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.
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
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....