Wednesday, 30 January 2013

"In Ancient Times"

“In Ancient Times”
On Cornwall’s pleasant mountains...
Tinners’ Trail (Thanks Neil)
Tom had mentioned in the week he was bringing this together with a friend from NCT, Ravi. Both went down very well! It’s another game in my collection that I had not played so that was good and Jon had also reserved a spot which he duly took. Martin Wallace came up with the game visiting his in-laws in Cornwall and discovering the world of tin and copper mines. He provides a good amount of information about it all in the rulebook which reads very smoothly.
Taking place over 4 rounds each player has 10 lumps of time to ‘spend’ on a good variety of actions, Wallace says he took the time and turn order mechanic from ‘Thebes’. As your actions you can build a mine (2 time units), mine the ore (1), sell a pasty! (1), and somewhat crucially, get some assistance; an additional miner (1), a boat (2), and adit (3) [it’s a Cornish invention, an additional tunnel used to pump water out of the mine ], a steam pump (1), and in later rounds a train is available (2). Now these are useful because you can only mine 2 cubes at once, and the cost is dependent upon the amount of water in the mines, so influencing those variables is key to mining efficiently.
Once all players have taken their actions it’s time to sell all of your production. The prices vary each round based on the throw of the dice, with copper ranging from £2 to £10, tin from £4 to £7. This makes each round different in your efforts to maximise outputs. And then another clever mechanism is used to convert your cash into Victory Points, which Wallace acknowledges he stole from ‘Princes of Florence’. You have to make investments outside of Cornwall, the returns in the early rounds are good, but these reduce on an ever decreasing sliding scale. So how much to invest? You need cash to pay for mines - sold by auction - and to mine too, so cash is precious for the future.
We learnt that the hard way when the first round of auctions where colossally high and there was little money for mining… so we started again.
In our game there were high levels of water, dictated by the throw of the dice at the start of the game, and thus it was expensive to mine. We all picked up several mines in the first two rounds and Jon and I were able to make some large investments as a result of using miners and ships. Tom continued expanding his empire and picked up some useful adits. Ravi decided to prospect in the north of Cornwall, reasonable well at first with again dice determining the amount of ore and water in the mines. Until disaster struck, his third venture was the perfect disaster, he found a mine empty of ore and completely flooded, thankfully he hadn’t paid much for it but it certainly stymied his efforts.
After the third round it was pretty close, Tom was starting to invest well and I managed to close the gap on Jon to just 2 VPs; all to play for. Prices were good for the last round. I managed to clear all the water from one of my three mines which meant mining was free! Jon then kindly let me pick up the last adit as well and so I was fortunate enough to be able to add more ore into the mines. With everyone maximising their mining it was looking close, but Jon invested wisely and managed to creep further ahead. Tom had also managed to close the gap on us so it was pretty tight all in all.
I think we all enjoyed it more than we had expected to and Tom and I were really looking forward to it. The theme is good, and managing to have pasties in a game about mining has got to be impressive. There’s an excellent range of mechanics that seem to be perfectly tuned for a fascinating game. Mr Wallace, what a top job you’ve done on this one, can’t wait to play it again.
Scores: Jon 141; Neil 118; Tom 109; Ravi 100

Out to sea...
Fleet (thanks Neil)
My third play, and this time Tom knew the rules inside out, he’s been playing it a lot with Mrs Tom. As such his rules explanation was thorough, Gareth II and Ravi were both new to the game.
In the early rounds Tom picked a very useful Processing Vessel licence, Ravi a Tuna, Gareth a Shrimp and me a Lobster. Tom then continued picking up fistfuls of cards whilst the rest of us struggled to save up for further licences. His empire was building quickly.
Which was when Ravi and I both realised we should have been accessing more cards and that certainly helped! Gareth was keenly launching after picking up Cod and Tuna licences, his Shrimp licence saving him money each and every time. Tom picked up a couple of kickstarter Salvage licences and started dumping vessels as a result, quite profitably too.
With each new round of licences I couldn’t find a Processing Vessel I was keen to have so switched to picking up a couple of pubs. Both Gareth and Ravi had good collections of launched vessels and thus fish stock. Tom’s empire suddenly looked relatively meagre although he’d collected VPs very efficiently.
I have to say the game made a lot more sense to me this time round and all I need now is to have a reasonable timeframe within which to play the game, beginning at 10.40 meant a bit of a rush making decisions and we all know where that leads. Will certainly play again… and I’ve not said that before!
Scores; Tom 71, Neil 66, Gareth 53, Ravi 50
Into Space...

Eclipse: Rise of the Ancients
For Eclipse’s final week as game of the month we used Gareth’s copy with the expansion. All the bells and whistles were added except Alliances (with only 3 players, they aren’t used anyway). Gareth was the Rho Indi Syndicate, myself the Terran Alliance, and Michel the Exiles. The galaxy was teeming with hostile Ancients- hive worlds, cruisers and dreadnaughts in addition to the regular ones. Another important addition was Warp Portals, allowing teleportation from one hex to another.
The game started pretty slow with all sides fighting the Ancients around them. I was able to research Improved Hull while Michel had Conformal hull (three hull points, costs 2 power) and Gareth had Sentient hull (combines hull with +1 computer). As usual Gareth was over-extending himself and had to abandon a few systems- but this was also true of me. Gareth discovered a couple of Ancient Hives, the first of which I was able to conquer. He also built a Warp Portal in his system adjacent to Michel and then went off Ancient-hunting...
This proved too much temptation for Michel, who promptly moved in. However he took three turns to take the system, by which time Gareth had exploited his superior mobility to invade through a Warp Portal in Michel’s backdoor. I continued patiently to take out Ancients- including an Ancient Cruiser, and built up a tonne of materials- some of which became a 5VP Shell World in the penultimate turn.
I also had enough science for the Wormhole generator, which allowed me to block the Warp Gate in my backyard with 4 ships in the final turn. Michel was invading Gareth’s home systems with Neutron Bombs (the only one to turn up all game), while Gareth tried to break through my Warp Gate- he succeeded in pushing a couple of ships through and seizing a valuable system.
Philip 42 Gareth 38 (?) Michel 32 (?)
And back to bluffing...
To end the evening off, the maximum number of 6 players joined in for a few fun games of Coup. Gary had a vendetta for David, which resulted him exiting stage right rather early for 2 games running. Dan II proved to be quite a competent player, but was eliminated early in round 3 to leave him uttering those immortal words - "How did I win the last game?!"

Philip played the Ambassador 3 times running, even though there were only 3 cards in the middle of the table to swap with, and as per usual, everyone had at least 1 Duke in front of them.

To the best of my knowledge, David, Dan and Noel won a game each - a fine way to end an evening.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


We began with a trick-taking game...
Die Sieben Siegel (thanks Jon)
Time for a quick card-game with the early arrives. Initially, Inago sat down to play a hand, but quickly passed it on to James II who made bids for the first round. Then, before the game started, his food arrived, so Philip took over his position. Philip claims that James’ bidding may have been suspect, as he ended the round on a massive 17 points! Consequently, James I’s saboteur earned him a big fat zero.
In the second round, Michel took the saboteur, but as only one black token was taken, he ended on -3. Philip did much better with his own bidding, and simply scored -1.
Jon managed a perfect second round, and therefore squeaked victory in this 2 round game.
Jon -2; James I -3; Alex -3; Michel -4; Philip -18

French or Industrial?
Revolution (thanks Jon)
It’s been a long time since this simultaneous action-selection / area majority game has hit the table at IBG, so it was a welcome return tonight. Alex and James II had played once before in the dim and distant past, and it was new to Gareth II.
Jon managed to get a foothold in the Harbour and Market early on, whilst Gareth went for the lucrative fortress and Town Hall. Alex put constant pressure on the Priest to earn influence in the Cathedral, whilst also constantly beating up the poor Printer to achieve a regular influx of 10 support (VP’s).
James II appeared to be having a difficult time winning any influence or support, and his final score of 36 is possibly the lowest ever seen! To his credit, he maintained a smile on his face throughout…
When the final cubes were placed and the scores totaled, it was very close between the first 3 players, with only the swing of a single area between them all. Gareth had picked up a lot of tokens in the last round, and this extra support helped him pull ahead at the end.
Gareth 191; Alex 175; Jon 167; James 36

Back to the...
Stone Age (thanks Jon)
5 years old and still going strong, this is one of the original mid-weight worker placement games, and still one of the best (if you don’t mind a bit of dice-rolling thrown in for good measure…)
Gareth II started as he meant to go on, by accumulating a shed-ful of tools (what is it with people called Gareth and this obsession with tools...??!!) Jon chose to ascend the food track, whilst Alex went for a large population as soon as he could. James II, meanwhile, took a mix-and-match approach…
Gareth was obviously trying to pick up as many tool multipliers as possible, but this focus left him unable to pick up many points as he went along from the huts. Alex did some fruitful gold-panning to build a couple of very nice huts, whilst Jon focused on the cheaper materials and drilled down a single hut stack, whilst also picking up a few hut multipliers when he could.
In the end, Gareth had picked up a stack of points for his tools, but this was not enough to pass Jon, who had accumulated healthy bonuses for both his huts and population.
Lots of fun in 60 mins – this game should definitely still be around in another 5 years time….
Jon 151; Gareth 112; James 85; Alex 77
Forward into space!

Andy couldn’t make it and was replaced by Barry. Michel went for the Hydra, Gareth for the Planta, me for the Mechaenama and Barry for the Eridani. Early turns saw the usual exploring- three ring I hexes without Ancients, followed by loads of Ancients, with Gareth finding all three double-Ancient systems!
Nevertheless by using the Planta’s Explore power to the fullest Gareth quickly burned through the level 3 stack and found plentiful Discovery tiles while exchanging ambassadors with me, his only neighbour.  Barry and Michel also exchanged ambassadors. I had very good fortune in drawing a 6 materials discovery tile on turn 2, allowing me to build three cruisers in one action and storm the centre in turn 4. With the addition of a hex on the other side of the centre my dominant position was complete.
The rest of the game was rather boring: I had no desire to attack anyone since I already controlled the best real estate and everyone else was too impressed with my firepower to attack me. Gareth and Barry lost battles against the Ancients but recovered, in Barry’s case enough to treacherously take a system from Michel. The game finished somewhat faster than usual...
Philip 50 Gareth 42 Michel 28 Barry 23
Painting a picture...

Fresco (thanks Woody)
Get up, buy paint from the market, mix it to make the colours you need, paint part of the fresco, get paid, go back to bed, get up and do it all again !

A nice and relatively simple worker placement but with en ough strategy to really make you think. The earlier you get up, the more choice you have but the more expensive it is. Get up late, feel refreshed and be more productive but choices of paint and where to use it may be restricted.

James gave instruction to the three new players and off we went .. James 95, Woody 79, Neil 71, Inigo 68

P.S “Al-fresco-ly” is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorceror. It is, of course, the adverbial form of "Al fresco".

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

"If it Prospers"

It did for Jon in Verrater, it didn’t for Gareth in...
This week saw my Descendants of Draco, Michel’s Orion Hegemony, Gareth’s Mechaenama and Andy’s Hydra Progress.
Early game was fairly peaceful as I laid came to most of the inner (sector I) spaces, populating them with Ancients (Draco can co-exist with Ancients. Michel defeated his Ancients in Combat and Gareth and Andy concentrated on exploring the outer sectors, finding little, although Andy picked up a Phase Shield and Hypergrid Source, both of which went on his Dreadnought. Diplomatic relations where quickly established between most parties.

By the time Michel stormed the Galactic Centre I had a 7 hex empire complete with Orbitals, but not much of a fleet. Michel had researched Plasma Missiles. By building many Interceptors I was able to delay Michel a little, only to find myself attacked by Andy as well. Andy in turn found himself attacked by Gareth, who took over Andy’s home sector. Gareth kept the Traitor tile for the rest of the game and did not attack any further, keeping his forces ready in case Michel turned on him.
Michel however concentrated on attacking me. Despite having 40 minerals in reserve, he only used a couple of Dreadnaughts against me, holding his Cruisers back in case another player attacked. I was able to force one of the dreadnaughts to retreat, at the price of three cruisers and another system. Meanwhile Andy took a system from me with his Dreadnaught and I retook the system from him with an interceptor.

The following turn Andy and Michel took another system from me. I had enough to Discs to completely cover my track at this point, having picked up both Advanced Robotics and Quantum Grid earlier- and only having three systems left.
I had researched Plasma Missiles earlier and for the final turn I was able to pick up Starbase and Gluon Computer, thus finally having Starbases which could stop Michel. Michel wisely didn’t attack me, but Andy did and was destroyed by my Starbases. I also managed to take a system from Andy by loading plasma missiles on my Cruisers without Computers- he had shields so strong computers were pointless... Michel also took a system from Andy that turn.
Michel 45 Gareth 26 Me 26 Andy 24.

Traitors multiply in our next report...

Verrater (thanks Jon)
As there were 4 players available, Noel suggested a go at Verrater, which really needs this number of players to work. It was new to Barry and Neil, but despite being in German, it isn’t actually too complicated. As it was Noel’s copy, there was no English translation of the rules to refer to, so Jon tried to remember as best he could (although he forgot the bit about having a hand limit until Noel had a huge fistful…)
No-one picked the traitor in the first round, which resulted in Neil and Jon taking a valuable 6 points each. Jon had also picked the Strategist which gave him an extra 2 points.
Jon was the first to turn traitor (surprise, surprise), which left Neil on his own, and Noel playing a shed-load of cards, but then Barry also switched sides, to beat Noel and Jon in 2 battles. Jon took the opportunity to mix things up again, much to Noel’s chagrin, as he had now fallen a little way behind everyone else, and was back to being on his own again. He took the opportunity to drop a couple of offices into the landscape, which would at least guarantee points at the end of the game.
The very last turn could have seen an interesting swing in points, had Neil or Barry chosen to turn traitor and drop a load of cards down, but as neither of them did, Jon’s last-minute use of the builder was enough to give him the victory.
There are a lot of subtleties to this game, and it is always an enjoyable experience (well, for Jon anyway) – even in German!
Jon 27; Neil 22; Noel 17; Barry 16

Sadly no traitors, just trains for our finale...

Railways of Europe
With Woody safely ensconced in another bout of Tzol’kin Noel decided it was safe to crack open his heavy boxes. Jon and I were always up for it and managed to seduce Gareth II in as well as Barry from ‘North America’ (RotW expansion joke, you’ll be in fits when you get it!).
Five meant a large map and so Europe was chosen, always good and tight and messy with that number of players. The cubes didn’t fall perfectly by any stretch of the imagination, but then do they ever? And if there were some obviously advantageous areas it would be a blood bath I’m sure. The opening bidding wasn’t too heavy with Noel taking the honour and delivering the first cube of course. He’d opened up in northern Germany with Jon going slightly further east, Barry a bit further east and Gareth II and I opting for some warmth in Italy.
Barry continued building some useful track out east, Jon and Noel decided to start trying to get in each other’s way, joined by Gareth II in Central Europe, whilst I headed for Iberia. Noel continued to stay comfortably in front with a useful track bonus whilst Jon turned his attention to collecting debt, hardly a turn passed without him picking up more. I managed to sneak the first 3 leg delivery and steal a march towards Noel whilst Barry and Gareth II progressed steadily with track building.
There was an interesting use of the expansion city tiles, much more prolific than usual, although the resulting additional 2 cubes never really amounted to much of an advantage for that tactic. With Barry starting to make a move with some good 4 leg deliveries and Jon finally shifting cubes too I was grateful to be out on a limb, and by the time I completed the Milan – Madrid route for a 7 point bonus I’d managed to take a small lead.
Noel then thought he was in a race with Jon to pick up the Paris – Constantinople route bonus, completely unaware that Jon hadn’t managed a connection from Paris in the first place. He took a late 3 loans to complete the route having had his round bids pushed high thus losing the cash he had built up quite nicely. Those loans cost him the game. With a pretty baron Central Europe the final round began, I upgraded my train to make the only 5 leg delivery of the game, and with a 4 as well in the last round moved into what I believed would be a comfortable lead… Barry was still able to deliver several 4 leg cubes and Noel gained from one of these too. The final scores were way too close, and indeed everyone was in contention!
Scores; Neil 41, Barry 40, Noel 39, Gareth II 34, Jon 34

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

None Dare Call it Treason

Back to the future...
This time we played with Alien races. Gareth chose first, the Hydra Progress, I chose the Eridani Empire, Michel the Planta and Andy the Orion Hegemony.
The game opened with the usual exploring. Andy quickly built a second cruiser and blew away the local Ancients. I pursued a similar if slower course with a Dreadnaught. Gareth eschewed the galactic centre for the rim, finding mainly empty systems with Discovery tiles giving him money. Michel was also exploring, but found little of value.
The midgame saw Andy storm the Galactic Centre with four Cruisers, losing only one, Michel enter into diplomatic relations with Andy and Gareth doing much more exploring in order to be able to lose the empty systems. I expanded out to the border of Gareth’s home system before exchanging ambassadors. Probably Andy and I should have attacked Michel and Gareth respectively, but we were playing nice.
The game now stalled as the last outer rim tiles were explored- I picked up Conformal Drive and Axion Computer through this process- and we all did a lot of research. As the last couple of turns approached I bought Wormhole Generator and built a fleet of Cruisers which, in turn 8, invaded Michel’s peripheral systems. Michel had been low on materials all game and my attack forced him to build his starbases in the low value systems. Michel had plasma missiles and his starbases easily destroyed my cruisers, but I had the materials to rebuild them and attack again in turn 9- this time targeting valuable systems.
I had to abandon a couple of my own peripheral systems in order to have enough discs to take Michel’s. Meanwhile Andy invaded the system between the Galactic Centre and Gareth’s homeworld- which was my system and defended only by an obsolete Dreadnaught. I retaliated by flying one of my Cruisers to Andy’s homeworld, where he was able to build an Interceptor and a Starbase before running out of discs.
In the final fighting I captured both Michel and Andy’s home systems but lost to Michel in two other systems and to Andy with my Dreadnaught. When the scores were revealed the winner was the one who hadn’t been fighting other players at all...
Gareth 41 Andy 38 Michel 32 Philip 29
Now for something completely different...
Dobble (thansJon)
It was the beginning of the evening and Soren pulled out this neat little speed recognition game. It is basically a deck of round cards which have a number of little pictures on each of them. Each player takes a card, and then one of the deck is flipped over in the centre of the table. Everyone then has to try to match one of the pictures on their own card, with one on the middle card – the first person to do so wins the card and this now becomes their new active card. Rinse and repeat until the deck is exhausted and whoever has the most cards at the end is the winner.
The beauty of the game is that (somehow) each card only matches one picture with any other card, and the pictures, although identically graphically, can be different sizes and orientations, which makes matching them harder than it sounds. For such a simple idea, this was loads of fun, and definitely a stocking-filler for our family for next Christmas.
And the result? Jon drew with Soren. Or it might have been Tom. But not Philip….
Another quick card game...
Coup (thanks Jon)
Time for a quickie whilst waiting for another table to finish. Soren and Neil were the last men alive, and when Neil missed an opportunity to challenge Soren’s blatant use of an invisible Duke, he was successfully ‘couped’, leaving Soren victorious.
Soren won; Neil 2nd; Jon 3rd; Tom 4
A longer card game now...
Havana (thanks Jon)
This is one of those 30-45 minute games which leaves you feeling like you’ve played something a bit longer and heavier (in a good way!) Players have identical decks of role cards (a la Mission Red Planet) and choose to play 2 each round. The novelty is, each card has a value from 0 to 9, and players rearrange their 2 cards in order to produce the lowest number (eg playing 9 & 1 would give the number 19). Then, the lowest number goes first. As would be expected, the lower numbered cards are less powerful, but going first in turn order can be a great advantage. The goal is to collect resources and buy buildings of various values. The first player to 15 points wins.
Tom picked up a valuable building early on, whereas Soren was consistently getting nowhere, as his attempts to thieve and extort were proving fruitless. Jon picked up a lot of Pesos and bought an impressive early building, whilst Neil pondered…
Soren finally started to get some building going, Tom was spending half his turns protecting himself from Soren, and Neil was still pondering…
3 players were within one building of victory, but it was Jon who managed to sneak the necessary resources, recover his Architect from the discard pile, and built the necessary building to take him across the finish line. Good fun (although Neil probably never got over the fact that the game had been compared to Mission Red Planet….!)
Jon 16; Soren 11; Tom 9; Neil
Do they play anything other than card games while we’re playing Eclipse?
High Society (thanks Jon)
Neil had never played this super-filler before, so Dan and Jon obliged him with his first experience. Neil duly purchased both “x2” cards for an extortionate amount, and ended up with the least cash as a result. Dan didn’t have enough cash at the end to stop Jon picking up a nice “5” status symbol and a “x2”, which gave him the win.
Jon won; Dan 2nd; Neil – broke
Apparently not...
Shadows over Camelot: The Card Game (thanks Jon)
It was the end of the evening. This game drew a crowd of 7 players (the max), most of whom were new to the game.
James and Jon were the traitors, but there was general consensus that it is difficult to affect the outcome as the traitor with so many players, and it’s probably just as easy to lay low and get 2 white swords turned over to black at the end.
What we learned: don’t play with 7 players (stick to 3, 4 or 5 max). Make sure that everyone knows what’s going on before the game starts. With new players, you need a practice game to get the feel of what’s happening and what all the special cards do. With that said, there may well be a nice little game in that small box – so it will definitely get another outing for those that are interested………
Oh – and in case you hadn’t guessed, the traitors triumphed as no-one else could successfully count up to 11…..

Actually there were some non-card games out there...sorry no picture for this one...

King Up! (thanks Neil)

Simple Game, simple rules, to have scored so badly boy oh boy must I be thick!!
Each player, Soren, Tom, Jon and me, receives a card with 6 names on. They then take it in turns to place a token with one of those names on it onto a 7 tier board. Once all tokens are on the board the players promote one token at a time until one reaches the summit, becoming the king. There then follows a vote whether to score all tokens, or to ‘bin’ the top token. Each player has 2 ‘no’ votes he can use once each only, or a ‘yes’ he can re-use. The top token scores 10 points, the rest 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1. You play 3 rounds with the final round having a bonus score of 33 should you manage to actually score ‘0’ with your six names.
Soren took a hefty lead after the first round, Tom not that far behind. The second round was pretty similar although I’d fallen even further behind Jon. My first 4 names in the final round were binned almost immediately, so I go headstrong for a 33 score bonus, doomed of course…
Scores; Soren 70, Tom 60, Jon 41, Neil 30
We end with a realtimegame

Escape: The Curse of the Temple (thanks Neil)
A dice game I’m beginning to love! Three attempts tonight with Jon and Dan as fellow explorers. Jon was convinced that with 3 it would be more difficult, you couldn’t simply pair up and explore different chambers. To some extent he was right although at times Dan and I opted for a bit of peace and quiet and solitude.
New to Dan we began without the curses, we strolled around, were quite lucky with some close jewel-packed chambers and actually completed the task with some 3 minutes to spare, even with the exit tile coming out bottom of the stack – it’s shuffled into the last 4 chambers so we thought that was a bit unlucky! Maybe we should go hunting more jewels, the target of 11 seemed pretty straight forward. Not yet though, second game we introduced the curses, the ridiculous ‘hand-on-the-head’ challenge, the broken dice, and the ‘about-as-likely-as-Ipswich-returning-to-the-premiership’ dice on the floor is lost forever.
Not that we were feeling cocky but we decided to accept a curse every single time we went through a chamber rather than on first entry, AND, we also missed the rule that the first two chambers have their curses discounted. Saying that we also managed to do the treasure tokens wrong too, ahem! Anyway, hands on hearts, and heads, we took to our challenge in a bit more of a frenetic fashion. Dan became too isolated, lost a dice due not making the first rendezvous. We all got cursed by the dice and had to add an additional jewel to break free. Time then slipped us by and still the exit tile wasn’t coming out as we added more and more chambers. Should we split up and get through the new chambers, curses and all, or stick together…. Panic, and there it is, last tile again, a fancy teleporting move by Dan, me finally managing to find a key on one of the six dice I was throwing and we’re all out, 5 seconds to spare! Close shave, not used to them!!
Right, game three. We took a look at the rules and started playing the curses properly, and the treasures too, when you enter a chamber with a golden mask the treasure is placed inside it which you then role 2 keys to access. Again we stuck with 11 jewels, light-weights it could be said, I don’t think we even considered it to be honest. Dan’s first curse is the ‘dice-on-the-floor’ one, no sweat. He breaks free of it just in case though… and immediately throws a dice on the floor, spooky! Meanwhile Jon’s cracking through chambers and collecting jewels, until he chucks a dice on the floor too, crazy, where did that come from?! Was I going to be out done, too bloody right I wasn’t, dice on the floor, just how real are these curses?? Anyway, despite those indiscretions we explore efficiently and have all the jewels. Time to get out… last chamber, last tile again… three shuffles, three bottom tiles… too, too scary. We’re out with over minute to spare, victory, many many laughs, top game, even allowing for outrageous coincidence.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Treason Never Prospers: What's the Reason?

Well maybe Gareth and Neil were just unlucky, I’m sure Treason pays off sometimes... let us start with Gareth.
Eclipse is our game of the month for January 2013 and I was able to push 4 tables together and mostly set it up before the others –Gareth, Michel, and Andy arrived. Michel hadn’t played before so we all played humans.
Turn 1 saw Gareth research Gauss Shield and everyone do some exploring, mostly finding unoccupied sectors except for me, who ran into Ancients in my first two systems. Andy, sitting on my right, found 2 planetless systems with Discovery Tiles worth 8 money, which funded him to keep exploring and cut me off.
In turn 2 I tried a sector III hex, only to find more Ancients. So I discarded it. Meanwhile Gareth had found a couple of Discovery tiles as well, one being Shard Hull, which he put on his Star Bases, and the other Axion Computer which he put on his Interceptor. My second explore of the same area of space found a double Ancient tile which I reluctantly accepted and then passed out.
During turn 3 Andy and Michel met up and formed Diplomatic Relations and me and Gareth set about fighting the Ancients. Gareth was tooled up with Plasma Cannons on his Interceptors while I built Cruisers with Gauss Shields. We were both victorious, which left a single system between us- with an Ancient in it. Gareth overspent a little and had to abandon a couple of nearly empty sectors- Andy had already abandoned his with an influence action.
Turn 4 saw Gareth defeat me in the sector between us, destroying the Ancients and one of my Cruisers with his fast and accurate Interceptors. He was now adjacent to my Homeworld and I gratefully accepted his offer of Diplomatic Relations.
In turn 5 I defeated the Double Ancient system adjacent to me and then explored into what I knew to be another single Ancient system (as that was the last Sector III hex and I had already seen it when I discarded it earlier). Andy and Michel continued to build their forces.  Gareth took over the Galactic Centre about this time, which was the only link between the side of the board with me and him and the side of the board with Andy and Michel- although Michel did control a system with a half-wormhole link to Gareth’s home system...

In turn 6, as I was fighting the Ancients Gareth struck at my home system, taking it and the Traitor card in one fell swoop. Fortunately for me Gareth concentrated his defences in the Galactic Centre against Andy and Michel, allowing me to gradually retake my homeworld over the course of the next two turns. Gareth and Michel had both researched Plasma Missiles and Gareth also had Antimatter Cannon, so his position was quite strong.
Not strong enough though as in turn 9 he found himself attacked by all three opponents- myself against the systems adjacent to me, Michel using the Wormhole generator to assault his homeworld and other systems nearby and Andy charging the Galactic Centre. Gareth responded by attacking me, making for a large number of battles on the final turn. The Plasma Missiles proved a mixed blessing, destroying my fleet in one battle but in two battles failing to hit all of my ships- Gareth’s fleet was then destroyed as it had nothing left to fire. The result was a rather surprising victory for myself, mainly because I had many reputation points from fighting Gareth whereas Andy and Michel had very few reputation points as they hadn’t fought until the final turn.
Philip 31 Michel, Gareth, Andy, 20-something (Gareth less than others).
From Space to Robots...
FZZZT! (thanks Neil)
Tom dug this one out, in its beautiful tin. The second Tony Boydell game of the night no less! I was delighted to have a play as I bought this some years ago but never got my head around the rules. And my version came in a standard cardboard box although I did get a furry ‘mechanic’ with mine rather than passing round the tin to designate ‘chief mechanic’ when auctions are decided following equal bids.

Tom’s explanation helped no end; we were mechanics, there to build robots, coming off a factory conveyor belt. Over five rounds of auctions we would be collecting cards with varying components and victory points. Eight cards are auctioned each round, mainly robots but additionally production units. The cards are paid for with the power values in the top left hand corner of each card. The component parts in the bottom left hand corner are allocated toward those production unit cards, which paid good bonuses and could be completed multiple times. Simple as that.

Round one looked good for James and I was pleased with my purchase of a production unit. Tom collected cards. In round two Jon and James invested well, I couldn’t afford anything and Tom collected cards. Round three and everyone now had production units started, some hefty bidding started towards the end of this round, James seemed to win the bigger items, and Tom, yes you guessed it, he collected cards. Then before you knew it the auctions were done, robots collected, units assembled. You’ll see from the final scores below that collecting cards is a pretty rewarding strategy. And despite learning the rules I think I need quite a bit more practice on game play. And I’m also forgoing the opportunity to talk about the ‘mechanics’ of the game… I’d only confuse myself you see. At least I’ve got a furry one!
Scores; Tom 58, James 40, Jon 33, Neil 23
From Robots to Engines...actually in a reversal of the space time continuum this is the first Tony Boydell played that evening...
Snowdonia (thanks David)
And was characterised by Woody hoarding the 1st player marker and having the most turns with an extra worker from the pub, but then getting himself into an awful muddle including passing up 18 VP's just to deny James 6 VP. James pottered on regardless and sneaked in a good few station tokens and completed 4 card bonuses for 31 of his VP. Soren trumped that with 36 bonus VP's, primarily from a single card giving 21VP for 16 rubble cubes, which he acquired in a single double-doubled action. David ended up with 7 grey cubes after the first round so decided to go on a building strategy and took 40VP's from station buildings with just enough 1st player time to irritate Woody sat to his right.
Overall, the game started with a rain and fog, but then endless sunny weather and white cubes that arrived in large bursts that added some big chunks of time-pressure. Only James bothered with the surveyor, and then only for 2 spaces and neither David nor Soren had a train at any point in the game. Good fun in general, and I'd like to see this hit the table again (preferably with a bigger cube bag though!)
Soren: 63 Woody: 37 David: 65 James: 57

And another “Train Game”...
Ticket to Ride: Heart of Africa (thanks Jon)
Jon had received this new map for Christmas, and found very willing compatriots in James II and Alex. And fairly willing compatriots in Neil and Tom. This map introduces an extra method of scoring points - each colored route is designated to one of three terrain types, which are represented on a deck of cards which are placed next to the main deck of train cards. On a player’s turn, he can choose to take terrain or train cards, or a mixture of both. When he scores a route, he can play these terrain cards to double his points for that route – a nice little (or big) bonus! The map is also quite individual, with all the double routes around the coastal regions, and only single routes across the centre.
It didn’t take long for routes to be claimed, with Jon and James tying up much of the West coast. Alex started down South, whilst Tom eventually started to lay down trains in Madagascar. Neil laid a single route in the north-east, and then also turned his attention to the South.
The full value of the bonus terrain cards was realized when Tom built a 6-train route for a whopping 30 points – certainly good value. Alex was gradually creeping  northwards, but as he was sitting in a distant last place, no-one bothered to block his journey (which could have been easily done with a single white card). On the scoretrack, Tom was stretching out ahead, scoring the longer routes and getting some nice double-bonuses into the bargain. Neil was doing his best to catch him, now that he had started to convert his huge fistful of cards into routes on the board. Jon and James were chugging along nicely, if unspectacularly in their own little world.
The game was well into its second half when Alex decided to pick up new tickets (twice). His unbridled cheers of joy indicated that he may well have struck lucky.
Jon finished the game by laying his last trains, and the count-up began. Neil had completed several good tickets, and shot ahead of Tom. Jon had completed a couple of long tickets, but this was only enough to bring him within 4 points of Tom. James had somehow failed to score very well at all, leaving Alex as the only player left to tot up his points. He was at least 85 points behind at this stage – surely he couldn’t have completed that many tickets could he? Well, he had exactly 80 points worth of tickets, and combined with the 10-point Globetrotter bonus for completing the most tickets, Alex took the win. A well-deserved (if you consider picking up tickets that match your current routes as deserved) victory, that Alex himself puts down to Jon’s “magic fingers.” Don’t ask…..
Alex 144; Neil 141; Tom 124; Jon 120; James II 92
A trip back in time to the court of King Arthur next...

Shadows over Camelot: The Card Game (thanks Jon)
Dan had arrived by now, and it did not take much persuading from Tom for him to join in with this card game version of the popular co-op board game. As with the board game, there may or may not be a traitor present, and there is even an opportunity for players to ‘switch sides’ mid-game. It is basically a co-op memory game, with a traitor element thrown in for good measure.
The first game went fairly smoothly, after some initial hiccups as the players figured out the best way to play. There was no traitor present (although Jon had had the opportunity to switch to the dark side halfway through) and the gallant knights won the day by 7 white swords to 2.
The second game was a little trickier. Several Morgan cards played havoc with the rumours deck, and Tom seemed to suffer from an unexplained loss of memory (inviting more than one suspicious glance). However, 7 white swords were eventually revealed – which quickly became 6 as Neil revealed himself to have been the traitor. Although he had not been able to affect the game much before, he now had the power to choose one of the top 2 rumour cards to add to the pile and discard the other. Suddenly the game became tense again, as he successfully foiled the knights’ next quest. It was only an unfortunate (for Neil) run of cards in the final quest that allowed the good guys to succeed in their quest for Excalibur, and once again triumph, by the narrow margin of 8-6.
This is a fun little co-op filler, which plays in about 20 mins and will definitely be brought along again.
Next a “real-time game, I always hate those, good job I wasn’t playing!
 I may not have the right image here- games called "Escape" are a dime a dozen....
Escape (thanks Jon)
James brought along this real-time, dice-rolling, dungeon-exploring, jewel-collecting fun game. It contains a 10 minute ‘soundtrack’, which is quite tricky to hear on an iPad when there’s background music and stuff going on at other tables. The goal of the game is to explore the temple to collect enough jewels, then find the exit and get out before the temple collapses. It’s a crazy free-for-all of dice-rolling, for which the strategy seems to be “stick with a partner” – as you can easily find yourself frozen out otherwise.
My memory is already a bit hazy, but I think that we got shut out in one run-through, succeeded in 6 minutes in the next, and then succeeded again when we introduced the curses (which weren’t actually that hard to overcome).
Great fun with a set time-length for each game. Probably most tricky with 3 players, as someone will invariably be left on their own. Definitely worth 10 minutes of anyone’s life.

Quote is from Tudor historian Jon Harrington. Rest of Quote saved for some more appropriate juncture!