Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The one where Gareth only scored 16 points...

Players: Darren, Daniel, Woody, Richard, Paul, Jon, James, Neil, Gareth I, Sophie, Rufus, Philip

Tonight was characterised by Philip wearing some trousers that really had to be seen to be believed, and Gareth wasting at least 90 minutes of his life to score a measly 16 points not once but twice...

Chinatown (thanks Woody)
After much shuffling and ordering of food, five sat down for a game of Chinatown. Only one player had played before (he shall remain nameless given the final scores!) and promptly gave a eloquent and succinct description of the game. We'll skip over the bit where he 'missing' part of the rules turned out to be on the reverse of the other bit of the rules .. doh!
A placement and negotiation game, player look to secure plots in Chinatown and then build businesses on them to gain money. The larger the cluster of like business, the more you earn. In addition, there is manic negotiation at the end of each phase as players try to swap or purchase plots and businesses from each other.
Approaches varied as some players built businesses as quickly as possible to realise profit early on, whilst others held back, looking to gather like businesses before building. Negotiations were varied with some being very active and others absorbing the action before making fewer but valuable deals.
When final count-up occurred, Darren with his two large plots squeezed into winning position.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the game, another outing would be welcomed ... and I will leave you again to think who might have been the only previous player of the game!
Darren 850; Daniel 810; Woody 760; Richard 710; Paul 680

Metropolys (thanks Neil)
A new game to all of us apart from our tutor James who had beaten his wife, and won the game they played too (does Philip do libel law does anyone know?) The map, is best described as a dog’s breakfast. How the designers managed to get yellow, green, brown, red and blue to look so indistinguishable is impressive to say the least. Bonus counters are place in specific areas on the map but I couldn’t even see those from the set up piccie, Jon won that round. And then the players' tokens, the buildings, come in white, red, smokey blue and smokey blue, I mean grey (that's almost the same as the smokey blue) - bizarre!
The game itself is pretty simple, you have buildings numbered 1-13, that come in 3 different heights. The start player places a building, say a ‘4’ in one area. The next player can pass or ‘outbid' him by placing a higher numbered building in an adjacent area. And round it goes until everyone passes, cannot place a higher building, or the last one has been built in a cul-de-sac. Only the winning building remains on the board and you collect any tokens you may have built on and then get to start the next build.
This works well and there appear to be endless building strategies. On top of those various additional bonuses are available. Each player takes a colour card and will receive 2 extra points for buildings in areas of their colour. The highest building in each of the five regions wins an extra 5 points. We also played with specific building contracts; 3 buildings around a statue, 2 joined by a bridge etc. which equate to between 4 - 7 points per build.
I decided to go out swiftly and built high and collected some early +3 tokens. Jon picked up several areas early on too, looked like he was collecting blues. James sat back, picked up some cheap areas and looked to me as though he was building around the edge of the city. Gareth went to order some food then picked up his single winning building to much confusion. He then got himself together and took a good number of areas one after the other. I was feeling it was all quite tight. Wrong.
James suddenly played masterfully, showing us all just how you can walk your way to victory. He placed his last 6 buildings consecutively leaving us all aghast, and with a good 5 or so buildings left unbuilt. Damn! And all along he’d been building around the lakes… plenty of bonuses collected for those.
All in all a very good game, plenty of scope for brain testing, good player interaction and opportunities for blocking your competitors too. We agreed it would have been excellent if it wasn’t for the ‘artwork’. It’s funny looking on BGG at the number of homemade boards, so easy to get right, so irritating that it wasn’t.
Gareth's quote: "I've just wasted an hour of my life to score 16 points..."
James 37, Jon 31, Neil 25, Gareth 16

Wanting a reasonably quick filler, to try to sync with another table finishing their game, James brought out this simple but very engaging co-operative card game. In essence there are 5 suits (colours) in the numbers 1-5, distributed in varying quantities. Players hold a hand of 5 cards in front of them, visible to the other players but not themselves. Clues can then be given about what other players are holding, with the object being for the team to lay down all the cards in numerical order before the deck runs out. Sounds simple but is frustratingly tricky.
James, Neil and Jon had played once before, but newbie Gareth didn’t seem to grasp the co-op nature of the game, by asking if he was allowed to lie when giving clues…
Jon had been given multiple pieces of information about his cards, but was distracted by father-to-be Paul saying goodbye, and consequently played an incorrect card. With a number of 4’s out of the game, the team were never going to score brilliantly, but when the deck ran out, they had scored 16 out of a maximum 25.
Gareth had wasted another 30 minutes of his life to score 16 points…

Felix the Cat in the Sack (thanks James)
Spotted an opportunity to introduce this game to a few who hadn't played before and jumped at the chance, cause a) it's a great game and b) it's probably the best chance I have of winning a game of this.
Rufus, Sophie and Neil all listened carefully (probably too carefully) to my rules and off we went. Early on people were feeling their way into the game... I should've taken the opportunity to pounce then but as it happens (well, lets call it chivalry) I let things develop slowly...
Things were close mid game, Rufus had taken a dodgy 'sack' (-10 or so) early on so was struggling, but Neil was plahying a cagey waiting game and Sophie seemed to be playing the long game too...
Then, the killer blow (for me), with a hand worth -10 or something... and I knew I was in trouble. Neil then took a good hand for all his cash and it was only Sophie and me with amy money left... bidding started to climb for the penultimate hand, which I took for a good score (plus 20 or something) but it was too late to challenge. Sophie took the last hand for minimal cash and a good score.
Can't recall the final scores, but Neil won (I think, apologies to Sophie if she'd actually won instead) Sophie 2nd (or Neil... ) and Rufus and me not so far behind.
Great filler. Looks like I need to try and find some more newcomers now... and next time I'll try to remember not to do such a good job with the rules...

Shadows over Camelot
Jon had promised Dan that he would play SOC “one more time” after its initial outing at IBG, so here was his opportunity. Richard and Darren also joined in the epic quest.
The valiant band of knights got off to a shaky start, as they did not commit enough manpower to the grail quest, which quickly stalled when Richard ran out of grail cards. Dan took on the Saxons, but did not have a ‘5’ card, which all seemed to have mysteriously disappeared from the deck.
A couple of quests were completed which brought some much needed white swords to the table, and all the knights started to use up life points to hold back the progression of evil. There had been no obviously ‘traitorish’ behaviour exhibited by any of the players, although Richard was starting to make comments about Jon’s apparent memory problems when it came to choosing to lose life points.
Eventually the brave knights banded together to fill the table with swords – 7 to 5 in favour of white. There was much rejoicing. Then Jon revealed his traitor card and, as he had not been discovered during the game, he could immediately turn 2 white swords to black. There was much groaning.
Another fun game of this Camelot co-op caper. And Jon again promised to play it one more time…

Also played tonight were Coloretto (no info), Stone Age (Gareth was a tool and probably scored 16 points) and an all-nighter - Titan (Philip eliminated due to wearing bright trousers...)

See you all next time...

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Have you seen this man.....???

Players: James, Noel, Neil, Andy, Jon, Gareth I, Soren, Alex, James II, Gareth II, Philip, David, Jeroen, Paul, Pete, Darren

Another great turnout tonight, and this time it was James who was being the Del Trotter of IBG, doing some dodgy dealing and bringing some new gamers along at the same time. A warm welcome especially to Darren who has just moved into the area, and cycled back from Soho to join us.

The IBG'ers have many and varied ways of completing that most important of tasks, that is, picking the start player for a game. These include: picking a piece from a bag, choosing the owner of the game, using an App, selecting the oldest player (not always easy...) etc etc. But surely one of the strangest methods is to select the player that most resembles a component from the game. Especially when that game happens to be about Stone Age man.....

For Sale
An early evening filler to get us started and definitely one of the finest fillers for 6 players. The properties came out in some interesting arrangements, with some extremes of values in the same lot. Consequently no-one wanted to give their neighbour a good deal, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.
When the dust had settled, it turned out that Jeroen and Jon had been equally canny at property investment, with the other 4 players having very close scores. Always a good wat to strat the evening off.
Jon 54; Jeroen 54; Gareth II 39; Pete 39; James 38; Soren 33

Manhattan Project (thanks to Paul for this report)
James was so keen to get his revenge on Paul that he came down to the bar where Paul was waiting for a drink to ask if a place should be reserved for him.
Philip was the newbie at the table and picked up the rules very quickly - the benefit of a theme that fits!
Gareth accumulated vast numbers of spare workers, and so most other people had withdrawn all of their people by the time Gareth had done it for the first time. Philip was hoarding yellow cubes. James and Paul were adopting a more balanced approach.
Gareth was the 'beneficiary' of Paul's excess arms this week, as his spies didn't heed the warning.
Philip was first to take the bomb action and indeed the first to build bombs. Gareth demonstrated his fondness for the education system by taking the best of the universities that came up. James seemed to twig that yellowcake was for building bombs and not to be used as a mid-evening snack, so he managed to learn at least one lesson from his previous nuclear outing.
Towards the end of the game, James also sent spies into Paul's buildings, despite warning of retribution and not much in the way of defence. Paul calculated that James didn't actually need many of his own buildings any more, so held off unleashing his WMDs, at least temporarily. James' seemingly carefree attitude to being bombed had a ruthless logic to it that may not have held true in the real world, but served him well here.
That both James and Paul could be seen looking over the last page of the rule book, whilst holding a few bombs and a stash of plutonium and uranium, should have given Gareth and Philip an early warning that the end was nigh. Paul had lined up a victory in his next turn, and had enough fighters and bombs to also take out James in that go and teach him his 'lesson of the evening', however it was all in vain as James clinched victory of his turn. Sweet revenge, no doubt.
James: 51 (winner); Paul, Philip, Gareth: all lost

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries (thanks Soren)
Jeroen started building in the southern part of Norway and Gareth and Soren quickly decided to "help" him develop this region, which meant that he had to spend a lot of time and resources building through central Norway and down the western coast to connect up. In the meantime Gareth and Soren both started building towards Finland peacefully alongside each other until Soren started blocking Gareth just north of Helsinki and Jeroen decided to "help" develop the Helsinki transport hub. This meant that Gareth had to scramble up through Sweden and across the sea to Finland to connect up, while Soren could develop all the way across from north-western Norway to Helsinki.
However, Gareth did manage to connect up his lines again and also to steal the massive score for the very long route to Murmansk as well as to complete a number of additional destination tickets. So although Soren got and completed a couple of fairly easy but risky additional destination tickets at the end, Garet h ended up winning very comfortably ahead of Soren with Jeroen quite a way behind as he never quite managed to recover from the early screwage.
The Nordic map is very tight with a lot of screwage potential for a good 3 player gamer's game - or possibly with children and family if you want to make them angry or cry.
Gareth 138; Soren 108; Jeroen 83.

Rattus (thanks again Soren)
After a few fairly even and spread out initial rounds the Baltics were badly rat infected and Gareth and Soren both started to take advantage of this to pile in loads of population cubes here despite the risk. However, as the others did not want the risk of having too many character cards and allowed Soren to take and keep three character cards including the "place +1 population" and "move the plague 2 spaces", and with Gareth and Soren in opposing play order with Jeroen and David in-between, the plague could never get to the Baltics.
So Gareth and Soren could keep piling in population and in the end Soren could use his three character cards to edge ahead of Gareth and cause a bit of additional trouble for Gareth in the final culling round to secure the victory.
(Unplaced cubes left): Soren 3, Gareth 5, David 7, Jeroen "lots".

King of Tokyo (thanks for the third time for this report to Soren)
Gareth II was first to get enough energy to buy some good tech cards and assembled a great combo, which gave him practically unlimited energy and allowed him to buy more tech cards every round with his poison and London Riots-like "let me help you - and steal your stuff" tech cards. In the meantime, Jeroen and Gareth I built-up dangerously high points scores and some necessary fighting left both Gareth I and Gareth II slightly vulnerable and first David and then Soren decided it was time for some serious fighting.
David left Gareth I and Gareth II very vulnerable so that Soren could finish them off in a last chance do or die attempt - die as it should soon turn out, leaving just Jeroen and David. David seemed certain to win the final duel with his "no damage when yielding Tokyo" tech card, but Jeroen got a small chance to steal the victory on points with his "9 points for one of each dice roll" tech card. At first, this chance failed - just, missing only one of the dice, but as David did not manage to finish Jeroen off in one go, Jeroen's second, and probably last with almost certain death looming at David's next go, chance at the points victory did succeed.
Jeroen 1st; David 2nd; Soren 3rd; Gareth I / Gareth II – 4th/5th

Railroad Tycoon
Despite bringing this along for several weeks, Jon hadn’t got this game to the IBG table for a wee while. However, he was keen to try the Mexico map, until it transpired that there were 3 other keenies, so it was decided that the England & Wales map would handle 4 players better.
The starting set-up was very interesting, with 3 service bounties in the North available in the opening deal. Combined with a poor cube distribution South of London, this effectively reduced the play area by a third. Neil bid $11k to take the first turn, and used this advantage wisely, in setting up some profitable early deliveries around Hull. Andy went for the Midlands, and Jon majored on the Liverpool-Manchester corridor, to earn another service bounty. Noel put himself into a major amount of early debt, and started building track from Carlisle southwards, competing with Jon for links along the way. This eventually paid off as he was the first to make a 3-link delivery, and he was also able to complete the most lucrative major line by the end of the game.
Neil’s network was linear, all the way down the East coast (avoiding East Anglia of course) and the lack of competition meant that he was able to start making some impressive long deliveries. Andy had completed the Birmingham-Norwich major line, but was distracted a little by a late service bounty in the South West. Noel had upgraded his engine significantly and was also able to start making some impressive long deliveries, from a newly uncovered cube store in South Wales.
There was much competition in the Midlands, and Jon had found that all his cubes had run out, so every turn completed was making his relative position worse and worse. Therefore he delivered the last cube that he was able to, which triggered the game end. Although Noel was ahead on the score track, his 9 issued bonds outweighed Neil’s measly 3, which allowed Neil to steal ahead for a narrow victory.
Another great game of RT, completed in 90 minutes, with the random starting set-up again providing the necessary variety to keep the game fresh each time.
Neil 53; Noel 50; Jon 44; Andy 39

Somewhere around this time, Pick Picknic and (I think) Fist of Dragonstones were also played, but we have no witten record, so you'll have to use your imaginations...

Biblios (thanks Noel)
After another great games rule summary from Jon, newbie James II was up to speed to play Noel and Andy in Biblios. A quick, close game which hinged on a couple of points in each category and at the end Andy won.
Andy 6; Noel 5; James II 4

Airships (thanks again Noel)
Gareth II, explained Airships, a quick playing, dice rolling game to newbies Noel and James II, with timely chip-ins from David.
David went with a little an often approach to his airship building and kept control of the silver airship which gave a plus1 dice roll for much of the game. Noel tried to wrest control but was aiming at the bigger ships and only built a few ships in the game. James II and Gareth II did lots of dice rolling and engine building but not too many ships.
With only a couple of potential turns remaining, David built another 4 ship to run down a pile and finish a clear winner.
David 14; Noel 7; James II 3*; Gareth II 2* (*ish)

Stone Age (thank Neil)
So, we found we had time for quick game of Stone Age, always a popular one with Alex although he kindly decided I look more like the starting figure than he does, rare for him to not go first!
A new game for Darren so we all gave him our own recollections of the rules, mostly at the same time. So well done for being able to play the game at all… impressive listening skills!
And off we went. I went straight to the love shack, Darren and Jon began collecting resources, and Alex was keen on the food. Indeed he stuck with that policy, food or gold, throughout most of the game. Oh and holding onto his favourite item, the leather dice cup.
From somewhere I recalled that the civilisation cards were useful at the end of the game so started collecting those, and generously handed out bonus resources for my competitors. When Jon also moved into these he picked off the better cards with his cultivated forests. Darren, Alex and Jon also started selecting huts and so begun scoring points. Indeed Alex went dashing off round the scoring track.
With the Bronze Age on the horizon we fairly zipped through the last couple of rounds and the last hut fell it was time to collect all those bonuses. And Jon collected and collected, I hadn’t realised they’d been that many civilisation cards available… so he stormed his way to victory. Alex’s second was even more remarkable as he didn’t score even a single point at the end of the game, quite impressive that. And after four games of this now I still hadn’t worked out any kind of strategy whatsoever… more determination required…
Darren scored a creditable total for a first game, well done fellah!
Jon 192; Alex: 132; Neil 114; Darren 87

And after having been promising the bar staff that we were 'nearly finished' for the last half-hour, we finally were, and it was time to wend our merry ways home. Special congratulations to newbie Darren for staying until the bitter end!
See you next time...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The old ones are the best (sometimes).....

Players: Philip, Gareth I, Woody, James, Barrie, Sophie, Rufus, Neil, Jon, Gareth II, Richard I, Richard II, Paul, Jeroen, Soren, Andy, Dan

After a low turnout in recent weeks, there were an influx of IBG’ers, old and new, who turned up this week for some more boardgaming fun. This may have been as a result of Gareth doing some ‘dodgy dealing’ with his boardgame collection, or maybe it was just because the summer holidays were over….

There were plenty of 'classics' played tonight, along with at least 1 new game. And after Paul & James’s altercation during Manhattan Project last week, what was the first game that they chose to play together? Chinatown – a full-on negotiation game. Nice…

Dominion (thanks Philip)
I was just in time for a quick game of Dominion. Gareth II had brought his large collection of Dominion boxes although the available selection was drawn from the base game and Cornucopia only. James explained the game to Woody and we were off with Gareth going first and opening Chancellor/Feast. I went for Chancellor/Remake and I think both other players went Chancellor/Feast.
Gareth took the lead early with several Hunting Parties and was able to buy the first couple of provinces. I was slightly slower owing to the limited utility of Remake, focusing on Festivals. The others were slower still. I started to catch up with Gareth as the Province pile began to run out and was able to buy the last two provinces on successive turns as Gareth’s engine stalled.
Philip 33 (win by turn order tie break); Gareth 33; James 28; Woody 22

Lancaster (thanks to Andy for this one)
Gareth II, newbie Richard and Andy settled down for a game of Lancaster, a medieval themed worker placement-type game with a dash of area control and a soupcon of voting.
Gareth II immediately set about building up the strength of his knights and before anyone could blink he had a four and a three knight with which to push the others around. Richard focused on bulking up his castle to give him benefits each turn and scooped an early cash windfall from going to battle, which gave him a knights bonus through one of the laws that rewarded the richest player. Andy concentrated on collecting nobles, aiming for a large bonus at the end of the game, meaning Richard and Gareth II opened up an early lead on the scoring track.
Richard and Gareth II both built a section of their castle that enabled them to trade in squires for a knight upgrade, and by the final round Gareth II had built all of his units meaning he had about four more to place than everybody else in that turn.
This meant he was able to scoop up a couple of extra nobles to reduce the effect of the bonus that Andy got from collecting all but one of them and that, combined with bonuses for Gareth from having all his knights and building the most bits of his castle, gave him enough for the win. 
Gareth II the most, Andy not quite as many, Richard a few less again.

Saint Petersburg
Gareth suggested this old classic, and Woody and Jon joined in. Woody had not played before, and Jon hadn’t played for years, but it’s fairly straightforward to pick up.
Jon decided not to major on the Nobles for once, but this proved to be an incredibly flawed strategy, as he had forgotten just how massive the endgame bonus is for different nobles. Gareth obviously knew just how important it was, as he collected 8 nobles and ended up miles ahead of the other 2 players.
This is a neat little game, with money being a very tight resource. However, the noble bonus does need adjusting to allow for other strategies to be viable.
Gareth 66; Woody 47; Jon 42

Power Grid (thanks Philip)
German Map, first time for Rufus, Sophie and Neil, me and Barrie old hands. The North-east sector was out of bounds Initial placement saw Rufus and Sophie adjacent to each other in the Essen (red) sector, while I was in the blue area to their south, flanked to my south by Neil in the purple area and to my east by Barrie in the Yellow area.
Due to a quirk in the Power Plant deal, several good power plants came out near the beginning. Rufus picked up the 27 (power 3 cities with wind), Neil the 28 (power four cities with one uranium) and myself the 26 (power 5 cities with 2 oil), all for an overpayment as Barrie was bidding them up- but he was then left with a less useful 13 (power one city with wind).
That naturally meant that many of us didn’t need power plants in the next few auctions, especially as Sophie picked up a large power plant the following turn. Barrie was eventually able to buy the 30 (3 garbage powers 6 cities).
Meanwhile on the map Sophie, Rufus and Barrie were racing each other into the empty North-West sector while I leapfrogged Barrie to enter the eastern half of his Yellow area. Neil was having cash flow problems due to the expense of running a uranium plant.
I reached 6 cities before anyone else and then hit a wall in the auction- all the low number plants were now appearing. I stalled for a turn and then sighed and bought the 15 (power 3 cities with 2 coal), breaking the logjam. Barrie was using Uranium and Garbage, Rufus Wind and Garbage and Neil Uranium and Fossil fuels, with me and Sophie almost totally reliant on Fossil fuels. Rufus stayed at 4 cities for a few turns before building 5 cities at once, which still left him behind me and Barrie. I reached 12 cities ahead of the others but had to slow down in the penultimate round, only powering one extra city while Barrie shot ahead to 14 and Sophie tied with me but went first due to her higher power plant.
This gave me a favourable position going into the final turn. With 2 power plants that powered 5 cities each I was able to buy the biggest garbage plant for 7 more cities and build the required 4 in Neil’s area.
Philip 17 cities; Barrie 16; Sophie 15; Neil and Rufus 14 (Rufus won the money tie break).

Thurn and Taxis (thanks Paul)
Jeroen took had taken full advantage of another of Gareth's clear out of some of his games by picking up the 2006 Spiel des Jahres winner for a bargain.
Dan sold it to Paul by playing on the similarities to Ticket to Ride, which was a pretty easy sell, so the three of them set about delivering mail in medieval Europe.
It took Paul a few 'Thurns' to get up to speed (geddit), although he still doesn't know what one is. ( tells me it isn't an English word, and Google translates it from German as Thyme. Although Paul missed the obvious theme last week by a long shot, he is sure that herbs and this game are not related in any way.) No doubt it is something mail related and Paul will be embarrassed when he finds out.
Dan and Jeroen went for the edges, while Paul thought he'd try something different from them (always risky with players who have played before) and go for the middle of the board.
Jeroen was first of the mark picking up carriages. Dan was the first to pick up the score for visiting every area. Paul was lagging behind, although as no one seemed in a hurry to end the game, Paul did manage to salvage a little tiny bit of pride by drawing level with Jeroen at the last. Dan was way in the lead by that stage.
Dan 27; Jeroen 21; Paul 21

(Ed:The Princely House of Thurn and Taxis is a German family that was a key player in the postal services in Europe in the 16th century and is well known as owners of breweries and builders of many castles).

Guatemala Café
This was a game of Barrie’s, that he didn’t know how to play, so he lent it to Jon to figure out the rules. A week later, and Jon appeared to have figured out enough to explain it to the other players (in this case, Barrie, Gareth II and Richard II) about how to grow and sell coffee beans in South America.
The game has 2 boards. The first is where you pick up resources (factories, ships, workers and roads), and the second board is where you place them. The nearer to the sea you place your plantations, the sooner you can use ships for nice bonuses – however, it is more expensive than it is to build up in the mountains. There is a novel scoring mechanic, where players can trigger a scoring round whenever they like, but only one type of coffee will score. Triggering a scoring round is also the only way to collect any more money (needed to buy resources), so it can be a tough decision about when to trigger scoring.
Barrie started off with a black plantation, but soon ran out of money. Jon built a white plantation up in the mountains, but Richard also chose to invest in white, and so the workers soon ran out. Gareth II had a large dark brown industry going, and this started to pay out as the game progressed.
The game eventually got to a stage where it was incredibly close, with all players being 4 or 5 points from victory, and the next scoring round in any colour would end the game. However, there was no token on the board to trigger a black scoring round, so it was going to be impossible for Barrie to win. With the other 3 players seemingly unable to land on the scoring token of their choice, Barrie decided to end the game by picking the token that scored Gareth’s plantation most heavily, giving him the victory.
This was a really unsatisfactory way to end the game, and seems to point to a flaw in the design, if one player cannot win, whatever they do, and therefore end up playing kingmaker. Anyway, apart from that, the game is nice enough and even comes with a bag of fresh coffee beans, to add an authentic aroma to the box!
Gareth 45; Barrie 39; Jon 37; Richard 36

Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper
Looking for a quick filler, Jon pulled out one of his latest acquisitions. This was the first in the Mystery Rummy series, and works well as a rummy variant with an integral theme.
As with rummy, players play melds to the table in a variety of suits (evidence against particular suspects), once a victim has been murdered. The suit (suspect) with the most evidence against them at the end of the hand is declared to be Jack the Ripper, and their points are doubled for that hand. There are several other cards which add some variety, but they are all fairly self-explanatory and the game rattles along at a good pace.
Unfortunately, there was only time for 1 hand, which meant that Jon’s experience playing the game 2-player with his wife probably gave him the edge over the 2 newbies, Gareth and Woody (although, had Jon played rather than discarded his last Victim card, Woody could have allowed the Ripper to escape and scored the 35 point bonus).
Jon 35; Gareth 14; Woody 8

Troyes (thanks again Philip)
Denied a rematch of Homesteaders because it would take too long (and Gareth never wanted to play it again, to be fair), I jumped into Troyes with the bonus cards Neil so kindly gave me. Except it wasn’t with the bonus cards, because I picked up Rufus’ copy instead of mine...
Anyway, Neil and Sophie were new to the game while Rufus had played a couple of times before. I explained the rules and we were off. My three opponents adopted identical 2 red-1 white-1 yellow positions while I preferred 2 white-2 yellow. Merchant (turn yellow dice into money), Tithe (steal other people’s yellow dice) and Diplomat (fight events by spending influence) was the initial layout and right away the uselessness of Diplomat meant less dice fighting the events, leading to quite a build up by turn 4. Rufus and Sophie went into Merchant, I began building the Cathedral and everyone else followed suit.
In turn 2 the attractiveness of the yellow building took another hit with Tax Collector (collect money from other players with meeples in the Yellow building). Confession (add +2 to each die in a group of dice) and Blacksmith (add +5 to a group of red dice) were used by me, first buying Confession and then buying Blacksmith with a Confession boost, giving me a ridiculous 7 cubes on Blacksmith- and no Red dice! I also picked up Tithe- my secret objective being meeples on cards. Neil was valiantly fighting various of the events and even used Diplomat once or twice. Rufus and Sophie fought over the red building.
Turn 3 saw Joust (VPs for highest total value of red dice in front of you), Glassblower (VPs for cubes in the Cathedral) and Goldsmith (Yellow dice to money and VPs). I used Tithe effectively to enter Goldsmith. We were now beset by events, including Heresy (everyone loses 2 influence). I was able to use Blacksmith to fight some of them but we went into Turn 4 with 5 events on the table.
That the 6th event was War added to our woes, and then we realised that was 11:30 - past closing time, and we had almost 3 turns to play. The game was therefore broken up with no attempt to count scores.

We still await James' reports from Chinatown and this space....

Vanuatu (thanks James!)
So after failing to make a living in Chinatown a hapless bunch of Isleworth Boardgamers (Soren, David, Richard and myself) arrived at Vanuatu to try their luck setting a new island. After all the wheeling and dealing and backstabbing of Chinatown perhaps this would present a more idyllic setting, somewhere to settle down for a peaceful existence?
Vanuatu is a worker placement game with a large element of ‘screw you’ build in… and I thought the pacific islands were a friendly place? Each round a role is chosen and then workers are placed on various options. The catch is that you have to select an action, and only the majority holder in each location can do that action… If you don’t have a majority at the time of selecting you lose the worker. In principle this could mean you go the entire game without achieving anything (a situation Paul is often familiar with), but in practice it means you generally get to take some actions each round, while doing your best to take other players down… being nice is not an option, as David found out to his loss during the game.
Given the game was new to most there was a lot of sketchy feeling of ways early on. Richard started building houses at a rate Barretts would be impressed by, David was busy painting and I started fishing… all eyes were on Soren though as the only person to really play the game before and the rules explainer. As it happens this didn’t count for much, but what were we to know!? Quickly the first island filled with tourists due to Soren and Richard providing lots of incentive when suddenly Soren pointed out that Richard had earned a whopping 20 bonus points alone for the island… suddenly my fish didn’t seem quite the catch ( J ). New islands were soon discovered and quickly decorated and built on, and after 4/5 rounds it was quite close. Richard lying at the back, but with the points for the end game already in the bag there was no need for him to keep up scoring.
It was around this stage that a few interesting auction’s happened. I had taken the first player token but due to the particularities of worker placement was in a situation where it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to do anything for the whole round and lose all my tokens. David had the last token and I looked over, trying on my best puppy dog, ‘you wouldn’t do this to me, would you’ expression… Think Droopy, but with longer ears. Somehow it worked and he went elsewhere for his worker, and the round turned out fine (well for me anyways). David, I suspect, rued this kindly decision as he realised that being nice was not a good option in the game… warning to everyone this week, he’ll not be making that mistake again J
The final round and last tiles were unveiled. I dashed over to grab some treasure, Richard I think grabbed some fish.. although to be honest I wasn’t paying that much attention, but then the final scoring… Despite things looking even when the bonuses for the islands were tallied Richard jumped out into the kind of lead a Chinese swimmer could appreciate, and there was no way back.
Richard 68; James 53; Soren 52; David 46

And so that was it. A busy evening came to a close, with promises of more of the same next week....

Monday, 10 September 2012

Safe arrival of baby Ivy.......

Many congratulations to Tom and Louise, after the safe delivery of Ivy Amelia May Williamson last Monday (3rd September).

Wishing you all the best from everyone at the Isleworth Boardgamers, and looking forward to seeing you again at some point in the future!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

"Let them eat Yellow Cake..."

Players: Paul, James, Barrie, Gareth I, Gareth II, Jon, Philip, Richard

A warm summer's evening, and the IBG'ers were a little thin on the ground, but it was a warm welcome to newcomer Richard who joined us for the first time - and subsequently won his first game! His opening comments should have raised our suspicions though - "I haven't played anything very weighty - just stuff like Power Grid...."
So as it was such a pleasant evening, it was decided that all-out thermonuclear war was a good subject for a board game, and some of us also learned a little bit of history into the bargain (well, Paul did anyway....)

Die Sieben Siegel
This simple card-game (which is affectionately now referred to as “The Steven Seagal Game”) had received favourable reviews last time it made an appearance at IBG, so there were several willing volunteers for a re-run. Barrie was rather stung in the first round – Jon and Paul bid perfectly for zero scores, whilst Barrie racked up an impressive 8 points.
In the second round, Jon was picking first, and had such a middle-of-the-road hand that he chose the saboteur. He immediately forced most of the red (trump) cards out, which in turn seemed to precipitate some high scores – Barrie picked up another 6 points, whilst Paul had a massive 9. James was consistent, scoring just 2 points each round, but Jon had managed to bring his saboteur down to only a single point, giving him the victory.
It was a shame that there was only time for 2 rounds, as turn order may make a difference, and therefore a full 4 rounds would have been interesting. Maybe next time…
Jon 1; James 4; Paul 9; Barrie 14

San Juan (thanks Philip)
Gareth and Philip played this quick card game while waiting for Rufus to turn up with Lancaster (he didn’t). Gareth started with a Library which stood in him good stead throughout the game. Philip went for a producing and selling goods plan which would probably have worked better in Puerto Rico. In San Juan you can’t actually get any points for goods, so you end up converting them into buildings anyway. 
Philip kept picking Craftsman and Trader, Gareth kept picking Prospector (with Library this gave him 2 cards and Philip nothing) and Builder (a 2 card discount with Library). They both switched to VP buildings about halfway through but Gareth was rather more successful due to his final building, the Palace (1 extra VP per 4 VP total score).
Gareth 38; Philip 34

The Manhattan Project (thanks for this report to Paul)
After James had explained the rules for this classic worker placement game, Paul was still waiting to find out where ‘Manhattan’ came into it, and where the tall buildings were, not to mention Central Park and the Statue of Liberty. He asked James and immediately regretted it as everyone else at the table knew that The Manhattan Project was the code name for the american atomic weapon development programme and that, after all, was exactly the theme of this game. Paul was quiet for a few minutes after that...
Like many worker placement games, the workers came in several flavours: normal (the ‘real workers’), hard hatted (who do things like work in factories and make buildings) and bespectacled boffins (who do you think have the clever ‘nuclear’ ideas around here anyway?)
These workers can do many things, including attending universities to create more workers to give more options next time round (after all, a wannabe nuclear force obviously needs a classic euro mechanic to function), build buildings which each have unique capabilities, generate cash, tamper with the raw materials (in this case ‘yellowcake’, which is some kind of crude uranium), turn the yellow cake (and cash and workers) into refined nuclear stuff (uranium and plutonium), build bombs and launch attacks on others to disable their buildings so they can do less stuff.
Each player represents a country in the race for nuclear power. Points are gained for building, loading and testing bombs and the first one to 50 points wins.
James had played the two player game before and as he seemed to have emerged victorious from that world skirmish, decided to play a similar strategy at the start and as he went first, picked up as many ancillary workers as he could. The others knew what they were doing a little less and therefore also picked up some workers, but a few less as they didn’t go first.
And after the first round, different strategies started to play out.
The first action of great note was that Gareth II had accumulated some fighter planes and some bombers and decided that it’d be a good idea to use his threat, so both James and Jon suffered some building devastation, meaning that their hard work in the first few turns was now not showing any return for them.
Paul’s reaction was to firstly wipe his brow, utter a quiet ‘phew’ and be grateful that he was obviously not as threatening a target as the other two. His next step was to 'arm up' himself as he seemed to recall that during the real cold war, having lots of weapons meant that you didn’t get blasted.
James set about gathering all of the yellowcake in the game. Paul explained that it wasn’t edible, but he didn’t notice if that made any difference to James' strategy.
Jon was the first to collect and build bombs, and quickly followed this up by playing ‘the long game’ and testing it, meaning that he notched up six points, and meant that future plutonium bombs would also be tested and he’d get lots more points for them.
At this stage Paul had also accumulated some attractive buildings, and everyone on the board seemed intent on spying on him, using his buildings and consequently stopping him from doing so. It started to dawn on him that as they were playing a game all about nuclear weapons, and he had by now built up quite some army, that he should be using it as a deterrent. James, mainly due to suffering bomb damage himself, was next up and was eyeing up Paul’s buildings and licking his lips (maybe to get rid of some of those yellow crumbs, who knows?) Paul saw this covetous behaviour and said to James (aka Mr ‘no weapons’) coolly (maybe that part was just in Paul's head) that if he did actually send in any spies that he would ‘bomb the crap out of him’. This may or may not have made James think twice, but it certainly didn’t stop him from doing it, and Paul realised that if he didn’t follow through then his threat would be seen as empty for the rest of the game.
When his turn came round, he was left with no choice but to unleash the might of his armed forces or be seen as yellow himself, so unleash he did, whether it made sense to him or not. Most of James’ buildings were left smoking, and as Paul still had some weapons which he'd really only accumulated as a disincentive to be bombed himself, he decided that Gareth’s nuclear plants were a little too powerful so brought those down too. Jon had taken the sensible precaution of arming up, so Paul let him be. No points for being Switzerland in this game!
Gareth wisely spent the rest of the game trying to convince everyone to gang up on Paul, but James was unable and Jon focussed on his own stuff, so Paul escaped unscathed.
Watching from the other side of the world, Jon was accumulating quite a stock pile of plutonium and uranium, and it certainly wasn’t to build a time machine. Paul sensed that Jon was positioning himself for a meaty charge for the line, and calculated that he could build a couple of bombs and load them in two turns, which would bring him to a nice round 50 points.
During that time James was also trying to convince Jon to spy on Paul by stating that “it makes much more sense to use other people’s buildings”, to which Jon duly obliged by sending his trenchcoated workers to James’ factory instead. Paul hadn’t said anything during the process but took great joy in James’ second plan to backfire of the evening.
Gareth was also getting close but had been constrained by bombs and spies too, so Paul was able to get round to his winning turn and reach the winning points total. Jon would have managed to capture the win next time round.
The final order may be a bit misleading, as although Jon was going to get to 50 on the next turn, he had only scored his initial 6 points by the time Paul finished the game.
I really enjoyed the game. Both theme and mechanics are very important to me when playing, and the theme worked extremely well in this, with the need to build, but also the threat of being attacked hanging in the air at all times. The mechanics were as smooth as the theme with the result that all players left the table saying that they’d definitely play again, maybe even next week. Luckily, that’ll be a new game, so the slate will have been wiped clean by then and each player can start from scratch. After all grudges don’t get carried from week to week, and revenge doesn’t stretch that far does it? James....?
Paul 50; James 20; Gareth 15; Jon 6

Homesteaders (thanks again Philip)
Only one of the three games tied for Game of the Month on our online poll actually made it to the London Apprentice. Gareth me and Barrie played our second game of Homesteaders, the previous having been many months ago and with a fourth player.
In the previous game I had frequently dropped out of the bidding. This game I decided to try bidding more aggressively. In fact, I still ended up dropping out of the bidding quite often, but the average bid value was much higher. This basically meant everyone was taking on much more debt. Debt is worth negative points at the end of the game – the more debt the worse it gets. 5 debt is -15. 10 debt is -55. 20 debt is -210. Anyway, the first turn auction saw Gareth and Barrie paying $7 each for a Farm and (in Barrie’s case) a worker plus a step on the Railroad track: I received a step on the Railroad track for free.
Second turn I was able to buy a Farm for $3 and Barrie bought the Steel Mill, which gave him automated Steel production but was very expensive. In the third round I picked up a Trading Post and Gareth a Gold Mine.
That set up my basic position, producing Food, Wood, and Trade tokens. I was excluded from the next couple of auctions and then won the 6th round auction for $7, enabling me to build the Bank. The Bank cancels debt, but I incurred plenty of debt building it.
Round 7 saw me excluded again, with both Barrie and Gareth bidding $9, the highest bids reached all game. About this point Gareth quizzed me in detail as to how debt was scored and realised that he was sitting on a large negative score. He then systematically set about reducing this for the rest of the game. Barrie however missed this epiphany and continued to pile up debt while developing high value buildings that gave him points income.
In round 8 I built the Fairgrounds for Gold income, dropping out of round 9 and getting a valuable Circus in round 10. There is then a final round of income before scoring. I had a large quantity of food and wood piled up and an even larger quantity of Trade tokens, allowing me to sell off all the food and wood and write off some of my debt. Gareth had also been working hard at writing off debt and was only slightly behind me. Barrie had an impressive positive score before subtracting the debt...
Philip 41; Gareth 25; Barrie -71

There was also a game of Rattus played, once newcomer Richard had arrived. Nobody has told me what went on during the game, or even the final scores, but I do know that Richard stamped his mark upon the group by winning. Well done sir!

That's all for now. Hopefully we'll see a few more attendees next week for more fun and games....

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

"But a Bruised Reed"

Alan was defending an unbeaten run (apart from fillers) during his time in London, so it was certainly noted and attempts were made to knock him off his perch.

Rattus has been played quite a bit recently, but not sufficiently to have tried out all possible strategies. Jon's tactic of taking the Merchant role to spread cubes into small numbers in many regions was vetoed as the rule book was interpreted as moving all three cubes from one region to another region, but not being able to split them up.

Woody went for as many in one region as possible, migrating his European population to the east in Bulgaria. Tom seemed to be moving rats around so that he could free a space to move his people into the protection of the castle. Alan seemed to be spreading his in as many different regions as possible. Paul built up large reserves using the peasant in southern Europe, although when the plague ravaged Italy and Iberia he was left with very few.

Woody survived a few attacks on Bulgaria as he kept his roles to a minimum and therefore minimised losses to almost zero. The witch again didn't get used. Paul faced a choice with his last turn and opted to ensure Tom didn't go without any plague rats in Gaul, home to quite a few for him.

The last round of ravaging seemed to cut into Woody and Tom the most, with Alan and Paul riding their luck somewhat. Those two ended up with the same number of people left on the board, but the tie break gave the match to Alan, who thereby extended his run despite the attempts to bring him down.
Alan: 10 (won due to turn order), Paul: 10, Tom: 8, Woody 6

Andy, Gareth and I returned to this old favourite with Rufus joining us for his first game. I explained things to Rufus as the others set up and then Andy started with the Field Warden occupation, which he seems to be dealt quite often. Gareth picked up the 3 Wood and since Major/Minor Improvement had been turned up I took the clay and built a fireplace, which proved very useful until later in the game when I could have done with a cooking hearth!
The game gradually took shape. Andy played a Clay Mixer and a Bricklayer, renovated to a Clay Hut and added some Clay Supports and a Straw-Thatched Roof, which meant he was building rooms for one Wood. What to do with all the Clay from the Clay Mixer? Andy had the answer in the form of a Clay Seller...
Meanwhile I laid down a Ladder for my own reduction on Room costs, a Plow-related Occcupation that gave me plowed fields in later turns and a Cattle Whisperer that gave me cattle in later turns. Followed by a Stone Carrier which allowed me enough Stone for a 5-room Stone House, a Well, and a Basketmaker’s Workshop- more on that later.
I can’t remember what Gareth had laid down, he built a pretty good farm but was unable to build any fences, partly due to ferocious wood competition, which cost him in the final scoring.
Rufus had a Patron but didn’t exploit that to play the rest of his occupations, concentrated on sowing Grain for his Windmill and finished the game with a respectable first time score.
Meanwhile the wood competition inspired me to play Guildmaster and build the Joinery- a net gain of two wood. Once I had the Guildmaster the other craft workshops looked attractive and I had some surplus Reed thanks to Ladder, hence the Basketmaker’s Workshop, which was worth 5 VPs to me. Too little, alas, for it was Andy’s game.
Andy 43 Philip 42 Gareth 32 (?) Rufus 12

Rufus, Gareth and I rounded off this evening with this curious game, which features one of the smallest boards known to man, with a dinky little map of Italy. Players fight out successive battles in one Italian province after another, the winner gaining control of the province. First to six provinces or four adjacent provinces wins.
The battles themselves are fought with cards depicting mercenaries, courtesans, seasons, heroines, scarecrows, and so on. If you run out of cards in one battle you won’t get them back until everyone has run out (or is down to just one or two cards), so you have to be careful. There’s a certain amount of bluff and counterbuff and a lot of adding up...
I picked the first province as Turin and ducked out after my first card play, leaving Gareth and Rufus to fight for it- Gareth won but Rufus had played most Courtesans so he chose the next province and won that battle. I won the third battle and then we all replenished our hands. The second round went much the same way with everyone picking up another province, and then a third. Rufus was threatening to complete a set of four but I had an outstanding card deal with high value cards and three drummers (double the value of your army) and was able to win three battles in a row for the final victory.
Philip 6 Rufus 3 Gareth 3

P.S “But a Bruised Reed” is a quotation from Princess Ida by Gilbert and Sullivan