Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Grand Designs

So, it's the last IBG of the year.  Seven hardy souls ventured through the cold to the welcoming embrace of the Apprentice.  Your erstwhile editor was not in attendance but has received various reports of tidings and joy; the first two of which come from the pen of Mr Dawsey.

Stone Age

We knew Jon was coming, but he texted to say he'd be late, so we decided to try and squeeze in a game of 'speed Stone Age', however that seems optimistic in hindsight as it was only Paul's second game and Amanda's first.

Amanda shot into quite a large lead by going for the buildings. Paul expanded his family and went for civilization cards. Gareth on the other hand went for a mixed strategy of tools and civilization cards. After a few rounds of accumulation of points by Amanda and cards for Gareth and Paul, Amanda asked what she was missing. Cards, mainly, for bigger end game scores, although there are many ways to win at this game.

Gareth spotted that towards the end a lot of his cards provided bonuses for extra people so he mated like crazy for the last few turns. Amanda tried to pick up some cards but realised that it was too little, too late. Paul was going for a bit of everything.

Jon looked over a few times with a disparaging 'call that SPEED Stone Age?' - probably a fair point.

Only in the final scoring did Gareth reveal that he'd collected all eight of the technological advancements, giving him a whopping 64 bonus points, and this was in addition to the big bonus he got for his horde of people. Paul didn't do badly on buildings and food bonuses, but nowhere near enough to live with Gareth. Poor Amanda did well for a first go, but really was investing in her Stone Age knowledge so that she can come back stronger next time.

Scores: Gareth 212, Paul 190, Amanda 142


Amanda had to disappear but was eagerly replaced by Jon who'd waited (mostly) patiently for them to finish. Due to us making him wait, we gave him the choice of what to play and Trains pipped Kingdom Builder plus expansion for the table space. 

Jon could have sat in the space opposite Paul, but made his way round the more hairy route to sit to Paul's left. Not sure it made too much difference in the game, but Paul's reputation makes old habits die hard.

The cards were selected during set up and the key points to note here were the inclusion of the notorious Tourist Train (a previous winning strategy on more than one occasion) and no cards to expand the active cards by any number, so 5 was the maximum that anyone would get to work with.

The Tourist Train strategy was pointed out to Gareth, although for some reason both he and Paul then let Jon pick up too many of them which certainly helped him to his fair share of VPs. Although there were no expansion cards, there were plenty of cards to cycle through the deck more quickly, so Jon's strategy was to pick up tourist trains, not bother with laying too much on the board and get as many cards to help him cycle through his deck faster.

Paul was placed in the middle of the board and employed almost the opposite strategy to Jon, by laying rails and building stations everywhere possible. He picked up the corresponding waste and tried to combat this by also getting a few cards to help him cycle through or discard the waste, but it did slow him down a little later in the game.

Gareth was over in the East of the board and seemed to be going for a bit of everything, and his waste collecting certainly did impede his progress.

The fact that everyone could only get a maximum of five cards in the deck meant that there were only a few possible Skyscraper purchases (for the big points) and this helped Jon's Tourist Train strategy more. Paul could have closed the game by laying his last track, but instead decided to push his luck somewhat, get some high value trains and hold out to try and collect some of those Skyscrapers. As it turns out, he didn't manage to get them and Jon picked up one or two more instead.

By the end of the game, Jon had laid very little on the board, but no one was surprised by the final score.

Scores: Jon 76, Paul 61, Gareth 57

Now on to the other table where Neil, Phil and Jen took on the roles of building contractors and leaders of dwarven settlements although not at the same time.  Neil provided the two reports for Blueprints with Phil doing his customary in-depth run through of Caverna.


Ahead of some Caverna action, Philip, Jen and I had a little opener in the form of Blueprints. Take a blueprint, roll a load of dice and off you go. There are three rounds. On each turn you choose a die to build your blueprint. Dice have to be equal or higher in value to be placed on top of another die. The dice come in four colours, each scoring in different ways. It's also possible to pick up bonuses for different combinations.

Having played three previous games I obviously had quite an advantage. You need to make sure you build your blueprint to the exact specifications.  You then need to ensure every dice earns you three points at least.  Finally, go for one bonus, and if you can make two then you'll win.  Easy!

If your opponents haven't played before you have show them how it works!

Final Scores; Neil - 18, Philip - 7, Jen - 4.


This was our (me, Neil and Jen's) second game of Caverna. The first had been four player and won by Natasha's strategy of building loads of rooms and eschewing adventure. Both run-throughs were with basic buildings only. 

More changes between three and four player Caverna than between three and four player Agricola. There seemed to be less resources entering the game, which makes sense I guess, although there were also four different spaces accumulating wood. Start player in four player accumulates food and gives you a ruby. In three player it still accumulates food but it gives you two ore, which is a lot worse than a ruby.

I also discovered that you can't build rooms with rubies. Oh well...

Neil and Jen favoured early game Agriculture (both crops and farm animals) with Adventuring once it became possible (from turn 2). Meanwhile I struck out on a slavish imitation of Natasha, hollowing out caverns from the Rock and building the Carpenter, Stone Mason and Builder Rooms, meaning that I could build a 2 Wood 2 Stone Room with nothing more than two Ore (It also gave me a use for the Ore which I had to pick up when I took start player). 

My food supply wasn't too good, since you can't eat dogs, but I managed to pick up three rubies in the third round, and a pile of food on one of the agriculture spaces in round 4. In round 5 I built the "Couples Dwelling" and began breeding my dwarves. In round 6 I built the Slaughtering Cave, which significantly helped my food problems. The other player's had now levelled up to the point where they could build rooms and started to do so. In round 7, need for children flipped to urgent need for children and in round 8 I skimped by buying a simple dwelling for a fifth Dwarf.

With my excess number of Dwarves I was now able to start solving my agricultural problems, and I also picked up donkeys and sheep with cheap fences (thanks, Carpenter). Neil was definitely ahead on the animal breeding front though. Both my opponents managed a third Dwarf, but I was now able to build the sixth Dwarf Room and produce the sixth Dwarf (who isn't in a player colour). I also began building points rooms: one room which gave me 10 points for the sixth Dwarf; another room which gave me eight points for no adventuring dwarves; a third room which gave me two points per points room; and a fourth room which gave me one point per stone (I had 15 Stone at the end of the game). 

At some point I started planting crops, turning a Ruby into a Vegetable, and by the end I had quite a few of them. I was also able to breed all four types of animal at the final harvest, though I had to leave my crops in the field to do it.

Neil had built his favourite "cancel seven negative points" room, and was also accumulating gold. He also had a room which allowed him to eat weapons. Jen had the VPs for warriors with weapons room. Both had failed to fully excavate their caverns but completed the agriculture side of the map - as did I, although it was a narrow thing.

Final scoring was slightly enlivened by my inability to add, causing me to declare a very close one point lead over Neil. However, closer examination saw the final scores to be not so close after all.

Philip 106 Neil 85 Jen 62

Blueprints:  The Sequel

So with Philip on fire in Caverna, it was decided to end the evening with a reprint - geddit?!! (Ed:  you're fired)

Now that they knew what was going on things played out very differently. Philip and Jen both scored much better in the first round. I got something back in the next, although Jen did too. All down to the final round: I was happy with five matching dice, four of the same number... but then so was Jen, and she outdid me both times on the tiebreaker.  Damn, must have taught her too well! 

I should have written how kind I was being as it was Jen's last visit to the IBG from Yorkshire. Her work's finished down here, no more Jen, very sad. Hope to see you in Brum and Essen!

Final Scores; Jen - 7, Neil - 5, Philip - 4.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Machi Miracles

We have all asked ourselves that all important question as extemporised by my friends, Insane Clown Posse (above): magnets, how do they work?  As ICP concluded, it's a miracle (like long necked giraffes, hot lava, and pelicans eating cellphones).  Much like magnets, Paul Dawsey can create miracles: such as when he wins two games of Machi Koro in a row.  Other stuff happened last week but first let us bask in the brilliance of Paul...  Now on to the reports which include trains, a Feld which left Phil unimpressed and a gigantic amount of dice rolling!

Over on the window table it was a Game-Lite Nite.  Gary, Andy, Noel and Dan started with a game of Dominion on a track that is Trains

The game was new to Dan, but is quickly picked up. Andy struck out with a heavy investment in Tourist Trains, which he coupled with the Temporary Timetable to drag them regularly back into his deck and set himself up with an early lead. Gary tried to run a heavy infrastructure engine, building tracks and stations galore and accumulating lots of waste. Noel and Dan had more of a mixed approach with some train investment and some track/station. However, Andy’s focused approach and waste-lite deck proved too powerful – his Tourist Trains steadily picked up the points and he was able to acquire Skyscrapers and Towers. In fact, he never built any Rails and his only presence on the board was his original lonely red cube. Andy was a runaway winner with a frankly obscene number of points – something like 70 (if that is possible). Dan and Noel competed for 2nd and 3rd and Gary was left languishing in the station on about half the number of points that Andy had accumulated!

Gary provided a rather succinct summation of where it all went wrong for him: "My approach was never going to compete in retrospect (though I’d like to think there must be some strategy that can compete with the Tourist Train – other than buying some up to prevent one person getting too many), but was well and truly scuppered when my Temporary Timetable managed to discard three potentially valuable Station Expansion cards in one go. A painful lesson in ensuring that the cards you buy really do work well with the rest of your deck and your strategy!" 

Next up was Machi Koro. Gary is our reporter on the scene for the next two reports.

Strategy and careful planning may not be my strong point, but give me some dice and I can be lethal! In fact, my strategy is simply to roll like a demon! Anyway, as we started off, the number 3 appeared to be rolled rather regularly so I decided to acquire some Coffee Shops, which soon turned into a chain of Coffee Shops to rival Starbucks (without the offshore tax planning, of course). Everyone likes coffee and everyone seemed to like rolling 3s, which made me happy, but left everyone else sweating on the roll of the dice (well, actually everyone was sweating from sitting near to the radiator under the window which appeared to be fuelled by nuclear waste!). My growing Coffee Empire prompted Dan, Andy and Noel to “level up” to two dice as quickly as possible – but to no avail. Dan’s first roll of his two dice produced a 2 and a 1 – more coins for me! Fortunately, my coffee shops had given me the money to expand big time into the Convenience Store market, which produce 3 coin on a roll of 4. I managed to build the Shopping Mall quite early on too, giving me effectively 4 coin for each roll of a 4 on my turn and decided not to expand to two dice at all. With 4 Convenience Stores and two consecutive rolls of 4 on my turn, the game was over before Noel could get his emporium of newly purchased Cheese Shops competing effectively.

Finally came CV - more dice, yippee! - a new game to all of us apart from Dan (seemed only fair). Lots of head scratching and rule reading too on a first play of this one for the rest of us. I went for an excess of $ on this one, choosing the Lottery Winner and a “Pension Payout” starter cards. However, this meant a slow start and as the game moved from Youth to Middle Age, I was awarded a free card for being so far behind! Andy seemed to be rolling lots of dice, but suffered a couple of mid-life crises with the unhappy faces – who wouldn't with Twins - as did Dan, even when only rolling four dice! Noel was rather hampered by sticking with his starter Bicycle card for a long while (contributed to by a rules error that initially suggested only scoring points on the top face up card), before he eventually upgraded to a Porsche and Home Cinema. Eventually, my money cards came in, however, and when bolstered by a “Start my own business” card lead to the purchase of lots of yellow goods cards and an accumulation of valuable possessions. I was way behind the others in the Relationship, Knowledge and Lifestyle cards, however. In fact, I only had one Orange Lifestyle card going into the final turn of the game – which seemed a bit of a bad move from a bonus points perspective. However, with this last turn I used the “Visit to the Zoo” I had been saving from the start to roll six dice. I combined that with the “Visit to Essen” card I had picked up to acquire six happy faces. The two “free cards” were the Orange and Purple double counting cards and I also managed to pick up a further Orange card for a combination of four of each (equivalent). This was just enough to pull out a win with around 70 points, with Noel and Dan just back and Andy in the rear this time (a straight reversal of the Trains scoring from the first game).

The Nuclear Radiator Posse (that's a good name for a band - although not as good as Bandcastle) were not the only mob to play Machi Koro with two games also enjoyed by Neil, Paul, James (and Philip for the second game too).  Thanks to Neil for both reports.

Machi Koro I

Yeovil fans Paul and James were still celebrating back to back wins for the Greeny Ones, and so I'd benefit with an easy victory of course. Best laid plans... no chance! I tried to go with my strategy of 'steal' their money and whilst my cafés were productive the restaurants were avoided by neither Paul or James going for the double dice option.
James went for a mass of options under 6, joining me in the cafes, and Paul went for Cheese and Furniture Factory strategy, picking up some hefty lumps of money. Despite me stealing his Cheese Factory a couple of times he refused to roll a 9 or a 10 which might have seen me home.
And then it was over. Paul romped home although we were all within a round of victory. Damn!

Machi Koro II (Machier Koro)

Joined by Philip who matched Paul card for card on the Ranch, James attempted to hone his strategy further by selecting as many of the lower value green cards as possible, giving money to him alone, plus some café action again, and I persisted with my 'steal it' approach.
With me watching only what Paul was doing rather than concentrating on everyone, he picked up some early 6 cards as well as filling his boots from the factories again. Philip got caught by the cafés a few times and found it difficult to buy anything with no funds. James kept picking up his self-enhancing Range and was actually pretty close until Paul's factories and a good run of 6s took him through to a second victory.
Blimey, I thought Yeovil winning twice on the trot was impressive, Paul winning twice on the trot and we must be in miracle territory (Ed:  Paul was to the left of himself - inconceivable!)!! Well-deserved though, I'll give him that. 

After Maching Koro, it would appear that our intrepid dice rollers were to become even more intrepid explorers with Stefan Feld's latest design for Queen Games, Amerigo, the sole purpose of which appears to be to use all of the Shogun/Wallenstein dice towers hanging around Queen's offices.  Phil reports on this one.

All four of us were new to the game with James explaining it to Neil, myself, and Paul. There were snide remarks about the resemblance of the map to the Americas and the thematic resonance of the name.

The red cubes went into the tower and mostly came out again. Then the blue cubes went in and came out with a red cube. Neil, going first, took the red action and everyone else took the blue action. With a full six blue cubes I was able to steam into the middle of the map and land at two large islands, while Paul picked a couple of small islands and James landed at one island I'd chosen and a nearby small one.

Now the black cubes went in- and only three came out, with a variety of others. Everyone except me went for the other actions since Pirate strength was known to be 0 next round. In went the red cubes and we all took out plans, then the brown cubes and we all took techs: Neil took +2 blue, I took +2 pirates for everyone else, Paul +2 Green, and James the red=green tile. Green cubes next and all over the islands buildings sprouted, with James completing a small island for bonus points- Neil of course had to do something else since he hadn't established any settlements. Yellow cubes were next and we picked up trade good multipliers - except I think Neil (naturally) went blue this time. White cubes next- turn order shifted but I can't quite remember how. 

The end of the round came and went with the Pirates stealing 2 VPs from everyone except me. Then we were back to blue cubes...

I'll skip the boring bits. Suffice it to say that James was able to complete the large island he was sharing with me with four settlements there in round 3, scoring about 30 points, and that he was also able to complete the other large island I had landed at the end of the game for rather less points (he'd deliberately isolated a space so only he could get to it so either I let him finish the island or it would go unfinished and I wouldn't score my settlements...). 

Neil completed his own big island but with only a couple settlements. Paul completed several small islands and then got stuck midway through turn 3 with nowhere else to go. In fact by turn 4 there were no harbours left so blue actions were useless. Me and Paul compensated with plenty of yellow actions so we scored well on goods at the end. Everyone made it to the end of the brown track with 4 techs. Mine were the aforesaid extra pirates, +5 gold, 1 extra VP per gold, and +1 yellow/black. We all got about halfway along the White track - in James' case he leapfrogged to the top player's position using a tech.

The pirates gradually built up, going 0,0,1,4,3. Mostly the other players just lost the VPs although they were able to defend on the final turn since there wasn't much else use for cubes by then. Neil and James made best use of the buildings whilst I had several left over at the end of the game.

Final scores - well James won and took the score sheet. But I think it was a pretty convincing victory, can't remember the player order apart from James was first. 

As you may have gathered, this was a less than fascinating game for me. Not quite so bad as to rule out playing again, but definitely not one I'd pick to play!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Lessons Left Unlearned

So, never forget to ask everyone for reports on the fun they had for the blog when you’re in charge of compiling it.  Otherwise you learn the lesson that no-one will contribute, except Super Pauly Dawsey of course, and he’ll have two on your desktop by 7.30 the following morning no less!  Anyway, this week’s crowd was Andy, Noel, Paul, Neil, Jen, Philip, Dan II, Tom, Tom II, James and James III, wow, two newbies who popped up to gauge the weirdness and who were talked into joining late on for a couple of games no less; welcome fellows!

The games that got played but will go unreported on were; Kingdom Builder including the Crossroads expansion, Ticket to Ride 4: Ticketer to Ride, Nederlands, Rattus Cartus and Two Rooms and a Boom! 

Sushi Go

So, earlybirds were treated to Tom’s Japanese set collection 7 Wonders style food game.  Slipping the sushi down were Tom, Paul, Jen and Neil.

You receive 8 cards featuring different sushi delicacies.  You keep one and pass the rest on… then play your card and repeat.  The different sushis up for collection score in every variety of collecting styley imaginable.  After three rounds the winner eats the cards.

A good game this in fact.  You think you know what you’re doing but have you just handed your neighbour that perfect card – as I did twice for Jen to get a whopping 3 card set worth 10 points each time.  I didn’t quite feed her enough though, Paul scraping through despite losing 6 points for not getting involved in collecting Sushi puddings… guess you had the most of those, you’ll never get it of course!

Final Scores; Paul – 45, Jen – 44, Neil – 40, Tom – 32.

Trains (thanks Paul!)

The starting player in trains is the one that last travelled by train. Non virtual and none cube based train, that is. When he read this from the rules Andy and Noel gave Paul a look like it didn't matter how recently Paul had done it, it was going to be him.

Andy selected the Tokyo map, and Paul placed his initial rail cube way out to the east, giving him access to plenty of mid-sized cities and some good points on the far flung hexes. Andy went south west and Noel went North West, which meant that whilst they were all starting in different sections of the board, Andy and Noel were closer to each other than Paul who was off on his own.

Andy's tactic seemed to be to collect as many station master's as possible (allowing an instant draw of two additional cards), whilst Noel concentrated on expansion by snaking from the north to the south in no time, making some of Andy's rail expansions more expensive. Paul quite enjoyed the fact that he was on his own until right at the end of the game when Noel decided to pop over and say hello as he'd built just about everywhere he could in the west.

Noel seemed to pick up a lot of waste but got rid of it cleverly using the freight trains. Paul's initial waste was not great, so he ignored it and towards the end of the game his deck was quite seriously diluted. Andy benefitted from his multiple station master cards and was the only player to build any skyscrapers as he was the only one with the cash to do it.

The game was brought to a close as the final station was played by Paul, knowing that he hadn't won, but hoping to limit the damages from what they might have been. It turns out that Noel's super expansion strategy was on the money, whilst Paul being on his own was actually a drawback as he had to construct everything himself, instead of piggy backing off anyone else.

Final Scores; Noel - 51, Andy - 47, Paul – 42.

Caverna, the Cave Farmers

So, the first outing for Uwe Rosenberg’s revamp of Agricola, comparisons are inevitable.  Firstly, I have to say the box is one chunky beast of heavy gaming cardboard, wooden resources, acrylic rockage and a rather well written set of rules, plus the compulsory appendix.  I’d had everything out of the box a couple of times and read through the rules but not actually gone as far as to playtest any of it.  Probably would have been useful, to me at least!

Philip was keen to play as we’d tried to play it in Essen but all Caverna tables were very busy.  We were joined by Dan II, who wasn’t best pleased with rulebook’s version of the plural of Dwarf being ‘Dwarfs’, I mean it’s a fictional thing in the first place, who gives a monkey’s uncle about that.  Our game was built up to four by Jen, who was not chuffed that she couldn’t turn the sheepdogs into food: I’m assuming that what’s ok in Korea is fine in Yorkshire too.

Set up took a wee while.  There are a lot of tiles for deforestation and making the most out of your cavernous mountain.  There are a lot of resources; sheep, cows, pigs, donkeys, dogs, stone, wood, ore, rubies to say nothing about the food and gold.  Then there are the weapons; the biggest new feature.  Your farmers are in fact dwarfs (not dwarves), and they can be given weapons (although these should have been called tools to be honest), and then go on adventures.  As in real life, the bigger your weapon the more you can adventure, or in the game’s terms the more you can gain additional resources/actions/stuff. 

Game play is pretty straight forward for anyone with any sort of knowledge of Agricola, or even Agricola All Creatures Big & Small.  Place your dwarf, do the action, enhance your cave/farm to build up resources converting these any number of times into eventual victory points.  Harvests aren’t quite as regular and feeding your army/duo of dwarfs is rarely difficult such are the alternatives you can feed them with, just about anything you have, except for dogs of course Jen.

So, twelve rounds, off we went.  As start player I took early ore as I was keen to tool up and go on expeditions/adventures.  Philip got into hoarding resources whilst Dan looked at making his caverns beautiful.  Jen delved into the forest side of the farm creating fields for wheat and veg, and pastures.  With my dwarf being ready to adventure in the third round I gained some freebie resources and got a useful leg up. 

Philip decided that he liked the look of that and so began converting his resources appropriately.  Jen also decided she wanted a dwarf with a weapon and despite the rulebook telling us that we needed to be careful if one player went adventuring on his own, he would be likely to win, and that the converse would also hold true.  Dan listened well and stuck to tunnelling, furnishing, dog gaining strategy.  His combined caverns of the carpenter and stone mason were particularly powerful together as all builds became one wood and one stone cheaper.

Despite this the rest of us continued to send out dwarfs on expeditions with me also concentrating on animal husbandry and Philip turning into a ruby collector.  Game play didn’t feel too slow to say that we were all new, and it didn’t quite feel as though the rounds were as limiting as in Agricola.  The sense of achievement was greater, certainly for me.  By the time final scoring came around I think we all felt that Philip with his cache of rubies would be victorious, with maybe my animals taking me into second.  As the festive spirit puts it, ‘ho, ho, ho’ were we wrong!  Dan’s collection of muts, together with his veg, gold and furnished rooms took him way out in front and to an impressive victory.  I’m sure he’d be the first to admit that he was quite surprised by this.  There’s no way he’s getting both the carpenter and stone mason again though I can tell you.

Final Scores;  Dan II – 101, Philip – 86, Neil – 78, Jen – 59. 

Machi Koro (cheers again Paul)

Andy was on his way home, gleefully claiming that he'd get extra brownie points from Mrs Andy for not staying out all night, when Noel and Paul put Machi Koro on the table, whereupon he saw it, said 'oh... I like that...' and promptly sat back down.

Paul, the Machi Koro newbie took just a few seconds to get up to speed on the delightfully simple rules, although it took him a few turns to work out that his first move was actually not such a wise one. In his first turn he'd paid four for one of his victory cards to allow him to roll two dice, after all rolling two dice is better than one in games, right??? Well, not always, and not really at the start of this game, so he used his resources on an unnecessary card while Andy and Noel bought the cheaper resource cards, meaning that they were a few steps ahead.

Andy got loads of forests. Noel loads of mines. Cheese factories, which apparently came up lots before due to the high probability of a seven being rolled didn’t turn out to be the winning strategy, which means that there clearly isn't just one way to win - and that is a good thing.

Noel generated enough cash to be able to know he'd won a couple of turns out which out too much that Andy and Paul could do about it, as they didn’t have the right 'business' cards to peg him back.

Final Scores; Noel - won, Andy and Paul - Not so

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Weedling, what a fantastic word!

So I couldn’t make it… Mrs Hora stole the car, put me on babysitting duty.  Ha, still managed to get in two games of The Three Little Pigs and an introduction to Trains too – the proper AEG version of course, no the tatty Japanese one.  


Anyway, in my absence I see that Philip, Jon, Dan, Tom, Dan II, Scott, Charlotte, and James attended the London Apprentice.  From submitted reports I see that all got to play apart from James.  Why pick on him?  What’s he ever done wrong?  1. buys too many Japanese games 2. buys too many games with sixteen cards or less 3. buys too many Japanese games with less than seventeen cards 4. doesn’t follow football 5. buys the card ‘Niall Horabain’ and uses it savagely.  How's that for starters? Snowdonia, Two Rooms and A BOOM!
For Sale, Machi Koro, got played, presumably by James, possibly on his own, good choice!!

Ed.  James found some time to fill in some gaps here, thanks James!!

Wasn't able to play Machi Koro as too many first timers were queuing up to play this small Japanese game....

...and speaking of football, did you catch the score on Sat...

We (Noel, Jen and myself) had a good game of Snowdonia, but didn't get around to a report, I think I won but we weren't really counting...

For Sale was a gap game while we were waiting for Spyrium to finish..,. what was missing from the report was that 3 games started at the same time, a euro-filler in Syprium and 2 heavier games, Snowdonia and Russian Railroads... guess which 2 games finished first ??!!? No points for guessing who was involved in the Spyrium marathon... whistle

Anyhow For Sale was probably won by Scott... that's usually how these things go. I suspect my slightly increased game-win ratio started probably around the same time that Scott dropped off visiting us so frequently... which makes for an interesting dilemma for me when it comes to encouraging him back !

Spyrium (thank Jon – whoops, missed the ‘s’ of thanks)

Tom, Jon, Dan and Natasha took a spin with this latest release from Ystari. Jon instantly demonstrated his levels of concentration and observation by remarking that he thought that all Ystari games had a ‘Y’ and an ‘S’ in their titles, but this one didn’t have an ‘S’. Hmmmmmm...

The game is played over 6 rounds, and players are placing workers to purchase cards which allow them to mine Spyrium (some sort of green crystals), convert them to points, and many other rule-breaking abilities. It has a novel mechanism whereby the 9 cards up for sale are laid out in a 3x3 grid with enough space between them to place workers between 2 cards. Players can retrieve a worker and purchase a card that they have placed next to at any point, paying the face value plus 1 for every other worker surrounding that card. However, once you have started to purchase cards, you can no longer place more workers, so do you buy that card that you really want, but waste 1 or 2 workers, or place all your workers and hope that no-one buys it before you get the chance.

There are a limited number of special ability / end game scoring cards, and it’s pretty essential to pick up at least one of these. Jon didn’t appreciate their scarcity, and failed to pick up any of them (not that he grumbled much about it of course...)

Dan picked up a fantastic combo that enabled him to mine Spyrium without workers, and churn it into points each round. Added to an ability that let him repeat any action each round, he had a good thing going there. Tom had a nice money-earning ability (+2 each time money was collected) whilst Natasha appeared to be picking up cards galore for some big end-game scoring. Jon however, plodded on with some basic Spyrium mining / churning, and tried to save as many pennies as possible for the one-off ‘big points’ cards that Tom had promised would turn up in the last round.

And so the last round occurred, and Jon indeed paid well over the odds for the largest points card available. Natasha mulled over his choices and Dan & Tom maximised their point-scoring abilities.

The dust settled and the points were actually very close, with Jon’s non-strategy managing to just overtake Tom at the last minute (for 3rd place!) And despite Dan having a phenomenal little Syrium-churning engine, Natasha had maxed out his mines and just pipped Dan for the victory.

Despite playing a bit over-long for what it was, this was a nice worker-placement game with a few interesting twists. Definitely worth a re-run to get the game-time down a bit.

Final Scores; Natasha (Dan II) – 83, Dan – 81, Jon – 71, Tom - 69

Russian Railroads (thanks Philip!) 

This was my 5th game of Russian Railroads and Scott and Charlotte’s first.

The engineers available included the take another single worker action man in position 4 and the double industry move in position 6. Otherwise they were all rail moves. Going 3rd I picked up a Coin and Charlotte a black rail move. Scott opened by taking both workers. I took 2 coins and later bought the first engineer (move any rail and score 3 VPs).

Both my opponents focused on the Kiev line and its bonus VPs initially, with Charlotte also advancing her industry strongly. Charlotte bought the second engineer (black rail+3Vps) and Scott the third (grey rail+5 Vps).

On the second turn I triggered the first St.Petersburg bonus, took the bonus Engineer card (and the 7VPs per bonus space scoring card) and spent all my remaining coins and workers triggering the extra worker on the Vladivostok track. Meanwhile Scott took the No.9 Locomotive, placing it on St.Petersburg, and Charlotte took the Black Worker.

Charlotte and Scott’s next bonus was the Kiev Medal and they were soon scoring it. Meanwhile I took the 5 industry move bonus which I needed to keep up with them. I also bought the take another single worker action engineer, giving me considerable flexibility. By using the double industry move engineer I was able to trigger my industry bonus and also take the Kiev Medal, a turn later than the others.

Scott bought both 5th and 6th Engineers and looked to be good for the 40 points since the 5th Engineer was the number 13. Meanwhile with the help of two number 7 factories I motored my way to the 4th bonus spot in round 5- taking Revaluation. In round 6 I picked up a number 9 factory, allowing me to take the extra engineer end bonus card and reach the end of the industry line. I also managed to reach the end of the Vladivostok line and get in the 2 white rail moves (having moved my natural rail using my two “move any rails” engineers).

Charlotte and Scott had also maxed their industry and were scoring 10 points more than me on their Kiev lines. Charlotte had managed to reach the “doubling” spot on the St.Petersburg line, but it was still only 16 points a turn. Neither fully developed their Vladivostok line- Charlotte didn't get beyond the second space with her black rail, Scott had a reasonable stretch of brown track. Both scored about 20 points on bonus cards and Scott had 20 more for 2nd most Engineer, but my victory was pretty clear even before scoring 68 points at the end of the game.

Final Scores; Philip – 365, Scott – 322, Charlotte - 312.

Mayday! Mayday! (thanks again Jon!)

It was the end of the evening, and time for another social deduction game - this time, one of the games that Jon brought back from Essen. This is quite similar to the Resistance, although with a bit more information available (or maybe the illusion of more information available...)

With 5 players there are 2 Infiltrators and 3 honest crew members. The goal of the game is to get all the honest crew members into the cockpit and fly the plane to safety. However, if any of the infiltrators weedle their way in, then the flight is doomed.

As it turned out Jon (no surprises there) and Tom were the infiltrators and were sitting next to each other . The basic deduction mechanism is that each player has 3 face-down cards in front of him - the good guys have 2 ‘good’ and 1 ‘bad’, whilst the infiltrators have 2 ‘bad’ and 1 ‘good’ card. At the start of the game, each player looks at the outside card of his 2 neighbours, and then places a token to indicate what he has supposedly seen. The fun then begins...
Jon had instantly been tagged by 2 ‘bad’ tokens by James and Tom, and therefore this meant that one or more of James, Jon and Tom had to be an infiltrator. James was convinced that it was Jon (of course), and Jon realised that his best bet was probably to try to take the heat and deflect it off Tom as much as possible. The fact that Tom had tagged Jon as an infiltrator was a good start in that direction.

Each round, someone gets to look at one card of another player, and then everyone votes on whether that player is trustworthy or not. At the end of the first round, 3 players will have ‘the benefit of the doubt’, and in the next round players must decide which 2 of these are ‘reliable’. Then, these 2 are whittled down to a single person who becomes the captain. He then chooses a second crew member, who then chooses the third and final member who will get cockpit access.

Natasha (Dan) and James had been selected as the reliable crew members, with James eventually becoming captain. The evidence was good that Dan was also a good guy, and was James’ pick to join him. 2 down, one to go. It was now down to Dan to decide whether Philip or Tom was the final honest crew member (Jon had long ago given up trying to prove his ‘innocence’...)

For some reason, Dan had been convinced all along that if Jon was an infiltrator, then so was Philip, and in the final discussion, James backed him up on this. Therefore Tom was selected, and the last noises that were heard were those of Philip dissolving into cries of disbelief, and Tom & Jon high-fiving...

This was a great end to the evening, with lots of laughs and heated debates. Say it quietly, but I think that I might even like this game a bit better than the Resistance actually...

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

One in six, plus, one in five, equals CABOOMMMMMmmmmm!!!

An interesting amalgam of folk with James back in town with a fistful of Yen-produced games.  We were joined once more by Jen our Leeds lass who turns out to live nearer to Bradford in fact, as well as Dan II [Natasha], Tom, Jon, Noel, Philip, Dan, Andy, and me, Neil, with star guest of the evening John Bandettini no less, hurrah!.

Cheaty Mages  (thanks Jon)

The evening started with 5 of the IBG’ers having another go at this Japanese game (aren’t they all Japanese nowadays???) [EDIT: yes they are, the other five of us, James, Neil, Jen, Dan II, and Philip tried ‘Say Bye to the Villains’ but co-operatively LOST, nuff said!] Players bet on which of 5 characters will win the battle, and then take turns to play spells which affect each character’s chances of winning.

Jon and Noel shared the winnings in the first round, which saw Dan using up most of his cards to no avail. Jon also took some spoils in the second round, with Andy and Tom also joining in the fun. The final round was characterised by the judge disallowing direct (face-down) spells. As this was all that Dan held, his chances of adding to his zero total score were not great….

With most of the spells played face down, there was an air of uncertainty about what exactly was happening. It looked as if Jon, Noel and Andy were trying to boost different characters, and with a final card Noel moved a face-down card from ‘Andy’s’ character to his own. It turned down that both of them had placed a ‘double-winnings’ spell on their characters, but Noel had managed to swap a massive 8-power card from Andy to his own, to steal the win.

This is a fun and quick little game that reminds me of Colossal Arena, but plays in a very palatable 25 mins. Nice stuff!

Railways of England and Wales  (Cheers Jon)

Another Wednesday evening, another outing for this ever-popular train game – this time on the England & Wales map. Jen was the newbie, but proved to be a quick learner, despite playing against veterans Jon & Noel.

The first auction went to $11k for the start player, with Jon finally giving way to Noel. Imagine how pleased Jon subsequently was when he realised that Noel was picking a completely different starting location anyway. Noel started around Manchester for some easy early deliveries. Jon picked the unusual starting location of Devon, due to the available service bounty for the first cube delivered to Barnstable. Jen went back to her roots and set up camp in the North-East – a little too close to Noel for his liking though…..

Noel obviously delivered the first cube for the 1-point bonus, whilst Jon benefitted from his service bounty. Jen attempted to be the first to deliver 4 different-coloured cubes, but failed to bid high enough to be start player in the 3rd round, ceding that bonus to Noel.

Jon had used his early cash influx to upgrade his engine a couple of times and eventually took the 3-link delivery bonus. His strategy was fairly obvious from the off – connect Dover to Plymouth for a major-route bonus and then build up a big enough engine to make use of the spread-out cubes in the South of England. Noel and Jen built parallel routes North-South, with Jen ending up in London, and Noel in South Wales.

Jon had leapt into a healthy lead and was looking to empty enough cities to end the game, but Jen and Noel decided to work together to throw a spanner in the works for him. As Noel stated to Jen “I think we’re in the same boat here”, to which Jon replied “Yes – but there’s only really room in that boat for one!”

Nevertheless, their concerted efforts to keep adding cubes to the board succeeded in extending the game by about 3 rounds, and with Jon’s cubes starting to run out in the South, the scores were getting closer. However, he had kept enough stocks tucked away in Dover to ensure that when the game end was finally triggered, he had enough of a buffer to still win fairly comfortably.

The contest for second place was much closer, with Jen just failing to overhaul Noel’s score. Amazingly, the players had only accumulated 6 bonds between them by the end (Noel 3, Jon 2, Jen 1) and were all flush with cash in the final few rounds. This had been another fun game, and good to see that the Cornwall-Kent network can be a viable strategy in the right circumstances. Next up – Neil’s Canada map…???

Russian Railroads  (cheers Philip!)

This was my 4th game of Russian Railroads, Natasha's second, and Andy’s first. Previous games had been 4 player.

The engineers available included the 3VPs +x2 lady in position 3 and the take another single worker action man in position 5. Otherwise they were all rail moves. Going 3rd I picked up a X2 marker and Andy a black rail move. Natasha opened by taking both coins.

I focused on the trans-Siberian railroad, making use of and eventually buying the doubler+3 VPs engineer. I was able to get my extra worker from that track by turn 2. Meanwhile Natasha pushed ahead on industry, building four factories in the first couple of turns, although he hadn’t realised that the level 3 factory only allows single worker actions.

Andy was first out of the door with a bonus from the St.Petersburg, taking the level 9 locomotive. I had planned to do that but instead moved 5 industry spaces, allowing me to take another train. Natasha got his second industry marker into play.

Both Andy and Natasha took the Kiev Medal for their second bonus and soon had the Kiev line scoring a good 45 points a turn. For my second bonus I took the factory+2 industry move card, which allowed me to reach my third bonus (Revaluation).

Andy bought the 4th engineer and Natasha the 5th, putting us all on one engineer with Andy the highest numbered and me the lowest. Natasha had been hoarding coins and Andy had a few but I had none going into the last round having spent my last coin on the 2 rails of any type action to reach Vladivostok and push to the third space with my White rail. At some point Natasha had taken the bonus card which gives you 3 things and then a choice of one of those three things- predictably choosing industry.

Natasha’s fifth factory was a level 9 and he succeeded in pushing both markers over it, so he had accumulated 3 final scoring cards. Nevertheless I was very comfortably in the lead. On Andy’s turn I pointed out that buying the last engineer was worth 20 points to Natasha and to him (in his case as a denial move). Andy nobly refused to take the last engineer and Natasha bought it. I concentrated on getting my white rail up to 5.

After end of turn scoring I was leading Natasha by about 65 points. Then we did end of game scoring- Natasha scored 101 points in end of game with most engineers, the bonus cards for factories, workers and bonuses, and I scored 20 for 4+ x2 markers. Andy scored 40 for 2nd most engineers and some bonus card.

Final Scores; Natasha - 385,  Philip - 370, Andy - 318.


CV’s second outing at the IBG saw me introducing Tom and Dan to the game and James showing them how to play it.  Tom picked up well on his life tasks, filling his boots with Knowledge and Relationships.  I managed to throw consecutive bad luck to lose two of my cards, Dan tried following this strategy but did have some life insurance to help him out once.  My misfortune eventually gave me a free card through Social Assistance.

James was picking up bits and pieces although where he was focusing was anyone’s guess.  He scored well on Health, something to do with only eating jacket potatoes with sour cream apparently. Tom scored very nicely on the life goals but it was amongst the money cards that the winner was to be found.  Dan had decided to concentrate on picking up assets, only for James to pip him to it in the last couple of rounds, thus hitting a useful life goal too.  Blimey, James won another game!

Final Scores; James – 52, Tom – 49, Dan – 39, Neil – 33 (nowhere near the lowest score in a 4 player game to date [28], hurrah!)

Blueprints (thanks James!)

Another 'filler' from Essen, although there's more to this game than most fillers... players draft dice to add, layer by layer, to a blueprint... at the end of each round (6 dice each) buildings are scored and various awarded allocated based on the dice selected and structure of the tower. For a simple concept (once you've memorised the 4 different dice colours and their respective scoring) there's a lot of thinking going on... Not enough to drag out a game, but enough to make each move meaningful.

This was a first for everyone with Neil, Tom and myself able to entice John B to join us for a full house.

After realising at the end of round one that you weren't scoring cumulative points for each building, but were only keeping the awards given out the game made more sense and everyone knew what they were doing from hereforth (well can't speak for Neil or Tom here but they always disguise their confusion well...)

John managed to build his 2nd tower out of all orange dice which pretty much swept the awards for that round, while also scuppering my chance of winning anything (grumble, grumble).

I tried a strategy of ignoring the blueprint and building a tall tower for round 4... which probably has potential as a strategy if carried out by someone clever than me... however in this case it was more Leaning Tower of Pisa than Empire States Building...

At the end (I don't have the scores) John managed to win quite convincingly (nothing new there) while the rest of us looked like we've just finished an unsuccessful game of Jenga.

Everyone seemed to like it though, only about 30 minutes to play, but a nice enough mix of randomness from the dice with enough tactical decisions to keep you interested.

Final Scores; John - 10, James - 6, Tom - 5, Neil – 3.


Not another Japanese game surely?  And only sixteen cards, who’d have thought it?  I can hear the yells now;

“So, what’s the theme then Neil??”



“Really.  Even the box comes with the exclamation: ‘Acorns rolling down’.  I mean who wouldn’t be keen to pick up a game thus described.”

Anyway, forget that bit.  Let’s have a look at the cards, all sixteen of them.  There are ten of them featuring the simplest possible drawing of… oh yes, an acorn.  They are numbered from 1 – 5.  Then there are four ponds, worth -1 or -2, and finally two loaches, which switch –ves to +ves!  Acorns, ponds and loaches.  You HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING!

With Tom, John and I still in shock James set out a row of four cards face up.  On your turn you add a card to one column.  It can be placed face down for the cost of one coin, or face up and you receive a coin from the bank.  If, on your turn, you think one of the column is worth the magic number, six, then you can take the column.  All cards are revealed and points won, or lost depending on the total. If it is six the round is over.  The first to 20 coins wins.


So, round one.  James starts and adds a face down card to a 2-acorn card.  John decides to gamble and picks the cards up, turning over James’s 4-acorn… “DONBURIKO!!” rings out.  Round over.  It doesn’t get quicker than that!

Things go a little longer in the following rounds, not much longer to be honest but we each get to lay a card at least!  Aha, I win the next round, and do well in the following one too.  Maybe it is down to skill after all… let me believe this for just a moment more…

And there we are, one more round and the bank will be empty, and I take that one too, and win the whole thing.  I do believe James will trade this one on.  I won’t be offering to buy it!  In fact the following day he got £25 for it.  RESULT!!

Final Scores; Neil – 21, John – 19, James – 7, Tom – 1

Two Rooms and a Boom!

Ok, who’s the President, who’s the bomber?  That’s all you have to work out.  Once sorted then keep them apart and the goodies win, stick ‘em together and the baddies have it.

New to all six of us; Jon, Noel, James, Jen, Tom, Neil.  Obviously you can’t trust Jon or Noel so this is perhaps trickier than it should be.

First round six cards dealt, three blue including the President, and three red including the Bomber.  We split into threes and had three minutes to discuss who was who, elect a leader for the three and they chose to move one person on.  All six said they were blue goodies although no-one wanted to admit to being the President!  Second round, another three minutes of discussions and another person shuffles around from each ‘room’.  One final minute of discussions and then the cards are revealed.  Turned out Jen, Tom and I who started together were all baddies, Jen being the Bomber, and we managed to get her over to the blues to blow that President sky high! HURRAH!!

Again, again… we all cried!

Ok.  This time there were three blues and three red at the start… Being the Bomber I decided to play red but not own up to my power.  I moved Jen on to find out about the others but we were none the wiser for the second round.  So, time for me to move over to check them out.  The President remained where he was so BOOM, another red victory… the power, the elation, the tension!

Again, again, again…

Take three.  So this time it was different.  Except that I was the bomber once more.  I decided to play red but not own up entirely.  It turned out that all the reds were with me for the first discussion, but where was that blasted President?

Second discussion and for once I believed Tom so decided to send him off in the hope of getting the President back, but instead they sent Jen back, already a red.  Unfortunately for the President he’d been sent over after discussion one, there he was, sat comfortably, beside the Bomber… CABOOM!!  Three out of three for the Reds, Cold War history rewritten perfectly.

Great game, and probably even better with more.