Thursday, 27 June 2013

"Truckers, Diggers and Wings"

Truckers, Diggers and Wings
A little engineering to start with:
Terra Mystica
Keith and Jonathan were new and it was Woody's second game but I decided not to go with the basic setup... we had the Dwellings bonus tile and the 3 Power 1 Worker bonus tile removed and the round tiles were Fire Workers (Stronghold), Water Priest (Dwellings) Fire Power (Dwellings) Air Workers (Stronghold), Air (Spade) (TPs) and Towns.

Keith took the Mermaids, Jonathan the Witches (at my suggestion, I thought the initial stronghold Vps and later Air track bonuses good for them) and Woody the Halflings. Since I've played all the Red, Black and Yellow races and this didn't look like a Dwarves set up I picked the Engineers.

Initial set up saw heavy crowding on the eastern end of the central continent, with my settlement adjacent to one of each of the other players. I also settled on a peninsula in the far north of the eastern continent, with Woody some way further south. Keith's second settlement was in the southern continent and Jonathan's in the far west of the central continent.

I went with 3 power+1 Shipping, planning to burn 6 power and take the double spade action on my first turn. Don't remember what the others picked... Keith started by terraforming, spending 3 workers for one spade- Jonathan upgraded to a Trading post, giving me 1 power.

Which meant I only had to burn 5 power, which was just as well since I would spend most of the game using the 7 power available to me to the full... I picked a couple of hexes which could be bridge to later and built on the one adjacent to Woody. I continued the turn by building a Temple (Air 2) and a Trading post. Meanwhile Woody, focusing on the round bonus, built a Fire 3 Temple and sent a Priest to the Fire track. Keith soon ran out of Workers and passed, while Jonathan built his Stronghold and set about populating the land with Dwellings.

The game continued with Woody pursuing a strongly religious strategy, at one point having nothing on the map except two Temples and a Sanctuary. He and Keith followed my example in taking the Air 2 Favour, while the Water 2 Favour was also popular. I however preferred Earth 2, giving me 10+ power income a turn. I was able to bridge to the two locations I'd terraformed on turn 1.

 I was able to build my stronghold on turn 4, creating a town on the eastern continent (with bridgehead on the northern). I think Keith was next to manage a town, half and half on the northern and central continents, and Woody soon followed on the central continent where his sanctuary was. Jonathan too a bit longer in the western half of the central continent as his town consisted mainly of dwellings because no one else was over there.

Also on turn 4 I expanded my central continent settlement northwards with a bridge onto the northern continent- thus getting the full 9 VPs a turn from the stronghold. With the bonus workers from the round 4 scoring tile this central area soon became a town. Jonathan also completed his second town in round 5 by bridging between the central and southern continents. Woody and Keith delayed their second towns to round 6 when the bonus came up. Both me and Jonathan took the Water 1 favour in turn 5 for 6 VPs per trading post that turn.

Woody and Jonathan both upgraded their spade rate around round 3, although only to level 2. Shipping was largely neglected until the final round when both me and Woody invested in it as part of a race for largest area- a contest in which we tied at 11 buildings each. Keith came in at 9- he had 4 more buildings in the south-west which he had not connected. Jonathan hadn't connected his settlements either, though his big town was 8 buildings large.

The cult tracks were dominated by Woody, with Keith and Jonathan managing one first place each and me only a second place on the Air track. However, my end of round VPs, including some 12 VPs over the game from the trading post starting tile, more than compensated.

Philip 122 Woody 97 Jonathan 78 Keith 63

Keith had a slow start and never built his stronghold or upgraded his shipping, so not playing to his race's strength. Jonathan invested a lot in his big town in the west- he said at the end he hadn't realised shipping would trump it. But as both were playing a first game on an advanced setup they did well enough.

Woody certainly had a determined focus on the cult tracks. If he'd chosen Fire 1 instead of Fire 3 (1 less worker in the short term, 15 more coins over the game as a whole) as his first favour it might have worked better. Earth 2 would also have been a good pick at some point- he faced worker shortage most of the game. But he also did very well on a setup which didn't favour the Halflings (no Spade VP round tile, no Dwelling starter tile).

The Engineers worked like a dream, but of course it would been different against more experienced opponents!
A more European game next...
A game new to the three of us, James had ‘read the rules’ and so set up and explained how this somewhat overlooked Feld game worked to Barry and me. If I was to describe the game in two words it would be ‘an auction fest’, oh that’s three, never mind!
Players start with 4 sets of cards, valued 1 to 6, with which to bid or ‘influence’. These need to last for 5 rounds of auctions with a different set of 7 items to bid on each round. So you can’t bid on everything! With all auctions the winner gains influence within the council or amongst the vintners. Second place gains something until it comes to selling goods; only the auction winner is allowed to sell. The starting player for the auctions follows the winner around so changes frequently.
So, what do you win exactly? An edifice to place in the city, where you win extra VPs for having your meeples beside. A chapel for the same purpose. Then the resources; wine, shoes, meat, bread, which allow you to place your meeples in the city, providing you can pay for the privilege, as well as having some resale value, and you also get representation on the council, important for VPs at the end of each round.
At the start of the game each player is normally dealt 5 task cards and will choose between 1 and 5 to keep. As it was our first game we decided to take three each and keep the lot. These provided bonus VPs for fulfillment, or -3 VPs if you didn’t… turned out to be expensive.
The influence cards are shuffled by each player and you simply take as many from the top of the pile as you feel comfortable with. James led the way placing family members in the city whilst Barry picked up some good returns early on amassing some useful coins. I played it a bit safe although had to use some higher influence cards to do so. I also started looking ahead on the round boards to work out when I needed to win places for the final council positions as one of my bonuses was related to this.
The rounds fairly sped by and James and Barry had more meeples in the city than me and I thought I may have to settle for third, oh well, a good learning game I thought positively. Round four came and the influence cards I thought the others had been holding back didn’t come out so I pulled back a bit of ground and won the edifice that I also required for another of my tasks. They must be saving it all for the final round. However, there was only three places on the council up for grabs and I was able to take two of these comfortably as the others concentrated on getting more meeples into the city.
Final scoring; points are handed out for council members, meeples placed next to edifices and chapels, and for your task cards. Despite not having quite as many meeples in the city I had them placed nicely so managed a small lead, until Barry came back big time. The task cards; does this one mean I get a load of points for running the council then? Oh yes… victory was mine!
Would certainly be keen to play this again. It felt like a lot was going on but also was over very quickly. The influence decisions later in the game became more important and trying to figure what the others were planning was a huge part of the game, good interaction I have to say. Stefan Feld hey… who’d have thought he’d ever come up with a good game!?!
Final Scores; Neil - 54, Barry - 51, James – 42 (see, I didn’t even mention the false start we had… not even once!)
Something a little drier...

Forbidden Desert
 It was early in the evening and Jon had a shiny new tin with him – and it didn’t take too much persuasion to find 3 other volunteers (Neil, Jonathan & Keith) to assist in the new co-op quest that is Forbidden Desert. Woody (who has a vested interest in the success of this game!) was also floating around, and provided he players with a special promo card to add to the equipment deck.

This game is from Matt Leacock, and is at first glance very similar to Forbidden Island (modular tile-based playing area, collect 4 items, players with special abilities etc), but is in fact very different. It has several more layers of complexity and strategies for success, and seems to generate more team discussion than its predecessor. 

The basic idea is that the adventurers explore a buried ancient city, looking for 4 parts of a legendary flying machine. When these are assembled at the launch pad, the adventurers have succeeded and can escape the enveloping desert storm. Running out of water, having too much sand on the board and allowing the storm to grow out of control are all ways to lose and remain buried for ever.

All seemed to go swimmingly at first with this expedition. 2 or 3 of the flying machine parts were collected early on and the adventurers were in high spirits. However, thirst was becoming an issue, and several turns had to be spent excavating an oasis and sharing water out. Before long, the sand had built up to the point where the players were having difficulty removing it in time, and eventually the sand tile supply had become exhausted and the adventure was lost.

This was played at ‘Normal’ difficulty level, so at least we know that the game isn’t too easy!

Jon, Jonathan, Neil, Keith – all lost
A bit more competitive...

The Great Heartland Trucking Co.

Verrater, Coup and Kylie Minogue – all these go to prove the adage that the best things really do come in small packages. And as the Great Heartland Trucking Co game comes in a tiny box, will this be added to the list of fantastic miniscule things? Maybe…

Neil had brought this along, and Jon & Dan II were conscripted to give it a go. It’s a very simple ‘pick up & deliver’ game, with the map being made up of a number of cards containing certain goods to load, and prices of goods that can be unloaded. Players move around the map paying either cash (expensive) or fuel cards (if you can get them) in order to load or unload goods. Cash is earned when unloading goods and when the first player reaches a certain income level, the game ends.

It played quite quickly, with Dan making the most efficient deliveries and storming to a clear victory. Jon had found fuel cards were rather scarce, and had paid a lot to move his truck around. He was also left with a number of undelivered goods at the end of the game, which were worth minus points. Neil had done better than Jon, but also had some undelivered goods (pigs if I remember correctly) which depreciated his score.

This is a nice simple little game, which has some more advanced variants included in the box, which might be interesting to try. A post-mortem also revealed that Neil had somehow misread 2 of the main rules in the game – with only his previously unblemished record in this department saving him from universal ridicule. 

Definitely worth a re-run for this ‘super-filler’.

Dan II 38; Neil 29; Jon 25

“Truckers, Diggers and Wings” are the titles of the individual volumes in Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad

Thursday, 20 June 2013

"I've Wisdom form the East and Wisdom from the West"

We’ll start with a little light property buying
For Sale (thanks Jon)
4 stray IBG’ers soon became 6 which was handy, as For Sale happily accommodates this number of players. Neil picked up some nice bargains, whilst Soren waited until late to start bidding big. Jon paid a lot for a high-value building early on, and with Philip sitting to his right with plenty of cash, he was forced to pick up a few minnows too.
In the second half, there were some bargains to be had when the relative values of the cheques were close together, but when the scores were totted up it was revealed that it had all been quite close, with Philip pulling ahead for the win and Jon having a shocker.
“Unfortunately”, the full scores have gone the way of the dodo…
From houses to Kingdoms...
Kingdom Builder
With an hour to kill and 3 players looking for game, the currently popular (except with Neil, the old grump…) Kingdom Builder was chosen. It was new to Gareth II, but Gary had played a shed-load on iOS (which is actually a fine implementation).
Scoring cards were Discoverers (points for each horizontal line occupied), Workers (for being next to locations) and Citizens (1 point for every 2 settlements in your biggest settlement area).
It was all very close – Gareth and Jon both ran out of settlements, whilst Gary had a couple left. Jon maxed out on the Citizens by having all 40 settlements in 1 clump, but couldn’t get as many Workers as Gareth or Gary. Gareth scored full marks for the Discoverers, having occupied every horizontal line.
There was almost nothing in it at the end, with Gareth and Jon sharing the win, and Gary trailing just 3 points behind (placing next to 1 more citadel would have won him the game).
The 3-player game is different to 4 player, as there is more space, but this can actually constrict players, as they can find themselves with less options to spread across the board (not being blocked in by other players as much). Anyway, much fun as always in a palatable 40 minute playtime.
Jon 54; Gareth 54; Gary 51
Camels next...
Yspahan (thanks Paul)
Paul brought along Yspahan knowing Jim was along and that it was one of the games he couldn't say no to. They were joined by long time friend of both, Dale who was over from Kiwiland and Amanda.

The veteran Yspahaner Jim sped off showing everyone that he liked camels by taking that option in each of his first turns, even though there were only a camel or two each turn. The newbies first looked in disbelief at the supposed naivety of the man, but then soon started to follow suit, grabbing camels at every turn. Surely one so wise couldn't be wrong, even if it looked like it made no sense.

Amanda took an early lead and maintained it for most of the game, while Jim sat back grinning at his camel surplus, but telling everyone that he just didn't get the right dice, or cards.

The game was very building oriented and there was almost no caravaning for the first two weeks, with camels only getting to the top during the last turn.

Dale was building a lot in the various quarters and Paul was dabbling in everything, trying madly to keep up with Amanda.

During the last week Jim was heard in conversation with Dale "I think that it's between you and me for third place". Paul looked on smugly as he was confident by that stage of overtaking Amanda so surely victory was his.

But then it came to Jim's last turn, an even though he'd only scored averagely for the caravan and was in last place, a few flourishes on the board, a count of his cubes in the big scoring quarters and he swept into the lead in majestic fashion.

We were not worthy.

Scores: Jim 86, Paul 72, Amanda 70, Dale 66
Another urban environment...
Uptown (thanks Paul)
Jon glanced across the room after Yspahan finished and commented that Jim must be here as Uptown was out, and indeed it only makes an appearance with Jim in tow, and this time it was very welcome.

Amanda really wanted to go home, but was persuaded to stay by the fellow camel traders for some sudoku looking puzzle stuff. Was it a game themed on New York City in the roaring 20s? Bubbly, oversized limosines, art deco galore - there were all oozing from the tiles. But no, not much theme at all, just some pretty pictures irrelevant to the game, but a very fun game it is anyway.

Amanda started by creating many groups, but a combination of people landing on her tiles and some very clever long snake like group of tiles, she managed at the end to end up with just one collection of her pieces on the board, however she also was forced to take several tiles from all of the others and so ended up scoring highly for those.

Jim kept the number of tiles that he managed to collect down to only 2 of one colour but ended up with 3 shapes on the board.

Paul was intent on keeping the number of board tiles down and managed to limit these to 2, but had also picked up two from his fellow players.

Dale ended by also keeping his on board tiles to two groups, but took the spoils as he has only picked up a max of one from the others.
Scores (lowest wins): Dale 3, Paul 4, Jim 5, Amanda 5
And now for a game featuring a surprising absence of Tibet...

China (thanks Paul)
Amanda made her exit and it was left to Dale, Jim and Paul to slog it out for the last time in the evening over some Chinese area control.

Dale and Paul had played before, but neither well enough to teach Jim perfectly, so Paul gallantly let Dale swat up while he chatted with his old mate under the pretence of setting up the board (anyone who knows China knows that there isn't much of this).

Dale and Jim kept leaving a couple of spaces in a region, so Paul kept finishing them off. They both got into a battle over who controlled a couple of the middle provinces, so Paul let them fight it out and took a long road and several regions in the west.

And that was more of less the pattern for the rest of the game. Paul was grateful to be able to even up the scores for the evening at 1 each between the three boys.

Scores: Paul 49, Jim 44, Dale 29
Last report, back to the old favourite
Terra Mystica
Everyone had played at least one game so we were using the advanced set up. The bonus 2 Workers and bonus Worker +3 power tiles were missing, theoretically creating a worker poor environment. I decided to pick Swarmlings on the theory that their greater income would counterbalance this.

Dan picked Alchemists, not good news to me. Fortunately the other two players were at the opposite end of the terrain spectrum- though less fortunately they both had terraform abilities that ignored this- Neil's Nomads being less frightening in this regard than Barrie's Giants.

I went with initial dwellings fairly close to each other in the extreme east of the Northern and Central continents. I was adjacent to Barrie in the Central continent and -quite deliberately- on my own in that part of the North- although Neil put two of his Dwellings further east. Dan and Neil were adjacent on the Central continent and Dan and Barrie not quite adjacent on the Eastern continent.

I started with a Priest, whom I sent to the Water track to ensure a Priest from the initial starting tile. I upgraded my central continent Dwelling Stronghold as Barrie's Stronghold rose next door. Then, worried by Barrie's Terraforming ability I took the double spade action to terraform a mountains hex next to me and Barrie, bumping into Dan who was expanding from the other side. I then used by stronghold's ability to make a trading post but had run out of resources for a temple.

Meanwhile Barrie, who had taken the temporary shipping tile used his terraform power to jump onto the Northern continent next to Neil's Temple (which Neil had paid an extra 3 gold to upgrade before Barrie had arrived). He also sailed to the wasteland hex on the tip of northern continent's eastern peninsula.

At this point Dan was struggling with the Alchemists and I generously explained to him how he could build his Stronghold (by burning 3 power for an extra worker).

Round 2 was scoring for Towns, but no one managed a town. Neil built his lone Temple into a Sanctuary. I built my Temple a round late, but as I choose the Water 1 tile and built the Temple before using my stronghold ability I could at least feel I hadn't wasted that. Barrie built out to meet Dan on the eastern continent.

Round 3 saw my first town, on the central continent. I had temporary shipping and used it to plant a foothold on the southern continent and defend my northern position against Barrie- enough to guarantee 3 buildings there, but not enough to prevent him completely cutting me off from the river on my western side, sinking my chances of connecting all my buildings. Pretty soon everyone was building towns- Dan had three by the end of the game and Neil had a couple. Barrie could have had 3 towns but he panicked when I upgraded my shipping and filled in a space between two of his settlements that I had no intention of poaching (it would have cost me 2 spades and was of no actual use to me apart from annoying Barrie). I built a second town using my Sanctuary on the northern continent- in round 5, when there was a 5 Vp bonus for it. My southern continent efforts failed because Dan arrived there.

Neil was slow to build his stronghold and we allowed him to redirect a bridge when he misunderstood the "over water" clause. The final turn was VPs for Trading posts and Dan milked this for all it was worth as well as having the TP starting tile, while I only managed to build 2 that round.

On the cult track Neil was everywhere, as he had taken the cult bonus starting tile whenever he could and had the Water 2 favour, I think he had 4 favours at the end of the game- the last one he took was Earth 1 which would have scored more had he taken it first...however because he was last with town building he only managed to get top place on one track (Air). I managed to reach two top places- Water and Earth, while Barrie carried the Fire track.

Dan and I had fully upgraded our shipping but Barrie was able to connect all his buildings with Shipping 1. Dan still had more buildings and so came in first. Neil had no shipping and so I pulled ahead of him for third place.

Scores Dan 107 Philip 98 Barrie 89 Neil 62

Analysis: Once I'd given him the starting push, Dan played the Alchemists beautifully- as he said, he always feels he's a coin or two short in these games, and now he could evade that. Barrie played the Giants- who are difficult- well enough, and had he managed the two separate towns in the north he would probably have been challenging me for second place. Neil played a different strategy for the Nomads from Woody (last week)- heavy on Temples and isolation (he paid 6 gold for a Trading post at least twice). But the strategy didn't seem to work any better from him than Woody's stronghold based one.

Second game in a row my score has decreased- I said to Dan I'd scored 99 last time and he said that could get embarrassing in ninety games time when I'll be in single figures. Not sure I really grasped the Swarmlings- their worker income is not actually higher than other races in practice and they really need that third town.

And another fantasy world, added belatedly due to editorial omission...
Kingsburg- thanks Gary
Five putative governors from the Isleworth BGG sat down to play Gareth II’s copy of Kingsburg at the London Apprentice and build themselves a a province to exceed all others. Since this was the first time several of us had played the game, we decided to go with the no-frills standard version, eschewing the additional (larger) boards of the expansion – table space was also a factor here! Gareth II explained the game at a brisk pace (dice, placement, resources, build, survive the invading hordes etc) and then we were underway.

I’m not sure whether it was down to the setting (The London Apprentice pub) or a follow-my-leader sense of insecurity for first time players, but everyone built the Inn on the first turn – this wasn’t going to be very exciting if this continued. The modern phenomenon of the identical High Street is one thing, identical fantasy provinces would be another thing altogether! Fortunately, things diverged from that point onwards…

Andy and Soren went the commercial route, saving up their resources to build the Markets, then later the Farm and Merchant’s Guild. Andy, in particular, decided to hold back on building to curry favour with King Tritus and obtained the King’s Envoy after the first summer season and then the King’s Aid at the start of Season 2 (an extra die). Meanwhile, Gary was keeping up his building rate by concentrating on the low cost and low value buildings, as were Gareth II and Jon. Everyone spurned recruiting soldiers at the end of Year 1 and survived the first invasion of unsavoury hordes, thanks to a decent roll of the reinforcement dice. All pretty tight at this stage.

It was in Year 2 that problems started to appear in Andy’s province when's its governor embarked on a campaign of grammatical tyranny (“FEWEST buildings”) and then some unsavoury sedition (“what, the leading player gets an extra VP for building the most!!”). It was no help pointing out to him that it was the player who had built most buildings that received the King’s Reward, and that could easily be different to the player with most VP. Perhaps most worryingly, he was convinced that someone was tampering with his dice… (they could not possibly roll that low by accident!). Soren too was afflicted by similar loaded dice concerns, questioning the decision to give him the non-standard red dice - he was unconvinced by the explanation that it was more difficult to see the black pips on the original red dice!

Years 2 and 3 saw Pedantic Andy continue to monopolise the King’s Aid for having least (sorry – FEWEST!) buildings, before he and Soren made their extra white dice a permanent fixture in their armoury by building the Farm. The -1 defence on invasions this gave them proved not so much of a problem thanks to some decent help provided by King Tritus’ troops at year end. More of a problem was the fact that the white die appeared to be stuck on permanent rolls of one!

Gary continued to build regularly through Years 2 and 3, concentrating on the first two columns of buildings - including a hastily constructed Market after a nasty case of blocked advisers - and, to Andy’s consternation, started picking up the King’s Reward regularly for having the most buildings (13 buildings by game end). A couple of trips to the Queen’s Bedchamber didn’t go amiss in the VP stakes either! Gareth II was regularly picking up the VPs for defeating the invaders by the largest margin, while Jon quietly played a conservative game (was he seeking help from the Kingsburg App on his phone??).

Years 4 and 5 saw Andy and Soren finally reaping the benefits of the permanent extra die and the extra gold per season courtesy of the Merchant’s Guild by expanding their realms at a pace. However, Gary had by now built up a fair lead on the VP track and had turned to building the VP laden religious buildings, including the Church in Year 4 and the Cathedral, finally, in the summer of Year 5. Going into the final autumn/winter period of Year 5 saw Gary with a six point lead over Soren, leaving Soren, who had just built the Wizard’s Tower, hoping that the final invading hordes would do enough to tear down that Cathedral!

In the final autumn season, Gary managed to scrape enough together to making a fitting final visit to King Tritus himself – earning just enough resources to build the 4VP Barracks and gain two much-needed extra soldiers (thanks to the Stable), whilst Soren couldn’t quite accumulate enough resources to build again. Gary was now on 45 to Soren’s 35. So it all came down to the final invading horde – Soren’s only hope was for a(n unlikely?!) combination of building-destroying Barbarians (not Demons) of strength 9 appearing with a roll of only 1 on the reinforcement dice – that would result in Gary’s Cathedral being destroyed (losing 9VPs) and might have meant Soren could still have survived and possibly even still defeated the invaders for VPs himself, thanks to those Wizards.

The invaders duly appeared and were, horror, Barbarians of strength 9 intent on destroying buildings….. but fortunately for Gary, Gareth II rolled a safe 3 on the reinforcement dice, repelling the invaders and saving Gary’s Cathedral and the splendiforous VPs it added to his province.

Final Scores: Gary 46, Soren 36, Jon 34, Gareth II 33 and, last but not least... actually it was the least (sorry – FEWEST!) points was Andy on 32.

P.S “I’ve Wisdom from the East and Wisdom from the West” is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeoman of the Guard

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

By the Mystic Regulation

Summer has begun. Let us start with a fantasy euro.
Terra Mystica
Neil and Woody hadn't played before, so we went with the starting game scenario. Barrie took the Halflings as he hasn't played them yet. Neil chose Witches and Woody Nomads.

Neil and Woody went with immediate Strongholds. I took the 3 Power +1 shipping starting tile and 6 power digging action to dig around Woody. My first temple choice was Air 2, and then I built Earth 2 and Water 2 in the following turns. Barrie timed his Stronghold for the spades bonus turn (turn 3). Most of us managed two towns, and I built a third in turn 6 at the price of spending all my resources (including 3 priests turned into coins, what a waste!).

Woody somehow didn't manage to keep up in the score race, not sure why exactly, I guess he didn't have any special way of scoring and wasn't paying too much attention to vps from the round tiles. Both Neil and Woody motored their way up the cult tracks, maxing two tracks each while I languished in (usually) second place. The usual Mermaid shipping meant I had connected all my buildings, and Neil also connected his buildings, by dint of focusing on the eastern side of the map- he had slightly less buildings than me at the end. Woody and Barrie failed to connect their buildings, but Woody's main settlement was larger than Barrie's so he obtained third place. Neil obtained 8 points from his starting tile in the last round, which proved decisive.

Final Scores Neil's Witches 106, My Mermaids 99, Barrie's Halflings 93, woody's Nomads 77.

Analysis: Bit of a comedown from 147 last game on my part! Probably would have been better with a scoring favour rather than three income/once per turn favours. Barrie pointed out he was not favoured by intial settlement placing. Unlike Neil, who also seemed to understand the game quite fast for a new player.

Now for the “kids table”
To start the evening, a very simple filler from Queen Games. Each player has a deck of 15 cards valued 1-15. 3 gems are placed out each round and players play a card face-down to attempt to win a gem. Highest card wins. Different coloured gems are worth different points and sets of gems (3-6) are worth bonuses.
Woody found if difficult to gain any gems at all (he could blame his very recent dental work for that maybe…) whilst Jon set his stall out early by picking up the least valuable gems without too much competition.
When it came to scoring, Jon had managed to pick up 6 each of the low-value red and white gems, giving a massive bonus of 20 for each colour and taking the win. It worked this time, but he might find more competition for the cheapo gems next time!
Jon 58; Jeroen 38; Gareth II 38; Neil 34; Woody 25

What is it with these fantasy kingdoms...
Kingdom Builder
This game appears to polarize opinion – Paul could play it all evening, Neil could happily throw it in the Thames (if the tide hadn’t been so far out…) Fortunately, Neil was engrossed in pushing wooden cubes around on an indiscriminate landscape, which left Paul free to contentedly push wooden houses around on an indiscriminate landscape…
The scoring options tonight were Lords (having most settlements in a sector), Merchants (connecting locations) and Knights (settlements on a single horizontal line).
Several players were picking up the same terrain card a few times in succession, which was making expansion difficult, but James managed to spread out enough to pick up a number of special abilities that enabled him to put extra settlements on the board each turn. This was to prove the decisive factor, as everyone else had a number of settlements left in their supply when he brought the game to an end. He therefore scored full Lords points in 2 sectors, and with plenty of Knights points as well, he earned a well-deserved victory.
James 70; Jon 63; Paul 44; Jeroen 34

Last item on kids table,”a crime in itself”...
Small World
If the blog is to be believed, then this game hasn’t seen the light of day at IBG since December 2011 – which is surely a crime in itself. Jon had seen it shedding a quiet tear on his shelf as he was leaving the house this evening, so threw it in the bag out of sheer pity, but then found some willing volunteers to resurrect this classic fun take-that game.
This game was also played with the Tales & Legends expansion, which mixes the base game up nicely, adding some subtle (and not so subtle) events to each round of play.
James began proceedings and instantly spread his Tritons across half the map and instantly declined them. Paul could not allow James to remain in such a strong position, and despite Jon’s protestations to “leave poor James alone”, he wiped out half of his forces with some rather aggressive Commando Amazons. Feeling truly sorry for James, Jon then took revenge on his behalf, and picked off some of Paul’s thinly spread Amazons with his Dragon-Master Trolls.
James then brought on a second race and proceeded to score big points for a few rounds running. An event card then forced everyone to declare their points, revealing that James was indeed ahead by a substantial amount. Despite this concrete evidence, he became more and more obsessed with encouraging all the other players to attack Jon (whilst singularly failing to do so himself).
By this time, Jeroen had some skeletons causing chaos on the board, and Paul had brought on some Giants to dispense mayhem from their lofty mountain heights. Jon (ever the peace-keeper) had some Diplomatic Sorcerers, which he used to maintain an uneasy peace with James for a couple of rounds, whilst his declined Trolls (protected to some degree by their troll lairs) continued to pull in a few points each round.
James was now evangelising his mouth-frothing “kill Jon” gospel to anyone who would listen (no-one), but eventually took matters into his own hands and started attacking the declined Trolls himself. Jeroen had been quietly totting up a number of points from his declined Halflings, whilst Paul was having difficulty getting a foothold with any of his races.  
The final round finally arrived and James picked up a Wealthy race for the instant 7 point bonus that it gave – a fine tally to end the game but was it enough? Not quite – Jon had just scraped enough points together to overtake James for the victory, with Jeroen not far behind in 3rd place.
“I told you so!” James screamed apoplectically at Paul and Jeroen, but to no avail, as they faded quietly off into the night. Lessons learned tonight? Don’t take a big early lead, and don’t expect Paul to do your dirty work for you.
What a fabulous game…….
Jon 101; James 91; Jeroen 85; Paul 73
Meanwhile, over on the “serious” table:
Power Grid
Noel, Gareth II, Alexia and Sean settled down for an evening of Power Grid and a first play for Noel and Gareth on the UK and Ireland map and first go at Power Grid for Sean and Alexia. We played on the Scotland, Southern Ireland, Midlands and South England areas.

At the first auction alexia and gareth picked up the low value plants and started in the midlands, noel started below them in London and Sean alone in the wilds of Scotland. Noel started his second network in Ireland after building a small 4city network in the south of England to take advantage of a good central spot in Ireland and access to plenty of open cities. Sean followed a little later while Alexia and Gareth didnt venture to the peat bogs and green fields, preferrring the industrial Midlands for their networks.

By the middle game Noel had some high capacity plants but was a little behind in network size, Gareth had cycled through a number of low value plants and massively outbid others for some of the higher value ones..50 being the chosen number on 2 occasions as he tired of the dallying around 28 and 30. Alexia held on to her low value coal plants much to Noels dissatisfaction as she was careful not to overbuild her cities and as such picked up all the cheap coal Noel was after for his big coal plants. Sean had been building aplenty and had city lead at 12. If he had been able to build out and end the game early he might just have been able to supply enough cities to take an early win but a couple of auction choices didnt go well and money was too tight to complete his network. A little later Noel built 6 cities out to finish the game and win with 16 powered cities.

An interesting map with some choke points in the midlands and Scotland which encourages a different decision about when to expand to your second network. If Northern Ireland was selected as an area (i should have insisted!) in addition to Southern Ireland and only 2 areas from England/Scotland/Wales then more players may have been encouraged to build the second network. As it was, another enjoyable play at a great game, and Sean's new favourite game! Success!

Noel 16 powered cities, Gareth 15, Sean 14, Alexia 13.

P.S “By the Mystic Regulation” is a quotation from The Grand Duke by Gilbert and Sullivan.