Wednesday, 28 November 2012

horablog 4, stardate 28.11.2012, frost, full moon, new peoples; mary, chris. welcome, we look forward to seeing you again! old peoples; philip, james, gareth, scott, jon, dan, tom, noel, alex, james II, paul a, gareth II, tara, michel, david, neil. played; carcassonne, coup, court of the medici, fury of dracula, mamma mia, quarriors, railways of europe, resistance; avalon, terra mystica, tzol’kin: the mayan calendar. go.


cards, not many, two at a time. each card a life, lose both you dead. each card a character, each character does something. choose one card, bluff and act. they call your bluff, go all laissez faire, screw you fellow! good game, quick, simple, handsome. they’d played one round before me, don’t know result. oos at guru. second round, me.

Love Letter (Thanks Jon)

This had been played a few weeks ago at IBG – and received with resounding indifference. However, Scott convinced us that we may have played a rule wrong, so we (James, Scott, Philip, Jon) tried again.

The result? With Jon being eliminated before he’d played a card, simply because he picked up a certain character, the omens weren’t good for a positive experience. Scott probably still likes it, Philip won it (I think), James didn’t seem over-keen and Jon’s only positive comment was – “At least it was over quickly”

Court of the Medici (thanks Tom!)

Tom taught Jon one of his favourite 2 player offerings: Court of the Medici. Despite Tom's usual breathless rules explanation, Jon picked it up quickly and promptly beat Tom at his own game. Literally - as Jamie Redknapp would say.
Jon - Wins. Tom - Loses (an unfortunate theme for the rest of the evening).

Railways of Europe  (Thanks Jon) 

Ah – the trains. This time it was Noel that brought along the heavy box of train delights. Originally it was just 3 players, so the England map was out on the table, but with David arriving, Europe was quickly rescheduled.

Noel started out in Western Europe, and was largely unhindered all game (apart from Jon ‘stealing’ a Major Line from him. Tom began his network in Spain, which worked out well for him in the main, apart from finding the eventual lack of cubes to be a problem. Jon started with a novel strategy of taking the card that meant that no-one else could build into Prague, which he hoped would put anyone else off from building south from Berlin. Unfortunately, David hadn’t read the script and promptly built there anyway. He also built south into Italy, cutting off Jon’s other option, and putting him well behind and well in debt.

With Noel starting to get in Tom’s way in Southern France, it was time for a break-out to the East. Jon made a run for Constantinople, and managed to eventually pick up the largest Major Line bonus. David had finally stopped stealing Jon’s cubes (!) and decided to branch out towards Moscow.

The 13th empty city marker appeared, signalling the imminent end of the game. Noel had saved up enough ‘sure thing’ deliveries to have a comfortable last round, whilst the other players picked up what they could (a nice couple helpfully-coloured random cubes giving David a welcome bonus).

The result wasn’t really in doubt, but the scores were remarkably close. Another fine evening of track-laying enjoyment.

Scores; Noel 50, David 46, Tom 42, Jon 42

Tzol’kin: the Mayan Calendar 

James had been to Essen, did we know that, had he mentioned it? This year’s Essen seems to have produced some appealing games, the IBG has got well behind Keyflower, Snowdonia, Terra Mystica, Fleet (to some extent), and the chance to play Tzol’kin was one I was very keen to take up. 

The geekiness of the boards, those, geeky cogs, that turn round and geekily spin other cogs, and you place your workers on them and they move with the cogs, becoming more valuable. It’s a dynamic mechanic according to the BGG, and I have to say it was tops. It really works well, great interaction and stymieing, all very clever. The rest of the board works too, there are temples to the gods to climb up, a technology track, monuments to collect, buildings too. Some good other components too, really nice skulls, the gold resource cubes could have been golder, I’m being picky, it was great! 

The ‘starting wealth tiles’ were interesting, you got to choose 2 from 4 tiles thereby selecting start resources or positions in the temples or on the techno track. It was good that we each had a different starting point. On your turn you either; place one or more of your workers, you only start with three, and you have to pay in corn for doing so. You can always opt to be start player, possibly picking up extra corn if you’re lucky. Your options are certainly reduced if you go last too often; or; you take your workers back from the cogs effecting the actions reached. Once each player has had a turn the calendar cog moves forward one day and off you go again. It played pretty quickly and only James had played before. (I won’t even mention that we had to unravel two turns as the rules had been slightly forgotten.) 

Anyway, James and Paul got stuck in agriculturally picking up the always useful corn and wood. I opted for VPs and went with the skull cog. Tara picked up some useful other resources, stone, wood and gold. This lead her to move steadily up the temples. Paul and I moved along the technology park and James and Paul also went into building. And then it was feed time. Now this is expensive if you haven’t been hording some corn, certainly cost me on the second feed and you know how much I love my food!  

Extra victory points are dished out half way through depending on how you’re doing with the temples. I was hoping my lead was going to see me through to the end as I’d picked up some good skull based VPs, but then latterly so did James and Paul. James also cashed in big time with more buildings. And before you know it you’ve reached the end of time. Final scoring saw a pretty close finish, we all had made a few errors of judgement at crucial points, but that’s half the fun of it. A cracking game, one I’m very keen to have another go at asap.

Scores; James 67, Neil 63, Paul 59, Tara 34

Resistance: Avalon (thanks Philip)

Gareth was just leaving when I spied this in his bag. “Shame you’re going, we could have played your new resistance game”. Well, he couldn’t resist that...and soon we had a nine player game going with 2 people watching. As several people were new not just to this variant but to the whole concept of resistance, Gareth kept it simple and just added Merlin. Merlin is a good guy (=resistance member) who knows who the bad guys are, but, if the bad guys guess who he is at the end of the game, they win!

The first game was a cake walk for the good guys- they picked a team of 3 without any evil people in it, then picked an extra person who also happened to be good, then picked that same team for mission 3- home and dry. Except for the bad guys guess as to Merlin. Now, Merlin hadn’t given a single clue to the good guys, they just got lucky. But this time it was the turn of the bad guys to get lucky- I, as the Assassin, thought it was James - but which one? I put this theory to my fellow bad guys. James I spoke up - James II didn’t. So I plunged my dagger into James II - who was indeed Merlin.

The second game (with eight players) sort of mirrored the first. Three straight wins for the bad guys. No way around that for good. Main problem was that Alex and James II were at each other’s throats all game- and both were good guys!

Mamma Mia  (Thanks Jon)

There was a time when the good gamers of IBG played this nearly every week, but such pizza-based delights haven’t been seen for ages. However, Tom requested it and Jon obliged (and Scott helped with the rules explanation!)

Neil made a rubbish chef, constantly not having enough ingredients to fulfil his orders (probably because there were no eggs on the cards…), but not quite as rubbish as Tom. Jon and Scott used their prior experience to dump a number of recipe cards down each round, and when the flour-dust settled, Jon had just pipped him to the post. Definitely a filler to bring out again in the near-future for the hungry folks of IBG.

Scores; Jon 7, Scott 6, David 5, Neil 3, Tom 2

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

‘Wot, no eggs!’ the sympathy for Jon’s plight,

being too unwell to come along to games night,

and then of all the games to be played;

‘Last Will’ pops up, and the wreath was laid. 

Attending the Wake; Philip, Woody, Scott, James, James II, Gareth II, Alex, Keith, Michel, Jeroen, Mark, Andy, John, Alistair, Tonio (yes really!), David, oh and me, Neil.

Entertainers were; Monster Factory, Terra Mystica, Troyes, Last Will, Fast Flowing Forest Fellows, Bohnanza, Lancaster

Fast Flowing Forest Fellows 

Two games of Mr Friese’s F F F Fantastic race game. The stats were on my side; played 6, won 6. My first opponent, Alistair, new to the game, to the club in fact; it was tense, competitive, close; played 7, won 7. Joined by David, another new game for him, for the second race. Closer, not quite as competitive, badly chosen route; played 8, won 7, bugger! Hearty congrats David.

Troyes (thanks Philip)

Michel’s copy with the bonus cards. I had the Chetien de Troyes (people in buildings) secret objective. The meeples were fairly evenly distributed with grey getting one red and one yellow slot. Monk (Yellow die into three white dice), Diplomat (spend influence to fight events) and Journeyman (spend influence to make money) were the first cards out but were largely ignored on the first turn.

The first turn events were War and Interruption of Work. Alex went first and, spending heavily, took out three slots in Interruption of Work, I followed up with 4 slots in War. Michel finished off War and James built the Cathedral. Their followed a fight for space in the Yellow building between Alex, me and Michel which lead to no change at all to its composition. Meanwhile James started the Journeyman. I put a die in the Cathedral before the turn ended.

Turn 2: The new cards were Confession (boost a group of dice by +2 each), Hunting (gain influence with red dice) and Innkeeper (turn money into influence). Events were Attack of the Normans and Heresy.
The combination of Innkeeper and Journeyman attracted me and I invested in it while attacking Heresy. Alex finished off interruption of work and Michel went into Diplomat to fight the Normans and Hunting to gain Influence. Everyone invested in the Cathedral.

Turn3: Pilgrimage (any colour dice to VPs), Banquet (Red dice to Vps but requires Red dice to be still in the pool) and Goldsmith (Yellow dice to Money and VPs) came out, along with Skirmishes and Civil War (everyone loses 3 money). Michel finished off Civil War, I finished off Heresy, James took a Pilgrimage slot, and Alex used the Goldsmith, minting money but pulling a meeple out of the White building to do so. There was also a fair amount of pushing and shoving in the buildings, reducing James down to 3 dice.

Turns 4-6: The events continued to come but were mostly defeated. I built up my position to the point where I had 7 dice on the final turn, Michel had 2 and James had 3. (Alex had 5 or 6 I think). James used the Monk together the Goldsmith for good effect. I stopped bothering with the Innkeeper/Journeyman combo as I had plenty of Influence and plenty of money. The final move of the game was Alex taking Banquet merely for the VPs on the card.

Secret Identities were revealed- Alex and I scored well on Chretien de Troyes, Michel and I scored well on Michel’s Influence identity, everyone scored ok on James’ Cathedral Identity, and I scored best on Alex’s Cards identity.

Scores; Philip 41 Michel 34 Alex 34 James 32

Last Will (thanks James!)

Anyone ever play ‘Go for Broke’ as a kid ? This is the big grown up older brother of that game wherein players are trying to find ways to spend all their money. Mark, Woody, Tonio, Keith and myself all felt like we had money to burn, and with news spreading of Jon’s impending demise the subject matter felt apt.
At its heart it’s a worker placement/turn order manipulation/card game. Players first select their turn order which also allocated a certain number of cards, workers and actions. If you want to go early in turn order then you’ll pay a price with fewer options. After this and selecting cards, players then place their workers to either gain new cards, manipulate the housing market or expand their personal board size. Finally players can play cards and/or active existing cards to try and spend cash. Quite simple really (it had to be, look who was playing), but the components make it look more fiddly than it really is.
As no-one had played before the early stages were a bit usual haphazard. Given I’d had a rule run through people looked at me like I knew what I was doing, but I’m not sure it helped. I lose track of who did what at the start on to be honest, but I think Woody brought a farm, and Keith manipulated the housing costs to buy an expensive house. Both Tonio and myself picked up a card allowing an extra action each turn, very usual as it turned out and a bonus to be able to get this in the first round.
Finding the right balance between actions, cards and turn order is the heart of the game. And a lot harder than it looks. Sometimes the move would be obvious, such as when a 1 action for 3 card was made available. Other moves are more subtle in terms of whether you got for the housing market, or just treat a few ladies to a dinner and the theatre. Tonio, being the smoothy he is was obviously doing his best to look after the ladies… Mark was also taking the hedonistic approach splashing the cash on long carriage rides, and expensive meals. Woody just kept building farms, with the dream of one day owning a pony, and buying a season ticket at Portman Road.
I managed to pick up a second bonus action card and I’d also picked up early a card giving me a bonus 3 companion cards. These combined gave me a good advantage as it took some of the turn order pressure off. I could focus on taking early turn orders while still getting a full set of actions and cards… I’d also picked up a house which I could fill and that enabled me to spend 10K a turn for a single action.
Both Woody and Keith had cards that allowed them to spend money on housing without using actions and these were working well mid game. Tonio was collecting cards like Neil collects eggs and had run out of space after 3 turns. For the next few actions he was focused on expanding his board.
One of the mechanics of the game that became apparent late was factored by the rule that you had to sell housing in order to win. Everyone had started to use up the available cash so was left with selling property in order to have more cash to get rid of. This became an important timing issue to make sure you sold up and maximised the loss. Keith was again manipulating the housing market for this, with a few action cards helping along the way. I realised that although my mansion enabling me to spend 10k each turn was great I had to sell it for 20k so was still left with a sum to lose once it had gone.
Luckily though I realised I had the bonus again of all the extra companion cards I was getting each turn so could try to pick up the white border single use cards and then treat various ladies to slap up meals (at Mrs Miggin’s Pie Shop) to fritter away the last of my wealth.
At the start of turn 6 I only had about 7k left so everyone was aware that this would be the last round. Woody had belatedly realised that the game wasn’t necessarily going to last the full 7 rounds, and everyone else was looking to see if they could also move into liquidation this round. At the end I picked up several great cards, while Tonio was 1 companion short (that might’ve been my doing) for him to complete his master plan. I ran out a comfortable winner with Mark in 2nd.
I liked the game although not as much as I’d expected. There’s a lot of subtly mixed in, as well as some luck over card availability and turn order. We didn’t use the Turn Order board for the game, mainly cause I had no idea how it was implemented. Having checked since though it looks like a good addition as sometimes players had workers left and nothing useful to do with them. This would provide a useful option. I’d certainly play this again, but need to get through a few more Essen goodies first J
Final scores… (to be confirmed tonight as they’re at home) [ten days later...]
James -10, Tonio 2, Mark 4, Keith 11, Woody 17


Then I joined Philip, Michel and David for a game of Lancaster. My grandfather was a policeman in Lancaster, then was a prison officer there. Neither are relevant to the game, or any help to me tonight either, but certainly worth a mention.

This is a really good game for player interaction; the selection of counties, joining forces to battle the French, and the voting for laws all allow for plenty of ways of scuppering your competitors’ best laid plans.

Saying that in your first game it takes a while to decide what options are the best to go for. For Michel and David they both did really well on promoting their knights and picking up squires too. We hardly mentioned fighting the French to Michel at all, very good of us in the circumstances! 

My only previous game had seen me concentrating on picking up VPs directly through battling the French and picking up nobles. I’m pretty sure I scored better this time and was happy with that strategy. Last time others went for predominantly two-target strategies as well, somehow Philip, in that wonderfully enthusiastic, caution-to-the-wind, way of his, opted for every possible strategy he could remember. And boy oh boy did it work! Well played that man.

And you’ll all be pleased to know that for my birthday last Friday my sister sent me a red wooden block, size 2 knight, to add to my own copy of the game, it wasn’t there when the game arrived. How kind is she?

Scores; Philip 84, Neil 75, David 51, Michel 46

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Geek and Geeks and Geekiness

How do we use the Geek?  It’s all pretty interesting to me you see and although I’ve been signed up for years it’s only since getting to know you lot that I’ve felt confident enough to post a few things, as you’ll see not that much really! 

Anyway, I’ve recorded my plays over the last eighteen months or so, as well as my collection and wishlist.  I subscribe to all the games on both lists although rarely read many of the posts to be honest.  There are some great photos though and a potential new game can be made for me through a few good snaps, and the videos too of course.  

I’m pretty keen on the downloadable files people set up; like the home made boxes for cards or tiles and such like.  Have made quite a few for Stone Age, Agricola, Ora & Labora amongst others.  Also pretty keen on pimping games where appropriate; Pandemic, Thebes have some great figures, and wooden resources are always a treat.  Does mean I have a glut of bits going spare and I guess at some stage I should be passing those on maybe. 

There are also a few blogs I’ve subscribed to and from time to time I’ll go through the top 500 list and have a look at a few games I’ve not looked at in detail, or games by authors I think I like.  Then just recently started looking at some of the ‘print and play’ games, there’s quite a realm of those out there.  So am in the middle of producing a couple of those, see how they turn out.

I do always wonder if there is more I should be getting out of it though, what do you use it for?  Let me know!

Ok, so team IBG this week was made up of the following superstars; Scott, James, Tom, Jon, Phil, Me, Paul A, Soren, Jeroen, Dan, Michel (hurrah, we didn't put him off last week!), Amanda, Andy, Noel, Gareth, David
And we got through a good number of games all told; Hanabi (twice with different formations!), Snowdonia, In the Year of the Dragon, Pax, No Thanks, Coup, Chronicle, Super Heroes, Fleet, The Resistance, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Gauntlet of Fools... here are the piccies and one or two little stories to go with them;

Hanabi (thanks Jon, and for the eggs too!)

This was new to Philip but Neil, Scott and Jon had played a few times before. The gallant quartet didn't appear to be doing too badly, but had discarded an important '3' early in the game which blocked up one of the piles. For once, Jon actually remembered which cards he had in his hand, whilst Philip had rather a 'Jon' moment when he discarded a card he 'knew' was a 5. Easily done!

When the deck ran out the final score was 18. Not earth shatteringly good, but this is a hard game to beat...

In the Year of the Dragon (thanks Jon)

This was new to Neil and Jon hadn't played for years. Gareth was the veteran of the group...

Right from the off, Jon decided not to challenge for first in turn order, but instead concentrated on picking up the more valuable people. This meant that he needed a good supply of cash to use in case the tiles came out badly. Both Neil and Gareth picked up early scrolls, which scored consistently throughout the game. Neil had some unfortunate catastrophes which led to the death of several of his population, as well as the loss of the odd building level. Gareth maintained a healthy population throughout the game, and was scoring consistently well. With about 4 rounds to go, Jon was lagging well behind but had picked up a couple of the 'bookish' fellows, giving him a bonus of 9 points per round as long as he chose the right tile. Fortunately, he had stocked up with a lot of coins, so was able to guarantee this choice for the last few rounds.

When it came to the final round scoring, it was incredibly close, but Jon's late surge had (by luck or by design) been perfectly timed and he recorded his first ever win in this game, albeit by a very slim margin. Neil did really well to stay in contention all game, as this can be a brutal game for newcomers and veterans alike.

Scores; Jon 100, Gareth 98, Neil 92

Pax Porfiriana (thanks Michel!)

During Pax there was a bit of confusion, a lot of chaos/change of regime/war in Mexico but finally Soren won thanks to his anarchy skills.

Hanabi 2, “Hanabier” (thanks again Michel)

For Hanabi, we surprisingly didn't succeed but it was quite enjoyable.

Coup (thanks Philip)

This is a great little bluffing card game and we played it about half a dozen times- we being Philip, James, Jon, Noel, David and Scott. Each player has two role cards face down in front of them. On his turn the player takes one action. Usually a given action can only be taken by one role. But you don’t have to have the role to take the action- you can bluff. Anyone can call your bluff. If you can show the role card then they lose a life and you get a new role card (there are 3 of each role in the deck and 5 roles). If you can’t then you lose a life and have to turn over one of your role cards (and you now only have one role).

If you get to 7 money you can spend it all on a “Coup”, which removes a life from one opponent- this is unblockable and requires no role card in particular. Most other actions are blockable- e.g the Assassin can remove a life for only 3 gold but is blocked by the Contessa. One of the best roles in the game is Duke, which allows you to take 3 gold. It is a common opening for all players to claim to be a Duke- once the 4th player has made the claim you know someone is lying, but who?

Another role- the Ambassador, allows you to swap roles, and is also a common opening move (whether or not you have an Ambassador). Final role is Captain- steal 2 gold from target player, but blockable by Captains or Ambassadors.

Anyway much hilarious bluffing ensued. Highlights included; Me opening with a very slow and hesitant claim of Ambassador to exchange cards, prompting Scott to challenge me, whereupon I showed my Ambassador. Next game, me opening with a very fast and slick claim of Ambassador to exchange cards, prompting David to challenge me, whereupon I showed Ambassador. James getting robbed blind by Scott’s Captain and then my Captain, two turns running. Jon using Ambassador only to draw the other two Ambassadors (he explained this afterwards). People being killed just before they could execute a Coup. Every player winning at least one game and most two games.

Scott says; “Correction, I didn't win any of the six (I believe everyone else got one except for Noel who got 3 and Jon with none who only played in one round) and I prefaced my explanation of the game that I wasn't very good at it, somehow I can be challenged very easily but yet I can be a spy with Noel and shift blame on to Jon quite successfully. I should stick to the Resistance.”


Snowdonia (thanks James and Phil)

Scott was keen to try this before opening his own copy (sensible man!) with David also bracing the welsh weather for the first time, while Noel, Phil and myself all were happy to take another trip to Snowdonia. Last time out the game seems to play very slowly at first, with few white cubes appearing to drive the game along. Noel announced pre game that this time round he had a better feel for the pacing and was not going to be caught out again... perhaps...

The game started at a canter, not only with several sunny days on the horizon but also white cubes a plenty and before we'd had chance to pronounce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch the first side of the board was clear of rubble and players were starting to wonder if we might be done in 30 minutes.

Phil was, once again, pushing his surveyor around the board as though this was a game of Formula De... and for some reason, once again, we let him pick up the bonus card with all the extra points if he reached the last station... he won last time out with this strategy so on the scale of dumb moves this ranked probably as just as high as trying to fit in a game of Through the Ages into a standard Wed evening...

David was first to buy a train, closely followed by myself... and we were all content with this up until another invasion of white cubes pushed the game tracker past the train tax tile and we had to lose them as we hadn't saved up an iron bar for insurance. From this point Noel Phil and Scott all brought trains, partly cause it made good strategic sense, but also cause it was a subtle way to gloat at us...

Around mid-game the weather turned sour... but already 2/3 of the stations had been cleared. The game was playing totally differently to last time when a slow start accelerated. This time round players were scrabbling to find ways to make points before we hit the last station. I, at this stage, was feeling far behind, but had a few plans lined up to build several pieces of track in one go using some cards as bonuses. Noel kept picking up the first played marker and as the player on my RHS it always meant I went last, very frustrating along with a realisation that Phil (on my LHS) was more concerned with moving his surveyor than taking the first player marker... it's the last time I sit next to him... where's Paul when I needed him, could always rely on him helping me out through shrewd manipulation of player order

Suddenly the weather cleared up and it was obvious the game would be ending in 2 or 3 turns. I managed to pull off my plan to clear 4 tracks in a turn, and with David also clearing 2 we were down to the last 2 moves. Scott had a (not too subtle) plan to try and gather enough tracks for a 25 point bonus, but luckily David stopped this. Noel was doing well on the stations, but had, once again, mistimed the ending. Phil was shappy with his Surveyor and bonus points and I was just hoping when it all got added together that I'd managed to get a good cross section of points.

And then it ended with a flurry of station and track building. The scores are a little bit fiddly (there's good reason you get a 7 Wonders style score pad in the box)...

Noel indeed had done alright with the building, but with 0 bonus points from his cards was always going to struggle. David had more points across the board, as had Scott, but without the large bonus he was eyeing in the previous round his challenge was faltering. Phil managed to get 36 points from his surveyor, but little else... and as luck would have it (or because I was the person picking cubes out of the bag, as others might suggest) I managed to sneak the win, despite feeling for 3/4 of the game that I was out of the running as I had no active train and was nowhere on the surveyor track.

Great game (well I would say that)... and a very different experience than the other 2 times I've played it with the white cubes really speeding up the start and the weather a totally different pattern than before. At the moment this is probably my Essen game of choice for 2012.

Scores; Noel 39, David 53, Scott 53, Phil 55, James 63

Resistance (thanks Philip again!)

We finished off the night with this old classic. Scott was first off with a Jon and Scott team, passing the first mission easily. I proposed a Jon, James and Noel team, but was voted down. James went for a James, Jon and Scott team, which failed. Jon was now leader and he passed a card to David asking for it not to be used on himself. He then selected David, Noel, Jon and Scott. Me and James knew this was wrong, but we were voted down and bizarrely the mission passed. David used his card to check Jon’s mission card, specifically because Jon had asked him not to.

For the next mission Noel picked Jon, him and David. The mission failed, so we were down to the wire. I thought the spies were James and Noel, Jon thought they were David and Scott (Jon could deduce that I was not a spy). After quite a bit of arguing a team was put together which once again excluded me (I forget who was included) and therefore doomed the mission. My least successful Resistance member performance ever- not a single mission. Congratulations to the real spies!

Scott and Noel won, Me, James, David and Jon lost.


After the previous week’s inauspicious start I joined in another game of Fleet with Tom and Dan.  My amnesiac’s version of the rules no doubt helped, but also the fact that we ran badly out of time meant it’s second outing for me left me even more uncertain about the game. 

Tom clearly decided that vessels, any vessels, were a must for him and the strategy was pretty good to be fair. Dan decided he wanted to spend the game in various fisherman’s pubs, never going to be a winning tactic in my book but he clearly felt at home there, ‘nough said really.  I went with the same strategy that took me to third out of four last week, and picked up processing vessels to enable to turn crates into coins and cards.  It just about paid off this time although we ran out of crates, and undoubtedly had a couple of rules wrong too.  I read them the following day, the rules.  Always useful at some stage really, and maybe I should play it properly once before making my mind up once and for all (didn’t stop me buying Swordfish in the week though!).

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

"Time, It's All A Question of Time"

Time; I decide it is too controlling. I am not having it
any longer – except I cannot use ‘longer’. I try to sum
it up differently but hell it’s not easy.
Wednesday evenings have become sacrosanct. I love getting out and down to the apprentice now, eyeing up the potential, all those colourful boxes, full of promise, misunderstanding and
fun. I’m rarely fussed over what I want to play although space
and fantasy themes are my least faves. Recent expedition s to Planet Steam and Mission: Red Planet have certainly done
nothing for the former! Anyway, last week it was two more new games to me, Keyflower and Fleet. The former was sold as a good worker placement, earn/collect VPs, and even with two virgin players it shouldn’t take much more than an hour. John said that some games come with outrageously optimistic play times, but this was fairly accurate. Oh how James and I proved him wrong! And as for Fleet being a quick twenty minutes. I suppose an additional fifteen minutes isn’t too bad unless you express it as a percentage.
Anyway, we had a good turn out last week; Neil (that’s me), Gareth II, Woody, Paul A, Jeroen, James, Gareth, Philip, John, Jon, Dan, Andy and a very warm welcome to Michel, great to have you along!

The earlybirds had a close game of For Sale, well most of them were close in the final scoring, Gareth II decided close wasn’t for him so thrashed the rest of them, by a far old distance too, well-played! Final Scores; Gareth II 63, Jeroen 48, James 46, Woody 45, Paul A 43.

Gareth II went off with Gareth to learn all about Through The Ages (what again? Yes, again. Ed.), and Andy joined them. As per usual it went on a long time and the end appeared uncertain.

Jeroen and Paul D kindly hosted Michel over a game of Spartacus. Not sure of the outcome but everytime I turned round Paul was trying to talk Michel into joining him on some sort of deal, and Jeroen was practising his limited vocabulary of ‘Inglese Vulgaris’.

 Keyflower (thanks James)

Another Wed., another Essen experience; and this time one of the big guns with Keyflower on show after being pretty much universally acclaimed as one of the big gamers games from this year. As luck would have it (or bad communication, your call) we had 2 copies on show, and despite John’s being already tried and tested Woody wanted to smell the cardboard and cracked open his copy for us to sample. Initially, we were all lined up for a 6 player game with Phil, Jon, Neil, Woody, John and myself but then Dan showed up late to skew the numbers and so we switched to a 4 player game with Jon and Phil gracefully switching to another table.

Keyflower is, at its heart, an auction worker placement game. Players bid to either control a tiles, or to activate the tile using 3 different coloured meeples (meeples are used as cash in the game). It’s a great mechanic as (similar to Asara) you can only outbid using the same colour so bidding early raises your chances of winning; also, if you own a tile, then you’ll receive back any meeples spent to activate the tile. So ownership is a good way of increasing cash for subsequent rounds. And meeple cash is
tight in the game with only limited resupplies available.

John gave us a good run down of the rules and we were off for the Spring round. As usual players feeling their way early on and watching John closely given he was the only person to have played before. He seemed to want to go for bigger village tiles, so these were contested early on. I went to the idea of trying to win as many tiles as possible regardless of what they were offering, so was happy to let others pay more for other ones.

There are only 4 rounds in the game, and really only 3 rounds where you can gather tiles for actions as the last round only has tiles that give victory points. There doesn’t on the face of it feel like a lot of actions to take, but the game really flew smoothly once we all grasped the concepts, and there is minimal downtime between moves.

The 2nd round (Summer) and this time players started to use meeples to activate tiles for resources rather than just bidding. Woody was the first to claim some uber-green-meeples which gave him the advantage of a colour that couldn’t be beaten, but it didn’t go to plan as he ran out of options to use it and ended up with using it is on one of his owned tiles for the resources. John picked up some nice tiles that gave him extra meeples and then quickly started to gather lots of extra meeples as a result. Everyone
has a screen in the game to hide meeples so it’s hard to know how much anyone has, and of which colour, but it felt like John had quite a fortune after this round. Neil was looking to collect tools instead and kept using his tiles to turn 1 tool into more. At this stage I decided to compete with Woody for the green meeples advantage taking a tile that could give me 2 greens for 3 yellows, or something like that.

The 3rd round was probably the most organised in that we all had a reasonable idea of what to do (well, perhaps apart from Woody, who confessed after the game that he had got lost somewhere in the summer phase when he realised he wasn’t going to be allowed to trade any wood for sheep!) We tended to split into different strategies, with John again trying to grow his fortune ready for the last round with only VP available.
Neil was gathering tools like he was preparing for doomsday and I managed to pick up some bigger villages and a boat that allowed me to use any colour when bidding. Sounded useful, but to be honest I’m not sure it was.

The last round is all about VP. At the start everyone is dealt 3 tiles. At the last stage players can chose to place 1,2 or 3 tiles on the board so you can control what VP tiles are available. If you’re weak for 1 tile type that you have then you can chose to bin it meaning no one gets the points. Then, as before, players bid on these tiles and you only get the VP for the tiles you own. Bidding here was really interesting. I was having a battle with Neil over tiles offering good bonus’s for tools, while John had decided to finally obtain some green meeples so he could outbid Woody and me on a few tiles. As the dust settled, I’d managed to win 5 tiles which I think was my plan (did I have a plan ?), while Neil picked up a few good tool based tiles, and Jon had one he was after giving a straight-up 12 points bonus. A nice touch is that the tiles that were used throughout the game for 1,2,3rd player were not available for selecting for use in your own village, as were also the boats that were used for selecting meeples in earlier rounds. The gameboard actually cleans itself up as a built in mechanic of the last round. Even the first player marker can be used as an extra meeple if you need it for scoring. Clever stuff really.

So all that was left was to place the VP tiles and total up scoring. I had a feeling it was going to be close between John and me, as I knew I had a good bonus in store. As it happens it wasn’t so close, but I wouldn’t put must of that down to skill. I think my strategy of going to quantity rather than quality worked well this time out, but in another game perhaps not. Would definitely be up for another game of this sometime, so far for me it’s one of the better games out of Essen.

Final scores; James 72, Neil 67, John 45, Woody 29 (Great game in my book, Ed.)

In the Shadow of the Emperor (thanks Philip, and smartarse Tom re the photo!)
As the unlikely trio of Dan, Jon and Philip looked for a game to play, Dan picked out In the Shadow of the Emperor as one of the few euros he was willing to try. Since Philip had brought the game along that evening having recently acquired it he was more than happy to acquiesce.
Philip explained the rules and took on the role of Emperor for the first turn. The players represent families of aristocrats in medieval Germany. The family members contest for control of the seven Electorates, which in turn elect the Emperor. Each turn the family members grow older and may die, although aging can be reversed with medicine and other tricks. Families also produce sons or daughters and the latter can be married off to other families for victory points.

The first turn went fairly smoothly with no one contesting the Emperor’s position. In the second turn a fierce battle developed between Dan and Philip for the Kingdom of Bohemia (an electorate with 2 votes), which was won by Philip for the moment but rendered irrelevant when Jon declared the whole Kingdom excommunicated! Jon was elected Emperor with the support of Dan in return for the marriage of Dan’s daughter....
In the third turn Philip made a strong push for the throne with the Church Influence card, which requires control of one of the Ecclesiastical Electors (who must be unmarried). However, Jon excommunicated the Kingdom of Bohemia again and the casting vote was left with Dan, who decided to let Jon keep his throne.

In the fourth turn Dan made an even stronger push for the throne, which was very narrowly defeated by the combination of Philip and Jon. In the fifth turn being Emperor is only worth 1 VP so the throne was not contested, attention shifting to the Electorates, with some hard fighting in Bohemia (Phil and Dan, Dan won), Saxony (Jon and Dan, Jon won) and the Bishopric of Mainz (Phil and Jon, Jon won). The end result was closer than we might have guessed.

Final scores; Jon 25 Dan 22 Phil 20

Smash Up (thanks Jon)

Having played a Euro, it was obvious that Dan’s pores were screaming for Ameritrash action – just what is wrong with him? (ed.) - , so Philip and Jon obliged with this new game belonging to James. Essentially, you pick a couple of decks of aggressors (dinosaurs, ninjas, gnomes(!)) and shuffle them together. You then have a hand of these cards and then play them to various ‘bases’ on the table. Most cards have a numerical value, and when the total cards played to a base reaches a certain level, that base is scored. There are other cards which have particular actions (eg destroying other players’ cards / allowing the player to draw more cards etc). The 3 player game ends when someone has reached 15 points.

The decks are very different from each other, but there are several cards within each deck which are identical. This is maybe why the game felt quite repetitive. There is also a fair amount of text on many of the cards, which means that players must constantly check what has been laid down to see if they are affected by any new cards being played.

Anyway, after a number of bases had been scored, and Dan had reached 10 points, the consensus was – let’s play something else. A distinctly underwhelmed audience for this first outing unfortunately…


Epic Spell Wizards (thanks Jon)

If you’re going to play an Ameritrash ‘take-that’ card game, then this is the one to choose. Quick and lots of fun (and dice rolling too…)

Philip survived the first round, and Dan the second. Jon failed to survive at all, and was annihilated by Dan in the final round, for a convincing victory.

Final scores; Dan 2, Philip 1, Jon 0



Fleet was a game that had a good amount of discussion, posts, buzz on the Geek and for a time it had been on my wishlist. I like the fishing theme as my father was originally a fish auctioneer in Fleetwood and then Lowestoft as part of the British trawling industry, all those memories of stinky fish, mmm. So the chance to play it was good.

Each player receives 6 cards, each having multiple uses; cash, indicated by the number of coins on the card: VP values for the end of the game: type of vessel, such as Cod trawler, Shrimp, Processing Vessel, etc.: and the cost of launching that vessel. Turned upside down a card also becomes the Sea Captain you have to hire to launch your vessel. But obviously you cannot launch without the correct fishing license so each round begins with an auction of licenses, the winning bids being paid for in cards. Each license, as well as allowing you to launch a specific vessel, comes with end game VPs and  a bonus of some kind; eg. the shrimp license allows you to pay one less coin per auction or vessel launch.

Next comes  the option to launch a vessel or vessels; you need to be able to pay for this and provide a captain too. Providing you have all the necessary cards then your ship will bring fish out of the water, one unit per vessel up to a maximum of four. If you have a processing vessel you can ‘process’ your catch via that vessel, turning it into additional cash.

At the end of each round you take two cards from the draw pile keeping one in your hand. And off it goes again with the licenses being restocked. Game ends when the licenses run out.

With licences at a premium, we had quite a spread of perks being used. It felt as though John’s previous play was making him a sure fire leader although it was difficult to tell during game play, he picked up a couple of useful ‘pubs’ during auctions, worth ten VPs each at the end of the game. I stuck to cod and processing vessels and felt it was working out ok for me. James and Woody both went for a good mix of vessels, with Woody watching John closely and picking off a good number of licenses. As mentioned we went way over the anticipated time, and the final scores showed that Woody had just outdone John on the line.

So, for me it felt like a fairly standard set collection card game, the theme being irrelevant. As such it was ok, but not good enough to stay on the wishlist, my fishing then will have to stick with Subbuteo’s Angling game and a Polish thing called Mare Balticum which is very child friendly, as for the wishlist, ‘Swordfish’ benefits with a higher priority!

Final scores; Woody 59, John 58, Neil 51, James 39
So time remains an unestimatable – is that a word? - concept in gaming… but another good time was had by all. And I went home with a dozen eggs (one was a double yolker) and some quality chutney, mmm.