Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Pastel camels and comic-book nerds (that would be Tom)......


Players: James, Tom, Andy, Jon, Amanda, Sean, Gareth II, Noel, Gary, Philip

Relegated to the conservatory by some grey-haired, male get-together in the Riverside Room, the IBG'ers got down to business with another mix of fine games to pique the interest of the normal human beings trying to enjoy their dinners in the pub.

Tonight's highlights included auctions in ancient Egypt, spaceship battles in outer space, a shoot-out in the Wild West and a host of tasty-looking pastel camels that would challenge even the best 20:20 vision in the group.

A nice gentle introduction to the evening for the early arrivees. Amanda won a convincing victory in the first game, trouncing Jon with a killer combo of Captain and Assassin. Next up, Noel took Jon out in a close finish, which was slightly anticlimactic as Jon miscounted Noel's coins, and allowed him a simple coup on the last turn.
At least Jon's copy is sleeved again thanks (once again) to the generosity of Neil...

Santiago de Cuba
Jon had made noises about wanting to learn this one, and James duly obliged, with Amanda also joining in for good measure. The rules are relatively simple, with players moving along a street, and choosing the actions associated with the space that they stop on. The goal is to collect resources (isn't it always...?) and then ship them off for the best profit.
James was kind enough to remind everyone at the beginning, the dangers of running out of money (severely limiting your choice of destinations) and then proceeded to practically demonstrate this limitation to his own chagrin.
Jon somehow developed a huge wealth late in the game and whizzed around the streets of Santiago, bringing the game to what he (and Amanda) thought was a swift resolution. However, James 'clarified' the end-game condition, resulting in an extra round of play. Jon requested a secret 'scoring' at this point, to see if the extra round would make any difference to the final positions. Answer: no it didn't! The scores were relatively close, with Amanda having made the best use of her resources, and James bringing up the rear (serves him right for screwing over Jon for a nice juicy delivery on the 3rd ship...!)
Actually a fine, simple to learn Euro that plays in under an hour - lovely!
Amanda 45; Jon 39; James 35

Eclipse (thanks Philip)
Gareth had borrowed a copy of Eclipse from a friend and he and I roped Sean into playing. Sean was new and took the Terran Federation. I had played half a dozen games or so and took the Terran Alliance. Gareth said he'd played four or five games and took the Mechanaema.
After explaining the rules to Sean we randomly determined who was to go first. Gareth's cube was drawn, but Sean objected to this method and insisted on rolling dice. I won a roll off against Sean and started the game by taking the only available Improved Hull. The rest of the techs were either too expensive or unsuited to early play, so Sean explored Ring I, finding a science+advanced science hex. However Gareth had left two Ring I hexes in the box, so we reshuffled and dealt Sean a science+advanced science hex. Sean insisted on a third shuffle and dealt himself...the same science+advanced science hex. Sean grudgingly accepted the result- and discarded the hex.
Gareth also discarded his Ring I hex (double Ancients). I was perfectly happy with my single Ancient, and Sean and Gareth now drew more acceptable hexes (without Ancients).
By the end of turn 2 I had found 3 sectors with one Ancient, one sector with 2 Ancients (in Ring III) and one sector with a single money planet. Sean and Gareth meanwhile had expanded to occupy several systems, carefully blocking themselves from contact with either me or each other. Both had picked up at least one 2 VP chip and chosen to keep them.
By careful saving I was able to build 2 Cruisers in turn 3, upgrade their Hulls and take out one of the Ancients- drawing a helpful 8 money. In turn 4 I took out another Ancient, drawing 6 Materials. In turn 5 I built a couple more Cruisers and took out the double Ancients, losing a Cruiser in the firefight but gaining one on the Discovery tile. Unfortunately I had also overspent, meaning I lost a system. Meanwhile I had been researching the 2nd line of techs- Gauss Shield, Fusion Source and Tachyon Drive. In turn 7 I explored the remaining Ring II hex and was able to find a backdoor to Sean's empire, guarded by a single Ancient.
Sean and Gareth had both invested in Orbitals and were rather light on ship, though they had some fairly advanced techs. However, I chose not to attack Sean and simply took out the remaining Ancient, finding a free Neutron Bombs tech which I took as 2 Vps.
In turn 7 I bought Quantum Grid and stormed the Galactic Centre with 4 Cruisers and an un-upgraded Dreadnought. I left a starbase to guard myself against Sean- who was busy fortifying his own sectors with Starbases. Gareth took out an Ancient at this point, finding Shard Hull. The Galactic Centre was destroyed at the price of the Dreadnought and I discovered Hypergrid Source which I installed on my cruisers.
In turn 8 I warily watched Sean build 2 Dreadnoughts- but he sent them to attack Ancients rather than me. Gareth also held back from attacking me, so I was able to pick up Advanced Economy and retake the system I'd abandoned earlier. Gareth's ships would probably have smashed my Ion-Cannon equipped Cruisers at this point- he had a mix of Plasma Cannons and Plasma Missiles.
Fortunately in turn 9 I was able to buy and install Antimatter Cannons on them. Gareth urged Sean to attack me- Sean's dreadnoughts now had Conformal drive so could reach the heart of my empire. Sean paused to research Neutron Bombs, allowing me to build interceptors so I could pin him at the edge of my space. But two could play that game- Sean also built interceptors and in the end he was able to overwhelm my pin and send a Dreadnought to my undefended home system.
Gareth was not idle- he moved 2 Dreadnoughts and 4 Cruisers into the Galactic Centre and upgraded them some more. The final fight in the centre pitted his force against 4 Cruisers and 3 Starbases on my side. His Plasma Missile took out one Cruiser- his Dreadnoughts benefiting from 2 Positron Computers. However, I was able to destroy both Dreadnoughts and in the end it came down to a single cruiser vs a single starbase- with the cruiser victorious. I also lost the mass interceptor fight against Sean- his Dreadnought being the deciding factor. And of course I lost my home system.
So, the once-mighty Terran alliance lay in ruins, its homeworld lost, the Galactic Centre torn away. Only a few peripheral systems and no ships remained.
And yet... the strain of the all out attack on the alliance had bankrupted the enemy economies. The Federation survived, only losing 2 systems, but the Mechanema were forced to abandon everything except their home system. The Galactic centre lay unclaimed.
Philip 32 Sean 22 Gareth 9.
Legendary (thanks Tom)
Following Ra, Noel went off to play with some pastel camels, leaving Andy, Gary and Tom to try Andy's shiny new copy of Legendary.
Legendary is a semi co-operative deck builder set in the Marvel Comics universe which plays like a bastard stepchild of Ascension and Penny Arcade: Gamers vs Evil - in a good way.
During the lengthy set-up, Andy's special random allocator app set the villainous mastermind as the Red Skull (nemesis of Captain America), provided him with supporting villains of HYDRA (Captain America), the Brotherhood (X-Men) and Spider Foes (Spiderman, duh).
At the same time, the boys were provided with a hero deck consisting of Nick Fury (SHIELD), Gambit (X-Men), Emma Frost (X-Men) and Iron Man. This was rather fortunate as Fury and Iron Man naturally get on rather well together as do the two X-Men.
Andy lucked out in acquiring Iron Man's ultra rare card early which gave him a largely increased card draw and a big advantage in defeating the appearing villains and mastermind. Gary on the other hand had a more unfocused deck which had certain degree of emphasis on Nick Fury but also a bit of Emma Frost thrown in which worked well with Tom's Gambit heavy deck.
In the end, Red Skull got nowhere near to his goal of 12 villains escaping from whatever jail in which they were housed with both Tom and Gary taking big scalps defeating Venom & Juggernaut and Green Goblin respectively. It was however Andy who had defeated Red Skull on three separate occasions who had run away on the points scoring front.
A very enjoyable take on the Ascension system especially for a comic book nerd like Tom (although he is a bit more of a DC man himself).
Andy - Super Mega Winner; Tom and Gary – Winners

Ra (thanks Noel)
Ra was new to Gary but Noel, Tom and Andy had all enjoyed previous auctions through 3 Egyptian epochs offered in Knizia's classic game. The first epoch was over quickly with Gary taking the early points for the most Pharoahs and Andy plenty of scoring Nile tiles. Noel had a number of buildings but picked up several negative scores and finished the 1st epoch with 0 points (really -2 but a rules check confirmed no negative scoring). Meanwhile over on the Eclipse table the rules explanation continued....
The 2nd Epoch lasted longer with Noel and Andy out first and hoping for the Ra tiles to be pulled. Noel had increased his number of buildings while Tom had a culture set and Gary still led the Pharoahs. In the 3rd Epoch Tom lost some of his buildings through picking up a disaster tile but also gained his 7th different building in the same collection. Noel too now had 7 different buildings and a couple of sets of the same building to boost his building points further. Tom's early exit from Epoch 3 meant he sat disappointed on the sidelines as everyone added to their empires.
Final scoring and Noel's buildings took him to the win:
Noel 34, Tom 26, Gary 24, Andy 22
Wyatt Earp
Just enough time for the 4 remaining IBG'ers to have a go at this rummy variant to round the evening off. Players put down melds of outlaws, and the amount of cards played will determine the reward that is shared out at the end of each round. Throw in a few special cards, and the first to $25k is the winner.
The first round played quite slowly, as everyone got to grips with the special abilities of the 'sheriff' cards, and the scoring at the end of each round is not exactly intuitive. However, from the second round onwards things speeded up considerably, as players got the hang of playing and discarding cards to their advantage.
James picked up a couple of juicy large rewards the final 2 rounds, which saw him fall just shy of he $25k target, but with the pub about to close, he was declared the winner anyway.
This card game plays quickly but has enough going on to make it an interesting experience. Definitely worth a return at some point in the not too distant future.
James $24k; Jon $19k; Noel $18k; Tom $18k

Also played tonight was Through the Desert. This was brought along by James for Jon to buy for a song, but following the play, he decided against the purchase (not quite as child-friendly as he had hoped). Noel also hummed and hahed, before turning down the purchase possibility too. James has fallen short in his endeavour to write up the report, but the final scores were:
Noel 79; Jon 72; James 69; Amanda 66

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

There's less to this than meets the eye.....


Players: Jon, Gary, James, Paul, Neil, Philip, Sean, Andy, Dan, Barry, Tom, Dom

A great mix of new, old, 2-player, multi-player, co-op, head-to-head, Euro, Ameritrash, brain-burning and laughter-inducing games tonight - truly an evening with something for everyone!

And as you can read below, there was even an opportunity to become educated as to what the heck an 18th century fake Russian village has to do with a 21st century boardgame. Read on.....
Pitch Car
James arrived early and set up the wonderful manual dexterity game that is Pitch Car. There were several games played during the evening (it’s a fantastic way to kill 5 minutes whilst waiting for other games to finish) which saw wins for Paul, Jon, and possibly Tom…..
It was also characterised by less skilful occurrences, usually involving Paul’s car leaving the racing surface and continuing its journey around the floor of the Riverside Room….
Along with Tumblin’ Dice, this is a game that deserves to have a table permanently dedicated to it at IBG.
Saint Petersburg (or - Education and Idiocy in the court of Czar Peter - thanks Gary)

In 1703, Czar Peter the Great founded Saint Petersburg, which soon became known as “Paris of the East”. Exactly 310 years later, in the upstairs room of a Thames-side pub in Isleworth, four unworthy successors to the glorious architects responsible for that great feat, sat down to recreate, in boardgame terms, those illustrious times by recruiting workers, building buildings and attracting aristocrats to their own personal vision of St Petersburg. Jon, Paul, Tom and Gary were the unworthy but willing Isleworth Boardgamers.
In the first round, everyone recruited the two obligatory workers…. wait, actually no they didn’t. Both Tom and Paul passed up the opportunity of recruiting the final cost 7 Shipwright leaving Jon to recruit three workers from the off.
(Strategy interlude – the first point of strategy from the back of the rulebook explicitly states: “[b]In the first worker phase, each player should buy 2 workers![/b] A player with fewer than two workers will find himself running after his opponents with two. Workers have the best cost/reward ratio.” The bold is not my emphasis!)
The buildings were largely ignored first time around and a couple of aristocrats sauntered in to be snapped up by eager architects. In round two, Jon consolidated his position by picking up the Observatory and using it to pick up another extra worker – another Shipwright as it would happen. Things were looking good for Jon with plenty of income coming in from those workers and the Observatory giving him the opportunity at an extra worker (or later, aristocrat) each round. So confident of his position was he, that he indulged in a little educational aside by explaining the meaning of the Potjemkin’s Village card that he’d judiciously snaffled*.
Paul was taking a more balanced approach, bringing out a few blue buildings that produced some decent VPs and getting him ahead on the board. Tom had decided to turn his city into the trading capital of Europe, snaffling up all the cost 5 Markets going and backing it up with a Pub which he used several times to turn rubles into points.
I managed to get some decent income going early on, with a good complement of green workers and three or four aristocrats, including turfing out an Administrator for the Builder (paying out 4 rules each turn). I also took Czar Peter and upgraded him to the Wharf. Having been burned in previous games by building buildings too early, leaving me with no money, I was determined not to let this happen again and so my only building early on was the Warehouse, allowing me to keep four cards in hand. Half way through I was pretty happy with how my version of St Petersburg was going, even if it was lagging behind Jon’s. However, that was the high point for me!
Now, this is the third time I’ve played St Petersburg and it is something of a relief to turn up to a games night and not have to listen to a rules explanation. That’s the plus side. The downside is that I’m still rubbish at it. If Czar Peter had recruited me to help him build St Petersburg, he would have ended up with something more like St’Aines (no offence to anyone living in Staines, but I doubt it’s what Czar Peter had in mind).
Firstly, I managed to forget on one occasion that there is no income after the fourth, upgrade stage and left myself with insufficient income (two rubles) to pick up a worker (credit to Jon here who deliberately took the Gold Miner, in preference to the same cost Shipwright, given his burgeoning shipbuilding base, to stop me taking the one worker I could have afforded). I then miscalculated the round order and unnecessarily took a card from the centre row into my hand to create five spaces, thinking that I was the first player in the aristocrat round, when if fact it was Jon – so giving him the choice of an extra aristocrat! I also totally failed to take advantage of my Warehouse throughout – too lily-livered to pick up some expensive upgrade aristocrats and buildings that dropped to the bottom row. And then, at the death, decided not to use the Pub I’d built to get an extra 5 points for 10 roubles, forgetting how much income my aristocrats would generate next turn (an!
 d I ended the game with over 30 roubles unspent). If anyone wants a lesson in how not to play St Petersburg, I’m your man! It was Paul who, Asperger-like, called himself a “twat” for failing to pay attention to the round order, leaving himself without a choice on one occasion, but that moniker really applied to me several times over! On top of that, on my turn for first pick of the upgrades (when there were five coming out), none of them turned out to be the aristocrats that I was looking for to upgrade my duplicate Secretary, the fifth card being a green worker upgrade I couldn’t use!
So, what does one do when one is falling behind? Well, interfere in the plans of the leader by fair means or foul, of course. So we legitimately denied Jon the opportunity of building over his Potjemkin’s Village with a Firehouse and I tried to palm him off with a 10 rouble note instead of a 20 in the income phase (it was an accident, honest!).
Jon’s income was now growing apace – by the end his workers, including that battery of Shipwrights, were bringing in over 30 roubles each turn – and with the Observatory he was now picking up extra Aristocrats too. Paul had also picked up an Observatory giving him an added pick of Aristocrats and had switched from his building strategy to attracting those pink, priggish aristos to his city. Tom the Market trader had clawed himself back from the early strategic error of only taking one worker and had managed to keep his VPs ticking over nicely and had added a decent pick of aristos too. However, his decision to put a Gold Smelter in hand early on now backfired when the he saw the last of the Gold Miner’s snaffled in the final round before he could grab one to upgrade. I had now switched to getting out some VP buildings and managed to catch up on the VP track briefly thanks to St Catherine the Great’s Palace and a Firehouse, but through a combination of appalling play and some poor card draws, I just couldn’t add to my aristocrat collection.
In the final analysis, my St’Aines had attracted the fewest different aristocrats with 5, gathering a measly 15 bonus points. St Thomasburg briefly eclipsed St’Aines having attracted six different aristocrats, but fell back thanks to that one card left in hand. It was a close run thing in the end between Jon and Paul, but St Jonsburg managed to attract seven different Aristocrats to get an extra 28 points to St Paulsburg’s six and pull ahead in the final scores.
Jon 74, Paul 66, Gary 56, Tom 51.

* The phrase Potemkin villages was originally used to describe a fake village, built only to impress. According to the story, Grigory Potemkin, erected fake settlements along the banks of the Dnieper River in order to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. The phrase is now used, typically in politics and economics, to describe any construction (literal or figurative) built solely to deceive others into thinking that some situation is better than it really is. Some modern historians claim the original story is exaggerated. (Copyright Wikipedia – though actually I don’t think Wikipedia claims any copyright!)
The Palaces of Carrara (thanks Neil)
After the recent resurgence of Tikal at the club, the designers’ latest game, The Palaces of Carrara, got its first outing.  One of the three games nominated for the ‘Kennerspiel des Jahres’ alongside Bruges and Andor, it is a relatively simple game to learn but there’s good depth in strategy.  We played the beginners’ version, it comes with an advanced one that adds plenty of variety as well increasing the paths to victory.
There are only three possible actions for each of a player’s turn; buy bricks, use bricks to build, have your property valued for cash or VPs.  Where you build is the important part.  Only certain values of bricks let you build in the more rewarding towns, and if you can be the first to have the town valued then you have the chance of valuing some of your property twice, very beneficial. The game ends once all the buildings have been built, or three conditions have been met by one player; having 4 sets valued + buildings worth 25 VPs + collect 7 prestige tokens.
Each player begins with 1 brick and Barry started the game off by immediately building. James and I were a little bit more prudent collecting bricks from the wheel.  Whilst Barry continued to build a variety of lower valued buildings James started collecting Palaces whilst I concentrated on Libraries and then Villas.  Barry scored a couple of towns early on providing himself with a good bank balance and some prestige tokens, each worth 3 VPs come the end of the game.  James got a bit tied up with money shortages and I had to value buildings first rather than towns.
I thought Barry was looking very close to announcing the game end but it turned out his properties weren’t valuable enough.  I was then fortunate enough to be able to boost one of the more valuable towns prior to scoring it, and then took the last medium sized building before Barry grabbed it.  Despite his impressive collection of prestige tokens I managed to hang on the VPs I’d taken early on.  A close game.  I think James learned a lot about how to play it!  Maybe he’ll join Tom and I having another outing next week?
Neil – 113, Barry – 108, James – 78.

7 Wonders (thanks again Neil)
Another game that’s seen a welcome return over recent weeks, particularly good for me as I managed my second ever game!  A tight four man game with Andy joining the architects from Carrara.  After their military battles last time Andy and I left James and Barry to go for military might.  James won this part of the game, Barry and I eventually taking some cards to leave Andy a good way off here. 
Andy however continued to collect Civilian Structure cards and also had a large amount money.  He capped that lot off with some excellent Guilds – 23 VPs - to pull himself back into contention.  I also scored well on Civilians and matched Barry picking up 16 through Science.  Final scores were tight with Barry having an impressive spread across all cards.  Good game!
Barry – 49, Andy – 48, Neil – 47, James - 43.

Sentinels of the Multiverse (thanks Phil)
Sean was really keen to play Android according to the guild forum. Dan and Dominic were willing to play too but only if we got started quickly. So I set up Android (partially) and waited for Sean. Meanwhile Dan and Dominic opened up Sentinels. About the time I gave up on Sean and packed Android away, Andy pitched up. Andy probably wouldn't have wanted to play Android anyway, and all the other tables had started.
 So we started 4 player Sentinels. I picked Ra as apparently he is simplest. Just as we'd got through the rules explanation, in comes Sean. 5 player Sentinels it is.
Our Villain was Ambuscade. Dominic was Wraith, Andy was Unity, and I forget Dan and Sean's characters except that Sean's special power made everyone draw a card. 
Ra focuses on burning things to death. By midway through the game Ambuscade was cloaked (immune to damage), so I focused on blowing up his cloaking device. Sean told me not to do that, because it would damage everyone and he could do it much better on his turn. The Sun-God isn't known for subtlety however, so I just went ahead: boom! The explosion did 4 damage to everybody and every thing except for Ambuscade (he stays cloaked until the start of his turn). This included a rotating turret- which was itself destroyed, causing another explosion for 3 damage to everybody and everything except for Ambuscade. Among the casualties were Unity's entire collection of Golems and some creatures owned by Dan. Worse, there were now no enemy targets (Ambuscade still cloaked). So the other heroes couldn't use their attacks...
Once Ambuscade uncloaked it was pretty easy to kill him, however.

Andy left at this point for some euro-goodness. The four of us continued on the Ameritrash fix however, this time fighting The Dreamer, on the advanced mode. The Dreamer is a little girl with 6 Hps and killing her loses the game (she was down to 1hp when our game ended). She generates hideous projections and the way to win is to kill a bunch of them- first kill all the ones in play and the 8 more that come into play afterwards. 
Sean was playing Absolute Zero this time- kind of the opposite of Ra. I put out an ongoing effect that made all heroes do fire damage (and +1 fire damage at that), but Sean killed it because he needed to do cold damage for his special thing.
 Unfortunately the advanced mode proved too much for us and we all died, although Sean's Absolute Zero was within one projection of victory when he expired.

For our third game we switched back to basic mode and a conventional villain- Grand Protector Voss and his invading alien army. This was not a difficult game, I had a great combo going whereby heroes did fire damage (+1), I was immune to fire damage and could make everyone else immume, and I did +2 fire damage with all attacks but had to take 4 psychic damage every turn (the psychic damage was turned into fire damage, which I was immune to).
Unfotunately, once again Sean's Absolute Zero wanted to be doing cold damage. So he removed my ongoing effect that turned everything into fire, collapsing the combo. A revenge for my blowing everything up in turn 1.
Nevertheless we managed to win the game, thanks largely to Dominic's Wraith (who manipulated the villain deck) and Dan's character (who stored dead villains in a box and then used the box for maximum damage on the last turn).
So 2-1 over the game. No individual winners in this one.

7 Wonders (thanks again Gary)
Not a full report but in the second outing of 7 Wonders, Andy (50) beat Barry (47) beat Gary (45) (or thereabouts). Andy eschewed his normal pacifist tendencies in this game by adopting a successful military strategy and then used his wonder's (the Lighthouse?) ability to draw and build a card from the discard pile to complete a set of three green buildings on the final turn and earn a vital 10 points.
I completely wasted a turn by building up my military at the end of the Second Age having failed to notice that Barry's wonder (the Statue of Zeus?) gave him plus two on military in any event - the 15 VPs from my wonder (the Pyramids) were obtained, but that one extra wasted turn probably scuppered my chances (together with Barry and Andy denying me the free upgrades to my growing collection of VP laden blue buildings).
I think Barry had more of a collection of yellow and purple buildings, but they were on the other side of the rather dark table and, being short-sighted, I couldn't quite make them all out.... great game which would be even better if I wasn't so short sighted (literally as well as figuratively)!

The Saint Petersburg and Palaces tables finally merged, and created 3 groups, including Neil & Jon (if you can call that a group), who picked up Attika for a 2-player outing. Neil hadn’t played before, and Jon hadn’t picked it up for a couple of years, but the rules are pretty straightforward and the game was soon underway.
The game revolves around placing buildings onto a modular board, using resources from the board itself, as well as resource cards that the players can pick up. The goal of the game is either to complete an unbroken line of your buildings between the 2 shrines on the edges of the board, or be the first to build all 30 buildings from the player’s supply.
The trick of the game is deciding whether to build your buildings when you first pick them up (more efficient timewise) or to place them on your player mat and build them at a later date (often more efficient resource-wise). Placing buildings to block your opponent is also an important consideration.
Both Neil and Jon started out in the middle of the playing area, where the riches of the land could be best utilised. Jon then decided to hoard some buildings on his player mat, looking to build them for free on a later turn. However, Neil suddenly built several buildings in succession, and was one building space away from a ‘connection’ victory. Only a lucky building draw for Jon averted this loss, allowing him to construct an effective road-block at the last minute.
Jon then managed to add an extra tile to the landscape, which gave him a new path through to Neil’s shrine, which a lack of resources, Neil was unable to prevent this move, and Jon placed a network of streets to finish his connection.
This is a fantastic 2-player game, and has the strange characteristic that two 2-player games of it can be played simultaneously, due to the nature of the components in the box. Neil seemed to enjoy it too, so it may well see some more table-time in the near future….
Jon won (connection victory); Neil – didn’t….

The Speicherstadt (thanks James)

As opposed to the game of Saint Petersburg where a filler was being played as though it were Through the Ages, we decided to try and play Speicherstadt as a filler while we waited for others to finish.  We'd all played before (although Paul needed a quick refresher) so it was up and off without much trouble.
To be honest I can't remember many details of the game play although as usual in this game someone ends up with -10 points from having no firemen and this time it was Paul who went for the 'you can all burn' strategy... don't ever play a game of Flashpoint with him, the outcome is inevitable.
Around mid point I managed to rack up several contracts so had a foundation in place for a decent score... and around the 3/4 stage it started to become likely I would clinch victory. At this point Tom decided that although he might not win he was going to die rich and seemed to drop out of auctions with the view to stockpiling money... we were playing with the nice expansion coins (thanks Neil) so I can understand the tactile need to have a big pile of shiny metal coins to play with...
In the last round I managed to steal the highest firemen and as we tallied scores my only disappointment was that I was 1 point away from clocking the score track...  Paul managed to jump to a surprising 2nd given by closing a contract or 2 towards the end while Tom was left counting his coins and seemingly satisfied by the nice clinking sound they made when dropped together.
Paul 26; Tom 25; James 39

* Oh, and for those wondering I was sitting to the right of Paul, not the
left which is the preferred position if you want to gain any advantage :)

High Society (thanks again James)
Despite some terrible moves Dan managed to avoid coming last due to the least money rule...  I should've saved some from Spiecherstadt...
Despite only a vague understanding of the rules Tom came first.
Tom 15; Paul 12; Dan 7.5; James 0

Least money - James...  :(

Just like the old days – 5 players left at the end of the night, so time to net some birds and club some seals – it’s Nanuk!
I’ve never seen it happen before, but 4 hunts went down to the final ‘day’, which either revealed the magical sought-after creature, or the deathly silhouette of a killer polar bear. Cue many groans and cheers…
The actual scores have been lost to posterity, but it has been established that somehow Paul was the most effective hunter, almost certainly followed by Dan and James. The rest of the hunting party trailed behind, with Neil left wondering what he had been persuaded to play at the end of an evening, and Jon a mass of dismembered limbs, courtesy of the Lord of the Arctic.
Paul – won; Dan – nearly won; James, Neil, Jon

That's all folks!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Return of the Resistance...

Players: Neil, Jon, James, Noel, Paul, Dom, Barry, Gary, Philip, Sean, Andy

It was a welcome return to Gary, after his recent defection to the Monday night Richmond club (which has been forgiven after he agreed to write a report for the blog) and also to Noel's brother Paul, who is in London for the next couple of years. Hopefully he'll find the time to come along a bit more often to beat up on his big brother...
Tonight saw a mixture of gaming goodness - everything from classic Euro worker-placements, to unfinished murder and conspiracy, to psychological spy-hunting, and even a 15-card Japanese game with about 3 rules. Plenty for everyone then....

Kobayawaka (thanks Neil)
So, you turn up at the club and James is there alone, do you 1. rush back down to the bar and wait for someone else? 2. dash out to the loo? or 3. sit down. I chose the wrong answer, 3 of course. He proceeds to explain a new game he’s found in this week’s massive investigation of Japanese games. It begins with a ‘K’ is all he remembers. Oh, and it sold out at Gen Con. It’s a game with 15 cards, numbered 1 to 15. (and it sold out at Gen Con?) James has picked one suit out of his Steven Siegel game. (hold on, doesn’t that have five suits of cards numbered 1 to 15?) So if it sold out at Gen Con it’s obviously going to be extremely popular at Essen; how to make sure you get a copy? (wait up, let’s buy the whole lot up and then cause humungous demand, returning the next day with 100 copies of Steven Siegel, splitting those up and selling 500 games at a mammoth profit. Wow there, that’ll never work…) Before we get to the game James cracks open his recently acquired Speicherstadt expansion, Kaispeicher, taking out the beautiful real coins. These are apparently needed for the game of ‘K’.
Right. Fifteen cards get shuffled and each player is dealt one card. Top of the draw deck is turned face up. Round one consists of each player drawing the next card off the draw deck and either deciding to keep that card or the one they were dealt originally, the discard being placed face up in front of the player. Alternatively, they place the drawn card face up, on top of the face up one. Round two allows the player to bid one coin in the first six rounds and two in the final round. All those ‘in’ then reveal their card, the winner of each round is the player with either the highest card, or the player with the lowest card, that is higher than the highest card when added to the face up card. So if I hold the 13, Jon 10, Dom 8, James 7, and the face up card is a 9 then James wins the round.
Play should be pretty swift you’d think. But the considerations are incredible, and with each revealed card the calculations increase. Jon was thrown early on by being the ‘2’ in three consecutive hands, as James shuffled again he went to find the 2 and stick on the top, but, of course, it was already there… looks like Debbie McGee may be getting a new man. Despite taking the first hand and then passing a few times James and Dom both won rounds with the lowest card option. It was going to be close.
Final Scores; Dom – 8, James – 7, Neil – 7, Jon – 5 (I think!) As it happens the rules actually state you don’t choose which card to keep, you discard first and take the top one. I think I prefer James’s version! James, great game, hope you manage to pick up a copy in Essen!!!
Jon decided that it was time to sweep the dust off this old classic and give it another airing as a ‘learning experience’ for some newbies. Neil had played once before, and Noel supposedly hadn’t played before (although he knew a suspiciously lot about the rules, and also played a successful but unintuitive strategy, so methinks he had done some serious homework first…)
Despite other interest (sorry Barry!), it was limited to 3 players to try to keep the game-length down to 90 mins. As it actually clocked in at 2 hours even with only 3 players, this proved to be a judicious decision.
First things first – the rules error! The Provost and Bailiff were placed 2 spaces too far down the road to start with, which shortened the game by at least 1 turn. But as that affected everyone evenly (and slightly shortened the game), Jon was forgiven for that one.
Neil started off by constructing several buildings, including the profitable Mason, which garnered him several points during the game. Jon and Noel delivered several batches to the castle, ensuring that the dungeons were nicely built, and then Jon decided to demonstrate how important it is to make sure that you have enough resources available to activate your buildings (by not having a cloth to activate the Jousting Field). Nice of him to waste a turn and a Denier to help his fellow-players out…
As soon as he started to gather Royal Favours, Noel made straight for the lowest favour track (building), which is very unintuitive move. Read any good strategy articles lately, Noel???? He used this track to very good effect, starting to get a number of buildings of his own onto the board. Although neither Jon nor Neil followed Noel along this track, they made the mistake of not constructing the Lawyer or Architect until it was too late, leaving Noel free to construct Residences and Prestige buildings.
With the Bailiff 2 spaces from the end, and with Neil pretty much out of cash and resources, he chose to push the Provost along and ensure that the game ended. This enabled Jon to utilise both the Lawyer and Architect, which had been precariously located at the end of the road. Despite this, Noel handed in enough batches at the castle to give himself multiple favours, giving himself another Prestige building also. A rules count-back later revealed that Noel had illegally used 2 favours on the same track in the same phase by building a building that granted him further favours (what?!), but as Jon and Neil had sanctioned this at the time (probably due to extreme mental fatigue by this stage), there can’t be too may complaints.
Noel’s canny building strategy landed him the game, with Jon’s late surge taking him into second place. Neil had run out of money and resources at just the wrong time, but had been in contention right up until the end.
So what did we learn? Number one - never trust Noel if he says he hasn’t played a game before. Two – Caylus takes a long time to play – but it’s a cracker of a game, with zero luck. Three – it does make your head hurt a bit….
Noel 89; Jon 81; Noel 74

Android (thanks Phil)
This was my second game of Android, though my first with my own copy. Sean and Dominic were new to the game. I spent an unholy amount of time explaining the rules and setting up. I picked Louis, the corrupt cop, although as I mislaid his "moods" card until the end of the game I didn't get the full experience. Sean took Floyd the android and Dominic Raymond the private investigator. We were playing the starting scenario-Mr Brown has been murdered, 2 weeks to solve, wider conspiracy, etc.
My starting plot involved my wife leaving me. Sean was being sold to the NAPD, and Dominic was haunted by the ghosts of his past as a soldier in the Martian war. I opened with what was partly a demonstration turn. I followed up a couple of leads, killed Tanaka (the evil lieutenant of the kind mafia boss Mr Li) and moved towards Memories of Green with the vague intention of cashing one of my Mr Li favours for some good baggage.
Dominic's first turn began with Sean forcing him to waste 3 time in a nightclub. Sean also had a bad card for me, but it relied on Tanaka being alive. The game continued with me deciding Memories of Green was a bad idea and using the streetwise Oliver to remove two pieces of evidence from Thomas Haas- one of which I had deliberately planted there earlier as a bluff.
I'm not sure Dominic or Sean noticed this, because they were diving deep into the conspiracy, using it to extract favours. Dominic in particular had fixed on a strategy of picking up Street favours and connecting Human First to the conspiracy to increase their VP value.
On the third day Sean managed to play a card on me which forced me to travel to Gila Highlands before I could pick up any clues. Gila Highlands was a long way away but at least I managed to spend some quality time with my wife en route, ensuring my plot took a positive twist. Better still the new chapter of my plot had me benefit from being in Gila Highlands!
Dominic's plot didn't resolve until day 6, while Sean, who had choice about his plot, decided to break his "3rd Directive", meaning he was now NAPD property and didn't have to report to his manufacturer on the moon. On the other had he could only have 2 favours. I mistakenly ruled this didn't include special favours.
On we went, with the other players turning back to the murder for a while although Sean managed to connect the conspiracy to the Mining Bosses. A little later I mentioned that Sean had earned 4 VPs for completing a row, column or diagonal of the conspiracy- a rule I had forgotten to explain! It was about this point that Dominic's favour collecting strategy went south, because I played a card making him lose all his favours.
At the end of the first week my plot and Sean's ended successfully with +7VPs and my wife pregnant. Dominic had equal amounts of good and bad baggage and so his plot took a turn for the worse as he was unable to investigate his past as much as he'd like. Meanwhile one of the suspects, Noise, started hacking into the police files with the aim of erasing all the evidence.
Fortunately I was in the area and, after a detailed interrogation, returned Noise to police custody. My new plot was "On the Take" and I was able to play some cards I'd been saving, including collecting another favour from Mr Li.
However it was now approaching closing time so reluctantly we decided to end the game after everyone had taken an even number of turns. Sean, going last, was able to plant the crucial final pieces of evidence to implicate his guilty hunch and so won the game by some record amount (he had several 4 VP tokens from the conspiracy and his Director Haas favours counted 3 VP each).
The consensus seemed to be that it was a decent game worth playing again although maybe a bit long for one evening. Then again, if we already knew how to play, maybe we could manage it?
Strasbourg (thanks Gary)
Stefan Feld’s Strasbourg is a game of many parts (aren’t they all). There’s primarily bidding, but there’s also area control (sort of), buying and selling goods and there’s even completing objective cards (a la Ticket to Ride). How would it play with five players?
Barry, Andy, Gary and Paul sat down to a rules explanation from James for this five player game. The theme is nothing new, gaining advantages from getting into guilds in medieval Europe – the mechanics aren’t anything particularly new either (bidding, placing meeples/tiles etc), with something of a kitchen sink feel to them.
Everyone starts with 24 bidding cards and at the start of each round (there are five in total) everyone decides how many bids they wish to make and how many cards in each bid. Then, in the order dictated by one of five round lists, various positions/actions are auctioned off. They include the position of King/Bishop (which gets you a place on the guild, plus either the ability to place a valuable building on the town plan or a less valuable chapel), the right to sell your goods or the right to participate as a member of one of five guilds. In relation to these guilds, the winner of an auction get to sit in the guild chamber, place a meeple on the town plan (if, a big IF in my case, they have the funds) and take a goods token of the relevant type. Second place gets to place a meeple and take a good, and third place can do either one of those two things only. Winning bid cards are now discarded – however, if you have bid and failed to win anything you can take back one of your bid cards to the bottom of your bidding card pile as compensation.
Points are scored by reference to number of people on the guild council (each round) and at the end of the game by reference to the number of people on the town plan, with additional points for being next to a chapel (1 point) and/or those valuable buildings placed by the King (between 2 and 6 points) – but only if you are orthogonally next to them (or orthonogonally next to them in James’ case). Also points are scored for completing objective cards and lost for failing to complete them. Majority on the town council gained a player a “privilege” which could also be traded for a VP or used to delay voting in a round.
It all sounds a bit much, but actually the game play itself is very quick and straightforward – choose your bidding cards for the round and then bid on items as they come up. Actually, it’s rather more involved than that, since it is important to have some kind of strategy in mind when choosing what you are going to bid for – but my description reveals my highly random approach to the first couple of rounds until I got a feel for the play (by which time one of my objectives – place three people in the brown district – had already gone for a Burton, as the Brown district guild came up twice early in the first two rounds and I’d failed to amass any money to place a person the second time around!).
And so it started… Paul seemed intent in winning lots of early bids and with five people involved there were plenty of ties on bids too. Here is where we made the one (to our knowledge) rule error. James had told us that the starter person for any particular bid could adjudicate between any tied bids – unfortunately he seemed to be the person most badly affected by this rule as his own largesse was not reciprocated! Then we discovered it should simply be the person closest to the starter player that wins the bid in the case of a tie in any case…. James was to have sweet revenge in any case on those that shunned his advances!
Barry managed to surround his meeples with a forest of chapels, Andy managed to produce a few interesting shapes on the town map, I’m sure that I surprised quite a few with some unorthodox meeple placements (an objective card requiring me to place a number of meeples in corner spaces being the culprit), equally James appeared to be ignoring the potentially lucrative placements next to those King’s buildings. Nearing the end, Paul had used most of his bidding cards, leaving others to catch up with town placement and allowing some very low bids to achieve third place guild status on quite a few occasions. Those “1” cards weren’t totally useless after all.
In the final analysis, scoring was tight until the secret objective cards were revealed. James had managed to complete all three of his, adding around 15 points to his score and taking him well clear (a total of around 35). Everyone else failed at least one objective if not all of them!
Everyone agreed that this was a fun game for five people to play. The number of players doesn’t add much to the length of the game since you go through the same number of auctions whether you have three, four or five. Decisions post auction are pretty quick too. The decision making comes in setting up your deck for bidding and deciding what you need to bid on. And here’s where I’d really like to give this another play (or more).
One of the really major factors is the distribution of the five bidding lists. These require some close analysis in advance before you set your bidding objectives. They impact hugely on your ability to meet objectives (especially where placement into the costly brown and blue districts are required) and also repay close analysis in relation to your ability to retain places on the Guild Council. If only I’d appreciated that at the start of the game!
7 Wonders (thanks James)
...or as we played it, 5 slightly crumbling edifaces...
Barry, Paul, Gary, Andy and myself were all keen to give this popular game another whirl. It's certainly stood the test of time given it's not over 3 years old... which in board game years makes it about 76...
So Paul and Gary were both new to the game, something I failed to take advantage of by sitting opposite them and thus, in 7 Wonders speak, they didn't exist for me in the game... After a quick run through, and the usual slightly confused faces at all the iconography, we were off.
Early stages and the game is usually cagey.. noone generally cares much for the green ones, and military build starts slow. However I think by round 3 Paul had already decided he would take the Stalin approach to world domination and the arms race began with some serious border disputes between Paul and Barry the end result.
Myself, Andy and to an extend Gary all tried to keep things civil and focused on other achievements... I had built a stack of resources meaning I should be pretty self sufficient for the game. Andy was picking up cards to give him a chouce of resources and to be honest I'm not sure what Gary was doing because in 7 wonders you tend to only focus on players left and right... I'm sure he was making good decisions, but I don't recall much of it... sorry Gary !
As the 3rd age turned (and after a brief review of the possible guild cards) it was clear that all out warfare was underway between Paul and Barry. We had all built 2-3 pyramids by now and a rush to collect those green science cards had started with Barry, Andy and Paul all involved. Andy picked up the coveted 8 point bonus card.
And the guild cards started to get distributed....and as usual with this game, suddenly everyone realises they only have 1 card left to play and have mistimed their entire strategy... ok when I say everybody I mean me... but you get the point. So with just enough time for Andy, with his last card, to declare war on the peace kingdom of James it was time for everyone to take a 5 minute break whlie I did the scores.
No big scores this time. Barry was last on 42 but had the biggest army so swings and roundabouts there. Paul next on 44.. I had 45 and tied for the lead were Andy and Gary on 49... we were just about to clear up when Andy noticed Gary had a duplicate green card and after adjustments and the usual fisticuffs Gary dropped to 44 points leaving Andy victorious. That last, traitorous declaration of war had made the different with a 10 point swing between us... boo.
The Resistance
There was just time at the end of the evening to fit in this “used to be played all the time at IBG but hasn’t hit the table for ages” game. Noel, Paul, James, Jon, Neil and Barry were the protagonists, with Barry and Jon being dealt the role of spies.
Neil picked the first team of Jon and Noel (on the basis that they are always the most suspicious characters) and unsurprisingly, the mission succeeded. The second mission also succeeded, leaving Jon, Barry, Noel and James on the vital 3rd mission. Having failed to secretly communicate their intentions, both Barry and Jon failed this mission, meaning that Paul and Neil were in the clear. Barry then looked at James’ character card and outed him as a spy – meaning that one of them definitely was. Paul was unsure, and maintained his early assertion that James and Noel were bad news (actually, I think that he would have accused his brother Noel, even if he’d seen his character card…)
However, some creative thinking by James left Jon with no option but to fall on his sword in the 4th mission, revealing himself to indeed be a spy.
And just as the final mission was being debated, a plot card enabled the good guys to verify James’ assertions that he was cleaner-than-clean, and the rest was history.
Victory to the good guys, although had Barry and Jon only put in one fail card in the third mission, it could have been oh-so-different.
Great fun – let’s play again soon!
James, Noel, Paul, Neil – won; Jon & Barry – didn’t
So, plenty of great stuff played tonight, with a fine 100% report-rate as well. See you all next week for more fun and games!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

IBG get into training.......

Players: Philip, Noel, Andy, Dom, Sean, Amanda, Gareth II, Jon, Neil, James, Barry, John

Ocean Colour Scene,The Day We Caught The Train,UK,Deleted,DOUBLE CD SINGLE SET,262796
A welcome return to John tonight, after far too long away (and he even came by taxi - how committed!) And in the best traditions of his appearances he brought something new and shiny, which garnered a fair amount of interest amongst the regulars (well it did contain trains, so it was a fairly safe bet...)
Agricola: ACBAS
Early arrives Jon and Neil are both big fans of this 2-player game, and so it didn’t take much discussion to decide to break it out to kick the evening off.
Neil picked up 3 expansion boards and lots of wood, but was finding it difficult to pick up any animals early on. He also had a special building which allowed him to build a free fence each time he bred a horse, which he used to good effect throughout the game. Once he had built some mega fenced-in areas, his animal-acquisition was on in earnest.
Jon, however, had decided to stay small and attempt to increase capacity with a Stall (later to become a Stable), some feeding troughs and a handful of fences. He had a growing population of pigs and sheep, which were constantly bursting out of their accommodation, so his last turns were spent acquiring the resources to upgrade his cottage to a Half-timbered house in a desperate attempt to scrape together a few more points.
In the end, the scores were incredibly close, with Neil’s 12 point bonus for enclosing his 3 expansion boards probably being the difference. And it’s always good to see that 2 completely different strategies can compete. The extra buildings in the expansion also add a really nice twist to each game. Most of their effects are quite subtle, but they can help to open up new strategies, which makes each game slightly different and certainly improves replayability. Expansion #2 should be available in time for Essen, so watch this space……
Neil 54; Jon 52

And so, the long awaited return of John Bandewotsit was heralded with him bringing along a copy of the latest mash-up game – deck-building meets trains in a game creatively entitled – “Trains”. Neil, Jon and Barry joined in to see if it was worth the wait…
Basically, this is a Dominion clone, but with enough new stuff to make it feel quite different. For starters, there is a board, which is divided into hexes in classic train-game style. Players can build track and stations on this board, which will earn them points at the end of the game. Secondly, the deck-building side of thing introduces the concept of ‘Waste’ – every time you build something that potentially gives you points, you collect at least 1 Waste card, which does nothing more than clog your deck up. There are ways to ‘dispose’ of the waste, but it does add an interesting twist, which prevents you from being able to streamline your deck too much.
Anyway, everyone set off on the journey with equal uncertainty about what to do – except, of course, for veteran John, who made an early beeline for the Tourist Train cards – giving 1 point every time they came up in the deck. Jon (and others, I’m sure) also considered buying these cards, but it was difficult to gauge their worth, as they clogged up your deck and would only be worth it if the game lasted long enough for them to come around several times. By the time everyone realised that John was starting to rake in a healthy stash of points from them, it was pretty much too late to do anything about it.
In terms of board position, everyone started in different corners, but soon Barry was muscling in on Jon’s carefully constructed stations, and then both of them moved over to where John was quietly hiding out. Neil attempted to break out of his mountain stronghold, but ran out of time to join up.
The game ended after about an hour when Barry laid his last piece of track, and in doing so earned himself 8 points for entering John’s 3-station hex. Jon muttered something inaudible under his breath, as he had waiting for the right combination of cards to come up for the last 3 turns in order to execute exactly the same move. Sympathy did not abound though…
Before final scoring took place, John was already 20+ points ahead of everyone else due to his Tourist Train endeavours, and he had enough extra points on the board and in his deck to comfortably maintain this lead. The other 3 players were close together, with only a large-station scoring dividing each of them.
Thoughts? Well, the similarity with Dominion is obvious – several of the cards are exact copies of those from Dominion – but the added deck-clogging of the Waste cards, as well as the board action, makes it feel quite different (in a good way). Having played it through once, you learn a lot about how the game works, which makes you want to play again immediately to put that knowledge into practice.
With Dominion (or at least with the base set), the goal is to get a streamlined deck that enables you to consistently get enough gold to buy the provinces – and then start buying the points cards. With Trains, that strategy is more difficult, because every time you buy a Building (VP) card, you also get a Waste card, which means that you now have 2 more cards clogging up your deck. Plus, if you’ve been building track and stations, you’ll likely have quite a bit of waste in your deck already, which affects how much money you’ll have to spend each turn anyway. The VP cards are also worth less points in general, so all-in-all, you’d better try to diversify that points acquisition!
Anyway, enough of all that – here’s the scores!
John 60; Barry 44; Jon 37; Neil 32

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game (thanks Philip)
The four of us participated in this co-operative deck builder of heroes and villains. The supervillain was Dr.Doom, his evil plan to jailbreak 12 lesser villains from the city. Each player played a strange composite deck of heroes though we were able to specialise in one hero type more as the game progressed. Andy went for Elektra, I went for Wolverine and Dom went for Hulk.
Hulk smashed Dr Doom into tiny pieces, defeating him three of the four times needed to win the game (Andy defeated him in the other game). Hulk also smashed everyone else's deck, as his special abilities were "deal everyone a wound" and "heal your own wound". We actually ran out of Wounds in the Wound Deck.

The co-operative has a competitive element, which Dom won outright, scoring about ten times my score... and significantly more than the other two players. Hulk-Smash!
Paris Connection (thanks Neil)
Having enjoyed this game at home with the family was looking forward to another outing at the club. Last time Dan made a b-line for Marseilles finishing the game before it had hardly begun although it didn't earn him victory.
With Barry, Jon and Philip I thought the long-term strategy would be fine. Regrettably, I picked five yellow trains out of the bag and although I could have tried to push their value I doubted I'd get that far so chose to ditch a few in early on. Whilst Barry pushed blue heavily, Jon nudged black along nicely and Philip made a small start on yellow and red. I had to go purple as two of my remaining shares where in that company.
And then Philip was there, just three away from Marseilles and no way of stopping him! Useful bonus scored but with a couple of reds each Barry and Jon were sitting comfortably due to a sensible 'black and blue' policy. In the final mix Barry had just edged it... very close!
So, another speedy game of this very short game even if played out... darn it!! Me and my long-term goals huh, what a waste of space!!
Final Scores; - Barry - 134, Jon - 132, Philip - 119, Neil - 91

Kingdom Builder
With Paris Connection finishing in record time due to Philip’s sprint down to Southern France, there was plenty of time for Neil’s favourite game - Kingdom Builder.
Scoring cards this time were Miners (build next to mountains), Knights (most settlements on a horizontal line) and Farmers (settlements in your least populated sector).
Jon picked up the special ability that enabled a free build at the edge of the board, and was hoping to complete a nice full line to score well with his Knights. However Phil had other ideas and blocked this off, leaving Jon in No-Man’s land, and unable to get any settlements in to the 4th sector to boot.
Neil and Phil managed to get a nice balance of workers between the 4 sectors to score some healthy Farmers points (whereas Jon had an inglorious zero!), but it was Barry that had done best across all scoring opportunities, and despite Jon ending the game prematurely by laying his last settlement, Barry had done just enough to sneak ahead of the other 2. A fine game (whatever Neil tells you to the contrary….)
Barry 58; Neil 52; Phil 48; Jon 37

Trains II (thanks Noel)
Andy, Noel and James were all delighted that John was keen for another session of Trains with 3 newbies. The starting cards included no special ways of dealing with waste and no tourist train which John had used in the previous newbie steam-rolling. The also included an odd card which asked you to guess the next card you would draw from your deck with a money bonus if you guessed correctly. Despite this being their first play of the game this random nonsense was quickly and unanimously vetoed by James, Andy and Noel, and replaced with another card that was copied directly from Dominion (much safer).
John placed first and headed over to stake his territory on the west between the two 3-station cities. Noel placed East, leaving James with a decision to go West to tangle with the player who knew the game, or east to mix it up with Noel, which past history told him would give the game to another player as Noel and he dragged each other into the dirt. Despite his reservations he cosied up to Noel, leaving Andy to place in the South which James strangely hadn’t even considered.
Silver (erm sorry, 2 money trains) were most peoples first target for their decks and emptied quite quickly as did the 3 money trains. John had built up one of his 3 station cities. Andy had picked up some skyscrapers along with some uninterrupted station building and Noel had the upper hand in the East with some Collaboration cards in his deck and station and city placements. John had a good money deck with cards that allowed him to add further cash to his hand and was well placed for further expansion into his 3rd city. Before he was able to do so Noel closed the game out with 2 purchases and a station upgrade to trigger the end game due to 4 decks expiring.
At final tally Noel had enough with 19 points, largely from city placement and encroaching on James' builds, John and Andy had 16 points each and James 12ish.
Lessons learned...Dominion improves with a map and some cubes, the different cards change game length and points scored considerably and James needs to heed his own counsel and avoid Noel's patch in future games.

Noel 19; John 16; Andy 16; James 12(ish)

Looking for something quick to end the evening with, this ‘super-filler’ was selected. Lots of ‘reduce dice’ cards came out early, and soon each set was only worth 2 points each. In a 4-player game, it’s often the person who manages to snag 2 different collections that wins, and this was to be the case today, with Noel picking up 2 x 3-value sets.
Noel 6; James 4; Jon 3; John 2

Also played was Sean's nicely laminated copy of Mice & Mystics. And that's the extent of my knowledge on the subject....

See you all next week folks...