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...

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