Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The one where Paul admits to being beaten by a little girl...

Players: James I; James II; Paul; Jon; Gareth; Andy; Richard; Philip; Woody; Sophie; Rufus

11 IBG'ers at the London Apprentice in Isleworth tonight, on a warm, sunny (and surprisingly windy) Wednesday evening. We also had a bit of interest from some of the more 'normal' people in the pub, who came up to have a look at what we were doing. Woody did a fine job of engaging them in conversation and selling our hobby in the finest tradition of an individual who runs a games company... 
Tonight was a rel mixture of games - co-op, 'gateway', traditional card, cube-shifting, and the ubiquitous never-ending Euro which turned out to be never-ending...

10 Days in Europe (thanks Paul)
James lent Ten Days in Europe to Paul on the premise that it is a simple game, more appealing to Paul's wife, Nirosha than those that require lengthy rules explanations. Spot on James! She did like it and commented that she'd play more board games if only they were all that simple. During the tenure of the loan, Paul also had two of his friends' daughters to stay for a weekend, so decided to try it out with them too, which they loved. It turned out to be slightly embarrassing for Paul though, as twelve year old Isabelle won three times to his twice. Moving on...
Paul returned the game to James on Wednesday, meaning that it was available as a 'quickish and simpleish' one to try at the start of the evening. Paul and Woody were laying out the bits while James and Gareth arrived, so the four of them set off for a short frolic around Europe.
For those that haven't played any in the series (most continents have a 'ten days around...' version), it is one of Alan Moon's (Ticket to Ride) first games and has some similarities with his other games but is much simpler. Each player has a rack with ten slots, representing each of the ten days on a planned trip. Each slot holds one card which has a country, a body of water (the Med, the Atlantic or the Baltic) or a coloured aeroplane. The object of the game is to arrange the cards on the rack in such a way that the ten days are a seamless trip. The trip must start and end with a country and 'sea cards' and aeroplanes can link appropriate countries. The catch is that you can only swap cards in and out, but cannot rearrange them on the rack.
This game turned into one where everyone was drawing the wrong cards for their plan. Paul decided it was worth rerouting as he was waiting for Ukraine to come to finish his route, and it might have been a very long wait. He then picked up three cards in succession to allow him to be the first to complete.
Which means that if Paul won and he lost to a twelve year old games newbie, his previous embarrassment can be transferred onto the others and multiplied, can't it? Surely that's how it works.
Paul: Won; Woody, James, Gareth: Didn't win

Infiltration (thanks Philip for this report)
After some discussion Rufus, Sophie, Woody and I went for this new push-your-luck game set in the Android universe. The premise is that we’re a gang of hackers breaking into a top-secret facility and trying to download as much data as possible before being caught. It is a competitive game- the person who has downloaded the most data and managed to escape wins, but there is a limited amount of co-operation as far as not tripping the alarm goes.
I was playing “the Muscle”- a veteran of the war on Mars with metallic hands. Rufus played “the Brains” aka Mr.White. Sophie was “the Assassin” and Woody “the Tech guy”. There’s a nice paragraph of flavour text for each character but sadly the characters are completely identical for game purposes... something that does make a difference is each player is dealt 4 items, and the items do a very wide variety of things...
The first room was “the Incinerator”, allowing players to retrieve an item from the discard pile at the price of being wounded. Of course, at the beginning there are no items in the discard pile!
I opened by playing Jet Pack, enabling me to fly two rooms ahead. The others also pushed ahead. The first room contained a ‘tech lock’ which would release more data if we destroyed it and the second a lab worker- ditto, somewhat unimaginatively but in keeping with the noir theme. The following round Woody decided to shoot something with one of his items (a pistol)- the tech lock was his final choice. Its destruction blasted everyone in the room two spaces backwards. Technically this would have ended the game for everyone except me (I was in the next room). So we decided that they were only moved 1 room back and also that Sophie could choose not to carry out her “retreat” action.
The game continued with more rooms revealed. I decided to set Semtex in one room, which would detonate on the following turn destroying things in that room and the adjacent rooms and wounding any players in the room. This had the desired effect of holding the others back although it also blew up a robot in the next room which could have been useful to activate (activated robots move methodically through the building shooting everything except the players).
We continued past the last room on the ground floor, the loading bay which allowed one person to ride a lorry to freedom (something we all ignored at this point), and into the second floor rooms which contained even more data. More than half the time had elapsed and then someone tripped an alarm, accelerating the game end. Rufus and Sophie pushed on while Woody and I ran back. I was able to grab the lorry ahead of Woody thanks to judicious use of Stims, and all three of my opponents were still in the building when the time ran out. The last room, which we peeked at after the game, was the Executive Elevator, another one-person escape route.
Philip 23, Sophie, Rufus and Woody doing time in the lunar prisons...

This was one of Paul’s purchases from Essen 2011 which, after a couple of plays, never seemed to see the light of day again. Which is a shame, as it’s a very nice, fast-moving 45 minute game. Anyway, tonight it had a reprieve…
The character card which locked one cube into the castle (securing definite points for the end) was very popular with all players. Jon concentrated on dumping as many cubes onto the board as possible, then spreading them out. Paul made an enemy of James II early on, but as it’s the sort of game where everyone gets picked on, it didn’t come back to bite him too badly.
As James I pointed out, it isn’t immediately obvious what a good strategy is, and everyone commented that the Witch wasn’t used once.
Jon’s strategy of putting as many cubes as possible on the board (even though a lot were later removed) seemed to pay off, as he got lucky with a couple of final plagues to come out on top.
Ideal game length / weight – definitely up for another go….
Jon 10; Paul 8; James I 6; James II 5

Die Sieben Siegel
To fill a 15 minute gap whilst the Infiltration table finished, James I brought out this little German card game. It’s basically Spades / Whist / Trumps etc, with a neat little twist where players take tokens at the beginning of a round to specify how many tricks they will take in each suit.1 player can also be a saboteur, whose task is to make other players collect unwanted tricks.
There was only time for a couple of hands, with James trying out the saboteur role in the second hand, which was only semi-successful. James II had a bad first hand, but scored the ultimate zero in the second round.
Two hands wasn’t really enough time to fully get to grips with the game, but hopefully there will be a chance in the future to give it a proper run out.
Overall verdict: simple, but interesting and strangely intriguing (a bit like Jon…)
Paul -6; James II -6; James I -7; Jon -8

Yspahan (thanks James I for this one)
After several months looking at this game on and telling myself I needed to learn it, the opportunity finally arrived as Paul brought this along and Jon, Woody and myself all agreed to give it a spin. Woody had a steely glint in his eye, which at the time we mistook for a nervous twitch, but in retrospect...
A game with a real mix of mechanics, dice rolling, set collecting, area majority... but not so complicated to pick up once you get the idea. Woody went over the rules for me (being the only person new to the game) and we were off.
Early stages and Woody started to regale us with tales of how many games he'd played online... the reason for his enthusiasm was starting to become apparent... although the real game has a few rule changes which seemed to throw him at first. As a newbie I was doing the obvious thing and taking over buildings, thinking this was a good idea... well it looks impressive anyways, but as the wiser heads were telling me, the game is more about the long terms goal and it's nearly impossible to win without sending people on the camel train.
Woody immediately built on the 'get a card when you send someone to the camel train' housing... which should have sent a message to us about his intentions. He was also explaining the virtues of building on the intersections, which when coupled with this strategy would mean cards galore... Everyone who had played before mentioned that cards were nearly all good to have, so Woody's plan seemed clear from the start.
Jon was in a building frenzy picking up more camels than is healthy for a normal person and spending them soon after. This strategy was looking good although ran a little out of steam in the last area of the game as his supplies dried up.
Jon seemed to have a good balance , but Paul and me had opposite problems. I kept picking up money (if only this were true in the real world) but could do nothing with it as my access to camels was limited. I ended up spending several on extra dice, if just for the buzz, but nothing much came of this. Paul had the opposite problem and was struggling to get any money throughout the game.
Throughout all of this Woody was just sending his folks to the camel train, soon joined by Paul and the 2 of them filled up the 3 rows by the 3rd round by themselves.
In the last round, Jon and myself were busy trying to squeeze as many buildings as possible on the board, with the "+2 for each completed set" being a nice bonus to make this look like a useful strategy. Paul and Woody were focusing on the camel train.
So to the final scoring... Woody was out in front already and was looking like he would be hard to catch, while the rest of us were close. Paul took a good bonus from the camel train, and Jon and myself took a bounty from the buildings and completed sets, but Woody then sat back... a satisfied look on his face and announced bonuses of something like a gazillion points using up a dozen cards in the process...
Final thoughts? It's a good game... a little busy possibly in my view with almost too many competing mechanics, but it plays smoothly enough. Also resources seem a little too hard to get hold of if the dice don't play fair - camels usually go first so if you get a bad camel roll on your turn you're in trouble. Also not sure if 4 persons is too many, as each round is 7 turns one person only gets 1 turn per round which feels lop-sided. 3 players, or 2 might be better for the game. Saying all that though, I'm glad to give it a try and I'm looking forwards to the future when one day I'll get to beat Woody on and I can retire from this game knowing it'll not get any better than that :)
Incidentally, the expansion in the Ystari Box seems to recognise some of the weaknesses and proposed some new rules (seemingly all devised to thwart Woody)
1. you cannot move the supervisor back to the same place they started in the same turn
2. When someone owns the 'get card when you send someone to the caravan' you can only get 1 card per turn regardless how many you send
3. Draw a card allows the player to take 2 cards and select the best one (discarding the other)
I kinda like these... I'm thinking Woody might not :)
Woody 87; James 69; Paul 67; Jon 66

Also played tonight was Through the Ages, which lived up to its name and lasted longer than the 3.5 hours available, and never reached a conclusion (and as Scott wasn't playing, there was an opportunity for someone else to stand on top of the podium...)
Race for the Galaxy was also introduced to James II, but with no details available, we'll never know how he fared (or even if he survived....)
By the time you read this, the Olympics will be in full swing, with events takig place less than a few miles from our very own cauldron of intense competition - the London Apprentice. Stay tuned for more reports of boardgaming excellence and medal-winning performances...

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Gonna have to do better than that, boys.....

Players: Paul, Dan, Philip, Scott, Woody, Andy, Gareth I, Gareth II, Jon, Noel, Tanya, Rufus, Sophie, Richard, Amanda, Mark, Alex

A great turnout tonight – 17 IBG’ers including (whisper it quietly) 3 of the fairer sex. A welcome return to Noel’s better half, Tanya, and also to Mark, who we hadn’t seen for some time. Paul had also brought along a work colleague, Alex, who was introduced as being a ‘backgammon master.’ I guess that Tumblin’ Dice has certain similarities to backgammon (it has dice, and 6’s are good….?)
Tonight saw another appearance for the current IBG euro-fave, Through The Ages, and this time it was both Gareth and Andy that took on the grandmaster Scott (who apparently took it easy on them). They should have known better......

Tumblin Dice (thanks Woody)
It was time for a bit of that shove dice action again! Jon brought his 'father & son project' in and off we went. It was Alex's first time and Philip was still trying to hone his style, Paul and Woody being seasoned veterans. After a slow first round, Alex and Philip got the hang of things and started scoring better points and knocking opponents dice off the board. With Woody scoring well, the final round was about 2nd place. Paul appeared to be the unfortunate recipient of attacking opponents, leaving Philip and his new stylish technique in 2nd place.Philip 73, Alex 63, Paul 63, Woody 121

Amanda, Jon and Mark stepped in to join Philip. More of the same with the less experienced players appearing to pick on the expert Jon. Despite a poor final round, Mark had put three solid scores together and hold on for the win.
Amanda 93, Jon 45, Philip 96, Mark 103
6Nimmt (thanks again Woody)
A quick bit of fun (and luck). Don't collect any cards and if you do, make sure they have as few bulls heads on them as possible.
Woody took the first card and little else. Positions change and both Alex and Noel looked strong until late on when they had to take cards each.

Woody 3, Noel 4, Paul 11, Rufus 14, Alex 24, Sophie 25, Jon 27

Touted as “Noel’s favourite game”, and chosen to play by Tanya, this was new to Richard, Jon and Gareth II. This is basically a negotiation game, where everything is up for grabs. The rules are fairly straightforward and Noel had put together some handy laminated player aids, which he was very proud of. Tanya simply rolled her eyes….
Jon claims that his chances of victory were scuppered due to a rules misunderstanding caused by Noel’s beautiful player aids, which meant that he had some unfulfilled orders for the Cathedral which couldn’t be completed. Richard miscalculated when the game would end, and was left with a couple of potential deliveries that couldn’t be made. Noel triggered the game end at just the right time for himself, and along with some last-minute bonus cash from his wife, he pulled off a convincing win.
This is a nice negotiation game, which would definitely be easier a second time around, as values would be a little clearer.
Noel 585; Tanya 505; Jon 475; Gareth II 465; Richard 360

Village (thanks Philip)
Of the four of us, I had played once, Amanda twice and Rufus and Sophie were new to the game. We put all the cubes in the bag on the first turn, which predictably resulted in very few black cubes- only one indeed.  Rufus began by taking Grain, as did Sophie, while Amanda taught one of her men to make Wagons. I picked up a new family member. As the turn continued I picked up two more family members and Amanda one more. I then switched into the Council Chamber (using one of my second generation workers), earning first place and two cubes- choosing Green. I also taught a man to make wagons. Amanda had picked up an ox and plough, thereby maximising her grain production. Everyone except me participated in the market and no one went travelling. Rufus and Sophie placed members in the Church, paying a coin to guarantee it.
In the next round  we had the appropriate ratio of cubes and so all 6 black cubes duly appeared. I was the first to have a family member die and I chose my wagon maker- the yellow section of the village book rapidly filled as Rufus and Sophie also killed craftsmen.
I was able to advance to the fourth rank of the Council Chamber and travel twice, skipping family growth on this occasion. Again I did not participate in the market.
Round 3 saw my travelling family member die, just after reaching the third location. I also sneaked a family member into the church this round. The others now began to travel as well. Rufus had become first player with a man in the council chamber and so I was last- for the rest of the game as it proved. I think this was the round I managed to sell a surplus wagon on the market. I had sneaked a man into the church and he now died, claiming my third space in the book.
In rounds 4 and 5 I was unable to go travelling by taking a cube as the other players took them first, so I had to do it the hard way by gathering 3 cubes of the same colour and using the well. Still I managed to reach the sixth location. The final member of my first generation died off, in the farmyard, and then my traveller died, filling the green section of the book and meaning I had reached maximum points for death as well as travelling. Meanwhile Rufus and Sophie had  been filling the unmarked graves because they were forced to kill of craftsmen. Amanda had avoided this by removing craftsmen back to the farmyard, but also by being very economical with her use of time- only two or three of her meeples died in the whole game!
For round 6 I needed to end the game fast so I trained one meeple to make livestock and one to make plows, thereby incurring 12 time and causing my plow-marker to die and fill the last unmarked grave. The other players only had one action each left and rather a lot of accumulated resources, but managed to gain at least a couple of points through the windmill.
In the final scoring Sophie had 23 points through market tiles, which edged her into second place, but my points for travelling and the book gave me a solid lead.
Philip 58; Sophie 45; Rufus 40; Amanda 40

Through the Ages (thanks Scott)
Continuing our learning streak, Gareth was roped in and despite having played it before he needed a bit of a walkthrough, to be fair the last time Scott showed him how to play it was around 2 years ago, but Gareth opted to do most of his rule learning as we played giving Andy the advantage.
This game I opted for the Pyramids for an extra action under the leadership of Julius Caesar, while Andy went with the Hanging Gardens for the happiness and Homer for the culture (copying my last opening game almost entirely), Gareth undertook the Great Library giving him some culture and science with Alexander the Great leading the way militarily (something subliminal about Gareth and greatness in there).
Early on I had the opportunity to upgrade my mines but not many other options so I got them up and running, giving me a nice income boost. Andy kept a focus on his early culture but was starting to lag behind with upgrading his infrastructure, although he was keeping the necessary cards in hand to stop Gareth. Gareth had a bit of trouble from Andy but kept a balance for science and culture so was not too far behind and could grab the opportunities of age 2.
Scott utilised his tactic from last game with the help of Christopher Columbus to colonize a territory while bidding on some others and then taking James Cook for the culture boost, something urgently required as Scott was currently in last place having focussed on making mines and science. Andy caught up with his mines and farms, a Genghis Khan to milk some more culture out of his military and then a shift to Napoleon to maintain some military might. Gareth didn’t gain much more momentum on his production but made use of his military to try and gain the lead which sparked an arms race that Scott was winning with his additional production, and Andy not following far behind, Gareth ended up losing out on the events that were benefitting only the two strongest nations. He was biting off more than he could chew.
As the game drew to a close Scott focused heavily on science production, discovered a lot of technologies and scored a whopping 35 points from the Space Flight wonder. Andy and Gareth were living in the modern age but with their empires stuck in the Middle Ages, Andy was trying to scare people away with spear carrying warriors and Gareth still using the bronze mines he started with, it was looking like a fight for second place now (although Andy had hinted as much at the start).  Despite Scott’s push for some military he decided to play nice and not start any fights, easy wins being so distasteful you understand and king making between the two struggling nations a bit unfair. Andy and Gareth’s efforts could not muster any late game Wonders or much improvement in their culture production so it would come down to the events and despite Gareth’s final push to bolster his empire it wasn’t going to catch up to the lead Andy had edged.
Scott 207; Andy 136; Gareth 123

Ticket to Ride Europe (thanks once more Woody!)
Mixed experience levels showed ... A quick cover of the rules and the highlight of the Europe edition novelty of 'stations' which allow a player to use an opponent's route to complete one of theirs. Collecting cards of the same train/colour in order to link stations with you trains .. the longer the link, the more points. Completing routes to collect bonus points, players have to choose between picking up cards, placing trains or acquiring additional route cards.
Dan was out building connections early by the end of the game, had the longest single route (collecting 10 bonus points). Woody and Paul had a battle of wills, seeing who could last longest before putting down any trains. Paul 'cracked' ... although that later became better described and outstandingly good tactics ! Woody and Alex were forced to use a couple of stations each to complete routes (sacrificing the 4pt bonus for each unused station).
At the finish, With two unfinished routes, Mark's impressive performance took a dent. As Dan had minimal routes, Paul's 10 complete routes saw his race past for the win. Choo choo!
Paul 158, Dan 127, Woody 98, Mark 82, Alex 66

Drakon (thanks Mark)
Three brave adventurers, Barbarian (Woody), Amazon (Dan) and Knight (Mark) descended into the lair of Drakon in hope of stealing the dragon's treasure. The first player to collect 10 worth of gold coins was to win this fun, filler, tile-laying game with a dungeon crawl theme and some backstabbing elements. I don't think it was too hard for the players to get a feel for the theme of the game right from the start thanks to the authentic dungeon smell of the copy they were playing. :)
After entering the dark and stinking corridors, Knight suspected that probably too much good won’t come from sticking together with his fellow adventurers so early in the game he left them behind and went on his own way to find some of those gleaming coins. And it didn't take long for his suspicions to be proven well-founded. Barbarian soon found some gold but Amazon watched him in envy and stitched him up by calling Drakon who came roaring and chased Barbarian out of its lair. To add to his misery, Barbarian lost his purse while fleeing from the dragon. Meanwhile, in a far corner of the dungeon, Knight found Drakon's treasure chamber that should have secured his victory in a couple of rounds but Amazon caught up with him using her special power to get to the chamber quick. They both started stuffing their pockets with gold in a frenzy. The clinking of coins echoed through the corridors of the dungeon and it even lured the frightened Barbarian back into the lair once again!
But this time he got lost in a magic cul-de-sac... By this time Knight had 8 gold pieces, Amazon had 7. So they both dived in to the treasure pile in order to pull off victory. And fortune favoured Amazon. She snatched a 3-piece while Knight only managed to grab a 1.
Dan 10; Mark 9; Woody 4.

Kakerlaken Poker
This is a strange little German card game that Noel brought along, with an incredibly simple ruleset (which Noel has wisely adapted). Basically, there are 8 sets of bugs – everyone has a hand of cards and passes a card face-down to any other player, stating “This is a …..” The receiver then decides if the passer is telling the truth or not. And whoever is wrong takes the card. And cards are bad.
Anyway, Noel was the first to start to accumulate cards, closely followed by Gareth, who eventually collected 4 bats and triggered the end of the game. However, Rufus used some sort of Vulcan mind control, and came out the winner after only collecting 3 cards.
Great little psychological game.
Rufus 3; Tanya 5; Jon 6; Sophie 7; Noel 14; Gareth 14

Tumblin’ Dice
More dice-flicking fun to end the evening. Philip decided to adopt a new technique and remain seated, at 90 degrees to the board. This should have been about as effective as facing a Jimmy Anderson delivery with a stick of celery, but somehow it worked, and in a very close game, he just came out ahead. In other news, the lovebirds ended on the same score. Ahhhhhh…
Philip 117; Jon 110; Tanya 108; Noel 108; Rufus 73

And that was the end of that. Thanks to everyone who turned up tonight - looking forward to a good turnout again next week!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Homer vs Moses.........

Players: Andy, Scott, James, Woody, Neil, Alex, Noel, Jon, Philip, Gareth II, Rufus, Sophie, Amanda

Due to our sister club's regular Monday night meet-up being cancelled, we welcomed Rufus and Sophie, who obviously couldn't cope without their regular weekly games fix! And despite Gareth's no-show, we still had a respectable 13 gamers, which meant that we were able to have 4 games going on at once.

Tonight we learned that Fast Food is the 8th Wonder of the modern world, bashing the French is a good strategy,Neil's family has an equine history, and starving your entire workforce is the the way to achieve maximum production.....

Through the Ages (thanks Scott)
So Andy wanted to play Through the Ages and Scott volunteered to show him - he’d made two mistakes already...
Andy spent the day traversing the rulebook which is quite an epic tome in itself especially since there are three levels of possible play - simple, advanced and full. Scott only acknowledges the full game; Andy was in for a treat. Scott ran through the rules before the game began and elected to ignore a few until we got to the appropriate Age since it plays over three Ages (It’s not called Through the Ages for nothing).
Without much advice, Andy was off on a roll, keeping his military up, building the Pyramid Wonder for extra actions, discovering Iron and Selective Breeding to keep his mine and farm production high, utilising the leadership of Moses to keep a high population. He lacked some science but had enough for now.
Scott on the other hand was led by Homer, giving out culture (VP’s) for a modicum of military strength while building the Hanging Gardens for extra happiness and the Universitas Carolina for additional science, although his mine production was lacking behind Andy’s.
Andy built the Taj Mahal to keep up with Scott’s culture before it became too much of a lead but now the Colonies started coming out, Scott’s bonuses helped him win them and got a boost to his population and science, shortly after James Cook would appear and his leadership would grant Scott a large culture boost for all his colonies.
Andy, turned his attention to the dark side and built up his military, Scott hadn’t really much organisation in his army with no useful tactics to speak of but Andy would make sure his troops knew how to fight. An arms race ensued, and with Napoleon, Rockets and a Transcontinental Railroad, Andy built himself an impressive lead over Scott very quickly. Scott hadn’t quite thought that Andy would be so cruel and chose to invest in some Libraries instead. This was naive as Andy’s armies invaded and tore down the libraries quickly after. [Insert your own reference to certain 20th century conflicts and book burning...]
Scott wasn’t out yet though, his culture lead prevailed and Andy had sacrificed a lot of his Army to ensure the attack was successful, giving them a level playing field as their productions levels were a lot more even now, and with Scott’s science lead he quickly re-armed with some more advanced armies and kept Andy at bay.
As the game drew near to its close the attention turned to culture production, Andy went for computers and Space flight while Scott rebuilt his libraries and developed that world renowned wonder that is Fast Food. Going in to the final scoring it was neck and neck but Andy had been seeding the deck with events that were better for Scott than himself given the last push by Scott to utilise his resources. So while Andy had his moments, Scott’s knowledge of the deck and controlling his empire through all the ages was enough to give him the most culture for the win.
So until next week when we can get Gareth along as well...
Scott 210; Andy 185

Canal Mania (thanks Philip)
Neil and Philip were keen to play this strange train game sans trains. Jon was more or less roped in.
Jon started by taking the Manchester-Liverpool route, Neil went for Gloucester to Oxford and Philip chose Gloucester to Worcester. Jon soon had Stoke-Manchester as well and built up quite a Northern network, with plenty of cubes flowing through the cities of Manchester and Leeds. Neil and I had a similar network going around Birmingham and Gloucester.
Soon we were merrily building everywhere, blithely unaware that some canals would never connect up. Jon narrowly avoided paralysing himself by building all his locks, while Neil specialised in tunnels and aqueducts, scoring highly during construction.
It wasn’t long before Jon reached 60 points, triggering the endgame. The two more turns were just long enough for Philip to finish the Leeds to Liverpool via Skipton Canal. There is a last tidying up phase where players move cubes but cannot build canals, but there weren’t very many cubes left so this was very short.
In the final scoring it turned out that Philip had completed the most contracts, which was enough to give him the victory.
Philip 86; Jon 76; Neil 74

(ed: this was much better than I had imagined - definitely a cross between Ticket to Ride and Railroad Tycoon. Shame about the rather bland map though. The good thing was, we played it in the same amount of time that the next group took to play Stone Age...)

And, unusually, we have 2 reports for the same game. Especially interesting as the scores are different.... (I'll trust Woody more than Noel - good general advice....)

Stone Age (thanks Noel)
After much deliberating and my default of there being no other suitable game to play with 3, Stone Age ended up on the table. A barely enthused Noel, Woody and Alex turned out to have a really enjoyable and close game.
Woody has taken copious notes and the IBG blog should have a chaptered account any day soon but as it hadnt arrived at time of going to press and making sure that the endeavours are recorded here is a short summary...
Noel starved all his 10 workers and they were greatly punished as they toiled to produce plentiful resource, which he also refused to turn into food. This great thematic punishment was 10 VP per turn whichwas taken on the chin and the workers were sent to produce more culture and build more buildings.
Woody ran a tight balanced ship and bought lots of tools and cards with tool multipliers and cards in general.
Alex bought food and gold and cards with food. And if he wasnt sure what to buy with all his resource he bought more food. The overstuffed workers were happy but not victorious.
Noel 186; Woody 176; Alex 170

Stone Age (thanks Woody)
A very close game of Stone Age ... Noel made his intentions clear from the off, grabbing workers and then starving them, leaving his focus on resources and axes. A dangerous ploy which only works with obsessive focus and Noel clearly had it ... Alex grabbed all the food he could get, building up reserves before growing his work force. Woody almost naturally therefore found himself stocking up on axes and trying to use the extra pips to cover for his small workforce.
It looked like a close game throughout and whilst Woody remonstrated with himself about a perceived bad choice in the final round, he conceded that it wouldn't have overturned the result.
Great game ... till next time!
Noel 186; Woody 177; Alex 174

No Thanks (thanks again Woody)
A quick filler was needed following Alex's departure and the impending conclusion of other games. Having patiently waited, Amanda joined Noel and Woody. A quick review of the rules and we were off.
The object of the game is to collect as few cards as possible to end up with the lowest score. A player places a coin on the upturned card if they do not want to take it. Each player does this until a player either runs out of coins or chooses to take the card (and any coins on it). If a player acquires connecting numbers, only the lowest one counts against them. At the end of the game, each coin in a player's possession reduces their score by 1 (a good thing !)
Woody played a suicidal game, trying to take cards and coins but was thwarted on more than one occassion by Amanda taking a card in the middle of his run. Noel quietly picked up the odd card or two and at the end, won comfortably with Woody's substantial pile of coins making only a small dent in his even more substantial pile of cards. Quick fun ...
Noel 38; Amanda 72; Woody 98

Lancaster (thanks James)
So, based on the universally agreed gaming rule that any game that includes Somerset on the map has got to be worth playing, Rufus kindly agreed to bring his copy along for a first time out at the club. After a short run over the rules Rufus, Sophie, Gareth and myself all settled down to some good old fashioned army raising and Frenchie bashing... what's not to like?
Lancaster (another beautifully produced game from Queen) is at it's heart a cross between an auction and worker placement game. Workers have different values so are used as auction chips on one part of the board to try and claim counties, or wage war on France; while they can also be used for building castles. There's a nice voting mechanic in place as well where everyone gets to have a say in what bonues might be available that round... This is a nice opportunity to bash the leader as everyone can chose to pass rules that only benefit other players...
Initially it feels like theres a lot to keep track of, but the game is actually quite streamlined once you know whats going on.
So with the game being new to 3 of us every was feeling their weay in the early stages. I was looking to claim countries that helped upgrade my castle on the logic of having this bonus every round, Rufus and Gareth both went for a stronger army while Sophie was looking to bash France... maybe she'd had a bad experience on holiday there recently?
The game lasts 8 years (I think) and after a few rounds strategies started to make sense.
Rufus had decided to stop growing his army after being the first to claim a 'worker' with a the max value of 4... for a few rounds this gave him an easy win as no-one could claim Somerset (only possible with a 4 value piece... which is only worthy of such a great county) ... but it was realised that this couldn't continue so soon after we all upgraded to match this.
I managed to ace one of the voting rounds by convincing others I was going to bid and then withdrawing. This left me open to effectivly being able to choose the results of the rest of the votes as I was the only one with votes left... I didn't manage to get away with that trick again, but it's always nice when a game mixes a few different elements seamlessly, which in this case works like a charm...
Gareth was the first to effectivly complete his army... with the advantage of being able to place more 'workers' on the board, but then with the disadvantage that a number of places were no long of any use to him as he couldn't grow the army anymore. It's clear after one game of this that there is a lot more going on, and many routes to doing well.
At the 3/4 level though I started to push ahead... I'm not sure quite how, but suddently I had a 20 point lead which was looking difficult for the others to beat... even with some very unsubtle ganging up on me during the voting stages...
Sophie also had quietly pushed into 2nd place, mainly at the expense of the French... while Rufus was paying the price for only having a few (if strong) workers and started to drop back.
For the last few rounds it was time to start working on the bonus points. Players picked up extra end of game points for having the best castle and also a complete army. Gareth was going to win the army points and was also trying to get the castle bonus as well... but a well timed misunderstanding of the rules helped me out (and for once not my fault either !) and I took those points.
At the end it really wasnt' that close, although the game hadn't felt like that when we were playing. Rufus was last, although I feel there was some chivelry involved in not taking advantage of the new players... very much in theme with the medieval setting. Sophie was pipped by Gareth into 3rd place due to a couple of almost overlooked points, but I had streamed ahead at the end, helped by being able to cash in 13 points from coins due to a well timed law that was passed in the last round.
James 93; Gareth 65; Sophie 63; Rufus 54

Personally (and not just because of the result!) I really liked the game... probably 30 minutes too long, but this was down to the rules and lots of new players. I'm pretty sure experienced players would have this done in just over an hour. Definitely one for another game someday. It's nice to see all these really good worker placement games out there.

This was new to Woody but Noel, Philip and Jon were old hands. Woody and Philip were obviously competing for the Pigments, whilst Jon and Noel both seemed to have their eyes on the Monks.
The scores on the dice fluctuated throughout the game, but eventually settled at 3’s and 4’s.
In the auction round, Noel outbid Jon for a 4 Monks, but it turned out that this still wasn’t enough to win the set. Jon and Philip also got into a major bidding war for a Manuscript, which Jon eventually won, securing him that set also.
As always, it was close scoring, and it’s often a surprise who has won some of the sets, but this time, Jon just pipped the others.
Definitely one of the best ‘super-fillers’ out there.
Jon 6; Philip 4; Woody 3; Noel 3

And finally...

Agricola:All Creatures Big & Small (thanks Neil)
So, back on the farm for me again. And after Jon’s initial thrashing of me I’ve ventured into 3 games of Ag, B&S, all against female farmers. Last night it was Amanda’s turn. Basing myself on a blunt rude farmer I took the flip of the start token and decided on wood. With Amanda going for general resources I picked up my first horse… if I only remember one thing from Jon’s strategy it was to go for the horses. Amanda went straight for expansion so I bought an open stable, gaining a second horse and breeding started!
Round 2 wasn’t dissimilar with Amanda building a stall and some troughs and beginning her livestock with a pig and a sheep. I bought another building, the shelter, thus gaining, you guessed it, another horse. From then on in I needed troughs to increase the options for the livestock, but Amanda wasn’t having any of that and took several herself so I switched into resources and bought a stall and extended further. By now Amanda’s pigs and sheep were well under way while I still collected the odd horse whenever possible and a couple of cows too.
In round 5 I was able to build 8 fences in one go and suddenly had scope for some serious animal collecting, diversifying to ensure no ‘-3s’ come scoring time. Amanda stayed with her original extension but fenced it well and was still collecting troughs, and it was only in round 7 that I picked up three and the shuffling of animals around my farm became a bit more relaxed. Oh, and I kept picking up horses too… something to do with my uncle being a stable lad at Newmarket no doubt… (or just copying Jon, one of the two!)
In the final round Amanda built her half-timbered house and I managed to get a second stall built and upgraded. The scoring on animals was close with Amanda having 30 and myself 34. But with me monopolising the geegees I picked up 8 bonus points and left Amanda with a -3. Similarly I’d been forced to use both of my land extensions so earned 8 points there too. Weirdly enough, the final scoring for the runner up was 41 points. I’ve won 3 games of this now and each time the runner up has scored 41 points. I get spooked by these things you know. Thankfully my horses didn’t and I managed to hit the heights of 62 points for victory.
Neil 62; Amanda 41

And that was all we had time for, but considering we managed to build an entire civilisation, and the canal network of the UK in one night, we didn't do too badly....

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

"I found it particularly ironic, my lord, because I've got a thingy that's shaped like a rocky outcrop......"

Players: James, Paul, Neil, Noel, Barrie, Jon, Philip, Dan, Jeroen, Gareth II, Richard, Alex, Emma, Rob, Woody

After last week’s low turnout, the waifs and strays of IBG returned to the fold, and we had the pleasure of the company of a number of faces that we hadn’t seen for some time – including Barrie (moving house to next door seems to have taken up all his Wednesday evenings recently…), ‘Smiley’ Rob and the unforgettable Emma (who had a ‘smashing’ time…)

With 3 games going at once, there was a real eclectic mix – knights of the Round Table fighting evil, ancient Egyptians building pyramids, transport moguls financing airline companies, polar hunters catching fish and hardened lumberjacks racing down the river trying to avoid phallic outcrops……

King of Tokyo (thanks James)
Been a while, and with relative newcomer Gareth II jumping in with the quote that he knew all the cards it felt like it would be a crime not to open up a game of King of Tokyo to set the evening going.
Jon, Neil, Paul, Woody, Gareth II and myself all teamed up to start playing... Neil only getting to the table as Emma was still at the bar... although the game couldn't start without someone going downstairs to extract the monster she'd already chosen and ran off with before the game :)
The game started with a recap of the rule and a running commentary on the cards from Gareth who looked like he had played this game more than would be considered healthy.... also given the game is based on pure inter player conflict this marking him out as the immediate target for the rest of the game. This made for a nice change from usual given myself, Jon and Paul are usually too busy trying to get each other to focus on anyone else.
In the early stages Woody and Paul took Tokyo and stayed in for a few rounds, with 5/6 players you have twice the monsters in Tokyo for twice the carnage. Both survived a round of attacks to deal some damage, but on the second round stared to feel the heat and made way for Jon and Gareth. Already at this stage a few characters where down on health, while Neil was racking up points by rolling 5x3's on this first turn.
Then James made it into Tokyo, and rolled 5 damage when it came back to him, plus having a card that added 1 extra damage from Tokyo...... a move that unsurprisingly triggered a move from mid to end game. I think this wiped out Paul, Neil and Woody... leaving Jon in Tokyo with James but with only a handful of health and Gareth just about toast on the outside. One more round and the game was over with Mecha Dragon dealing death to all other creatures... and sitting all alone in Tokyo wondering what he was going to do next.
Great game this... and always fun to play...
Results: James won and everyone else was deaded

Shadows over Camelot
A pre-arranged game of this co-op classic, new to Jon and Noel. No full report available, but basically it was always looking dodgy for the knights, especially as Jeroen managed to make a particularly suspicious move that resulted in Noel understandably accusing him (wrongly) of being the traitor. Gareth II was in fact the traitor, and played a good game, keeping under the radar until the last minute when he dealt the death-blow to the good guys.
Definitely worth another play, now that the newbies have a reasonable handle on what the heck was going on……

Amun-Re (thanks Philip)
Given the option to pick a game from the pile, Philip selected one of his favourites. Discovering the rules were in German dampened his enthusiasm slightly, but Richard had web access to the English rules via his phone so we managed alright- albeit we missed the rule that you can’t play 2 identical cards in the same phase, as well as the rule that you can discard a card for 1 gold at any time.
The first turn went fairly smoothly, everyone building a pyramid and buying cards and farmers. Richard had a particularly farmer rich province which he boosted with extra farmers from cards and from the reward for largest sacrifice.
Everyone apart from Alex donated generously to the Sacrifice- Alex stole 3 gold, but that didn’t stop the sacrifice reaching level 4 and showering money on everyone in proportion to their peasant workforce. The second turn was much the same, with donations slightly lower and for the third turn, with the scoring round coming up, the first double-pyramids appeared. The sacrifice was low level for the third turn as people wanted to stop Richard from scoring high with his temples. Richard pulled ahead anyway though, with 5 VPs for most pyramids west of the Nile. Alex and Philip tied for most pyramids east of the Nile, earning 5 VPs each.
The second half of the game saw some very heavy bidding for valuable provinces, particularly from Barrie and Alex, and less interest in Peasants, with sacrifice levels continuing to fall. Barrie achieved the combination he wanted of the three western provinces, worth 6 VPs from his cards, but lost the competition for most Pyramids west of the Nile to Philip, mostly thanks to him having made the only positive contribution to the final sacrifice.
Richard had most pyramids East of the Nile uncontested, but a slight imbalance in Pyramid distribution across his provinces which briefly saw Philip pass him, only for his 6 VPs for most money to put him firmly in 1st place. In other news, Emma’s 3 VPs for 2nd most money allowed her to pip Barrie for third.
Richard 43, Philip 39, Emma 30, Barrie 29, Alex 24

Airlines Europe (thanks Woody)
Despite having his name slandered prior to game play by Paul, Woody sat down with James, Paul and Neil (good to see you Neil) for another airing (or airlining) of Airlines Europe. Paul and Woody had played before but as you can see from the scores, experience counted for nothing!
Paul and Neil fought over the Abacus tickets, eyeing up the big final prize, which Neil eventually took. James professed to be 'trying to work out the strategy' throughout the game, whilst collecting dominance of a couple of airlines and bagging the big points. Woody seemed to be single handedly pushing two airlines with no assistance and this was his demise.
A close game with jolly good banter ... well played Neil!
Neil 62; James 59; Paul 55; Woody 53

Cargo Noir (thanks again Woody)
A game that did not receive good ratings when launched ... somewhat unfair, we all agreed. In essence, a game of bidding and counter bidding, resource collection and wealth generation used to purchase VP cards towards the end of the game. James had given it one go before, but the rest were Noir virgins.
Paul quickly expanded his fleet allowing him to occupy more areas of the board and accumulate wealth quickly. Neil had a rough start, with all his first two rounds bids being usurped. Woody went with his usual guesswork to start with and James found himself collecting resources quickly as no-one remembered to outbid him.
As everyone became more familiar with the strategy and mechanisms, play leveled out and a close game ensued. Counter bids became more prevalent, but in the end, James's resource collecting skills won the day, but only just from Paul and Woody.
James 100; Paul 95; Woody 90; Neil 75

Fast Flowing Forest Fellers
After an aborted attempt to play Nanuk, the 5 remaining players settled on this fun race-game, recently introduced by James to the club and now also owned by Jon. It had previously only been played with 3 players, but handles 5 just as well. It was played with the suggested start-up board, as time was pressing, but this provides some interesting currents, with a few logs thrown in for good measure.
Some of the boys showed their adolescent sides, claiming that some of the rocky outcrops resembled certain parts of the male anatomy. All I can say is, that if Rob's body parts look like that, then I wouldn't like to be around when he attempts to take a pee. (Actually, I wouldn't want to be around when he takles a pee anyway...)
Getting back to the game - Jon, Noel and Dan managed to filter one of their loggers down onto the 2nd board without too much difficulty, whereas Rob and Gareth II seemed locked in some deadly vendetta which saw them constantly pushing each other’s loggers into nasty currents. (But that’s Rob all over – nasty, vindictive and not to be crossed……!!!!)
Jon decided that the game should be played with the variant that after a player has one logger home safely, you still have to use the correct cards for the remaining logger. This led to a much tighter game than previously, which have often had a runaway leader problem.
Once everyone had both loggers onto the second board, there was much to-ing and fro-ing, as loggers were constantly pushed back in the vicious currents, but eventually Jon’s logger popped his head up above water and floated to victory, closely followed by Dan and Noel.
Lots of fun in 30 minutes, and definitely one of the most interesting race games out there.
1st – Jon; 2nd – Dan; 3rd – Noel; 4th – Gareth II; 5th – Rob

Long time no see for this great end-of-evening game that used to see regular table-time at IBG.
Loads of fun as always, with Noel and Jon being shut out in the cold (literally) for most of the hunts. Barrie hadn’t got a clue (as usual) Emma had a headache, and Dan and Rob tied for 2nd place.
Which left Gareth II to pinch the win courtesy of having collected the most polar bears.
Definitely one of those games that induces more than its fair share of mirth, which is a great way to finish off a games evening.
Gareth II 18; Rob 15; Dan 15; Emma 6; Jon 5; Barrie 5; Noel 4

And that was that. After the broken glass had been swept up (ahem...) it was time to wend our merry ways home. Hopefully it won't be too long before we see our long-lost IBG friends again....