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