Wednesday, 27 February 2013

"Are we nearly there yet...?"

Players: Philip, Michel, Barrie, Barry, Gareth I, Neil, Noel, Jon, James, Woody, Andy, Dan II, Tom, Tonio

Relegated to the conservatory by a wedding party in the Riverview Room, but still a good number of IBG’ers convened to display our games to the general public. Except that we seemed to scare most of them off and pretty much had the room to ourselves anyway. Great to see Tonio back with us again too.

Not a lot of games played this evening, as the 3 main games took a wee while to finish. And in the case of Tammany Hall, enough time to watch 2 football matches, one and a half screenings of The Hobbit or drive to Devon. Which would you rather do…?

Playing this game in the ‘romantically lit’ portion of the conservatory didn’t make life easy, but a combination of squinting and asking those players with younger eyes seemed to do the trick.
Jon made the mistake of picking up 2 machines in the first round, and then spent the next 3 rounds trying to pick up any cards worth bidding with. Neil was picking up some mighty bidding robots, whilst Michel was also picking up some useful cards. Tom splurged on robots in the second or third rounds, and seemed to be doing a good job too.
The scores were totted up and Neil and Tom were way ahead of Jon and Michel. Except that Michel had misunderstood the scoring system, and had in fact scored loads more points. Which made the first 3 positions incredibly close, and Jon nowhere. Fortunately it was too dark for anyone to notice Jon’s embarrassment.
Neil 49; Michel 48; Tom 47; Jon 28

Castles of Burgundy (thanks for this report Neil)
A return of last week’s quest, taunted by San Michel de Mont San Michel in the chariot to the Apprentice, could I score two more points and beat him to top spot? Boats, tonight I would survey and take to the water.
Barrie of Up Nerth, Gareth of Architekton and I, Neil of the South Folk opted for board vanilla, whilst our French compatriot took off to Estate Eight to see if he could out-Barrie Barrie. He took an early lead, whilst bemoaning the die can you believe? Single areas were picked off for good early bonuses. Gareth begun with a good mix of knowledge, cows – the technical Castles term is ‘mooage’ – and castles. Meanwhile Barrie went after the mines and some good buildings too.
I did take a boat, but it didn’t impact on the turn order. I decided that buildings would be my saviours of the day and tried collecting them in threes to hopefully pick up on some end bonuses in due course. Barrie got his boats moving, as did Gareth in fact, but Michel was still fulfilling his area quotas and also flogging on a good number of goods, he even bought the goats, I mean, goats! It was about mid-game that he lapped me I recall, and last week’s 1 point defeat started looking like a joyous event… reeling, I ditched my second boat and took off after more buildings but it was late, far too late.
Gareth, and then Barrie, both forgot to spend their silverlings in a timely manner and despite some excellent trading neither quite made the most of endgame bonuses. For once 215 didn’t look like a good score. Michel had royally trounced us and became Le Roi de Burgund – and he’s never even been to Burgundy for heaven’s sake!!
Michel 252(high score of the month!), Gareth 211, Barrie 184, Neil 176

Tammany Hall (thanks for this one Woody)
In the fear that Tom's Kickstarter copy may never arrive and to meet the demand for a game of it, Woody borrowed Tammany Hall from Eclectic Games in Reading.
Quick game anyone? This turned out to be a three & a half hour marathon with five players. Tom, Woody, James, Jon & Noel got more than they expected.
Basically the game is about securing districts in early New York through management of the various immigrant natioanalities. There is a bit of El Grande about it with a nasty back-stabbing twist. Negotiation and debate probably went on too long and that caused the game to extend further than necessary.
Each four year term is divided into 4 single years and player place either two of their staff or one staff and a voter in whichever districts they wish. Voting occurs based on number of staff plus bribery chips relating to the nationalities in each district. Each term, a mayor is appointed who gets VPs but then has to allocate jobs to everyone else, each job coming with a benefit. More to explain but this is not the place for it.
In summary, a very long first game and I think very diverse opinions afterwards. Debate raged about whether five players were too many, whether if you got behind early there was any way to catch up and whether there was a 'kingmaker' role. I don't think we will all agree on any of these - Woody and Tom being definite fans of the game, others yet to be convinced. Recommend you give it a go, perhaps with four players.
Woody 24; Noel 22; Tom 17; Jon 14; James 11

No Thanks! (thanks again Neil)
We were then joined by Philip for three games of ‘No Thanks’, new to Michel and myself. Conveniently Gareth and Barrie were out to get each other and destroyed themselves in all three games as a result. Michel was clearly treating the first game as a learning game and also scored highly so it was left to Philip and I to compete for first place, pipped again, by 1 point… I mean 1 point, damn!
The second game was a little trickier as I ran out of coins to bid with, Phillip once again looking good but had to settle for a shared victory with Michel. Gareth and Barrie finally became chummy again and the third hand was close, tense, and fraught with excitement… only for the game to fall apart at the final hurdle and victory was handed to Gareth, how on earth had that happened?
Phillip 31/25/41, Michel 53/25/42, Neil 32/32/52, Gareth 59/92/39, Barrie 65/34/53

The only other game played tonight was Railways of the World but I’m afraid that we have no report from any of the protagonists. I do know that it was played between Andy, Tonio, Dan II, Philip and Barry. They were originally going to use the Eastern US map, but on getting out Noel’s as-yet-unused copy, they discovered an enormous ridge running across the centre of the map which was going to prove impossible to lay track on, so this was abandoned in favour of Europe. And apparently Andy ended up winning.

We’re back upstairs next week, hopefully managing to squeeze a few more games into our evening together!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The one where Soren didn't have enough feet...

Players: James, Gareth I, Gareth II, Barrie, Neil, Michel, Soren, Jon, Ravi, Woody, Philip, Tom, Dan, Andy

It was nice to see Ravi again tonight, and also Andy, who had been mysteriously absent since before Christmas. This evening was dominated by much cube-pushing, although to be fair, the cubes in Pantheon are actually feet…

Dan and Andy cosied up for some nice one-on-one action, and James found himself consulting an online strategy guide 10 minutes into his new game. There must be a law against that or something…..

This game surely has one of the worst titles out there, but is a lovely little filler with a unique component – the bell! Barrie, Michel, Ravi and Tom joined Jon on the quayside and began to auction their fish with gusto…
Both Tom and Jon made the schoolboy error of not winning any auction during a round, and so were unable to sell anything until their next turn. Ravi and Barrie were buying up most of the ocean, whilst Michel was more circumspect is his fishy acquisitions.
The end of the game suddenly occurred and when the money was totaled, minus the fish that had ‘gone bad’, it was revealed to have been a very tight finish, with Michel proving to be the best fish salesman…just….
Michel £67; Ravi £65; Jon £63; Barrie £60; Tom £43

Coup (thanks for this report Neil)
Coup hit the table for Philip, Woody, James, Soren and Neil.
With James tucking in, an interesting discussion took place about the morals of the card game ‘Black Lady’, and whether she could still be called that or ‘Lady of Spades’ even, Phillip came up with the wonderful expression ‘colourally [pronounced col-laurelly] challenged’ lady!
Anyway, as ever Dukes were to the fore although there was also a smattering of Captains. Soren nearly self-destructed early on but left that to me, one down. James and Phillip started picking on each other, successfully, so down to Soren and Woody with both lives intact. And that’s where the rule book came out and somehow Soren was awarded a possible dubious, if not impressive victory from where he found himself early on!

The Castles of Burgundy (thanks again Neil)
The third enactment following the banishing of last week’s hero, Sir Tom of the Online Castles. His replacement, coming from similar lands was San Michel de Mont San-Michel. His accent disturbed Barrie of Up Nerth so much he misguidedly opted to design a new estate, apparently more difficult. Indeed, my own scribblings of the selection report that ‘Barrie - was difficult’. The rest of the brave knights chose the original estate, much more to the King’s pleasing as will become evident. Gareth of Architekton, and Neil of the South Folk (oh, that’s me!) made up the valiant foursome.
With the others fighting over ‘birds’ – no Barrie, that was ‘boats’ - movement was seen along the starting track and thus over the ‘bone of power’ or whatever descriptions were attached to the white die. I dug in, literally, mining away to my heart’s content and also collecting buildings. Aha! An early lead, and quite a substantial one too. Now how the hell am I going to stay out ahead? Well a packed field of pigs for starters - I always like a healthy starter.
As ever, the animals in their pastures were popular, Barrie going after cows, Gareth the chickens and Michel ‘chips’ – no Barrie, that’s sheeps. More boat action was seen and Gareth swiftly completed his castle realm for a good bonus; he was also picking up some useful goods and traded them well taking a comfortable second spot on the score track.
As the phases progressed Barrie began bemoaning the dice and had to turn to the always dubious strategy of taking men. Michel began to fill up some larger segments of his estate, and traded well too. Once again Gareth missed the boat… but had now overtaken me anyway, and I was very busy having severe doubts about ignoring the boats completely, although my buildings were mooring themselves into my estate nicely.
Whilst some of the bonus tiles had been ignored Barrie picked up the park as it sat well within its own space on his slightly lacking estate. With only myself not packing all five acres of pasture with the same animal, the scoring became tight until Michel suddenly making a massive move from slightly behind to way out in the lead, just as we thought his online training had been in vain. In fact, he must have an unassailable lead, wow, impressive. I managed to complete three areas late on and with some useful building bonuses maybe I could get close?
As the final scoring progressed Gareth moved to within spitting distance of the magic 215 points. My building bonuses took me slightly further to a 221, and then Michel killed me off with his collection of silverlings and men - he took victory by the widest margin of 1 point, damn! Gosh, I’ve missed him out haven’t I? Even with a good collection of trade bonuses Barrie made his point; the board was far too difficult!
Michel 222; Neil 221; Gareth 213; Barrie 172-182 (not that it makes much difference!)

Soren had bought this Euro along, and with Jon, Gareth II and Ravi also looking for something fairly meaty to play, he had his cohort. This game is played over 6 rounds, with each round being played out in a slightly different part of an ancient Mediterranean map. Players must use movement points to travel around the local environs, picking up bonus tokens and placing columns. Sacrifices can be made in order to win the favour of various gods, who will grant special abilities either as a once-off or throughout the game. The game comes with some nice wooden feet – or Feeples if you prefer…
At the beginning, everyone got a different bonus tile to start with, and Jon was given the ‘place a single column anywhere’ token. Not having played the game before, it was difficult to gauge where best to place the column, and despite Soren’s offer to re-draw the tile, Jon decided to plonk it right in the middle of the board. Although this turned out to be probably the worst place to put it, it did set Jon’s strategy, which ultimately wasn’t a bad thing.
The first few rounds were quite slow, as players tried to work out what was best to do, and attempted to build their ‘engines’. Soren had an early extra ‘foot’, so could move around the map more efficiently. Ravi was picking up lots of cards, as well as victory point tokens. Gareth and Soren were majoring on lots of God tiles, whilst Jon was trying to place as many columns as possible, and pick up as many victory point coins, with the help of some extra ‘feet’ and other exploring bonuses.
Halfway through the game, the scores were very tight. The speed then increased rapidly, partly due to Jon’s ability to race around the map, picking up a couple of bonus tiles and laying a column all in one go. Gareth had jumped on the ‘column train’ at this point, realizing that their value increased substantially if you could place 8 or more. Unfortunately for him, Jon finished the game just before he could place his 8th column. The scores were totaled and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th places were very close. However, a combination of 9 columns and lots of victory point coins had allowed Jon to finish the game with a commanding lead.
Verdict? A solid game with some nice mechanisms. However, there is a certain amount of luck in the card draw (Soren spent several turns without any ‘feet’ to explore with, and Jon didn’t pick up any money cards for 2 whole rounds. As it turned out, Soren had all the money and Jon had all the feet…) The game is also too long for what it is – 60 to 90 minutes would be perfect, but this is more like a 90-120 minute game.
Anyway – still a fine way to while away a Wednesday evening….
Jon 76; Ravi 54; Gareth II 50; Soren 47

Macao (thanks Philip)
Philip, Tom, Woody and James played this curious euro. The game revolves around the accumulation of little wooden cubes of various colours. The cubes are then used as currency to get goods to ship to Europe, move your ship, activate cards, and change the turn order. Everyone has the same opportunities to get cubes and each turn faces the dilemma: more cubes later or fewer cubes sooner. When you receive cubes you must spend them: if you don’t receive cubes in a given round you get a penalty (-3VPs). You also get penalties for having too many cards unactivated.
I underestimated the importance of going first and soon found myself last and a long way behind on the “wall” (meaning I would stay last). This meant I was last to pick a card each round which in turn meant I picked up quite a random assortment of cards.
Tom managed to activate “Senor Violetta” quite early on, earning him a purple cube each round (at a cost of 4 purple cubes up front). I managed to activate “Mrs Red” only on the last round, for a net loss of 3 red cubes. One of the best types of cards doubles your points for delivering a certain type of good (although matching the name of the good to its icon is a game in itself!). I was first to deliver with my “Silk Storage” earning 16 VPs for 2 lots of Silk. But everyone managed to mimic my feat, Tom for even more VPs thanks to his 1 VP per good delivered card.
Me and Woody had cards that benefited us for being in first and last place respectively, but Woody was unable to use his because James clung to last place until late in the game, and I only used mine once before being overtaken.
James was most successful in activating a set of cards that worked well together, selling cubes for coins, buying cubes with coins and so on. Tom was almost as good at this. Everyone except James took a penalty during the game for too many cards unactivated, and everyone except James also took a penalty at game ends for having cards unactivated then. James took a penalty for having no cubes though so that evened up.
When buying goods if you buy goods next to each other you get bonus points at the end of the game- James was much the best at this part. Tom however had the edge in actually delivering the goods, while if I hadn’t had 8 VPs in bonus points from cards at game end...
Tom 62; Woody 50; James 46; Philip 43

The long Euros had finished – time for a 10 minute dash around a temple! James, Jon, Soren, Ravi and Dan were the temple-runners, with Ravi being the slightly confused newbie.
The curses and treasures were both used, but the valiant adventurers still managed to collect their booty and escape with over a minute left on the clock.
Fast-paced fun…

Just time for one more game of Coup – with Soren, James, Jon and Ravi being joined by someone else that may have been Tom (or Dan for that matter). Anyway, somehow Jon managed to stay out of the firing line, and won the game for what he claims is the first time at IBG. That’s about as dubious a claim as his “I’ve got 2 Dukes” effort…

Elsewhere in the room, Andy and Dan were thrust together to form a cosy little twosome tonight, as they managed to start a game of Agricola:ACBAS just before the 3 long Euros started, condemning themselves to 2-player action for most of the evening. Anyway they both appeared to have fun with this game, and also Sentinels of the Multiverse, although I think that Andy may not be venturing anywhere near Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards again….

We return again at the same time next week….

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

"Boldly going forward, 'cause we can't find reverse..."

Players: Woody, James, Gareth I, Gareth II, Barrie, Tom, Neil, Noel, Jon, Some guy with a girl’s name that doesn’t want to be called Dan II, Soren, Michel, Jeroen, Alex, James II, Paul, Tomas

Another great turnout tonight which included yet another Lord Lucan reappearance, this time in the shape of Mr Paul Dawsey – welcome back sir! He even had the good grace to bring a friend along, so it was a welcome to Tomas for his first evening at IBG (where he proceeded to wipe the floor with all of us...)

A nice mix of Mayans, rats, bulls, ancient Egyptians and a crap spaceship crew thrown in for good measure tonight. Think Star Trekkin', and you won't go far wrong...

I believe that the evening actually kicked off with a game of Flux - but let's quickly skip over that little aberation...

It was the start of the evening and Neil had just wandered in with this card game – perfect for filling the time before everyone else arrived. Neil explained the fairly simple ruleset, and was quick to point out that “this is nothing like 6Nimmt!”. Except that the cards look identical. And you score in the same way. And you’re putting cards on top of other cards. And…….it’s in the same size box……
Anyway, to be fair, it is quite different – players are trying to lay cards on top of other cards that are within 10 of their card’s value – failure means that you pick up a pile and add it to your hand. When someone lays his last card, the game ends and is scored.
As the game progresses, more and more piles appear, which you would think makes it easier, but that’s not necessarily the case. Several players went down to a single card, only to have to pick up a pile again, but eventually, new boy Tomas was granted the privilege of putting down his last card and winning his first game at IBG.
Verdict: It’s nothing like 6Nimmt…..

King Up
Michel 65; Dan 60; Soren 56; Jeroen 55; James 55; Woody 38

The Castles of Burgundy (thanks to Neil for this report)
A re-gathering of the Influential Princes of 15th Century; Barry of Canadia was replaced by Sir Tom of the Online Castles, but the courageous were bedecked for battle; Barrie of Up Nerth, Gareth of Architekton, and Neil of the South Folk, and new Estate boundaries were issued and selected.
Sir Tom was hampered by not having his automatons move his dice, collect his tokens and score his achievements, we all felt for him. Up Nerth Barrie advised that he would be leading from the front this time and certainly set about his estate with vigour and again was seen out in his cow-filled pastures. Gareth stayed close in his shadow, collecting mines and castles for his estate.
World Wide Tom picked up some useful knowledge in the early rounds, some useful ships and trade goods too. I missed out on my churches this time, instead concentrating on building markets and picking up the goats – wow, where did they come from? Expansion hexes abounded, all four of them. I fell for the novelty value, collecting three of them, hardly using the other two at all.
Meanwhile Barrie kept a good margin out in front despite valiant efforts from Gareth and Tom. And then it all went wrong of course. Boats, who had them when, who scored them and much more importantly who had the precious turn order towards the end of the game? And so Gareth lost out, Barrie ran out of energy, and Tom took full advantage with his superior knowledge winning out in the end.
Another close game, scoring pretty close overall. I moaned a lot about dice but was only a couple of points short of last week’s total. Maybe I got away playing badly and still finished within touching distance of the cloth of my superiors.
Tom 235, Gareth 217, Barrie 212, Neil 195

Tzolk'in (thanks Woody)
Woody's favorite game of 2012 got another airing with Woody, Dan II, Michel and Jeroen sitting fourway. A quick refresher of the rules as none had played that many times and off they went.
An excessive enthusiasm for skulls appeared to dominate two players as the track fast filled up. Michel dominated the temples using this advancements on the skull track to take early dominance, resources and then at half way, points. Every player bemoaned their luck or lack of at some point, doubting their tactics. For Woody and Jeroen, those doubts came to fruition ...
Michel 76; Dan II 64; Jeroen 39; Woody 34

7 Wonders (thanks Paul)
One of the few times that Ive sat down to play anything more than a filler, with five players at the IBG and no rules explanation needed. Granted when Alex randomly picked 'Catan' as his wonder (yes expansions were used before all you classical historians get up in arms), that hadn't been used before and we couldn't find the rules for it so it disappointingly had to go back in the box to be replaced by something a little more traditional. And we played with the Leaders expansion which meant looking up lots of stuff in the reference book. But we were off to a relatively quick start, and then 7 Wonders did what it does do well - kept everyone involved right through to the end.
Different strategies emerged fairly on, with Gareth II geek-ing out with the science cards, Alex complementing his leader card nicely by hoarding purples, Paul taking the obvious route by collecting the straight VP cards, James II playing the peaceful nation and Tomas trying a bit of everything.
Conflict took seed between Alex and Tomas and spread via Gareth II to Paul but James II stuck to his principles and ended up getting creamed from both sides at the end of every round.
It was difficult to predict a winner - my money was on Gareth II or Alex, but actually Tomas claimed a solid victory with his all round strategy (making it 2 wins out of 2 for the evening), Gareth II taking second place and a remarkable 3 way tie fused the losers.
Tomas 63, Gareth II 56, Alex 54, Paul 54, James II 54

Space Cadets (thanks James for this one)
So as usually I was tempted by the rave reviews to pick up a copy of this game… it’s a great concept to the co-op genre to have players all do their own thing thus avoiding any one taking over as is so common with all the main co-op games out there… Jon, Noel and Soren all agreed to be guinea-pigs for the maiden voyage of the USS Isleworth….
So initial thoughts… jeez it’s a pain to teach. Everyone has their own rules so as well as explaining the overall game you have to spend several moments going over everyone else roles…. It was hard to keep everyone’s focus here, and the game would’ve improved if I’d determined roles in advance and asked everyone to review the neat videos that have been uploaded on BGG… Not sure I’m too keen to be explaining this one to newbies all the time.
So, lessons learned over a lifetimes games we chose mission 1 and ignored the advanced rules… roles were more or less randomly assigned I took the captain, tractor beam and engineering role, Soren was on sensors and shields, Noel took the helm and the jump and Jon was left with weapons and repairs…
So what to report from our maiden mission ?
Jon’s ability to effectively fire a weapon did not appear to be hindered by a damage card that meant he had to do it with eyes closed… draw whatever conclusion you like from that...
If Noel drives like he navigates then it’s a miracle he ever gets home… If I were a swan in the Thames outside the pub I’d be worried.
If his shield skills were an indication I would fancy my chances again Soren at poker.
And my own ability at pair matching could probably be matched by a 6 year old (and at home often are…)
Despite all that we still managed to stumble past any initial danger and found ourselves with just a single crystal to find while the enemy closed in. Somehow we managed to fix a core beach (caused I believe by a cock up in navigation?), and use the last of our shields and damage to evade the powerful weaponry of the Nemesis while keeping in range of the last crystal… it all came down to the last turn where we successfully picked up the last crystal and (with a bit of help from some new technology provide by the Capt), Noel managed to jump us out of the quadrant before we turned into moondust.
So, thoughts ?
Hmm, it’s tricky to say really. The game was fun… frantic… but also long (over 2 hours) and repetitive. We didn’t feel like there were too many meaningful decisions involved, but I think we were probably too busy trying to get a handle on the game.. perhaps after a few more plays we would be in more control? The final feeling though was that it was unlikely we’d play again anytime soon, and for me it felt like such a chore explaining the game that I’m not keen on having to start again with new players…
Anyways, final score… Crystals: 3. Enemy ships destroyed (more by chance than design) 5. Hairs turned grey:7. Rules broken: too many to count.

Rattus Africanus (thanks Paul for this one)
The plague has hopped on a boat and crossed the Mediterranean to North Africa - nice of it, as this means that the game can now accommodate up to 6 players.
The medieval map of Europe now has an additional stripe of five extra countries, there are more roles (including Aladin, Sinbad and some travelling Beduoin), a new Islamic class, some multi use region cards and my favourite addition - a wondering caravan, represented by a camel, which adds to the majority population in all regions it passes through.
Rattus was new to everyone but Paul and he'd not played the expansion before, so the relatively simple rules were explained (only had to look up two or three things during the game, including one correction - not bad for Paul) and play commenced.
Gareth II was well positioned to use the caravan, the peasant, merchant and King were widely used and James II favoured the monk. The start of the game saw lots if rat tokens turned by not much population decrease. The castle was steadily increasing its numbers, including most of James II's people. But slowly and surely the plague started to claim victims. Most if the game seemed to focus on the south and the west, so those placing in Anglua, Scandia and other northern regions seemed to get by unaffected.
This game almost saw both Alex and Tomas get all their people onto the board, which I'd never seen before, but in the end it was the last rat token which brought the game to its end.
Tomas managed to pip Alex and Paul making it a 100% victory record in his first night at IBG (my fault for inviting someone along that creates the algorithms for logistics software for a living - good job we didn't get him on the pick up and deliver games!)
Tomas 18, Paul 17, Alex 17, Gareth II 16, James II 9

Seasons (thanks to Woody for this report)
Woody got two of his games played ... Seasons, a game with options as to how easy or difficult you make the game. Basic game involves players being subscribed certain cards. Level 2 involves a draft of the basic cards, whilst Level 3 uses the entire deck. Level 2 was chosen.
Once players have drafted, they place there 9 cards into 3 groups of 3, one set to be activated each year. Players roll dice and choose one to use, to gain resources, additional cards, points and space to play their cards. Dice choice as well as the order in which you play the cards is critical. Cards give you points, resources, damage your opponents etc ... A nice one hour game, well worth others trying.
Michel won I think !

Ra (thanks again Neil)
The second time I had been talked into playing Ra, this time with Barrie, Gareth and Tom.
In my first game I really didn’t follow what was going on, this time felt no better. I seemed to recall that monuments were really good but could hardly get started on the blessed things. Gareth and Tom were going all out early on for Pharaohs and River tiles, Gareth picking up quite a fistful early on when Tom and Barrie were closed out before picking up the usual round end spoils.
In the second round I collected a few more tiles, pharaohs and a couple of monuments but nowhere near enough. Tom was catching Gareth up as Barrie continued with his no Civilisation/let’s build! campaign.
I decided to go out in a blaze of glory, catching up with Tom on Pharaohs, eating into monuments others wanted but completely misunderstanding that the lowest total of auction tiles would cost me, not win me, an additional 5 points, oh dear! So again, pretty close with Tom just edging out Gareth with his highest total of tiles being the difference. Mr Monument had created quite a mall of monuments but wasn’t that close in the final scoring;
Tom 48, Gareth 43, Barrie 37, Neil 30

We had taken quite a long time to traverse the universe with Space Cadets, so there was only time for something quick to end the evening off. And what better pastime than some assassinations and extortions…
Highlights of the 3 games played:
-Soren making some uncannily accurate accusations
-Jon and Noel playing the Ambassador about 6 turns running when there were only Ambassadors and Contessas left in the deck
-Jon claiming that he had a Captain when there were clearly 3 visible on the table already (it was late, ok….?!)
-James, Jon and Gareth II all winning one game
Always good fun…

And that was it for another evening. Come along next week for much more of the same...

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Wake up and smell the coffee.........

16 IBG'ers turned up tonight, and it was like a re-uninion of all the Lord Lucan's - with Jim, Scott, Jeff and Barrie all turning up on the same night. I think that they must have heard that James was bringing cake again (which he didn't), or that Pippa Middleton was turning up to play games (which she didn't) or that Neil was buying all the drinks (which he didn't). Whatever the reason - it was a fine turnout and good to see these old (some of them very old) faces again.

Played tonight was a game about coffee, a couple of games about burgers (or something) with a few Kings, Dukes and Mayans thrown in for good measure.

First up -

With Jim making one of his very rare appearances to IBG, it seemed right and proper that he should bring an obscure little card game along – especially one entitled “Fool”…. This is your standard trick-taking fare, but with the twist that the player who lays the worst card (lowest or not following suit) does not get to lay a card during the next hand. This does add a nice layer of extra thought into the game, as it is not necessarily a no-brainer as to what ‘throw away’ cards you lay down. The object is to get rid of all your cards, and Jim, Barry, Scott, James and Jon were the protagonists.
Three rounds were played – the first wasn’t scored, the second was scored (but the scores have been lost to the vagaries of Jon’s washing machine) and then Soren decided to actually read the rules and realised that we had been playing the scoring all wrong. Therefore we played a third round with the correct scoring method, but as James won, it was deemed null and void…
This is another one of those games (along with the ‘Steven Seagal’ game) that I could happily play for a good half an hour or more at the beginning or end of an evening. Maybe we’ll get a chance to play it again in 2014 when Jim next appears…..

This game is proving popular at IBG - it's amazing what fun you can have with just 15 cards...

Coup (thanks Neil)
The second coup attempt of the evening; Barrie, Gareth, Gareth II, Dan II, Philip & Neil.
With the favoured Dukes taking income the coup’s came thick and fast early on, with several Captains falling on their swords. Ambassadors then became abundant and by keeping out of the tit-for-tat strikes of the coups and Assassins it suddenly came down to Barrie and me - I slowly collecting income for my own Assassin, Barrie’s Duke funding the death of my protectress, until I had the wealth and he tried to bluff, and his earlier victory faded from memory.
Twice I have won this game, and twice by the Assassin’s stealth!

And then there was the 'Game of the Month' -

The Castles of Burgundy (thanks to Neil for this one)
The Influential Princes of 15th Century; Barry of Canadia, Barrie of Up Nerth, Gareth of Architekton, and Neil of the South Folk.
The decrees of conduct are plentiful, the principles governing exceptional behaviour similarly so; after all Master Stefan of the Fields had compiled the ‘Great Book of Estate Management in the Realm of Burgund’. Prince Barry had travelled through them on three or more previous Quests, Prince Neil had studied at the Chez Moi Academy, and without the contribution of Edward Bears.
The undertaking set is the construction of a unique estate in the Valleys of the Loire. There will be grazing pastures, mines to provide wealth, castles for status, buildings of authority, and ships to aid the trade of one’s produce. Knowledge comes in various guises and should be collected with hindsight. The Silvering currency is scarce, workers are plentiful if time-wasters, and the fortunes of the dice provide irritations rather than being all encompassing.
Each of the five recurring sequences of activities start with a vast array of opportunities for growth, and short-term strategies. Prince Barry was the perfect exemplar; buildings and ships were much in demand. My South Folk heritage had me designing fortresses providing early esteem in the eyes of our masters. Prince Barrie had a penchant for meadows of cows, the odd mine here and there. Gareth assembled markets and became a fine purveyor of goods, as well as a gatherer of sheep. After rediscovering the Lord amongst my churches I turned to the North Folk for extensive piggery husbandry. Further excursions into mining gave Princes Barry and Barrie the wealth to select castles and more cows respectively. Knowledge flowed as the estates evolved as all reached the twilight of their deeds.
Mighty estates had indeed been developed and the prestige of all was within a tolerable margin. However, a victor was evident, following on from his successful earlier coup, our protagonist from Up Nerth had maximised exceptional knowledge and established a truly magnificent estate.
Barrie 215, Neil 199, Barry 190, Gareth 182

There was also a second game of this played, but no-one was very forthcoming about telling me what happened, so I'll guess that Jeff destroyed both Jim and Scott, who both then went and had a good cry in the toilets about it.... (feel free to correct me on this anyone...!!!)

Meanwhile, over on another table -

VivaJava: The Coffee Game (thanks Noel for this report)
Jon, Paul, Soren, Noel and Shirley sat down ready to get involved in the 'negotiatable' fest that is Chinatown. After a entertaining rules explanation, including neologisms from James we were all looking forward to renewing acquaintances with an old classic. It was also the 2nd game Noel had played at his first IBG visit several years ago, when his shelves had books on them and spare cupboards were a place for blankets and towels and not holding units for board games in transition.
Then Dan arrived and 5 became 6, Chinatown was abandoned and Viva Java was eagerly pulled from the games bundle for its first play for all. Billed as a sociable, strategy game that plays best with 7 or 8 the rules were (relatively) quickly refreshed by Noel and explained. Gameplay is quite straight forward with changing alliances developing to attempt to create the best coffee blends in your mini team while individually developing your research 'tech tree'.
Almost everyone quickly took the option to convert vps into research points although Jon forged ahead. Unfortunately this meant he was last to go in turn order for a couple of turns so couldn't pick up the best coffee beans or bonuses. Soren had a high quality black bean roaster which, despite initial advances from Dan, was eventually turned into a 4 of a kind black blend with Noel. James developed a bag full of the white beans, which although the worst bean, could have converted into a strong blend if he had the correct team mate. Unfortunately for him Dan couldnt help him out when needed. The next turn he did create a strong blend with Jon, which Noel pushed an Investment token on to also benefit.
It seemed that the investment tokens were a powerful ability if played on the right blend. Dan made the unfortunate investment in a mug of fine belfast dishwater concocted by Noel and Paul which didnt gain many points. Having initally disregarded the investment tokens, James traded most of his vps in half way through the game to develop this ability. This meant he was trailing far behind and was unable to catch up. With one turn to go Noel had a 3 point lead and with investment in 2 strong blends on the scoring slate carried a convincing win.
The verdict... Well certainly it would be better with 7 or 8 and there are not many games that play well with that number. I think I expected more negotiation and stronger feeling of a temporary alliance. Playing with 6 generally meant 3 two player teams and with a default to research if the vote was tied there wasnt much negotiation or denying a player the option to blend. Of course, further plays would refine the use of the tech tree, and the flavour cards (which we didnt play with) should add a further dimension. I think I will hold onto it for that occasional opportunity when 7 or 8 would like to play together (or at least until I have played with that number)
Noel 29, Soren 24, Paul and Jon 23, Dan 21, James 17

And to follow that -

King Up
The 6 coffee players were looking for a game to round the evening off – Dan vetoed The Resistance (boo!) and so Soren’s cute little filler made another appearance. The first round saw Jon left with the only veto cards at the end, so he was able to manipulate the tokens somewhat in his favour. The second round saw most of the tokens removed from the board and was therefore relatively low scoring. The third round ended very suddenly, when no-one vetoed the first vote (everyone assuming that some other mug would do it!) This gave Noel a huge 30 points from this round, which was just enough to haul himself past Soren into first place. James somehow managed a paltry 13 points in the last round, despite having all of his tokens still on the board, which left him in a sad last place for the second game in a row. That’s what a week in Paris does for you….. Noel 64; Soren 62; Jon 55; Paul 46; Dan 46; James 36

There was just time for a final game, and with Dan leaving, the other coffee-boys decided to go co-op. The reasoning being that at least James couldn’t come last 3 games in a row…. Paul was new to it, but it was hoped that his telepathic understanding with his brother might prove to be an advantage (spoiler alert: it wasn’t….) As per usual, the game starts with a flurry of clue-giving and card-laying and much good feeling. Then the hard part kicks in, and the team managed to successfully discard both blue 3’s, leaving that colour effectively useless. An interesting decision by ‘someone’ to tell Soren that he had a ‘5’, led him to attempt to play this card, when in fact it couldn’t be played for several rounds yet. It all went downhill from there, and the final score was a less-than-impressive 17 points. I suspect that this game will continue to be played until we eventually beat it (or until the earth’s core cools down – whichever comes first…)

Also played tonight were Kingsburg and Tzolk'in (which apparently Scott thrashed Jim at), but you'll have to guess the details yourself. Come back again next week to see if any of our Lord Lucan's turn up for a second week running.....
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