Wednesday, 29 May 2013

‘It’s  not  totally  random!’

This week was full of surprises.  We were able to welcome back Jen from Leeds, discuss various exploits at UKGE including Woody’s tooth problems, James’s dual-style holiday in Martinique, I walked from home which took 35 mins and involved more movement than I’ve had all year, Dan turning up before 8.30 (approx. 7.35 I think), and Philip managing to cajole three others into a game of Terra Mystica, hurrah!

Attendees; Woody, James, Scott, Neil, Andy, Jen, Tom (briefly), Philip, Amanda, Barry, Dan, Gary.

For Sale

While some of tucked in there was a full complement of six for this one; Andy, James, Jen, Tom, and Scott.  Apparently, it was very close and Scott didn’t win (! thanks Tom) with Jen taking the glory.

Terra Mystica: Halflings, Nomads, Darklings and Auren (thanks Philip!)

Gary who was new, went first [Technically Philip, Gary wasn’t new, it was the game that was new to Gary, n’est pas? ed.]. The starting set up had vps for Trading posts (Air), Dwellings, Dwellings (Priest bonus), Spades, Strongholds (Air) and Trading posts. The free shipping and cult bonus starting tiles were not in play. With the spade bonus in round 4 I decided to give Gary the Halflings. Scott picked the Nomads, I picked the Darklings and Andy picked the Auren.

Gary started on the eastern continent (F5) All of us placed a dwelling adjaccent to his, walling him in- his second dwelling was on its own in the southern continent (I8). Meanwhile another group of dwellings appeared on the central continent, while Scotts' third dwelling was on the Northern continent.

Last time someone played the Halflings they didn't realise they had a discount on upgrading their Spades and didn't bother to do so. So this time I made a point of mentioning the discount in my rules explanation to Gary. Understandably he therefore rushed to upgrade his Spades on turn 1- picking the Priest starting tile for the purpose. He also built a Temple, taking the Earth 1 favour.

I also built a Temple, taking the Earth 1 favour and was able to terraform and build on two hexes in the Eastern continent, bringing me adjacent to a Swamp hex (E10) next to Andy's Stronghold. I burnt off 6 power getting an extra Priest and (towards the end of the turn) +7 money.

Andy took the Water 2 favour with his Stronghold and ensured he would get a bonus spade at round end, while expanding in the central continet with a spade action starting tile. Meanwhile Scott built a Temple, taking the Earth 2 favour, and also expanded in the central continent, using a spade power action.

Turn 2 saw me build my Sanctuary, taking the Water 2 favour, and send a Priest to the Water track. Gary upgraded his spade rate again and Scott and Andy expanded their settlement on the central continent to near-town size.

Turn 3 saw Scott, me and Andy building our first towns, both Scott and Andy taking 8 VPs and +1 All cults, while I took 9 Vps and a Priest. Andy and I had reached 8 on the Water track and recieved two Priests as a bonus.

Turn 4 had lots of points scored by me and Gary because of the Spade bonus. Gary was settling most of the southern continent while I covered the western half of the central continent. Andy built up his position on the eastern continent and Scott built up his on the northern continent. I scored 8 VPs from the Dwelling starting tile this round.

Turn 5 saw Scott, me and Andy acheive second towns and Gary acheive his first. Scott, me and Gary built our strongholds.

Turn 6 saw me block Gary in the southern continent for no good reason at all (I had a kind of illusion that I could build a third town there but I was about 10 resources short on that front) and Andy complete his third town (northern continent, east).

Andy won largest area with Scott second and me third - despite 4 buildings isolated on the eastern continent. Cult track points were mostly won by Andy, the Auren being good for some purposes, with Scott getting most of the remainder.

Final Scores; Philip - 147, Andy - 122, Scott - 121, Gary - 108.

Note: Scott would have tied with Andy if my final move hadn't pushed me up one on the Air track and cost him a VP.

Analysis: Gary was not helped by me and Scott picking adjacent terrain types to him- by contrast Andy benefited from having easy access to his side of the terrain board. We then made things worse by walling Gary's first dwelling in. 108 is a perfectly respectable score, this was quite a high scoring game. But he would probably have scored more by building a bit of infrastructure before upgrading his spade rate.

Scott eschewed the obvious first turn Stronghold Strategy and finished a respectable second on cult tracks and area scoring. I fear Earth 2 was the wrong temple choice- certainly Scott had no shortage of workers throughout the game...

Andy put on a much stronger performance in his second game, but then in his first game he was the Giants!

Personal high score for me- but a perfect set up for the Darklings with Priest bonus immediately before Spade bonus. That Earth 1 favour is very good...

Thurn and Taxis (many thanks James)

A current fave of mine so I was keen to get a game in, and Jen also
commented that this was on her 'want to play' list so from there on we
pretty much decided on the game. Amanda and Dan also chipped in to complete the quartet partly cause they were keen, but also cause the alternatives looked scary...

As I wrote before, this is the great lost gateway game... great gameplay,
horrific theme. Area control, set collection, push your luck.. all smoothly combined in a simple ruleset. Even with a rules explanation and 2 new players [more ‘new’ people, what is it with you lot? ed.] it still took less than an hour from start to finish.

So how did the game go? The early stages are driven by the cards available which lead me to go for control of the largest area managing to pick this up within 3 sets of route laying. Amanda and Jen were finding their feet in their first game, but both still managed to pip Dan to the first to build in each region and from this point Dan was struggling. He did try to psyche me out at one stage suggesting we were both battling for last place... but I could see through this false bravado.

Slowly as the game developed it looked like I was in with a shot... Jen was picking up 2s and 3s from completing the smaller areas, similar to Amanda, while I was going for longer routes and picking the route bonuses... the only thing Dan was picking was his nose... For a few turns towards the end though he seemed to enjoy flushing all 6 cards which just happened to remove the one I was after on the next turn... I'm sure he wasn't doing it on purpose... I think...

Then... suddenly... we realised that Amanda was only a few buildings away from bringing the game to an end. Alongside this she also managed to pick up some more bonuses on her last turn placing her last buildings to complete another set... Jen and me were able to get a few points as well while Dan was left with nothing to do on his last turn except contemplate life and ponder he if he'd sooner not have signed up for one of the Stefan Feld epics on another table.... And, as it happens those final points made all the difference for Amanda as she romped home in her first ever game....

Another fun outing for this, I'm keen now to try one of the expansion to see what variation it brings to the game... I just wish the board and theme was something easier to sell to other players... it's hard to get non-gamers too excited on a game based on a medieval postal system...

Final Scores; Amanda - 21, James - 19, Dan and Jen 15

Rialto (many thanks Woody! well played sir [well taught I guess!! ed.])

Woody must be in dreamland ... his favourite games designer is throwing them out left and right ! Hot on the tail of Bruges, Stefan Feld has another new release which Neil kindly arrived with .. Rialto.

Woody, Barry II and Neil sat down for a first go at what is a reasonably light Feld game. It was great to see Tonio and for him to arrive just in time to join the fun. Rules run down by Neil completed, off we went. In summary, there are six rounds, one for each district on the map. Hands of cards are dealt face up (one more than number of players) and turn order dictates who chooses a set of cards first. The cards played in certain sets allow you to improve your turn order, collect gold, build buildings and build bridges/gondolas which increase the VP value of the districts. Finally, placing workers in the districts.

VPs are available during the game plus end game scoring dictated by the value of the gondolas & bridges attached to each district. The majority player getting full value, then each player after that getting half, quarter, eighth.

General consensus was that this is another cracker from Feld ... looking forward to playing again.

Final Scores; Woody - 68 (focussed on district domination), Tonio - 53 (controlled the Doge throughout this getting first pick of the cards), Neil - 51 (substantial buildings), Barry - 43 (a mixed approach)

7 Wonders, Show Manager and Flash Point! (thanks early-bird Dan!)

I took the honours in both 7 Wonders and Show Manager, and the house collapsed on us in Flash Point (although I believe we rescued enough people to technically win by the rule book). James, I think you actually did fairly well, presuming you were aiming to be the gentleman in every game.

[EDIT: 'That's the worst non-review i've ever been credited with. There wasn't even a snifter of racing dinosaurs, cannibal sharks, or pan dimensional temporal rifts involved. All of which I understand are official expansions for Thurn Und Taxis. ' Dan]

Galaxy Trucker

Well, me and space games, I don’t know what it is, we just don’t get on. There must be some great ones, why the hell should the theme destroy every one of them? Clearly, it can’t. So following disastrous plays of Ascending Aliens, Planet Steam and Mission: Red Planet, it was time to try another one out.

Tonio kindly taught the game, new to both Barry and myself, and said we’d only get to play a couple of rounds but would get a good feel for the game in that time. Oh yes, yes indeedy!  Barry and I had a practice build and learned what to look out for… everything.  And then Tonio took us through the strategic bits of looking at the event cards that would destroy everything we’d put together.  We avoid those how exactly?  We don’t?  Ok.

So, round one proper.  Fully expecting Tonio to turn the sand-timer over within seconds it was a mad grab for tiles trying to remember which did what and what fitted with what and what the hell is that bit?  But time seemed ok, probably because we all put the tiles we didn’t want back down face up rather than face down.  Integrity of pieces was ok although there was some last minute reconstruction of Barry’s craft.

And then the card events come out.  Each one dents a little bit more of spaceship not to mention your confidence or understanding.  Or you lose cargo, crew and batteries of course.  Of course.  If you cope with the threats then you go backwards on the score chart.  Right.

Second round.  We know what we’re doing now don’t we.  Oh yes.  Bigger craft to produce this time, must make sure I get more engines, guns, spacemen, batteries, well everything in fact.  Off we go, more frantic tile grabbing and I suddenly decide to make a streamline craft and put the pressure on the others to make theirs with the sand-timer running.  Didn’t work.  So I have a light-weight craft and am first in line to experience the threats… uh oh!

Needless to say I was crushed from each and every side.  The others took some knocks but were hitting back too.  Barry had been paying more attention than me somewhere along the line, won by a space mile!  I can see the game being fun the more pickled you are perhaps.  I’m glad we didn’t have time for the last two rounds though.  Tonio convinced me that ‘it’s not totally random’, and off I went into the night, Barry kindly taking me home.  I’d have got lost if I’d tried to walk it!

Final Scores; Barry – 32, Tonio – 18, Neil – 6

[For information: the bits that weren’t totally random; taking the components out of the box, the sand timer was particularly consistent, putting the components back again afterwards.]

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Listen?  No, Lyssan.  What?


Attendees; Tom, Ravi, Woody, Neil, Gareth II, Paul, Jon, Barry, Noel, Andy, Sean, Alexa


Games Attempted; Kingdom Builder, Lyssan, Tzolk'in, Mogel Motte, Hanabi, Geistesblitz

Kingdom Builder (thanks Jon!)

4 players - Sean was new but picked up the rules quickly and asked less questions than last week! The goals were to build in a horizontal line, build a big clump and surround the castles and other tokens.

Jon started a quick horizontal line build, but Sean quickly cut him off, causing him to relocate to the bottom of the map, where there were few opportunities to surround castles etc. Sean went on to build a massive clump of settlements in the centre of the map, with a nice long horizontal line to boot. Paul was more spread out, but built next to all 4 castles, whereas Noel managed a bit of everything, but majored on surrounding the castles etc which gave him shed loads of points and a comfortable victory.

Noel's wife doesn't much like the game, but there's plenty of love for it at IBG so it's worth keeping! (I’m with Mrs Noel. ed.)   

Final Scores; Noel 65; Sean 54; Paul 53; Jon 47


Tom had literally forced Neil to buy this recently, great production.  They had planned a full campaign with Ravi and Sean but the latter was so busy trying to bring a young lady along that Gareth II stepped forward gallantly.

The game weighs in at around 180 mins apparently so we were keen to get going. There’s a round of area control where each knight; The Vulture (Gareth), The Hawk (Tom), The Wolf (Neil), and the Council of Orgasms, I mean, Orvanic (Ravi), places two castles with a priest and spy in, plus two nobles and two knights.  Each round is split into seasons and Spring begins.  Influence cards are then dealt to each player and the first of the Triumphs (winning targets) is revealed. In our case we were looking to have a majority of Vassal-Courtiers in play (one of the three different types of Influences).  With it so far?  Ravi wasn’t.

In summer time each player gets to take as many actions as he possibly can before the turn moves round.  Random turn order meant Tom led the way and his knights caused a bloodbath immediately, mainly at my expense. Gareth went for his Vassal Courtiers and also spread his knights and nobles around. Ravi decided on Tom’s strategy and by the time it was me to go I had lost three of my six-man team, wow.  Feeling a little bit picked on and deflated I realised my initial distribution of the team had been woeful!  I attempted to withdraw and set up a defensive wall.

Autumn is pretty similar to summer, and I have to say that the round played out very similarly for me!  Tom and Gareth in particular were spreading their men far and wide from some secure bases.  Ravi also had a good base but Gareth started getting amongst his fellows.  Winter.  I just wanted to hibernate.  Here comes the ‘shame’.  All your killed men attract shame and this needs to be resolved before you can continue.  Mainly by throwing in your Influence cards or taking debt.  Having an aversion to the latter I chucked all my good cards in, another faux pas!

Before we knew it Spring was here and Gareth had picked up the first Triumph, good effort!  Next target was to control the majority of Farmland, pretty bloody difficult if you only have one knight with which to control anything!  Summer and Autumn came and went I think, still in a blur and still trying to work out where I should have placed my realm at the start, I defended impressively, only losing one more noble. 

We played another round, I’m sure we did.  Moves were happening pretty swiftly and suddenly Gareth took a second Triumph, and therefore won the whole game.  Wow.  At least one of us knew what he was doing even having to move his car towards the end didn’t stop his determined campaign!  Good effort.

So, will need to take stock, re-examine the rules and sort my life out before coming back to Lyssan once again.  But when I do, oh boy, DO NOT GET IN MY WAY, I’m going to be awesome, oh yes!

Final Score;  Victory to Gareth II, the Vulture!

Hanabi (cheers again Jon, enjoy the sangria)

New to Paul and Sean, but they soon picked up the general idea. Jon had a blind discard about halfway through (WHAT??? ed.), and unfortunately picked the last white 3, effectively reducing the maximum score possible to 22. However, the team played out everything else almost perfectly, and only the late arrival of the final '5' reduced the score further - leaving the fabulous 4 on a very creditable score of 21. Not bad boys!

Noel, Jon, Paul, Sean – 21

Mogel Motte

Right, we started off as five but Alexa was stolen away by Sean so the same four as for Lyssan moved to this German card game full of ants, mosquitos, cockroaches and spiders, plus the cheating moth of course.  Basically you’re looking to get rid of your hand.  The only way to get rid of the cheating moth is to, yeah, you guessed it, CHEAT!  But you have to do this under the watchful eye of the Guard.  Ravi didn’t cheat very well, neither did Tom and Gareth.  I managed to chuck two moths onto the floor undetected.  It was the other cards I wasn’t getting rid of very well.  Tom looked to be in control, until Gareth suddenly emptied his hand, where did that come from??  Nice, colourful little game.

Gareth II. Played 2, Won 2. Time for bed.


Meanwhile Tom brought out another German filler; ghost blitz.  Like a blitz those Germans.  This one comes with five objects that get lined up in the middle of the table; a white ghost, red chair, green bottle, blue book and grey(ish) mouse, all made from wood and very tactile. 

A deck of cards is then revealed one at a time. The picture is always of two of the items.  One of them will either be the actual item, or you have to identify which item is missing from the drawing – so if the card contains a red book and white mouse, the green bottle has not been depicted in any way - and it’s then a grab to take that item from the table.  Winner takes the card, most cards at the end wins. Simple, brilliant!  Any wrongly grabbed items cost the player a card.

Tom had played this before.  Boy was he was reeling in the cards, especially when the mouse was involved.  Then I started getting a bit of a run although lost several cards with wrong guesses too.  Ravi was happy watching!  Until, he got one, then another… good stuff.  Anyway, you need a bit of practice, and then to play a few rounds and it’ll be close, nice and competitive.  I bought a copy in the week, Geistesblitz 2.0… different items, that’ll get him!!



Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Wednesday before

Yeovil’s mighty climb into the Championship!

Attendees; James, Jon, Dan II, Amanda, Barry, Gareth II, Philip, Gary, Sean, Andy 

Games played but unreported on; Biblios (I’d guess at a 1 point victory in a spread of 2-3 points scored), Dungeon Petz (almost called them pezts), and Pandemic (save the world? this lot probably couldn’t even save Brentford losing on a subbuteo pitch)  

Fast Flowing Forest Fellows (thanks Jon)

It was 7pm and the only IBG’ers present were Jon, James and Dan II. A quick game of FFFF was set up, but before long, Amanda, Barry and Gareth II had also arrived, so James graciously stepped aside to consume something meat-free, and left the other 5 to duke it out on the dangerous rivers of Canada (or somewhere). Dan took every opportunity to push everyone else back down the river, whilst Amanda took advantage of the boys fighting to slip her 2 lumberjacks quietly upstream for the win.

Barry came second (as behoves a man of his heritage) whilst Dan’s strategy only managed to secure him last place.

Amanda; Barry; Jon; Gareth II; Dan II

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar (cheers Gary, top man!)

“I love the smell of fresh cardboard in the morning….”

The evening began for some, not with the excitement of a short and entertaining set collection card game, but with the over-excitement of opening a virgin, shrink-wrapped copy of Sean’s Tzolk’in… genuine Eurogame chrome….

However, for a newbie to the game, taking a first look at the board and the iconography is a bit like looking at a wall of genuine Mayan inscriptions – totally bewildering (unless you are Mayan, of course). There is so much going on that you need to take in that it’s just a bit tempting to stop concentrating and just nod a lot… and I’m sure if anyone had been looking closely they would have noticed an uncanny resemblance between myself and that dog off the Admiral Insurance adverts as Philip did another sterling job of taking me through the rules and what everything did and the aforementioned iconography… I really did try and concentrate and I am really grateful! And, much to my chagrin, I then pulled out first player marker, the perfect way to show up my ignorance!

From my perspective, the only cogs turning at this point in the game were those on the board….

I tried to distract Philip and Andy with news of the fact that I had visited three of those Mayan temples represented on the board in my more youthful, carefree days – I hoped that they would be intimidated by such local knowledge – sadly, they saw through my transparent time-wasting and pushed on with the game…

OK, so it’s a worker placement game, involving putting your workers on circular tracks which are moved by a large gear mechanism. You get stuff and then try and convert it to other stuff, which brings you better resources or VPs etc. I guess this is largely standard stuff, but it certainly looks nice and the gear mechanism works well and makes decisions (once you do get past the point where everything is a bit overwhelming) as to how long to leave your workers hanging around on those tracks quite difficult. And it transpired that there certainly appear to be a number of different strategies that can be devised, based on buildings, Wonders, skulls, technology or the temples.

The only advice that Sean had given me in advance consisted of “Go for those lovely shiny skulls”. I’m not sure if this qualifies as strategy, but if it does, I ignored it entirely. In fact, it took me a 30 minutes to even notice where to get a skull, let alone how to use it! So, as usual, no strategy for me. In contrast, Philip clearly had a strategy (even if it was mostly opaque to me at the time) of quickly heading up the technology tracks to the top end, boosting his production and resources. Meanwhile, Andy (good luck to the Bees at the weekend!) had pulled out a starting hand which gave him extra workers and (I think – these things were all just a bit too much to take in!) the ability to feed his workers starvation rations of only one corn. Seemed like a powerful combo.

As the game proceeded, and the board started to look less like an indecipherable museum piece to me, it became clear that there were three very different strategies on the go. Andy had clearly taken Sean’s advice to heart (even if it was aimed at me!) and was very active on the Chichen Itza shiny skulls wheels picking up points and advantages. Phililp’s strategy leapt out like a bright neon light when he picked up the only Wonder built in the game which gave him a whopping 33 points for getting to the third spot on three technology tracks. Meanwhile, largely by default rather than any careful strategy, I’d been heading up two of the temple tracks (yellow and green), surprisingly unpursued by either Andy or Philip. (In fact I remained convinced til the very last turn that one of them would somehow pull something out of the bag on the last go to overtake me, even though if I’d followed those turning circles carefully I probably should have predicted that wasn’t actually possible.) In addition, the second wave of building tiles attracted a lot of attention from all three of us, building up our points total.

The final totalling was a tense affair. Philip was originally the backmarker, but that was no surprise given the number of resources he’d committed to that VP-laden Wonder. Much to my surprise, I garnered a plethora of points from the Temple track endgame scoring (something like 34) pushing me up past Andy’s skull-fuelled score and into first place temporarily. Philip’s technology track Wonder, however, brought him to within 1 point of my total. And then the trade in of left over goods etc, brought Philip 2 points and me 1. So final scores: Philip 66, Gary 66, Andy 54. Not even the tie-breaker (workers left on wheels) could split us and so a draw was declared.

…a result that I shall put it down as a fine tribute to Philip’s excellent and generous teaching skills, both at the start and throughout the game.
Railways of Europe (many thanks Jon!)

Dan, Amanda and Jon were left to select a game, with Sean hovering as well to see if he was going to be tempted away from Tzolk’in. In time honoured tradition, Jon picked 3 games for Dan and Amanda to choose between, and the winner was – Railways of the World – hoorah! And Sean decided that he would join in too, so the Europe map was chosen from Andy’s box of £3.75 goodness…

It was to be Amanda and Sean’s first game, so Jon did the usual explanation and tactfully managed Sean’s excited questions as best he could (Jon’s used to having a 6 year old quizzing him at home…) Sean bid $7 to be starting player, and after some deliberation, chose to connect to Milan to pick up a juicy Service bounty on offer. Dan chose southern Italy for another bonus, whilst Amanda chose Brest to Paris for her first link. This left Jon with starting a little line to Berlin, and the game was underway.

Sean scored 5 points with his first delivery, thanks to the service bounty and speed bonus, and decided that he needed to speculate to accumulate, so he took some more bonds to build down into northern Italy, essentially blocking Dan in. He then got a finger in another pie, picking up the card that gives a bonus for connections built into Paris, which scored a few points for him throughout the game. Added to that was a hotel in Milan (nice!) which further widened his scoring options.

By this time, Dan had also moved into Northern Europe around Amsterdam, where he was in competition with Amanda for a few cubes. However, he eventually managed to scrape together 4 different coloured cubes and picked up the associated 4-point bonus. Jon had been keeping himself to himself, and was the first to deliver a 3-link cube via Berlin to get his scoring going. He had also picked up a hotel in Vienna, which turned a couple of black cubes into 4 point deliveries – a nice bonus that early in the game.

The game continued with Sean continuing to splash the cash, building through the mountains into Spain, and Dan starting to create a little circular network around Paris, Amsterdam and Hamburg (he had taken the card that stopped anyone else building into Essen). By now, Amanda had exhausted her cube supply around Paris and had struck out westwards. This was to end with her completing the prestigious Paris-Constantinople major line, and opened up the possibility of some more valuable cube deliveries.

Jon had also gone west, up to Moscow. The cubes were poor on the way, but arriving there completed the Vienna-Moscow Major Line, and also gave him more cubes to deliver to Vienna and Berlin. Dan took a couple of turns away from his circular route to steal a service bounty into Moscow, but by now the game was entering its final stages.

Sean built up to Berlin for his own major line bonus, but Jon’s connection to Kiev enabled him to hoover up a number of solitary purple cubes which brought the game to a close. Jon’s ability to make a number of 4, 5 and even 6 point deliveries in the last few turns meant that the winner was clear, especially as he had only accumulated 5 bonds throughout the game. Sean’s investment strategy had turned out to be a good one, as he came in second despite having the most bonds. Dan and Amanda fought it out for 3rd spot – had the game been extended by a couple of rounds, they both might have been able to ship some valuable cubes. Dan admitted afterwards that he had allowed himself to become distracted in different areas of the map, which may have stalled his main ‘circular loop around Essen’ strategy. As always – a great game.

Final Scores; Jon (ruthless! ed.) 53; Sean 37; Amanda 30; Dan 29



Saturday, 11 May 2013

There was a big scare at the London Apprentice last week as it was a good forty minutes of leisurely conversation, witty banter and all round bonhomie before anyone began considering playing a board game.  Mind blowing!  Still, once the world had been put to rights some corkers came out.

Attendees; Woody, Neil, Jon, Paul D, Guest Man, Barry, James, Noel, Philip, Gary, Andy, Dan.  Barrie also flitted in with Agricola under his arm, just in case his meeting had lasted thirty mins rather than the three hours it did!
San Marco (thank you James!)
After owning the game (twice) and attempting to play several times with no luck I was pleased to see Noel laying this out on the table and quickly put my name down for a seat... It's an odd game that really only works with 3 players (effectively) which I think is one of the reason's it's never easy to accommodate. Keith took the other spot as he'd played before and we were off before anyone else turned up having seen the label 3-4 players on the box and tried to get involved...

In the game on each turn players will take a number of cards and arrange these into piles, and then add a weight to each pile (in the form of number cards - once someone has a total >10 then this triggers the end of each round). Then in turn order other players choose which pile they want leaving the player who created the sets to pick up the remaining one. This mechanic is the heart of the game and creates the basis for the results of the cards which is to take control of areas in Venice using cubes. This part is *very* reminiscent of El Grande in that cubes can be placed, moved around, switched in and out etc and that there are several scoring rounds for specific regions before a final round when all are scored... Nothing too special here, but the game really is all about the card selection that drives what can be done with all the cubes.
I was the only person new to the game, but it's not too hard to pick up. Early rounds had some bizarre card combinations showing up with no cube placement cards arriving until a few rounds into the game. I decided to opt for a bridge building strategy, based on... well nothing more really than that I liked the idea. Noel was aiming to control some expensive areas and I'm not sure what Keith was doing but he seemed to know himself so who am I to argue ! It also seemed that Keith was getting the worse of the decisions when players had to choose who to shaft... which is strange as normally Noel and I would be picking on each other with no thought to the end result...
The first scoring round was triggered by Keith and as a result Noel and I had an extra turn... which ended up with both Noel and myself in a comfortable lead and Keith lagging behind.

The 2nd round was similar. I think Noel triggered the final phase, but after points were totalled I was in the lead by several over Noel while Keith felt like he was just there as an observer... to make sure Noel and me didn't start kicking each other under the table or anything untoward like that.

So the last round... a much tenser (and slower) affair as we could all see the impact on moves and how this might impact the final scores... and herein I think lies my problem with this game... I think the mechanic is great and the game simple to learn... but with all information totally open it's really hard not to want to spend AGES over each move as you can effectively role play all other players in trying to determine the optimal selection of cards and weights for each pile. As the game draws to a close and the impact of each move becomes more obvious I found myself fighting the urge to analyse this to the nth degree... but still probably (ok definitely) took too long on my turns. the last round continued much as before but with a nagging feeling that Noel and me had been spending to long battling each other and ignoring Keith ... although he was still behind he had a lot more cubes in play that us and the final scoring was for EVERY region, of which he controlled several...
I managed to trigger the final scoring, (while spending ages trying to find a combination of cards that would enable me to recover 8 points on Noel...) but as scores started it became apparent that Keith might suddenly be in with a shot...
.. which turned out to be a total understatement as although I'd pipped Noel by 3 points, Keith won nearly all the regions at the end and finished about 10 points in the lead. A real-life tortoise and hare situation...
Lesson for the game, play a 3 player game with Noel and myself and you'll probably win (Note, rule does not apply to Jon, or Paul, or Woody...)

Final scores;  Keith 54, James 47, Noel 45

Tinners’ Trail (Cheers Woody!)

So .... digging for tin and iron in Cornwall whilst managing the water levels in your mines. Of course, because it is Cornwall, you may well stop from time to time for a Cornish Pastie!

Barry, Gary, Woody & Philip sat down for a game of Martin Wallace's Tinners’ Trail. Each round, the price of tin and iron is randomly generated and then players compete to take possession of areas to mine, acquire additional miners, ships, railways etc, all to improve productivity. At the end of each round, all ore mined is sold at the current rates and players decide how much of the cash generated they wish to use to buy VPs and how much to hang onto for the remaining rounds. VPs become more expensive each round but buying big early leaves you nothing to spend at the subsequent auctions. A close game with Woody short on mines and this showed in the end results ..

Final Scores; Barry 86, Philip 84, Gary 82, Woody 71

So I’d invested in the German version of one of Stefan Feld’s new games.  It was very cheap on and although there is certainly quite a bit of language dependency I did get ‘O’ level germerman, my wife’s degree is in it and I could always offload it to my sis’ who lives in Berlin.  Justification to the nth degree.  Anyway, played it three times at home and although you need the translations for the cards we’d found it not too tricky to play.

Joined by Jon and Paul we were just setting up when Andy arrived, amazingly none of us had taken his preference for red so he happily joined us.  There are quite a few rules but once you’ve played a round it’s as easy as falling off a log as the saying goes.  Each player is dealt five cards and you choose to use four of them each round.  Your options are to;

i.             take workers – used to build houses and action some cards

ii.            take money – based on Feld’s dice

iii.          reduce a threat – and score a precious point

iv.          build a piece of canal – costs money

v.           build a house – costs one worker of the right colour

vi.          place a person in a house – costs money - thus allowing you the chance to action the card, sometimes once only, sometimes at a cost, sometimes every round, and sometimes during game end scoring. 

The cards are in one of five colours and you have to stick to these when taking your actions, with the exception of placing a person in one of your houses.  The latter options drive your strategy really although there are still a few other scoring opportunities; moving up the prestige track, and having a majority position on that track, in canal building, and placing people.

Each round you have to look out for the threats though.  There are five of these and whilst not game ending you can’t afford to succumb to more than a couple.

I based my strategy around these on this occasion and ‘knock me down wiv a feaver’ if the dice played out with considerably less threats featuring than in my previous games!  Jon went for ‘Canal Mania’ and Andy built up workers like they were North Korean nuclear missiles.  Paul fannied around a bit and had a couple of epiphanies around the half-way mark, too late but he was keen to play again, immediately!

And then the final scoring, points are dished out for each house you have, and each person in a house – including any end-game bonuses, for canal building, prestige track advancement and for bonuses collected during play.  Jon’s canal strategy worked a treat – and copying it over the weekend worked for me too I have to admit!

Final Scores; Jon  61, Andy  49, Neil  49, Paul  42

Escape; the Curse of the Temple

James, Dan, Keith & Noel played, James wrote; “Not sure who's going to pen the Indiana-esque level of adventure that were the 2 games of Escape... I doubt I'll have time myself. It'll take longer to write those up that it did to actually play the games.”

So, I’ll make it up… Rather than pairing up the intrepid explorers decided to carry Noel through from room to room, until of course Dan and James found themselves nice and cosy in a cul-de-sac and stopped adventuring altogether.  Nobody got out to write a report so it must be assumed they’re still in there waiting for a gong to sound…. 

Kingdom Builder (many thanks Gary!)

“A Barrett Homes wetdream...”

Following on from a period of 19th Century mining in the South Western corner of the UK, land development activities next turned to the rather more extravagantly fantastical setting of Kingdom Builder. Gary and Woody were keen to show that the more lushly dramatic landscapes of Mr Vaccarino’s world were more to their liking than damp and dark underground tin and copper mines. Sadly it was not to be….

The paymasters for this particular era of settlement building were the fishermen (spaces next to water), knights (horizontal line) and hermits (separate settlements). The landscape featured a mixture of taverns (build on end of row of 3), stables (jump a space), towers (build on the edge) and farms (build on grassland). A nice combination offering a variety of options.

Philip found himself a nice patch of lake-dotted flowering meadows to settle (picture the scene!), pleasing the fishermen no-end. Barrie set about collecting as many towers and taverns as he could, Gary’s early game collection of a stable on some parched desert space offered the hermits plenty of encouragement that they would be well-catered for and Woody was exclusively building up his own corner of the board.

Philip’s lakeland paradise continued to grow apace and, in this fantasy world free of planning restrictions and green-belt, Barry spammed the board with settlements in a way that Barrett Homes can only dream of. Meanwhile, Gary and Woody could be heard grumpily complaining about multiple consecutive draws of the same landscape (two deserts in the first two cards? Pleeaaaasssee!!)

As the endgame approached, Woody was stuck marooned in a large forest area unable to escape. Gary finally drew the flower landscape that he’d been waiting for only to see first Philip and then Barry also reveal flowers landscape cards immediately ahead of him and block off both of his potentially lucrative building areas, and then (with head now firmly and forlornly down) compounded his error by forgetting all about using his tavern to build his knight-pleasing horizontal row! Philip had quietly and confidently spread across the board, but would his cold shoulder to the heavily armed knight prove his undoing? And then Barry suddenly built his last settlement… whilst everyone else still had around 10 in hand!

So to the scoring. Cities were evenly scored, Barry took the knights favour (Philip looked disdainful), Gary had used his stable to provide homes for all those hermits, but with a flood of points from his effusive fisherman, Philip took the spoils (landed the catch?!)….

The final totals were (something in the order of): Philip 50, Barry 44, Gary 42, Woody 35

As with Cornish mining, so it was with fantasy themed estate development: Philip heading Barry, with Gary and Woody trailing in behind. What a strikingly remarkable coincidence …. or perhaps not….


Felix, the Cat in the Sack

Time for a four player round of cat snatching.  Barry whizzed through the rules which was new only to Gary.  Philip and I set up.  After a good first round I went into meltdown and picked up two horrendous fistfuls of negative cats.  Philip went with his collecting mice strategy and I have to say it was impressive, picking up just one of the nine sets of cards, and very cheaply, for a good number of points.  Barry looked to be close until he was made to pay out big time on the last hand.  It’s a good filler this, plenty of bluffing, plenty of thinking you know exactly what’s going down, as my score reflects!

Final Scores; Philip 79, Barry 55, Gary 35, Neil 12

Kingdom Builder II, ‘Kingdom Builderer’ (thanks Jon!)

After a great deal of faffing around, and with 45 minutes to go, Jon, James, Noel and Paul finally sat down to the second game of Kingdom Builder of the evening. The map was characterised by a huge central desert, and the score cards for the game were: Farmers (score points for settlements in the sector that you have least settlements); Lords (players with most, and 2nd most settlements in each sector score 12 and 6 points) and Hermits (points for each separate settlement area).

These scoring cards gave an interesting amount of interaction to the game, as players were thinking about where they could gain bonus points from the Lords, without losing too many farmer points. Hermit points were going to be particularly tricky, as the bonus tiles on offer weren’t particularly helpful in terms of splitting up settlement areas.

Noel was most successful at splitting his workers equally between the 4 sectors for a good farmers score, whilst James was the only player to pick up the bonus tile which allowed movement of settlements already placed, so he scored better for Hermits. Jon managed to get buildings around several citadels and he and Paul also ended up scoring well for Lords. James managed to spend about half an hour on his final turn, but only succeeded in giving 6 extra points to Paul (due to the slightly dubious method of resolving ties for the Lords). This was enough to promote Paul into equal first place with Jon – which must have stuck in James’ throat somewhat…..

Paul opined that this might have become his favourite game, so we’re certainly likely to see more Kingdom Building in the future at IBG…

Final Scores; Paul 54, Jon 54, Noel 45, James 43