrie thought he was safe, he’d extended his family up to 8, but James sneaked in by a 4 point margin, and with only 5 meeples too. Impressive. Honestly can’t remember the exact scores but it was something like;
James 165, Barrie 161, Neil 142, Alex 120
Next they turned to combat...

Quarriors (thanks Neil)

 Not something I’d seen before but it certainly fits the description of a ‘dice game’, there were 130 of the little belters. The rule run through saw me picking up one bit, and one bit only. Fortunately the friendly spirit continued and after a couple of rounds I had a reasonable idea of some of it. James dashed out into the lead but Alex pegged him back while Barrie and I enjoyed James’ choking on a peanut move. We then picked up a few points whilst Alex motored away with it. With four of the creatures empty of dice we finished well behind him.
 Alex 17, Barrie 8, Neil 8, James 6.

Another fantasy game...

Runewars (thanks Dan)

Tonio's gallant Latari Elves hiked up their stocking suspenders of power and boldly strode forth from their woodland haven. Rather unfortunately they chose to stride right into the Ore reserves targeted by the neighbourhood mutant warband. Handbags flew, nails were chipped, and the Elves were forced to beat a hasty retreat to a cool dark room. Aghast at this lacklustre attempt to expand his borders, Tonio raised a new army and once more sent the troops back into the fray, this time to victory and Appletinis all round. However, nothing gets a Chaos Lord’s back up more than some feisty Elvenfolk setting up an illegal campsite in his back garden, so the tussle for the mountains started anew.
Eventually Tom convincingly won the day by encouraging Tonio into an ambush by using the timeless fake retreat to draw the Latari army into unseen peril. The seemingly vulnerable routed troops then turned and overpowered their assailants, securing the day and the richest source of ore in Terrinoth for Tom's mighty Uthuk nation.
During this titanic battle a smaller yet no less significant one was taking place between the two tribe's legendary heroes. Tom's mischievous little critter hung around the edges of the battlefield assassinating troops from afar, being chased all the time in Benny Hill like fashion by the increasingly irritated Elves.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the map, the relatively undisturbed Daqan Lords expanded their territory, built a virtually impregnable fortress at the end of a valley to secure their land against invaders (not that this was really a concern), and quietly amassed the six Runestones required to secure victory for Daniel. Not only this, they also found the time to hang out with a friendly giant, preside over the Wizard's Council, and send their intrepid heroes to the ends of the known world. The first contact between the Daqan and the Uthuk resulted in Tom's assassin being turned into a kebab on the end of Sir Valamir's mighty blade, much to Tonio's delight. Although at one point the Latari had a chance to invade Daqan lands Tonio chose, perhaps wisely considering the line of siege engines poised to descend upon him in retaliation, to pull up short the rag tag remnants of his army.
 From fantasy to fire...

Flash Point: Fire Rescue (thanks Dan)
A second outing for this game at IBG, this time using the correct rules. Tom picked the Fire Captain while Tonio chose the Paramedic, and the close proximity of dangerous chemicals to the fire made the Hazmat technician a straightforward choice for Daniel.
The fire fighters were called to what looked like the most unsuccessful party in history, with almost all the survivors hanging out in either the kitchen or bathroom. Tonio quickly treated the first three that were encountered and, with Tom yelling orders at him on his turn, was able to drag them to relative safety. Daniel was struggling in the main living area, unable to reach the remaining Hazmats through the wall of unchecked fire. When a chain of explosions knocked him off his feet and set a serious conflagration in motion he switched to the fire engine operator and set about using the deck gun to douse the roaring flames from afar.
With six survivors rescued and achingly close to victory the challenge faced was that the remaining people in the building were in the bathroom at the centre of the house, a dangerously uncontrollable blaze between them and the fire rescue team. With all the enmity of Runewars left behind, Tom and Tonio produced some brilliant teamwork to move around in the ambulance together in order to be best placed for what would likely be the final rescue. With their newfound partnership in full swing, Tonio jumped to the fire engine and switched to the rescue specialist whilst Tom exercised the second stage of his incredible master plan. This involved hacking an enormous hole in an external wall and using his remaining actions to order Tonio through it and into the very heart of the burning building, whence he discovered that both bathroom bound victims were false alarms. Disappointment turned to real alarm when everyone realised that Tom's handy axing action had depleted the supply of damage cubes, and alarm turned into dismay when the inevitable happened on the fire advance roll and the words 'hapless' and 'Tonio' were once again linked together in the same sentence. Tonio looked at the dice roll, then he looked at the lone remaining damage cube. Then he looked at the dice again, back at the lone remaining damage cube, and then he looked at Tom. A fireball tore through the corridor of the house, blowing out an internal wall, absorbing this last cube and then some, and the burning building collapsed on top of the hapless Tonio.
Tom and Daniel could only stand and watch this noble, heroic, and, it has to be admitted, foolish gesture. Then they had a damn good laugh about it.
On another table...

7 Wonders (thanks Jon)
No idea about this first one – I didn’t even play it! I do know that it was Stuart’s first game, and it was with James’ new ‘English language version’ rather than his German one. Let’s imagine what else happened on the basis of the scorecard that was filled in…….
Johan went military-crazy and gave James a good spanking in this department.. Stuart was the only person to pick up points for culture cards. If he’d had more experience of the game, he might well have cleaned up by collecting more of these. Johan and James both missed out on building at least one level of their Wonder (schoolboy error). John appears to have played a good all-round game, including picking up a large number of points with blue cards.
Less obvious from the scorecard was the ‘fact’ that John played the game in a dinner jacket, Johan refused to speak in English and conversed purely in Dutch for the whole game, James had lost so much weight (due to his attempt to ‘pull’ on the beaches at Rio) that he barely had the strength to hold a hand of 7 cards, and Stuart looked on in bemusement, wondering what he had let himself in for……
John 55; Johan 48; James 45; Stuart

Returning to the Railroad Tycoon table...
Felix the Cat in the Sack (thanks Jon)
Time for another bidding filler. Pretty close result, apart from Scott who had a great haul during one of the early rounds and then avoided picking up anything too horrible.
Scott 48; Simon 35; Philip 33; Jon 32
And one last quick game...
Kingdom Builder
Scott and Jon had both played before so I started in this quick game which displays a fantasy landscape, complete with deserts, fields, forests, chasms, water, and entire hexes full of flowers! Three rules for scoring points applied- Lords which gives points for having the most settlements in each quadrant, Workers which gives points for settlements next to castles and locations and hermits which gives points for each separate group of settlements.
Each turn each player plays a card with a particular terrain type, places 3 houses on said type and uses any bonus abilities- which are gained by placing next to locations. I soon had 2 ‘extra house on desert’ and 1 ‘extra house on whatever you are placing on’ abilities and others similarly, with Scott monopolising the ‘move a house to the water’ one. A concentration of houses round castles and locations scored me well on the Workers and I was also quite favoured by Lords, while nobody really bothered with the Hermits.
Philip 60 Scott 57 Jon 54

P.S "The Idiot, Who, In Railway Carriages" is taken from the Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. As I came last in Railroad Tycoon, I suppose I can claim title as 'the idiot'...

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

"Although we live by strife"

Two sessions rolled into one with only a single sesison report from each of them!

Chaos in the Old World
This was my second game of this hybrid of area control and wargame- previously I had played Slaanesh. Tonight I was Khorne- which meant the wargame aspect would be the primary focus for me. Dan was Tzeentch, Mark was Slaanesh, and Rob, who hadn’t played before, was Nurgle.
The game opened badly for me with the Greenskins Invade Event, which restricts all players to one combat die in three areas. I covered one of those areas- the Empire, by placing a spell that prevented in the region- hoping to dissuade people from placing there. Dan quickly seized a second Greenskins area, Tilea by placing a spell that increased costs for others to summon there. The third Greenskins area was remote and low value. Rob placed in the Empire and Kislev. Mark, looking for Nobles to corrupt, was drawn into Brettonia and Estalia- and I followed him in. Everyone advanced one dial tick after the first round.

In the following rounds the forces of Khorne spread out across the map attacking as many targets as possible. The Greenskins persisted throughout the whole game, so Dan and Rob had some protection from my troops, but Mark was particularly vulnerable. In every round after the first I had most dial ticks and so advanced two dial clicks a round. The first power I selected gave my cultists an attack die, which made it even easier to spread out. Mark occasionally took over my cultists and Dan teleported them, while the Witch Hunters event brought on Heroes who killed my demons, but I persisted. I had quite a large hand of cards- partly from the dials and partly because I tended to place figures rather than play cards. The card that stops corruption helped me slow down the game- Dan was industriously ruining regions and Rob too on a lesser scale.  I also found a spell which teleports two figures to the location it is played in useful in covering the board. In the final turn I racked up at least five dial clicks... Dan would have won on points if I hadn’t won the dial victory.
Another week, another game...

Fortune and Glory
A week later, a different game, this one co-operative (there is a competitive variant but we skipped it) The game features a world map and is set in the 30s. Two possible opponents- the Nazis and the Mob. We chose the Nazis but the Mob was to feature at the very end.
The Nazis start with a secret base, a soldier, a Zeppelin and two villains. The location of the secret base is randomly determined- in this case Australia! The Zeppelin and the soldier start in the base while the villains simply target the most valuable treasure.

Treasure? Yes- there are four or more  treasures available at any one time. They are made up of two cards and are of the form “The ... of ...” One card shows how many VPs the treasure is worth, the other how many dangers you have to overcome to find it. Their location is determined randomly. Some treasures are temple treasures and they have different rules including the risk that the temple falls on top of you.

Well we started with two treasures in Africa, one a temple in deep jungle, and one in Siberia and one in North America. When you tackle a treasure you encounter various dangers, such as Car Chases or exotic Night clubs, which require various skills to pass. Anyway Andy and Tom quickly obtained the American treasure, while Soren and I set off for the more valuable African treasure. As it was a temple in deep jungle, it had to be found first. My character found it but failed the third danger, triggering a  cliffhanger scenario for the next turn, which I managed to survive. Soren arrived later but his efforts only served to collapse the temple on both heroes and the Nazi villain. Fortunately we both escaped.

The game continued with Nazis spreading all over the world and our keeping pace with the villains. I lost a race for a treasure with a Nazi villain in Siberia and ended up being held hostage, which I managed to escape. Meanwhile Andy had invested in a rifle and picked up a dog, making him very good at combat. Entering a city, I got mugged and lost 2 VPs, while Villainous events added to our difficulty at every turn. The Nazis picked up a treasure with the death symbol, adding Zombies into the mix, and I was knocked out by them- to Andy’s amusement as I had mocked his character’s zombie fighting earlier.
Andy discovered that a Map is a handy way of avoiding a difficult danger, while the Book of Lore was purchased and lost several times. Sometimes the dangers led to fighting, sometimes to new villains appearing. When you’re excavating in the same space as a villain you have to pass a sneak test for every danger beyond the first- a rule we forgot about on a few occasions.

Eventually we ran out of Nazi soldiers, causing the Nazis to gain a VP every time one was supposed to be placed, and they were perilously close to their winning target of 15 Vps. However, we were also tantalisingly close to winning, just needing to cash our treasures and Andy to roll a 4+ for the Vps given him by an event card. Andy and I had already successfully raided a 10 point temple in a single turn- Andy tackling 8 dangers to my 2- but Tom was trying for a temple in the Andes on his own. He drew a danger- it called for a Mob Villain to be randomly added to the adventure...

Up popped “Icebox Eddie” who true to his name proceeded to riddle Tom with bullets (rolling for him I rolled 3 sixes on 5 dice, with Icebox Eddie’s special ability being 6s do double damage) and the excavate the Temple himself- giving the Nazis the necessary final VPs for the win.

“Although we live by strife” is a quotation from The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan.