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....

No comments:

Post a Comment