Tuesday, 18 December 2012

"Loitering within tent"

A Select company of games tonight.

Terra Mystica
This was my second game of Terra Mystica, both with the same five players- me, Scott, Michel, Gareth 1 and Gareth 2. In this second game Gareth 1 suggested we call him by his middle name to avoid confusion- so he will be known as Spencer for this report. Scott has played about 5 or 6  games as various different races and so is the most experienced
The previous game had seen Fakirs, Alchemists, Dwarves, Giants and Witches, which had been chosen more at less at random. This time we followed the rulebook and choose in turn order (the order listed above).
I chose the Nomads because I wanted to try the other side of the Fakirs board and their power seemed fairly straightforward. I hadn’t noticed, but there were some good red cult/brown cult round bonuses available which favoured the Nomads starting position.
Scott picked the Auren and Michel the Mermaids, my two opposite terrain types. Spencer picked the Halflings which was less convenient and Gareth chose the Dwarves.
I placed my first settlement on the middle continent, next to green, brown, red and black spaces. Scott promptly occupied the Green space next to me. Michel chose a  blue space on the eastern edge of the continent. Spencer and Gareth landed on the Eastern continent, which is most convenient for tunnelling Dwarves, with Gareth also taking a spot on the Southern and Spencer on the Northern  continent. Michel’s second placement was next to Spencer in the North, Scott’s on the Eastern continent a little way from the others. My 2nd placement was on the Eastern Continent next to Spencer and Gareth and on the Northern Continent next to Spencer and Michel.

For the first turn the round bonus was 5 VPs for a town and something for every 4 spaces on the Grey track- everyone ignored this. The second turn bonus was for Level 3 buildings and one worker for every 2 spaces on the red track.
I used the first turn to upgrade my central settlement to a Stronghold and turn the black space adjacent to it to Desert with the Stronghold power, building a settlement there. Because I was adjacent to every other player, I accrued power rapidly, especially as the others (apart from Michel, who did not build a stronghold yet) proceeded to build their Strongholds adjacent to me (although taking care to wait until round 2 for the bonus points).
I also sent a priest to the red track, can’t remember whether I took the priest starting tile or the priest special action- did burn 3 power that turn so probably the latter. Scott passed first, making me last for turn 2.
This enabled Michel, who had taken the shipping starting tile, to pre-empt me by settling the blue tile on the central continent, between my previous terraform and a nice piece of desert. I therefore turned round and terraformed in Scott’s direction, building up to a Temple. I chose the two red spots temple power, which allows towns with only 6 worth of buildings. Later on in the turn I sent another priest to the red track, putting me on tier 8 and getting me 4 workers at turn end.
In round 3 I completed the first town, with a Stronghold, two settlements and a temple- I didn’t need that temple power after all...I chose the extra power key and used the power to take a spade action, settling the space east of my settlement on the Northern continent. This had the effect of cutting Spencer off by limiting him to three spaces- he was blocked on the other side by Michel. Since he had already been confined to three spaces in his other settlement area- hemmed in by Gareth (who had tunnelled underneath him), me and Scott, he was not best pleased! I then upgraded the two northern settlements to trading posts.
In round 4 the round bonus was one money for every space on the brown cult track, which I had already begun to advance up.
I terraformed two more spaces in a line east from my northern trading posts, bringing me a second town, for which I picked the priest key. Everyone else was finishing towns about now- Spencer by building a Sanctuary on the eastern continent and Michel by use of his special mermaid power. I think Gareth and Scott also eventually managed two towns. I also built a Sanctuary around this point. I managed to get up to the 9th space on the Brown cult track, for 9 money...
Going into round 5, which gave points for settlements and 4 power for every 4 spaces on the red track, I picked up the special power which gave points for settlements. However, Spencer had been working on his shipping and was able to block me in the North by terraforming a nearby desert. He also built a bridge to another desert but failed to Terraform it and, after upgrading my shipping, I was able to take that space. Meanwhile Michel had been trying for a second town and terraformed two spaces to swamp with the two spades power action. The space he left unbuilt on would be a convenient connecting location for my settlements, meaning I would just need shipping level 2 to connect them all, so I used my stronghold action to take it.
I had taken the starting bonus which gives 4 VPs for each level 3 builidng and I hung on to it until everyone else had passed, before taking the starting bonus which gives 2 VPs per trading post.
In the final round I was able to build the 3rd and 4th Trading posts and upgrade my shipping to level 3. I had definitely won most connections (Gareth taking 2nd prize) but the cult tracks were more fiercely contested, with Scott motoring up three of them and overtaking me on the red track to claim 10th tier. I secured 10th tier on the brown track, leaving Scott and Gareth to fight it out over the blue track and Gareth to take the Grey track more or less uncontested. Spencer had been able to use his Shipping to break out of his straitjacket and terraform some more spaces. For my final move I burnt enough power to buy the terraforming upgrade for 6 more VPs, which was about the distance between me and Gareth on the final scoring. Scott was close behind, with Michel and Spencer following more distantly.

We now move to a rather less complex game.
A nice 8 player game of push your luck to (almost) round off the evening. I stayed in longer than anyone else on the first mine, emerging with a decent haul before the final disaster could be drawn. Then I legged it out the second mine as fast as I could, which turned out swell when the mine proceeded to collapse in on the others. My choices in the next three mines were fairly conservative, maintaining my clear lead. I think Tom made most of his points on the 5th mine, but I could be wrong.
Phil 29 Tom 16 Jon 14 Dan 12 Gareth I 8 Gareth II 8 Scott 5 Woody 5
One push-your-luck game leads to another...

Nanuk (thanks Jon)
There was still time for one more game, so a welcome return to deer and fish hunting in polar regions….
Woody managed to pick the wrong side on just about every occasion, and his game-end spoils reflected this. No-one trusted Gareth I of course, but Scott, Dan, Jon and Philip ended up on the most successful hunts. Scott’s judicious selection of the Nanuk cards was enough to tip the balance in his favour for a good win.

I still think that a more streamlined scoring system is needed, as the current method seems to take far too long. Any ideas anyone???
Scott 12; Dan 10; Jon 9; Phil 8; Tom 6; Gareth II 6; Gareth I 4; Woody 1
A quick trip  back to the beginning of the evening...

Verrater (thanks Jon)
It has definitely been too long since this was played at IBG – maybe because it needs exactly 4 players to work well. The game was new to Tom, but he picks things up quickly so we were soon underway. Woody and Tom gained the first major spoils, mainly because no-one turned traitor during the first round. However, Jon quickly changed all that, by defecting soon after. Tom found himself in the minority and found it hard to score many points, but when Woody jumped ship, the sides again evened up.
Jon was scoring consistently by picking the Strategist. This didn’t leave him with many cards or much influence, but a regular 2 points can often be very helpful. All the other players had used the builder a couple of times during the game, and when the final scoring came, they maxed out on 6 points each. This made the final scoring pretty close, with Jon’s unspectacular progress being enough to just win the day.
Always a fun game – let’s hope that it comes out again soon…
Jon 24; Tom 22; Dan 20; Woody 19
More from Jon...

Palastgefluster (thanks Jon)
This was turning into the evening of small box games, as Tom brought out this card game. The idea is that each player has 7 different character cards, which are all shuffled together and then dealt out. Each character has a different ability which is used when the card is played into a player’s own tableau. The goal of the game is to put down 6 characters without being forced to play a duplicate. This, as we found out, is harder than it sounds!
Jon and Tom managed to screw up a couple of times, and were forced to play illegal characters (initiating what Tom thematically described as “dark whisperings…”) It was soon becoming obvious that playing 4 or 5 cards was a risky strategy, and it was often better to try to trap someone else. This was Dan’s plan in the final round – Tom was looking like a dead duck, so Jon stepped in to try to save him and elongate the round, but only succeeded in giving himself a couple of rubbish cards that resulted in him losing the round instead. This was enough to allow Dan to reach the magic 5 points first, although “start player ‘cos I’m the oldest” Woody was very close behind.
This was actually a fun little game (once you had deciphered the unhelpfully coloured and illustrated cards), and definitely one to try again soon.
Dan 5; Woody 4; Tom 3; Jon 2


"Loitering within tent" is a quotation from "Jingo" by Terry Pratchett. It is also of course, what nomads do.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

December, when frosts chill us to the bone, ghost stories become rampant and the excesses of food and drink are to the fore. Out on the damp street a lone Frenchman is making his way to the Apprentice, a car pulls over, ‘excuse-moi monsieur!’, and he’s in the warmth of the vehicle, but not for long. He climbs out by the Thames and looks up into the first floor windows. It is then he is struck dumb. His eyes widen in fear and uncontrollable shivering envelopes him. He has seen ‘the strangers’, they are led by a mysterious German, Stefan Seagal who is ruled by the Mayan Calendar. From the ground floor up the realm is doomed, like the fantastical dominion of Discworld, full of characters like the hideous hunchback from his home country capital. He will stay here for several hours, and eventually, maybe, they will let him go…

The Frenchman; Michel
The lumberjack; Woody

The outbacker; Paul A

The tartan army; Scott

The easy rider; Keith

The hunchback, with some slippage round the front; Neil

The wicker man; James

The tutor; Jeff

The historical monolith; Philip

The mad doctor; Noel

The mad doctor’s madder associate; Leon

The one they call the architect; Gareth

The latecomer; Mary

The hound of the latecomer; Chris

Sieben Siegel (thanks Philip!)

We started with a quick round of this trick taking card game. My hand contained 1 trump (Red), a long blue suit with some high blue cards, and short suits elsewhere. Following my usual inclination and given my blue winners could easily be trumped, I picked the Saboteur. The bidding was fairly conservative, with several seals left in the middle of the table and nobody taking a white or a blue seal.

This made my job fairly easy as people quickly found themselves taking tricks they hadn’t bid for and thus black seals. I ruffed a purple early, led a low blue, and watched it go round. Later I won a trick in yellow and repeated the process. Keith had the best trumps and handily won the red tricks he had bid for, while others struggled. At the end of the day there were four or five black seals out, fairly evenly distributed, making me ahead on points. We stopped playing then as other players had turned up. Unfortunately I don’t have the exact scores- nor do I remember exactly who was playing!

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (Collector's Edition, with poster no less!)

THE game of the month – even if it’s only a two-week month – attracted a strong three of Gareth, Philip and Neil. Strong in that we’d all played it before, not much granted, but enough.

With our hidden characteristics looking pretty similar from my early viewing of three of the unused four characters it was eyes down for five areas of domination.  Gareth picked up an early building costing a ‘wapping’ seventeen dollars, only for Philip to destroy it almost immediately. With them two concentrating on revenge I thought I’d build away to victory. But, as ever, gaining control of four areas is a piece of cake, a fluffy Victoria sponge one at that, but – can you have two ‘buts’ in one sentence? – gaining the fifth, and the holy grail of victory, is nigh on impossible. Round after round I could set myself up with five, never six though, areas, only for it all to fall apart due to some ridiculous twist of fate.

It was only later we found out that Philip had been stopped in his tracks by a true freak of play, well done Gareth! Philip had swapped his character for the fellow who needed a presence in ten areas… and he sat there comfortably but for a last second gamble from Gareth who, to be fair, was still on the revenge track.

So, all the characters came and went, spilling their evil throughout us, and Vimes had won… but no, Vimes was the fourth man I hadn’t seen earlier… so, time to count the points up. Bugger, fifteen point penalty for me on the back of an earlier loan left unpaid. Despite having four buildings, pretty much for the majority of the game, they were all cheap brothely ones and so victory went to Gareth. A good close game, as ever, and all keen to play again next week.

(And no I haven’t read any of the books, and nor am I likely to.)

Notre Dame 

Joined by the pallindromedary twins, Noel & Leon it was then off to Paris to see if we could keep the rats at bay. Philip had somehow missed this game, and Leon was completely new to the geek-world of games. Basically a worker placement game with your actions determined by yourself and one other player each round. I’m sorry Gareth, really I am, if I could have passed you anything better I would have done… 

Noel was in pretty determined mode and picked up additional workers to help him through. Gareth followed suit while Philip and I started taking a shine to Victory Points. Early on the rats were dozing somewhere and so several forgot just what sort of impact they can have.  

Some hefty carriage movement from Noel and I saw VPs heading their way. Gareth profiteered at the Cathedral – see, not every card I gave you was useless! Philip and Leon were picking their way into the game by now. Just in time for the rats to come bounding out. Leon and I got savaged by the little devils, all those precious VPs being nibbled away. Philip also struggled for a couple of rounds and thus the race for the line was handed over to Gareth and Noel. 

It was tight, it was close, it was Noel! How apt for this time of year I hear you say.

Scores; Noel 55, Gareth 54, Neil 38, Philip 28, Leon 16