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.