Wednesday, 10 April 2013

And then there were nine

So from last week when the dizzy heights of 17 boardgamed with not many regulars, this week a lot of regulars turned up but there were only nine. Ever get the feeling that the universe is trying to tell you something guys?? Welcome to Jen who isn't so local, but would be welcome back any time she's in the area on a Wednesday (as, for that matter, would anyone).

Players: Paul, Jon, Woody, James, Neil, Michel, Philip, Barry, Jen

St Malo

Paul was lured into playing because he was told that there was drawing involved - not untrue, but not what he expected - drawing the pieces and keeping score on a wipeable board. So some kind of twist on a game where players roll die (yahtzee style) and draw bits on a board to construct a city to give the most points. All players have a grid which signifies the spaces available to populate with different types of people, crates, bits of wall, churches and so on. The games ends when someone fills their city up completely and the highest score wins. Oh, and pirates might come and take things from you if you haven't built sufficient defences, although in our game, every time they came they were successfully repelled by everyone, so it didn't change much. I don't recall too much about the game other than the fact that Woody was gunning for an early finish and I can't remember if it was because he was in with a shout of winning, or because he wanted it to end. Either way, he was successful in filling everything up first, but James took the prize. 

My verdict - quite a fun way to pass time, but then so is almost every game that we play on a Wednesday and I'm not sure if this has anything unique enough to draw me back when such other goodies are on offer.

Scores: James 42, Paul 35, Woody 34, Neil 26

Robber Knights (thanks Jon)

Time for a quick filler at the beginning of the evening, so Philip and Michel joined Jon for this tile-laying Queen Games offering. 
Players take turns to lay tiles that contain villages, towns and castles, in a variety of landscapes. When a castle is laid, there's the option of also laying down up to 5 knights (coloured discs) that can then be distributed othoganally on adjacent tiles, according to what landscape is on them. At the end of the game, players score tiles if they have a knight on top of the stack on that tile. You have the option to lay between 1-3 tiles per turn, which means that players do not all finish on the same turn.
Philip chose to lay the maximum number of tiles most turns, and finished a couple of turns ahead of the other two. He also played several knights on certain tiles, effectively stopping them from being stolen.
Michel ran out of knights before Jon, which meant that Jon could place his last few knights without fear of the tiles being stolen. This allowed Jon to just creep ahead of the other 2 for the victory. This is a nice inoffensive game with enough tactical decisions to keep it interesting - which is a good description of most things that come with the Queen Games label!

Scores: Jon 28, Philip 23, Michel 20

Die Speicherstadt (thanks Neil)

So off we went to Hamburg, me, James and that French fellah Michel. I’d been there most recently, last September to be precise, and so got to go first… we each played three rounds when James suddenly realised the tension of his previous game wasn't being seen, as indeed was the rule about the cost of cards. Start again.

I was still first but this time money was tight-er. There’s a good auction mechanism, four cards are available and each player has three bids which he places one turn at a time. Price is then determined by the number of bids per card, the latter the bid the cheaper you might get your desired card.
So, James went after firefighters and merchants early on, Michel picked up the Warehouse and a Counting Office and I went for a couple of contracts. After the first three rounds of cards there’s a fire in the warehouses and unless you have some firefighters you lose points, Michel lost points. In the second round/season ships were available with three coloured cubes that are required to complete your contracts. The others picked up contracts and I seemed to have a series of cheap cards picking up firefighters, a Counting Office and a third contract. The second fire saw James collect a couple of points, and Michel lost points.

Round three saw the Bank come out, useful additional cash, it was mine, all mine! Ships were becoming available now with their various goods cubes. I managed to complete two of my four contracts. James started going for more firefighters, and both he and Michel collected goods from more ships. The third fire… you guessed it, James gained points and Michel lost points.
The final round. James picked up St Michaelis and the Chamber of Commerce, Michel picked up the Port, and I managed to finish my last two contracts. More fire, this time I collected the points but Michel still lost out here; it had cost him ten points across the four rounds, quite a swing. Final scoring wasn’t that close, my contracts totalled 35 points alone. 

Obviously winning makes it enjoyable but I have to say this was a really good game. I liked the auction process, very interestingly thought through. And whist Feld is hardly fantastic when it comes to themes I think this one works pretty well. The expansion apparently adds much more to the game too, will be making sure Woody gets one, there are even REAL coins!!

Scores; Neil 48, James 38, Michel 21

Coup (thanks Neil)

Following that we decided to have a quick round of Coup whilst the Seasonal Blokes finished their game. We quickly card sleeved the cards and some seven hands later and we gave up the wait! Mind you those were cracking games… I won the first three and decided I was invincible… only for James to win the next three hands. Surely it was Michel’s turn to win? Absolutement Non! And I took the decider. Hurrah!!

Terra Mystica (thanks Philip)

Game night again and I was really keen to play Terra Mystica, although the numbers made this a little tricky (9 people). We eventually settled on 3 groups of 3-and then one of the 3 people who had agreed to play Terra Mystica pulled out. Fortunately a visitor from Leeds (Jen) was willing to try the game for the first time.

I decided to go with the 3-player set up in the rulebook. I really wanted to try Alchemists and Barrie had played Witches last week, so he took Nomads and Jen played as Witches. Barrie was randomly selected as going first. 

Barrie decided not to build his Stronghold on turn 1 but instead to build a Temple and take the Water 1 favour. Jen and I both went straight to strongholds and I began terraforming and upgraded my spade rate.

In the second round I think Barrie built the Sanctuary and took Air 1, while Jen and I built Temples, taking Air 2 because of the worker bonus due that round. I upgraded my Spade rate again, in time for the bonus points for Spades coming up in the third round.

I spent the third round busily turning the Eastern and Central continents into Swamp- the Eastern Continent is well suited to this being 50% Swamp, Farmland and Lakes hexes, all of which form one contiguous block. I finished my first town at this point, taking a couple of workers to better aid the digging. Meanwhile Jen and Barrie were building more temples- Jen picked up Water 1 and Barrie Earth 1. I was liberally converting points into money but seemed to be fairly level with the others at this stage. Barrie was high up the Earth cult and earned money from the round end bonus as a result.

I think Barrie built his Stronghold in the Fourth Round. He was not very agressive with the Sandstorm, politely leaving me a Swamp space I had terraformed earlier but never got around to building on. There was a fair amount of competition on the cult tracks and my 2nd town went to boosting my position there. Barrie and Jen built towns too, Jen one and Barrie two. There were lots of bonus points scored in rounds 4 and 6 for building trading posts- Barrie and Jen of course getting double because of Water 1. 

I reached the top of the Air track by the end of round 4 and the top of the Fire track (hotly pursued by Barrie) at the end of round 5. Barrie was top of the Earth track and Jen top of the Water track. None of us were interested in Shipping, except at the end of the game for some cheap VPs (which I eschewed since 1 Priest and 4 gold for 2 Vps is actually a net loss for the Alchemists!). So connected area had to be by land or bridge. In the end both Barrie and I had 9 connected buildings, Barrie's distributed between Central, Southern and Eastern continents and linked with bridges and mine all in the Central continent. Jen had less connected buildings, the penalty for the Witch stronghold ability.

I had quite a bit of material left over at game end, which was pretty wasteful- I mean Alchemists are meant to hoard money but extra workers and priests is just silly. Jen and Barrie were more efficient- and they deserved their joint victory on about 110 to my 100.

As Barrie pointed out, the three player game isn't as tight as the four-player and I probably won't be insisting on playing it next week (while still being keen on 4 or 5 player if we have the numbers). Those point scoring favours- Water 1, Earth 1, Air 1, are pretty good and the Temple first strategy for the Nomads seemed to work well. The board certainly looked quite different from last week, if only because of the large areas of swamp!

The Boss (thanks Neil)

At the end of the evening there was just time for a three-round paired-up card-game of The Boss with Paul’s newly expanded version. With three ‘old-hands’ and three ‘apprentices’ the pairs fell naturally into Woody and Jon, James and Michel, Paul and me. Whilst open discussions were allowable hidden/secret ones weren’t. 

The game is all about betting on the value of the hidden card based on what remains of the options in your hands. There are 8 or 9 ‘suits/colours’ which are designated as US cities. By design, good fortune or pure luck both Paul and I went for an early bluff [Paul - it was 100% luck] and then bet latterly on the real deals. James and Michel tried some French discussions which confused themselves more than the rest of us. Woody’s final hand signals to Jon were witnessed by all and still misinterpreted. Round one to Paul and I.
In the second round everyone was a little more certain about their actions although by the end it looked pretty obvious what all the hidden cards were. I think Jon and Woody, with a mass of cubes/bets still to be laid actually missed an opportunity here, but I stuck by my gun, literally and stymied James gamble on the ‘bonus’ city card of Chicago. Paul and I took an even bigger lead into the third and final round.
With the other gangstars playing for second place to be honest the third round came and went. We picked up enough to ensure victory and finally Woody and Jon got it together to win a potful of points and grab second place. The Boss was Paul, but at least he’d found a useful heavy!!

Scores Paul/Neil 16, Woody/Jon 15, James/Michel 13

Jon, Woody and Paul also enjoyed a game of Seasons.