Friday, 5 July 2013

“This is Sparta!”

We’ll start with some Monsters.
King of Tokyo
All of us had played before. I won the roll for first player as “Cyberbunny” and promptly rolled 5 3s, gaining 5 VPs for an almost perfect start. Dominic, who was “The King”, entered Tokyo and was promptly mauled by Alex’s “Kraken”. Alex also refreshed the card display, getting rid of “Evacuation Orders” (everyone loses 5 Vps” which might have stopped me later. I picked up “Regeneration” and this superior healing ability combined with my continuing good fortune on rolling 3 of the same number gave me a strong position. Dominic later acquired “Mimic”, mimicking Regeneration. Alex picked up “Solar-Powered”- the image of a solar-powered kraken briefly diverted me- and “Herd Culler”. Alex, without any healing powers, was killed off quickly, while I munched my way through an Apartment (3 Vps). In the final round Dominic, on very low health, made a desperate attempt to earn enough energy for “It Has a Child”- coming one short. It didn’t matter, because I was able to reach 21 VPs with a final purchase of “Tanks”.
Cyberbunny-21, Kong 10, Kraken-dead.
Now for something a little drier...
Forbidden Desert
None of us had played before so we set the Storm level to Novice. I was the Climber, Alex the Archaeologist (“Indiana Jones”) and Dominic the Metereologist (“Michael Fish”). We started off well, easily clearing and excavating tiles, but then the Sun Beat Down upon us and soon were out of water. Alex had a secret water reserve- which he drank alone. We found both wells, but failed to get everyone on the tile before excavating: and then that was it, we didn’t have any way to obtain water. We tried hiding in tunnels and underneath Solar Shields, but one by one we died of thirst and left our bleached bodies on the sands. Actually game should have ended with the first death, but we missed that bit of the rules and played on until all had perished.
Alex, Philip, Dominic-lost
There are deserts in China- but possibly not if you’re using the map in...

China (Thanks Jon)
Another outing for this simple but engaging area-control game. It was new to everyone apart from Jon and Barry (who had played the previous incarnation – Web of Power).

Noel and Tom were plonking down houses to concentrate on majorities, and Noel scored a handy bonus with his fortification, which scored well for both a majority and a road. Amanda was creating a super-highway out of the purple zone, but unfortunately failed to add a fortification which would have capitalised on its value.

Jon and Barry were fighting it out for majority with the emissaries, with Barry coming out on top in that particular duel. Jon had also failed to construct a road, and his fortification had added a measly 3 points, leaving him well off the pace.

During the end-game scoring, Noel scored no points for emissaries, but his successful area-majorities and road-building had left him far enough ahead to retain his lead for the victory.

This game has a lot of weight for its length (<=45 mins), although your options are limited depending on which cards you take, so turns tend to go quickly. Nice. 
Noel 47; Barry 42; Tom 41; Jon 33; Amanda
And now for something completely different.
Show Manager (thanks Jon)
After a successful first outing last week, Jon volunteered to explain the rules to Barry, Noel and Tom. He appeared to have managed this without too many hitches, but realised too late that he had got the rule wrong about borrowing money from a show – you can only do it once at the start of the turn, and not multiple times during the turn. This had the effect of having the cards flushed a few more times than would probably otherwise have happened, but at least it was the same for everybody.

Jon picked up some juicy ‘9’s near the beginning and put on a fine show at the prestigious New York theatre. Noel also put on some good performances, and as the game drew to a close, there was a lot of borrowing going on, as players desperately tried to hire decent actors for their last show.

It was very close between Jon and Noel, and it was all down to the quality of their last show. Jon put on a relatively poor performance of ‘Lipstick’, but Noel had had even less success for recruiting for his New York extravaganza, which enabled Jon to sneak the victory.  

 Barry and Tom though that they hadn’t done very well, but were slightly heartened when told of Dan’s incredible last-place score from last week!
Jon 54; Noel 44; Tom 37; Barry 35
It’s all Greek to me...

Peloponnes (thanks Tom)
Barry, Jon and Tom sat down to play Peloponnes, a new purchase for Tom but an old favourite of Jon’s. This motley crew was joined by Dan but upon the siren call of Sentinels of the Multiverse, he was gone in a puff of smoke. Dan was replaced by Noel, shirking his parental responsibilities to play games with us. A true man for the ages.

After a rules run-through by Tom and Jon in tandem, the games was quickly afoot. Tom had landed Sparta with its initial wood income; this led to him spending the rest of the game resisting standing up and yelling “This is Sparta!” at the top of his lungs, thereby effecting his ability to follow the game too closely. Naturally, Tom has been chosen to put together this report so you’ll have to bear with us. In terms of the other civilisations, Dominic West, I mean Noel, had the Arkadians and their rather spiffing one person income (always helpful for cash income and recovering from supply rounds & plagues). Jon may have been Argos and Barry perhaps its contemporary Tesco. Not to self: this is calling out for a supermarket retheme.

Due to his wood income, Tom decided to put together a wood focused strategy, gaining plenty of luxury goods which he would try to protect as best he could from inevitable decline. A first pick-up of the 3 wood land tile certainly benefited him. Noel managed to acquire the Port from the Conquest tile, an excellent move with its flexible income and protection from decline (putting the boot into Tom’s own strategy somewhat). Barry picked up the three stone tile at first blush, which was a bit of a rookie error as any attempts to deviate from stone thereafter (in particular to try to start producing wheat) are very difficult without acquiring the barracks soon after. If this reporter recalls correctly – he was concentrating at certain points despite Gerard Butler running around in his subconscious like a hamster in a wheel – Barry did pick up the barracks but his already low population meant that his income for the next couple of rounds was so low that he really got pushed around in the auctions. In spite of this, Barry’s spirits were lifted a good deal by being appointed the Master of Disasters: flipper of the disaster chits. At one point, there was even a gleeful exclamation of “Yay, a tempest!” Tom gazing down at his four land tiles and depleted stack of cash did not feel likewise; every cloud has a silver lining however and this did lead to Jon reminding Tom of the rule of luxury goods as being able to replace coins saving his blushes on two occasions later in the game.

Back to the matter in hand, after buying more wood focused tiles, Tom soon started to bring in heavy wheat income hitting the maximum for both wood and wheat and eventually almost exceeding 20 luxury goods. The small stack of 20+ chips sat there positively glowing with anticipation. Unfortunately, in a tragic turn, Barry, the harbinger of doom, deemed that all civilisations were to enter into a decline, except Noel with his stupid port. Soon thereafter, there was a quick-fire rounds of supply rounds with a quick depletion of luxury goods fuelled by the complete absence of any stone and suddenly Tom’s luxury goods stood at a big fat zero just when it was crunch time. Damn, this magnificent game! Sparta had been brought to its knees. Thermopylae II: Maybe You Should Have Built That Quarry After All.

It least it could have been worse: earlier in the game, Tom had scraped his mortgage costs together with his last remaining two luxury goods without which he would have had to bin his new tile. Lessons learned for all of two turns as he did the same thing again but was luckily helped out by his Agora and Market providing him with a much needed additional coin in the final bidding round which both Barry and Jon were priced out of. Jon (and Noel again, damn his eyes and his clean, efficient pox-free well!) could take some succour from his aqueduct which protected him from a very late plague which killed four Spartans and one Tescans. Yes, Barry only had four people in his civilisation and the Master was well and truly out of the running.

In the end, both Tom and Noel had very balanced civilisations. So balanced in fact that they both ended up with 24 population and 26 prestige which saw them in a dead heat for the win with a first time player. Jon mortified at his own poor showing has refused to release his own score but it was pretty embarrassing all told. Barry’s population woes meant that he ended dead last but certainly seemed to enjoy himself, even suggesting a rematch after the gruesome bloodbath of China. It was not to be however. The boys were going to put on a show instead!

PS Jon did send me the scores in the end which were:

Tom – Pop 24; Prestige 26
Noel – Pop 24; Prestige 26
Jon – Pop 27; Prestige 21
Barrie – Pop 9; Prestige 21

Editor's Note: The  following games were unaccountably omitted from the original report. They are all written up by Neil. Thanks Neil! 
11 Nimmt!
So, the evening began with a seven-handed attack at the cow fest of 11 Nimmt! Each player has 10 cards to shed, and you can play onto any pile as long as your card is no more than 10 higher than the previous card… otherwise ’11 takes it!’, it being a pile of cards. Tom began by picking up and Amanda then stole into the lead. Jon thought long and hard and also picked up a pile, not a good start. Dan II laid as did Jeroen and Gareth II and me… and we were off. Cards got played, hands started reducing and then Gareth had to move his car and while he was doing so we discussed eating his steak as well as playing 4 cards at once for him with his ‘cowhead joker’, probably his best move all night. Rounds came and went and the piles increased in number as every time a player cannot place he takes one stack and draws 2 new cards to set up 2 new piles for possible play. Jeroen and I had managed to play a card each round, 2 left each… he managed to play a card, I had to pick up, and he placed the next round too for an incredibly hard fought victory. Congratulations!
Der Speicherstadt
The only Feldian action of the night was James new copy of Hamburg’s finest game about its warehouses by the docks. New to Amanda and Dan II, I was hoping that my thrashing earlier in the week at Noel’s house, together with Jeroen being high on his 11 Nimmt! victory, would increase my chances of victory. Wrong again! Despite picking up a good contract early on it was Dan who managed to cheaply acquire several firemen and a couple of good contracts too. James took an early Office building although I blocked a couple of later acquisitions. Amanda won some good sellers as well as the warehouse, always a good card to hold. Jeroen and James both picked up some nice contracts although neither completed both, myself also failing to fulfil more than one. Dan, Amanda and James seemed to monopolise the ships although the harbour card ended up being discarded. I lost on consecutive fires, 1 less than Monday but still enough to take me out of the running. Before we knew it the final round was upon us, by taking the last fireman I ruined James’s chances and Dan collected the perfect ship to complete his contracts and sail into the most comfortable victory in the history of comfortable victories.
 Dan II – 27, Jeroen – 13, James – 10, Neil – 9, Amanda – 8.
The infamous cry of ’10 minutes’ left to play rang out from the group on the table next to us so one of the two copies of Coup hit the table for Amanda, Dan II, Jeroen, James and me. Jeroen blew his cards early on whilst James and Dan duelled unsuccessfully with each other. As I lost on my characters Amanda’s whiter-than-white honesty put her into an enviable position. James was next out leaving Dan and me to lose any common sense completely in trying to attack Amanda. No chance, she won at a canter!
Thurn & Taxis
Despite James trying to put everyone off by telling us how dull the theme is only Amanda moved on from the group so Jeroen, who had played before, and Dan II and I took ourselves into the fine world of the German postal system’s early days.
A good set collection/route building game it was soon evident that timing your routes was crucial in the picking up of some of the various bonuses available. We all put in place an early route before I decided to go mega. Dan was studiously going through the carriages and James and Jeroen were showing us how to work your way around the different regions successfully… until;
Jeroen had to ‘burn’ a route he had been working on for a few rounds. During set up he’d told that doing this completely wrecked your chances of victory. Very good of him to prove the point! James and Dan were both spreading their networks well and I was patiently waiting for a Zurich card, or a Basel card, or a Freiborg card to become available… and at the very last minute one of them did… and I was able to use my final four houses, picking up three useful bonuses in the process. Final scoring was tight, Dan and I had been well-tutored but victory was mine. An impressive game, an excellent gateway to match Ticket to Ride, and I for one quite liked the theme for its quaintness and the old map of Germany. But then again one of the writing groups I belong to is known as ‘HDMC’; Horse Drawn Mail Coaches!!
Neil – 25, Dan II – 22, Jeroen – 16, James – 11.

Paris Connection
Down to three, James, Dan II and I headed off to Paris for a bit of train route building and share holding fun. Early forays with Yellow, Red and Brown trains meant some good values accruing for those with us all buying more shares in those. I tried to develop Black as well but my long-term strategy was scuppered with Dan deciding he off to Marseille and an early bath for all, wow! This is always a short game but never that short, boo hiss!
James – 112, Dan II – 106, Neil – 91.

Hey, That’s My Fish! (thanks Neil)
New to Dan and me, James taught and lead us through this mega-fast game in less than 5 minutes, and that included the rules! A good set collection fest with penguins chasing around each other for, yes you guessed it, fish. What an evening, plenty of great games and two new to me, well-chuffed!

James – 35, Neil – 34, Dan II - 30

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