Wednesday, 27 June 2012

“The Night that England Lost in the knockout stages…yawn…again”

Players: Jon, James, Dan, Philip, Neil, Andy, Nick, Paul II (for about 10 seconds)
Paul was kept at work into the evening, so Jon has kindly done his job and written the intro:

A slim turnout tonight, but a warm welcome to Nick, who has the dubious double-distinction of being an ex-Magic player, and a friend of Andy’s. Hard luck…..

Noel’s brother Paul also made a very brief appearance, acting as a games mule for Noel who somehow managed to end of in Helsinki on a Wednesday night.

It was also one of those evenings where hardly anyone brings any games along – but fortunately there was enough collective material to keep everyone amused for the evening. And so, with the Spain – Portugal game on in the background, we were off…

Saboteur (thanks Jon)
It was just like the good old days – starting the evening off with a quick ‘altogether’ game before getting into the meatier fare. This game was new to Neil, Andy and newcomer Nick, but the rules are quickly explained, with special emphasis on the “How do I know if I’m a saboteur?” newbie error….

The first round looked to be going well, until some suspicious moves from Andy’s end of the table began to hold things up. The good guys were only one card away from the prize, and unfortunately Dan chose incorrectly when he had the chance to snatch the gold. This meant a detour was required, and although all the saboteurs had been discovered (sitting conveniently next to each other), there were not enough cards left to re-route to the gold. Andy, James and new-boy Nick had triumphed.

The second round was going well until Andy played a dead-end near the goal cards. Although he was trying to indicate which card to go to, this act of blocking up a potential route to glory was enough to attract some broken tools. As it turned out, it was Nick who was again a saboteur, this time aided and abetted by Neil, and a judicious dead-end placed between 2 goal cards looked to have sealed the good guys’ fate.

However, hope springs eternal in the human breast, and with some clever mining, the good guys somehow managed to get within one card of the prize. Jon had the all important crossroads card, but as no-one could mend his broken cart, it had to remain unused. So near, and yet so far.

A successful night for the saboteurs, and for newcomer Nick.

Nick: 6, Andy: 3, James: 3, Nei:l 3, Phil 0: Jon: 0, Dan: 0

(thanks Philip)
Philip’s second game of this light euro, and Andy and Neil’s first. Each game features a different arrangement of stalls. In this one, boats and surfers and revenue huts were right next to the beach, fruits in the middle and Gods at the far end. Philip opened by walking all the way across to the Gods stall to pick up the God that allows you to walk anywhere for one foot. Andy did the same, and as there are only two of each God Neill had to improvise, possibly buying a boat.

Philip followed a strategy of paying double price in the early rounds, which gets you better items but means you tend to lose out in the end of round points award, or indeed not qualify until, which happened to him three times. He picked up one of each type of fruit, the Irrigation system (which gives you VPs for a variety of fruit), a long hut (which turned out to be useless) and a 2 shells a round hut (which also failed to score). He also bought a boat-with-foot, which proved most useful in sailing to various islands. He only bought one kahuna and no masks, relying on a single very long village for points, the opposite of my previous strategy.

Andy followed a more short term rewards strategy, fishing frequently to make sure he qualified for end-of-round scoring, and picking up the huts that give bonus VPs when you take a particular type of marker- by the end of the game he was notching up 4 VPs a marker and seemed to be miles ahead. He managed to buy three kahunas and a couple of masks, scoring three medium sized villages.

Neil bought boats and surfers and their God, while dabbling a little in those bonus VPs huts. He bought 2 Kahunas and enough masks to get the six feet rebate. He also picked up a couple of hula hoopers, one for each scoring village.

The final round saw a sudden reversal of tactics as Philip picked up all the fish and easily won the end of round scoring, while Neil and Andy failed to qualify. Philip was also able to pick up another long hut on its doubled side- worth 5 VPs, and a hula hooper on his double side, which was worth about 16 VPs. Nevertheless the final score was very close.
Scores: Philip: 96, Andy: 95, Neil: 87

The World Cup Game: 2002  (thanks James)

Ok, so we’re only 10 years behind the times at the Isleworth club… but still it’s fun to go back to a time when Spain aren't just going to win everything just by turning up…

It looks like it’s only when there’s football on TV that we get the urge to bring out the football related games, so it's no surprise that Jon, Dan, Nick and myself all decided it would be more fun to play an imaginary tournament that watch English crash out of the real one

Beginning with the draw and everyone getting 8 teams it was clear that there were a couple of favourites… I managed to bag Germany (always a bittersweet moment, having to ‘want’ them to win), while Brazil went to Nick. Both Jon and Dan realised they had an uphill struggle, but everyone felt like they had the chance to get one of their teams all the way even if they had to put up with managing (or, as it would transpire, neglecting to manage) such powerhouses as Costa Rica, China and Argentina [Ed – I wasn’t there and haven’t played this game, but aren’t the Argies a football powerhouse? Where’s the sarcasm in that?] on the way…

The league stage is hard to describe… effectively in turn everyone adds an event (goal, penalty, defence etc) to any of the 48 games being played across the full stage. You keep adding until a game is either full up of events or the cards run out (you hit the deck twice for the whole stage). Early on Dan had decided to take Italy out and was throwing his weight behind Croatia which forced a response from James (as owner of Italy)… James was pushing South Africa against Spain, while Nick and Jon both decided to take Argentina out by pushing goals onto Sweden and England… Pretty soon the game started to spread across the other groups as gaps started to appear. James noticed that he didn’t have to put much effort into qualifying Germany as no one else was focused on that group and so was free to give Japan a boost. Jon was looking to get Turkey though to qualify in Brazil’s group, and also push Portugal out in Group D with the USA and South Korea looking strong. France were struggling (as usual) but Dan managed to save them from an early exit. There's lots of tough decisions at this stage as you're trying to balance the results out across all your teams and work out who you should focus on.

Eventually (and the game takes longer than you’d think) we ran out of cards and after several minutes sorting out the scores and tables we were happy to see that we all managed to get a few teams into the last 16… Dan doing best with 5…  the big scalps at this stage were Portugal and Argentina… but no one shed much of a tear, even those of us who owned those teams…

The KO stage is a lot more frantic as you only have 16 games to manipulate and it’s a lot easier to keep track of what is going on. The group stage feels a lot more strategic and complex as you have to factor in all the group games to see if you’re going to qualify… However managers at this stage are also looking to eliminate the strong teams to give their own teams a better chance. If everyone gangs up on a Brazil or Germany they could be eliminated before you have a chance… There were a few surprises here, and a few games went to penalties. England got booted out, as did France. So again, very true to life.

Dan came out surprisingly well here with 5 teams in the QF with just the 1 each for the rest of us… Some might say this was down to his quality management skills... but you might prefer to suggest it was down to the rest of us bashing up on each other knowing that we didn't need to worry much about the threat his teams might provide...  So he was smiling before the QF... but it was short lived as he realised he couldn’t keep all his teams scoring while we were just focused on one.  Pretty soon he was losing most games while his teams got a well deserved battering. The end result was that we all had one team each in the Semi's...  with Germany and Brazil both still in the competition and looking likely finalists.

And after a pretty quick set of games (James was able to lay 3 and 2 goals onto Germany for a hammering of Turkey) both Germany and Brazil made the final… probably could’ve predicted this a few hours previously, but anyways.. it was a good final, but with some shameless manipulation from the 2 managers not involved it ended up at 2-2 and came down to penalties… and true to real life the Germans didn’t miss a shot to beat Brazil for the win.

Thoughts ?  It’s fun… really I enjoyed this a lot… although the game takes a bit too long to play for what it is. I’m also not sure how satisfying it is to play a game for 2 hours and then for it to come down to a dice roll… I’m guessing that the final game often ends on penalties as the players not involved try to keep things close.

Still we were all involved right up to the Semi’s, everyone seemed to have fun, so chances are we’ll want to get this out again before the next football tournament in 2014…
Scores: Philip: 46, Ian: 43, Richard: 38

So that closes out June, the wettest on record. Hopefully not a reference to my editing, but someone else will be doing it next month irrespective. Maybe not quite as reknown as Tom Baker guest presenting Have I Got News for You, but it was fun.


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

“We know he’s up to stuff, we just don’t know how he does it”

Players: Paul, James, John B, Gareth II, Philip, Ian, Jeff, Jon, Neil, Andy and Richard.

We’d been warned by text message from Barrie that there was a staff meeting in our usual upstairs room, so we thought we’d be starting at 7.30.  We started to accumulate downstairs wandering (a) why the meeting was still going on at 7.35… 7.45… 7.55… and (b) where was Barrie? As we had almost given up on the meeting finishing until the wee small hours and started setting up for Infiltration downstairs, a message was sent from Jon who was camped outside the room upstairs, dying to play with some trains and not wanting to miss a second. We didn’t need asking twice so shot upstairs for the game friendly surroundings we know and love.

The late start had meant that everyone had already decided what games to occupy themselves with, so we probably didn’t start that much later than usual. Alas, with no Barrie, who when I bumped into him in Isleworth later on in the week confessed that he'd been suffering from a case of laziness. It was tempting to write a fake blog with fun tales of St Petersburg, Power Grid and all his favourite games, just to show him, but… well that’d be a bit hypocritical as I am also suffering from laziness in editing this blog.

(thanks James)

So with John B in town again it was a good chance to check out some new games... he never disappoints! This time he had a copy of Mr X's latest game, Infiltration and Paul, Gareth and James were more than happy to check it out. 

Think Diamant in the digital age for an idea of game play... Players control a hacker who is pushing deeper into the office complex of news 'an evil' corporation to steal files... the further in you go the more files you can pick up but you have to get out again before the alarms are tripped... it's that kind of game, one that often brings out the true characters of the players, from the risk averse who tend to want a councillor on hand when playing settlers in case they roll a 7, to those who happily jump in blindfolded to any challenge...

So John, having played before, was the obvious 'bash the leader' candidate. In the early stages John and James pushed as far as possible into the building leaving Gareth and Paul to collect files left around the entrance. It became clear soon after that Paul was getting a nose bleed having climbed up half a flight of stairs and was hanging out near the exit.... given his character was the driver I guess he wasn't looking to stray too far from his wheels... Gareth ventured a little further while both John and James decided the thrill of the game was seeing what was around the corner and trying not to think too hard about getting out. About half way through a NPC was uncovered that made her way to the exit and was almost sure to trigger the end game... so the clock was truly ticking down... up to this point time moved slowly in the game and myself and John were able to get 3/4 into the offices with minimal risk. 

So the race was on to get back... James had managed quite a good haul of files, and effectively if he could escape in time probably had the game sewn up... to counteract this Paul decided as a last attempt at sabotage that he could trap himself, John and James in the building with a certain dice roll... You don't want to cross Paul, he'll get his revenge at some stage....

Luckily he failed 
 and had to settle for escaping the building instead... you could find him later down the pub telling everyone about how brave he had been and that he'd almost managed to make it past reception before turning around... [Ed – it was really scary in there and Paul’s Mum was very proud of him].

So Gareth and James both managed to get out leaving John in trouble... sure he was carrying a big bag of swag, but weary that security were closing in... then a fatal roll. The alarms triggered and John was just heard to let out a quick 'but it's my game... don't leave me here' before the doors slammed shut.

Scores: James: 22, Gareth: 16, Paul: 12, John: deaded.

Thoughts ? (from James) 

I liked it more than I was expecting. There's nothing too outrageous here, the game is quite light once you get past all the bits and cards, and it hits a similar spot to other push your luck games. It's not going to replace the streamline perfection of Diamant, but it's in the same ballpark, and probably appeals more to an ameritrash gamer as its from Fantasy Flight, designed by Mr Dominion, and has lots of computer-y terminology... I'm guessing it'll be a hit.


James came up with a clever mechanism to work out what to play next, (given the level of indecisiveness that wafts around the Apprentice on Wednesdays – until it comes to playing the actual games when a ruthless speed of decision takes over). He put five games into the middle of the table and we all got rid of one that we didn’t want in turn, so ended up playing Village, his new delivery. He carried it off like it was all our choice… come on James, what do you take us for? (It reminds me of the time he confessed, after a couple of years of playing games with him, that his main hobby before getting into games was learning magic tricks… "who wants to go first?… pick a card anyone, that’ll be the fairest way, honest!" We know he’s up to stuff, we just don’t know how he does it!)

The game seemed to be a cross between Troyes and Agricola. Worker placement of members of a growing family to achieve various goals in a medieval village, including working up the church hierarchy, travelling the world in a cart, trading goods at the market, hobnobbing with the village bigwigs at the town hall and yes, you guessed it, farming. And dying, which is rewarded too, as long as one dies tactically, that is.

The rules were averagely complex so it took a couple of turns to get into it (maybe four for Paul).

The main strategies appeared to be that Jon wanted to die, populate the church and town hall, Gareth saw a lot of the world, Paul tried his luck at the market and James tried a little bit of everything.

The game was brought to an end when one of Paul’s family members died and took up the last place in the pauper’s graveyard. Most of the scoring was done at the end so it was difficult to tell who was going to take the honours, but John’s shrewd play earnt him first place.

Scores: John: 45, James: 43, Paul: 41, Gareth: 38.

Railroad Tycoon (thanks Jon)

After a few week’s absence, the trains returned, and despite Noel’s last minute non-arrival, Jeff stepped up to the platform and joined Jon, Neil and Andy for a happy foursome. Jeff had played Steam before, which made the rules explanation fairly straightforward. This time, the England & Wales map was used, which is a great size for 4 players.

Andy and Jon had a bidding war for the first turn order, as there was a Service Bounty available in the opening card draw. Andy dropped out at 7k, which as it turned out, was probably the right value. Therefore Jon picked up the first delivery cube bonus and the Midlands Service Bounty to jump into an early lead. Andy picked South Wales to start his campaign, Jeff chose the North West, and Neil settled for good old London town.

Neil picked up a Hotel in London, and proceeded to deliver a number of red cubes to it over the course of the game. Andy was building a network up through Wales, and would eventually extend this right through to Carlisle, achieving the largest Major Route bonus. Jon built right across from Birmingham to Norwich, picking up the first Major Route bonus and further extending his lead.

However, Jon’s cubes were not in particularly helpful locations, and all the other players were catching up fast as they started making 3 link deliveries. The North West was becoming congested as Jeff and Andy vied for position, whilst Jon extended up the North East coast to complete and Major Route.
Neil had the entire South of the map to himself, and built right across to Cornwall. His only interaction with another player was when he entered into a bidding contest with Jon in order to get the Service Bounty for Ipswich – with Jon eventually deciding that building a rail network into Suffolk was like fitting wheels to a tomato – time-consuming and utterly pointless.

As the game neared its conclusion, Andy was hot on Jon’s heels, with the other players not far behind. With all but one of the empty city markers on the board, Jon was prepared to bid big to go first in turn order, and subsequently emptied the last city to end the game. However, he could only make a couple of 3 link deliveries, whilst Andy has some 5-linkers up his sleeve. Andy broke ahead on the score-track, but had several more shares than Jon, and when the dust had settled, the game was decided by a single point.

Both Andy and Jon acknowledged that had the game gone on for another round, they would have been struggling, as they had run out of cubes to deliver, whereas Neil still had a reasonable network of deliveries to make in his Southern empire.

Another great game of RT – I’m not tired of it yet, so it will likely appear again at IBG in the near future!

Scores: Jon: 56, Andy: 55, Neil: 49, Jeff: 48

Agricola All Creatures Big and Small (thanks Neil)

And then Jon led Neil aside to pastures new. Both returned to their roots and it was Norfolk v Suffolk in the raising animals game of Agricola All Creatures Big and Small. Neil had received his copy only that morning and had wowed his daughter with the wooden animals. They played Jon’s own game and after sorting through the mess that James and Paul had made of boxing it away Neil concentrated hard for Jon’s explanation of the rules. He opted to increase his lands pretty immediately while Jon picked up vast amounts of resources. Of course, when Jon started filling his land with animals Neil was finding resources scarce, and by the time Neil got those sorted, the animals, particularly sheep and horses, were at a premium. And then, of course, the last round was upon us. Jon upgraded his cottage and stable whilst Neil realised there were options other than dithering that he could have taken early in the game. The fact that Jon couldn’t do anything with his final action was an additional insult as the scoring showed. And so the horse strategy prevailed… Neil should obviously have thought of the Suffolk Punch straight away, especially as his footie team have it on their badge and as their mascot. Never mind, he learned yet another game under Jon’s expert tutelage, he’s a patient man and ruthless competitor!

Scores: Total animals: Neil: 22, Jon: 33

Animal bonuses: Neil: -1, Jon: 8

Extra fields: Neil: 8, Jon: 4

Buildings: Neil: 5, Jon: 7

Total: Neil: 34, Jon: 52

Troyes (thanks Philip)

Having established that Philip had most recently read a history book, he became start player, followed by Ian and Richard. Philip’s secret scoring card was people in buildings. His citizens were fairly evenly spread, while Ian concentrated on the white building and Richard on the Yellow.

The cards turned up were Monk (One white die into three yellow dice, Miller (cash for meeples in the White/Red buildings) and Diplomat (spend influence on fighting events), and the events Brigandage and Civil War, reducing everyone’s cash. Philip started by putting a meeple into the White building in order to stop Ian claiming 8 gold per activation with the miller. Ian started putting cubes into the cathedral and Richard made an early purchase of one of my dice which, combined with the Civil War, meant he was low on cash, something which continued for the rest of the game.

No one placed on the cards in the first turn but the events were both defeated. Philip put another person in the Yellow building, reaching his target of seven people- however he was back to five by the end of turn two!

Turn 2 saw Templar (One white die into two red dice), Blacksmith (Boost red dice) and Hunting (red dice to influence) turned up. Philip and Ian took the Miller, earning good money, and then Ian picked the Monk and I went Hunting. Richard kept fighting the events, gaining influence and cards but still low on cash.

Turn 3 revealed the Glassblower (VPs for cubes in the Cathedral), Sculptor (yellow dice to VPs) and Captain (Vps for cubes on events). White dice suddenly became flavour of the month as everyone piled into the Cathedral- Richard slightly less than Philip and Ian because of his cash flow problems. Richard also invested in the Blacksmith. The event which loses you money for citizens in the Yellow building appeared this turn, causing Richard further problems, and Philip was able to put two more citizens into buildings.

During turn 4 Ian bought into the Sculptor and Philip bought into the Glassblower. Richard made a late play into the Monk. Philip made a late play into the Diplomat, allowing the elimination of a couple of tricky events.

The final turn saw some very high rolls. Philip bought out Ian’s pair of yellow sixes and turned them into money via the Miller. This caused Ian to believe that Philip had the money secret scoring card, but actually he was just preventing him from Sculpting the yellow sixes into Vps. Even Richard had money now, from people buying his dice, and we were all able to pick up several VPs from our various abilities. As the turn ended Philip was able to replace Ian’s meeple with my own in the Yellow building, thus reducing his score from my scoring card, and then to take the second place on the Sculptor. It turned out that Ian had the cubes in the cathedral scoring card and Richard had the money scoring card. The final result was quite close.

Scores: Philip: 46, Ian: 43, Richard: 38

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

“The evening when Subbuteo became a board game”, or "Memories of an age where he was a bit simpler”

Players: Scott, Paul, David, Quinland, Amanda, Jon, Andy, Neil, Philip, James, Noel, Jeff, Dan, Jeroen, Gareth (II), Jeff

This was a night of some reappearing faces. David and Quinland came back, investing their vacation time in Blighty with some good boardgaming; Jeff held good on his promise to be here more over the next few weeks, Scott came back after far too long and with him Amanda. Added to this were the new faces of Jeroen and Gareth (yes, there is another Gareth) and we had a good complement of players.

As the Euros were on, James brought along a blast from the past with Subbuteo – at least there appeared to be some Subbuteo players sitting on top of the Bungle Bungle mountains …

(thanks Jon)

Well, it’s the middle of the Euro 2012 football (“soccer” to any transatlantic readers…) tournament, so James decided to bring along his Subbuteo set. However, there were 1 or 2 ‘issues’. Firstly, the pitch hadn’t been ironed, so it resembled a ploughed field rather than a Premier league pitch. Secondly, none of the tables in the Riverview Room were large enough to accommodate the pitch, so there was a rather precipitous drop where the touchline should have been. Thirdly, each team had only 10 players (Subbuteo players are rather renowned for their inability to stand up to being crushed by a size 10 boot…) Oh – and everyone had a different recollection of the rules.

Anyway, it was Jon who demonstrated signs of a very mis-spent youth, trouncing all-comers (including, for posterity, James and Paul) 4-0. Memories of a simpler age…… [Ed – Jon must mean ‘Memories of an age where he was a bit simpler” because Paul only played one game and got beaten by James – which is clearly nothing to be proud about, but posterity should at least be correct].

Agricola - All Creatures Big and Small 

After the flicking football action, James and Paul took advantage of the fact that some more players were definitely still going to arrive and dived into a shortish two player game – farming for two with Agricola – All Creatures Big and Small.

James and played before, but was able to explain the rules to Paul, which were pretty easy as he was familiar with the original Agricola. It is much simpler – the points are mainly won by collecting as many animals as possible, with no vegetables in the game. Additional points were also picked up from some of the buildings and by completely filling up each expansion field. There are also no character cards and no family expansions.

The game was certainly quicker than the original, but it also had a less painful feeling throughout – great game though it is, every game of the original Agricola is wrapped up in an overwhelming feeling of huge scarcity, making each move tense. Although All Creatures Big and Small didn’t have this feeling, it certainly wasn’t one not to think about, and we both though that the balance was achieved very well.

James had been beaten by Jon recently who’d collected lots of sheep. Any prizes for guessing what James’ strategy was in this game? Well no prizes for originality and lots for lots of sheep gave James a comfortable win. Paul had collected and filled up all of the expansion fields apart from one, which went pretty much according to plan, although his plan didn’t take into account the number of points that he was going to earn, especially at the expense of points gained through animal collecting and breeding.
Both players plus a few observers that had played it previously agreed that it did hit the sweet spot very well, and was an excellent new little addition to the Agricola family.

Scores: James 60something, Paul: 40something

Power Grid

With Scott making an all too rare appearance and our American guests David and Quinland keen to play Power Grid, Paul was convinced although it wouldn’t have been his first choice and he hadn’t played it for a couple of years.

This game was played on the America map to give our transatlantic friends a feeling of home.  The active regions were the northern and eastern states, leaving California and the South West to generate their own sparks for the evening.

Paul took pleasure in warning both David and Quinland of Scott’s mighty Power Grid reputation, but the writing was still on the wall fairly soon into the game. Scott went largely for the western states and even though they were more expensive to connect, he was the only one that wanted to go out there so faced far less competition.

Paul and Quinland both battle it out over the wind power, with Paul, Quinland and David competing for the eastern cities.

The last turn saw Scott manage to build up 20 cities, although he was just showing off because he could only power 16.

It was a great choice of game and Paul realised what he’d been missing out on for so long. The interaction between players on so many fronts works so well that he finished the game promising to play it again soon.

Scores: Scott: 16, David: 15, Paul: 14, Quinland: 13

No thanks x 2

After Power Grid, there was only time for something light so we dived into 2 games of No Thanks –  both fun, both light and exactly what was called for to end the game playing for the evening for the Power Griders.

Game 1: Scott: 46, Paul: 49, Quinland: 66, David: 72
Game 2: Paul: 39, David: 55, Scott: 85, Quinland: 85

Chaos in the Old World (thanks Philip)

Ian had brought along his new copy with the expansion. However, he hadn’t actually opened the expansion box yet, so we did some quick component assembly while waiting for Dan to arrive.
We had the full five players: Philip and Ian and Dan and Gareth II and Jerome. We drew for Chaos Gods and luckily found ourselves seated in the correct order. Philip was Tzeentch, which he hadn’t played before. Gareth II, who hadn’t played before, was Khorne.
There are all new decks of spell cards and upgrades for each Chaos power with the expansion, as well as the extra skaven player. Our initial event brought in three heroes with one dying at the end of each turn.

Khorne opened with a Bloodletter in Kislev. Dan as Nurgle stalled and I stalled with a spell that makes all countries adjacent to the country the spell is played in (Troll Country in this case). Ian as Slaanesh added a 2nd spell to Troll Country which would give him a power point every time an opponent summoned a figure there. The Skaven stalled with a spell adding a Skaven token to the map.
The turn continued with Khorne summoning 2 cultists into Kislev, 1 into Troll country, and a Bloodletter into Tilea where the Skaven had been gathering. Nurgle built up cultists in Brettonnia, Slaanesh in Brettonnia, the Empire and Estalia, and Philip stalled. Eventually he had to stop stalling and put cultists in Troll Country, the Borderlands, and the Empire, where the Warpstone was. Ian was able to play all his cultists because he was getting power points from people playing into Troll country.
Khorne flunked his attack roll in Tilea and didn’t get any dial ticks, everyone else had one or two except Slaanesh with three dial ticks, which gave Ian an Upgrade which allowed him to get even more dial ticks...

Turn 2 saw a Bloodthirster appear in Estalia and a Khorne spell attracting cultists into the region- they all ran away afterwards. Philip continued to stall and was able to place enough cultists in the Empire to ruin it, with Slaanesh coming second. Nurgle ruined Brettonnia, again with Slaanesh coming second. Khorne did kill someone this round for a dial tick, and Philip achieved three dial ticks, but nothing could stop Slaanesh with four... another upgrade followed allowing him to take control of enemy cultists when summoning Demonesses. Philip received an upgrade of his own which allowed him to summon Horrors for free when casting spells with the magic symbol.

The Old World event for turn 3 added two Warpstone tokens to Kislev. Philip continued to stall by playing 0 cost spells with magic symbols- now allowing him to summon horrors in the bargain. There was quite a fight in one region where Khorne played a spell that prevented everyone else’s figures from leaving the region and added a Bloodletter. Nurgle added the Great Unclean One and there was a Rat Ogre there too. Ian moved into the Borderlands, taking over one of my cultists with a Demoness.

Meanwhile Philip had played his hand of spell cards, the last one moving 2 corruption from the Borderlands to Kislev. He then had 5 actions in a row, everyone else having spent all their power. He was able to put just enough cultists into Troll Country and Kislev to ruin both and come out ahead on corruption. Khorne had Bloodletters in both but missed in the Troll Country and only succeeded in killing my Horror in Kislev. The third and fourth region were ruined, tipping him over the fifty points mark and winning me the game, as no one reached a dial victory. Scores are approximate.

Scores: Philip: 55, Ian, Dan and Jeroen: 30, Gareth II: 28

Biblios (thanks Jon)

After picking this one up for £8 at the recent UK Games Expo, Jon found 3 willing volunteers to give it a run out. It’s basically a set-collection card game, but with a neat drafting mechanic where each player in turn decides to keep a card, give 1 to each opponent to pick from, and then stashes one for a later auction.

Noel was very obviously collecting the monks, as he was desperately advancing their scoring die – which was equally quickly brought down again. In a 4-player game, everyone has a good chance of picking up the most cards in a single category, but it’s all about who picks up the second one. In this case, it came down to the penultimate card in the auction pile, and both Noel and Jon wanted it. Jon eventually won it with a massive bid of 7 coins, and left Noel hoping that the final card was in the same category. It wasn’t – but no matter, he was still 1 ahead of Jon and won the category anyway, which gave him a winning total of 3+2=5 points.

Nice quick filler – definitely worth a re-run.

Scores: Noel: 5, Neil: 4, Scott: 3 (most coins), Jon: 3

Pandemic (thanks Jon)

Amanda, Jeff, Jon and Andy decided to try to beat the IBG curse of never having won this game at the club. They were hampered somewhat by Jon having constructed the draw deck before distributing the initial hand cards – resulting in the first couple of Epidemics coming out a bit early. And before you could say “coughs and sneezes spread diseases”, a chain of outbreaks ended the game and everyone was sad.

But it had played out nice and quickly, so we re-booted, and this time Jon did everything properly. In fact, so well that the disease cubes were spread far and wide, rather than being in clusters like in the first round. This gave the team lots of time to cure all the diseases, just before the outbreaks became unmanageable. Therefore, the curse had been lifted and the game was won! Now we just need to move onto the hardest level…..
Notre Dame (thanks Jon)

With an hour to kill at the end of the evening, Andy was keen on something fairly meaty, so it was decided to try to squeeze in a game of Notre Dame – with Neil being a willing newbie.
Amanda and Jon went coin-heavy in the first round, and soon had enough to almost see them through the whole game. Andy was left to attend Notre Dame on his own, which provided him with a juicy 10 points.

Rats were a constant problem (as always), but everyone managed to fight them off in one way or another. Neil was raking in the points from early on, whereas Jon sat back and built up his cube supply and “+1 points” ability.

In the last round, Andy was scoring “+2” points each time, but when it came to the final totting up, there was genuine uncertainty about the result. And with good reason – as there were only 2 points between the top 3 players, with Neil pulling out a well-earned first-time victory. Well done sir!

Scores: Neil: 58, Andy: 57, Jon: 56, Amanda: 31

Discworld: Ankh Morpork (thanks Noel)

With Paul permanently scarred by watching a rubbish Discworld film and still not ready to get involved with Discworld: Ankh Morpork it was left to Noel to convince James and Neil to join a 3 player game.
With the hidden roles dished out James (Vetinari), Neil (Vimes) and Noel (a Lord) quickly got into the to and fro of 'take that' card playing. Noel took most of the that and was successively bankrupted by both Neil and James and within the first three turns had his size of hand reduced from 5 to 3 for the rest of the game.

Neil's quick cycling through the deck and picking up more cards to add to his hand, made it possible that he was Vimes but more cards is generally useful for most of the characters so it wasnt clear. James and Neil certainly made the most of their extra cards and placed minions and buildings a plenty. Noel managed to eke out a small opportunity and at one stage after about 20 minutes, did control the 5 areas he needed to to win the game. Unfortunately for him, Neil played one card just before Noel's turn to tie an area and prolong the game. Noel was out of it from then on but played the 'picked upon game owner' role well. James spread his minions throughout the board and was close to the win before Ankh Morpork was visited by a passing Troll party which took control from some of his areas and allowed Neil a few more turns to cycle through the deck. With only 4 cards remaining, James managed to have minions in each of the 10 areas required to just take the win from Neil. Noel and his handful of faithful minions were fortunate to just about control the muddy Ankh Morpork sewers.

There is much more to this game than just a thematic experience and James gave it a resounding 'much more fun than I thought it would be' seal of semi-approval. It's a quick moving, 45 minute, possible 'gateway' game with some interesting decisions amongst controlled chaos and the fun theme and one that Paul will definitely enjoy more than he thinks. ;-)

Alien Frontiers (thanks James)
After the usual political scramble over how to split 10 people into various games... Noel, Phil, Gareth II and James managed to sneak away to the largest table in the room to play Alien Frontiers. Phil and James had played before so the rules were a relatively simple process... although James is pretty sure we still got something wrong (although, luckily without Jon playing no one is likely to pick us up on it later...).  This game can be simply described as dice meets worker placement. Dice equal space ships, and using what you roll you can dock your ships at various orbital ports... The aim is to colonise the moon... with the aim to grind your opponents into the lunar dirt...  

In the early rounds everyone (apart from James as his rolls were pants) started picking up other ships... the more ships you have, the more dice you can roll, so it's an obvious strategy, similar I guess to getting more meeples in Stone Age. Phil in particular was going after ships with a passion getting up to the max of 6 in no time at all.  Other than this everyone was feeling their way a little with the other options. Gareth was looking to speed up his colonial goals and before long had 3 colonists on the moon... which given that the end game trigger is to use up all your colonists, then this was probably a pretty good plan. However James was happy that no one had yet colonised the area granting an extra die, and given James was lacking in dice/ships from earlier he took this which helped even things out for him.

The game tends to play in 3 parts... firstly a dash to grab some extra ships... then trying to colonise the untapped bonus's on the moon.. .before finally when all the moon is taken people start to get mean and take over other players areas to grab those last few vital victory points. Phil and Gareth we both swapping territories on the moon in this way, while James shored up some defence for the extra dice realising he couldn't afford to lose this. 

The end game was a flurry of tension we could all see it coming, but no one was able to trigger it. The Noel suddenly spotted an opportunity and after some extra long thought out planning took the lead on the score chart... He was just about to claim victory when he moved his arm and noticed he still had a colony to launch...   Next was Gareth who didn't get the rolls to finish the game... same for Phil, which left James to move 2 colonists to the moon on the last turn and sneak ahead by a point.

James reported to have mixed feelings about this game... on the one hand it's really good when it's your turn... you can use dice in multiple ways, create multipliers... in a way it's a bit like Dominion choosing which dice to use first and where...   but the game does suffer a lot from downtime. As you can't tell what you'll roll, it's very hard to plan anything in advance. Imaging playing dominion, but not seeing your cards until it's your turn... and then each card could be used in multiple ways... 2 or 3 is probably the limit so that the game flows quicker...  James say that he’d certainly play again, and perhaps with 4 seasoned players the game moves quicker... but can't help but feel a little frustrated with the slow speed of the game every time he’s played it so far.

Scores: James: 9, Gareth: 8, Noel: and Phil: 7

Friday, 8 June 2012

"A better position for my Sacristry" is well worth the wait

Players: Paul, Noel, Tom, Woody, Philip, Ian, Gareth, Jeff, Jeff’s two friends, Johan, Dan, David and David’s friend / family (apologies for unknown names).

After a sluggish start with only three players having arrived by 7pm, a steady trickle of arriving gamers meant that there was a half decent turnout later in the evening. The highlights included:
 - Ian and Jeff both making a second recent appearance after not seeing much of them recently – yay! 
 - A return from our new American friend David, holidaying in Richmond and this time bringing along a friend / family member
 - Two of Jeff’s friends turning up for a game of Puerto Rico 
 - Philip finally getting to play a euro heavy – Ian I’m sure that Philip will be grateful for many months to come 
 - Dan turning up a little late and turning down the chance to tag onto the game of Airline Europe that we’d started 60 seconds before, citing his experience last week as all the reason he needed, then being spotted deeply into a game of Airlines at the end of the evening.

And as it’s my first time at editing the blog, please find herewith my many disclaimers for sloppiness, grammatical howlers and all round illustrations of my self-diagnosed dyslexia. My editing highlight is learning what a sacristry is, after my spell check highlighting it as an illegal word and having to look it up. I will be grateful to Philip for many months. Thanks to Tom, Noel and Philip who'd all written reports and sent them to me by Thursday - must be some kind of record. Paul

6 Nimmt

6 Nimmt
Early(ish) arrivers filled some time watching Philip collect as many bulls as he could at 6 Nimmt. Woody certainly managed not to pick up anything, although as scores weren’t strictly kept, it is uncertain if anyone else managed that feat (apologies if anyone else is deprived of any glory).
Scores: Woody: 0 (won), Everyone else: a few, Philip: lots (lost)

Ora et Labora
Ora et Labora (thanks Philip)

After weeks of trying to get this heavy eurogame to the table Philip finally managed to persuade Ian to play the two player version. They played the French side as that was new to Ian. 
The two player game seems to flow much more easily than the four player game. Players simply take it in turns to take 2 actions with the wheel rotating each turn. There are only four settlement phases and the game ends when the penultimate building is built.

Philip opened with the Cloister Courtyard, buying some coastline with the resulting Coins. Ian countered with the Peat-Charcoal Kiln. Ian had a fairly focused approach to getting the necessary resources. Ian built the Stone Merchant and later the Quarry, making him the only source of Stone. Ian also built the Grapevine and Winery, likewise monopolising the Grapes and Wine sector. Ian’s early purchase of Stone allowed him to build the Market while Philip focused on Bread production with the Windmill and Bakery. 

They both built Fishing Villages, Artist Colonies and Hamlents in the first three Settlement phases but for the fourth one Ian hadn’t collected enough food and fuel and so had to settle for a Farming Village. Meanwhile he had completed the Slaughterhouse and the Shipyard, meaning he had the full set of buildings with negative Settlement value. Philip bought enough Stone from his Stone Merchant to complete the Harbour Promenade, a valuable source of Ceramics, and the Cloister Library, which makes Books.

Around this point Phillip paid Ian for 10 Grapes which had been building up on the wheel and paid him again to turn the Grapes into Wine and 1 Wine into cash. We then entered into a sort of Cash race to get the Palace, which costs 25 Coins and is worth 25 VPs and 8 VPs per Settlement adjacent to it. Philip won the race, possibly due to my prior knowledge of the buildings, since he was able to build the Town Estate and sell my Ceramics for 12 Coins. 

Meanwhile Ian built the valuable Filial Church and Castle, the latter allowing him to play his Village and then his Shanty Town. Philip also made use of the Castle to play my Hilltop Village. We were now entering the end phase with few buildings left. Ian converted the spare cash left over from the race to the Palace into Chalices via the Forger’s Workshop. 

Philip had the majority of Monastic buildings so was looking at House of the Brotherhood, but he ran out of Stone before he could build it. He was able to complete the Sacristry and produce a Wonder, and also built the Dormitory without using it to get a better position for the Sacristry. Ian gained some Books with the Printing Office and Phillip decided to end the game by building the Shipping Company, choosing to take Wine.

Scores: Philip 276, Ian 269.

Airlines Europe
Airlines Europe (thanks Noel)

After last week’s fun with Airlines, Paul, Tom, Noel played again and Woody joined in for his second game. Dan missed out due to arriving 10 minutes late but to his joy he managed to get in another Airlines game later in the evening. 

With everyone familiar with the rules, things moved quickly and, like every game of Airlines, the first two scoring cards came out much quicker than anticipated with everyone wanting one more turn to complete their killer move. Noel lost out on scoring with his 3 orange cards in these rounds but made up for it with big points for White and took 2nd place in a number of others. Tom led both abacus airlines shares for these scoring rounds and Paul scored well in orange and purple off Noel's and Tom's route placement and his placement of batches of shares.

With the endgame approaching about 50 minutes in, Noel got some Abacus down to pick up 3rd place in this but Woody place 4 in the final turn to take the 16 points on offer. It seemed this might have been enough to swing it but Noel had accumulated enough through the game to take the win.

Scores: Noel 67 Woody 60 Tom 59 Paul 57.

A Castle for All Seasons (thanks Tom)

Following their exploits as wannabe Bransons, the decision was made by the Airlines Europe crew to partake in the medieval Grand Designs of Castle for All Seasons, a light/medium weight Euro which appears to have been dubbed the little brother of Pillars of the Earth (and the 1st cousin once removed of Stone Age).

In short, the players are placed in the roles of architects of a medieval castle who each turn are allowed to undertake a particular role from a choice of six. This is with a view to constructing buildings and/or placing helpers within the castle, which in turn will garner precious victory points. The roles vary from pure money generation (the Messenger) and resource management (Trader) to more complex hybrids (Stonemason/Bricklayer/Worker). Once played, a role card stays in a player's discard pile until they play the Master Builder. Well timed use of the Master Builder is one of the keys to winning CFAS as it not only allows a player to pick up his discard pile but will also award the player 5 VPs for any building placed during the round by the other players.

Tom was randomly chosen as first player which allowed him instantly to establish himself as trader in stone and garner easy high value resources as the others soon followed suit. Thereafter, the players embarked on markedly different strategies.

Tom noting the various towers to be constructed built the large gate as soon as possible, placing a helper there too. He also constructed the small gate but failed to place a helper in time to prevent Noel stealing in. Soon after, the Servant's House was built and Woody took the opportunity to try and corner the market there, acquiring two of the three available helper spots (Tom eventually taking the third). Paul and Noel both played their Master Builders at opportune points during the mid-game, acquiring easy VPs from the construction efforts of the others. However, Tom and Woody both played their Master Builder on the same round - as a result, there was no construction and both fell back in the overall reckoning.

Around this time, helpers were beginning to be replaced in the trading carts and the silver in the forge was rising quickly. Although, the minor helper spot in the forge had been acquired early on by Noel, a well timed swoop by Tom enabled him to gain the major spot just ahead of Woody. Meanwhile, Paul was quietly acquiring influence in the north-east of the castle, taking control of the keep and tavern. Noel had taken the opposite approach to Tom, looking to get VPs from house construction (rather than towers). Considering the higher VP value of houses over towers and Noel's additional investment in tower construction, this put Noel at a distinct advantage.

By the final round, it was all in the balance with Paul and Noel looking the likely winners. The vast majority of the castle had been constructed barring the untouched Palace and a number of houses & towers. As the role cards were turned over however, it appeared that no-one has anticipated the last minute rush to construct buildings... apart from Tom. With his Master Builder sitting pretty on its own, Tom put his feet up in his deckchair, sipping a Pina Colada, whilst the others put their heads down to build as many houses as possible and hope for the best. Unfortunately, the 25 VPs that Tom had acquired in the final round, plus a tidy 9 VPs from the overflowing forge, saw him to victory over the meticulous castle planning of Noel and Paul. Woody was demoted to latrine duty for a month by the lord of the castle for his poor efforts.

In summary, Tom is more than happy to admit that he benefited to a certain degree from others' unfamiliarity with the mechanics, poor pub lighting, and the fact that it was pressing on for the others' bed time by close of play. Waiting out until the end simply to play the Master Builder is not a great strategy in and of itself. It is very much a zero/sum card and has to be played on its merits or, in Tom's case, on a hope and a prayer. The interaction between the various roles brings out a good degree of tension (and fun table talk), avoiding the pitfall of multi-player solitaire. As a result, it will hopefully see the table again soon. Give it a few more plays and the dreaded winter cards may make an appearance, Noel?

Scores: Tom: 68, Noel: 62, Paul: 58, Woody: 45

Also played during the evening were the following games, although all taking part opted out of the glory fest that is report writing:

 - Puerto Rico
 - Flashpoint: Fire Rescue
 - Airlines Europe