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!

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