Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The night the girls beat the boys

With our glamorous Essen attendees coming back to their roots, bags of goodies under their arms, desperate to play with their new toys, it was like Wednesday evenings were back to normal at IBG.

Other than an array of sparkly new games to play, the notable event of the evening was that both Noel and Jon had convinced their respective wives to come along and join in pushing coloured cubes around for a couple of hours. Tanya had been before but is was a first for Rach - and welcome to them both. I'm not sure why, but the board gaming hobby, certainly in England, doesn't seem to attract as many gals as it does chaps - a big loss for everyone. My observation is that this is different in other countries, having gamed in both France and Germany.

Now, I wasn't there on this particular evening, but I'm willing to bet that as a result of the ladies not being as avid and regular gamers as their opponents, they were probably looked upon as easy victims by some of their more competitive opponents. If this is the case, (I said 'if', okay), then it made my editing this blog entry all the more pleasurable to see the results as they came into my in box. Please read the reports below for the full details of the trouncing that the husbands took. It'll be interesting to see how quickly the better halves are invited back, and when they do make a return trip if it's simply seen as a chance for revenge.

Gluck Auf (thanks Philip)

AKA "Coal Baron"

The hotel we stayed in at Essen was on the site of an old coal mine, with mining equipment still visible around it and some postcards looking very like the artwork for this game. However, we didn't get round to playing the game until we were back in England and at the club.

Players were me, James, Neil, and Andy (who hadn't been to Essen). The game is yet another worker placement game, on the loads of workers end of the scale- but you only get to place the workers 3 times (3 turns). Refreshingly there is no way to get more workers. All spaces start off costing 1 worker but increase by 1 worker per use. Some spaces are obviously better than others (e.g there are 5 ways to get money which, for the same initial cost, get respectively $6, $5,$4, $3 and $1.

The basic idea is to mine coal (which strangely can be bought in trolleys and comes in 4 different colours), take the coal to the surface and load it on 'contracts' which are shipped to market. Each contract earns points and then you get points for various categories of contract at turn end (and in the final turn for empty trolleys). You lose points at game end for unfulfilled contracts and "pit imbalance".

Game starts with players choosing 3 starting contracts. I had the "Gluck Auf" to pick first, and concentrated on black coal contracts with horse-and-cart transport, although one contract was for 2 brown coal. The others were more varied- Neil picking up a one-of-each-colour contract which has the advantage that you start with that coal in your mine.

I then started worker placement by taking $6. The others started to buy trolleys and so I was able to take $5 as well. I would have carried on taking the money but James now took the $4 space so I switched to buying trolleys full of black coal (at $4 per cube). I took another horse-and-cart transport but realised near the end of turn I wouldn't be able to get all my contracts to market so ignored the 2 brown coal contract, eventually just sending the black coal and (I think) some grey coal. End of round scoring saw me score 5 points for most black coal contracts.

Neil started the next round (because he had most workers on buying trolleys spaces) by taking money- everyone followed suit. I obtained more black coal contracts and also grey coal contracts- these ones using lorries, and shipped them to market. In round 2 I scored 5 points for black coal, 7 points for most horse-and-cart and 8 points for most lorries.

I started round 3- again by taking money. I didn't get very much done in round 3, only shipping two contracts- and having 1 unfulfilled contract, the 2 brown coal one I had started with. However, everyone else had at least 3 unfulfilled contracts- in James' case because I had unwittingly blocked him from shipping (by placing 2 workers on the locomotive shipping space when he had only 2 workers left). I round 3 I scored 5 points for black coal, 15 points for the 2 modes of transport I dominated, and 13 points for most empty black coal trollies.

It was already obvious that I was dominating and the penalties for unfulfilled contracts and pit balance only increased my lead.

Black coal seems pretty good- there's a solid 28 points there if you can maintain dominance through the whole game and black coal contracts are worth more than other types of coal. However, it is more expensive and I think if I hadn't been able to take money twice in round 1 I could have been in difficulties...

Scores (approx): Philip 120, Andy 105, James 90, Neil 80

Followed by a few games of...

Machi Koro (thanks Philip) - not sure what order these wee played in

"I Mine in my mine and what's mine is yours..."

I suggested playing this after Gluck Auf! James immediately said it was too short, so I countered with Russian Railroads. After Andy had admiringly examined Russian Railroads and marvelled at the wooden girders James said Russian Railroads would be too long. We then compromised on Machi Koro.

Previous Essen plays had suggested Ranch+Cheese Factory as a winning strategy. So three of us tried for that. Neil struck out for a leeching strategy of Cafes, Family Restaurants and (later) Mines, only rolling a single die. He was greatly assisted by building a Stadium on his first turn and rolling 3 6s shortly thereafter.

The rest of us, realising Cheese Factories wouldn't earn enough now we had evenly split the Ranches, moved in various directions. James built a furniture factory, Andy started into Convenience Stores and I went for Mines (as did James, since it helped with the furniture. But if I rolled a 9 for my Mines I would immediately lose a good 9 coins to Neil's Family Restaurants...

The last thing Neil built was the 4 coins double dice one, winning the game.

The other table had finished playing and after a quick discussion we split into Resistance and Machi Koro- Gareth having expressed interest in the latter. Turned out to be a 2 player Machi Koro. I explained the rules to Gareth and played through the first game almost symmetrically- Gareth matched me purchase for purchase, ensuring no one dominated any particular area. However, Gareth rolled better and was able to squeak to victory. The others were still playing so we had another game. This time I went for Neil's strategy of Cafes and Family Restaurants- but it worked a lot worse in a 2-player game and Gareth won easily.

Machi Koro (thanks Neil)

Amongst James’s haul of Japanese games from Essen we were blessed to play Machi Koro early on. It has dice – not my favourite thing in the world – and cards, which I’m happier with. The artwork is very pretty, the box like a smart xmas card box with snow and everything!

You’re basically collecting cards to get income to buy more cards to win the game. The cards are all buildings/land; Wheat Field, Ranch, Café, Mine etc. They have a cost in coins from 1 to 8. They are numbered from 1 to 12, some being dual-numbered e.g. 2/3. Roll the dice, take the action related to the card with your number. if you have a green card this provides income for yourself only. A blue allows everyone income. Red means you have to give money away. Purple is for a 6 and there are three alternatives; take 5 coins from another player, take 2 from each, swap a card with another player: all very powerful.

In the two games played in Essen a strategy based around collecting Ranches in association with a Cheese Factory - I know, humour me, like we did James – won both games. So in the explanation we made sure that was apparent to all. A similar strategy looked possible based around the Furniture Factory and Forests and Mines. James had a go at this and picked up 27 coins on one turn; you need a total of 42 to win the game.

However, whilst the others picked up a few Ranches each, Philip going for Wheat Fields and that Cheese Factory again, I decided to try the one dice / steal everyone’s money plan. So early on I picked up a Stadium: take 2 coins from each player when I rolled a 6, two Cafes: on the role of a 3 pay the café owner 2 coins, two Family Restaurants: roll 9 / 10 pay the restaurant owner - 3 coins. My first bigger building was the Shopping Mall, allowing me to double income from my Café! I also picked up two Mines which on roll of 9 gave me a further 5 coins each. Well I rolled 6s liberally, James and Andy obliged with 3s and then 9s and I had money, stacks of it. Despite Philip’s close attention, and managing to avoid handing over too much to me, I had enough rounds to take the game. My spread of cards was pretty light but with the dice in your favour then even I could win, hurrah!

Cheaty Mages (thanks Neil)

We didn’t get to play this in Essen, despite it being cards, in a small box, and Japanese.
An interesting game this. A column of five fighters - Japanese wrestlers I guess, certainly not sumo wrestlers though! – have certain powers and are worth fixed amounts. You place your bet on one, two or even three wrestlers and then play your hand of eight cards to tweak the fighter’s strength. There’s one more feature, the judge. He/she has the ability to add or take away certain parameters relating to the fighters, clever!

We played three rounds, three of us choosing the same fighter in the first although I was the only one who’d gone with a single bet and therefore earned an 8 coin return. Jon and Noel both took home 4.
Round two took a little longer and we all played a lot more cards from our hand; you don’t have to play all eight, especially as you’ll only get another four in the following round. Everything was roses with it looking like three of us had an interest in the second fighter. Jon destroyed James’s “double points” card but James still decided to make sure and so added one final card, +3 strength, but also +3 mana. The judge had set a limit of 15 mana, our man was over and thus disqualified, damn you!! Jon collected on his rather wimpy looking fighter.

Round three, all to play for. Some clever holding back of cards here. Until James locked down his fighter. We couldn’t touch him, couldn’t tweak him, just had to stand and watch him. Noel and I realised we were both on the same man, Noel added that one extra card to ensure the power was high enough. Yip, you guessed it, over the judge’s limit, disqualified. James won the round but Jon picked up a couple of points. They tied. After all that excitement. No tie break either!

Scores: Jon 16, James 16, Neil 10, Noel 6

Paris Connection (thanks Jon)

With Jon's wife, Rach, joining him at IBG tonight, (and with Noel's wife en route) their opener was
this simple but interesting stock-collection game which probably qualifies as a super-filler as it usually comes in at under half an hour.

Noel played the role of super-spoiler, choosing to burn a number of trains once he felt he had the advantage in a couple of colours.

Rach ran into the classic problem of not having any trains that she actually wanted to cash in, as what remained was worth less than she already had. Jon also committed the cardinal sin of not collecting enough trains, and when the dust settled, he only had 12 as opposed to Noel's 14. These 2 trains turned out to be the difference in scores, although the race for second place was incredibly close with only 1 point separating Gareth, Rach and Jon.

This is such a good game - easy to explain, with subtle strategies, and plays quickly. Oh, and it has trains in it too - what's not to like?!! [Ed: Good job no one's asking Jeroen's opinion at this point]

Scores: Noel 145, Rach 127, Gareth II 127, Jon 126

Around the World in 80 Days (thanks Jon)

By now, Noel's wife Tanya had also arrived, so a 5-player game was
required - and this OOP offering fitted the bill nicely. The mechanisms are nice and simple - select train / boat cards of differing values to move between locations as you recreate Phileas Fogg's famous round-the-world adventure. The player who returns in the fewest number of days is the winner (except that the player who gets back to London last in real time is eliminated). Throw in a detective who can be moved to any location to slow players up, some random event cards and a hot air balloon that may allow you to travel faster (depending on the roll of a die), and you have a fine medium-weight game.

Rachel (after declaring proudly that she had won this game last time she played) started as she meant to go on, and shot off at quite a pace. Noel was more circumspect in his approach, choosing to collect (and discard) cards to maximise his travel options. He also attempted to fly by balloon on a couple of occasions, which was rather thwarted by his patent inability to roll anything other than a 6 (when a low number was far more beneficial...)

Jon attempted to keep pace with his wife, but was taking much longer to complete each leg of the journey. Gareth was hanging about in the middle of the pack, and Tanya was consistently drawing Storm cards (completely against the odds) which slowed everyone down and caused much muttering of bad words.

Rachel arrived back in London first in real time, and in 69 days in game time. Jon was next back to London in a Fogg-equalling 80 days. Gareth was slightly more tardy, taking 83 days, but then Tanya snuck back to the Reform Club also in 69 days. However, the tie-breaker is the first person home in real time, so Rach took the victory.

And Noel? He was last seen attempting to cross the Atlantic in an impossible 2 days, but as he was last home, it was all in vain for him anyway....

Scores: Rach 69 days, Tanya 69, Jon 80, Gareth 83, Noel - last home

And next week... return of the Horablog (a week of so late for Halloween, but I'm certainly trembling while I wait for it).

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The day that IBG went to Essen

Many of the regular Isleworth board gamers were off at Essen this week, sampling the newest games available, soaking up some serious board gaming vibes and no doubt filling more than one car with games for the trip back.

The mass migration to the German industrial belt for four days left three die hard board gamers in Isleworth, which, if we look on the bright side, makes the blog easy.

Players: Gareth II, Noel and Paul

Ten Days in Asia

Gareth and Paul were first up and decided to play a short two games of Ten Days in Asia. Apart from

being set in a different continent, the difference between this and its European cousin is that train tracks exist in this game, which simply provide another mechanism for getting around. All else remains the same.

In the first game Paul found himself very focussed in the Middle East and Central Asia, with a great inconvenience arising every time he picked something further west than Pakistan. In the second game he was also struggling to get clear of the Arabian lands but a couple of planes made that easier.

Gareth was more dotted about. Both players found themselves wincing at not being able to connect two mini sets easily. Eventually Paul got lucky before Gareth.

Scores (both games): Paul won, Gareth II lost

Cleopatra and the Society of Architects

A pretty Days of Wonder game, revolving around the architects of ancient Egypt building the monuments which are now ruins. A nice mechanism for acquiring cards, which are used to build the structures although often at the price of becoming corrupt. You get points for building, but at the end of the game the most corrupt individual is fed to the crocodiles and immediately loses. Therefore there is a balance between a decent amount of corruption and getting eaten alive, but if you go completely squeaky clean then you won't get very far.

The sphinx's were first to be built, followed by the pair of obelisks. Gareth seemed to start off big and collected his fair share of corruption, but balanced this by losing some in the bidding. Noel was building quickly and pipped Paul to the Mosaic Garden, however this actually worked out best for Paul as he then had two different mosaic tiles and they allowed him to build a roomy contemplation garden which helped reduce his corruption level (well it would, wouldn't it - good theming Days of Wonder!) Paul then seemed to be throwing caution to the wind and building, corruption tokens and all, as quickly as possible. There was one other auction for lowering / raising the corruption, which Paul paid big money to win. He hoped that this, plus another massive contemplation garden would bring his corruption down sufficiently for him to not be thrown to the crocs.

Noel made a call to bring the game to a close, which meant that he figured he was in with a shout, but after the corruption tokens were gathered from their homes under the pyramids and counted up, it was revealed that he'd miscalculated and Paul's new line on the straight and narrow meant that he sneaked under Noel's corruption tally and Noel was instantly snapped up. Gareth was shown to have not taken very much corruption at all, so  the final scores were between Gareth and Paul, with Paul coming out the eventual winner.

One point to note is that we started off trying in vain to balance the walls on top of the garden edges (the outside edges of the upturned box), but after we knocked them over multiple times, Gareth applied some common sense and just put them against the sides, whereupon we twigged that actually that's maybe where they are meant to be.

Scores: Paul 62 (8 corruption, reduced from 17), Gareth 39 (5 corruption, reduced from 8), Noel 'would have had' 50 (10 corruption  -reduced from 14 - so eaten alive)

Stone Age (thanks Noel)

Paul, Gareth II and Noel then moved a little further back in time for another popular 'family' strategy

game, and Paul's first play at, Stone Age. Old hands Noel and Gareth II did an all over the place rules explanation in a classic too many cooks way (Noel should have kept his tuppence worth in his pocket probably). Fortunately Paul wasn't one flint short of a spark and he picked it up quickly.

Noel got an early start on the farm increasing his wheat production, while Gareth picked up some early culture cards and Paul expanded his family. And so the course was set while Noel had food a plenty, Paul's family regularly had wood and stone for dinner as a result of their propensity to procreate. Both Noel and Paul kept a wary eye on Gareth's card acquisition and picked up some good culture sets themselves. Noel built all three 1-7 Joker buildings, not for huge points scores but it did keep him in the lead on the points track and built up a number of huts for his multiplier cards. Paul matched his growing population with some relevant multiplier cards and Gareth had a stock pile of gold at the end but without anywhere much to spend it.

By closing time, we were finished, and Noel's balance of huts, culture, multipliers and some fine dice rolling earned him top place. Paul's hungry mob came in second and Gareth's small clan of alchemists a good bit further back.

Scores: Noel 190, Paul 144, Gareth 125

The messages from Essen by text and email are:


From James: "Jon's opinion of the sequel to Love Letter is that he preferred Love Letter... but would prefer to spend an evening playing Kings of Mithral to both... [Ed - begs the question why any Essen time was spent on a game with such low expectations in the first place]."

From Jon: "James demoed Snowdonia and only got 4 rules wrong [Ed - sounds like a normal Wednesday night to me]. Neil bought most of Essen. I've been impressed by the quality of the female hotel staff ..."

From Neil: "Yo Porli. My feet are killing me but my eardrums have burst with James' endless trading tips. Don't buy anything Japanese from him."


From James:

"Blog update... Patronize... Neil 60 James 51 Phil 44 Jon 32.. Jon may dispute this but I would pay him little attention" [Ed: not sure if 'Patronize' is the name of a game or the flavour of the text?]

"Phil and Neil both let the club down by losing to an American at a game of legacy... worse as Phil proclaimed the game as looking like any other poor euro while standing right next to the designer... our reputation has never need lower."

"Jon hit the world record score in 7 Wonders of 80 points although he was playing some first timer Italians" [Ed: Ruthless]

"Phil bought Russian Railroads after winning a game... Neil got panned at Yunnan by Italians with green hair... he still bought the game."

"Neil has taken over the game buying obsessive award from Barrie this year... the gaming industry is guaranteed a profit in 2013."

"I taught loads of people Snowdonia but found out in the last game that I've been playing it wrong for ever... nothing new there then..." [Ed: no comment - just a knowing smirk]

"Jon is singing along to T'Pau... he has a bit of a red head problem..."

"Phil fathered 6 kids today..."

From Jon:

"We've forced James to eat in the same restaurant 3 nights running which serves fantastic chicken but has a somewhat limited Veg menu. Le jacket potato. Chortle!" [Ed: And the London Apprentice had the veggie fish and chips back on as a special this week - having second thoughts James?]

An email and attachment from James:
Jon's customary rule check
"So this is phils new purchase. . A commie game about building the trans siberian.... Note the empty hotel. .. was full and bustling until we arrived. ..Not sure why we're playing this game. ..Phil will very likely win. .."


From James:

"Trains and Stations did not appeal to Neil and Phil"

"Played mayday mayday. .. a resistance style game. . Jon (AS USUAL) was evil and teamed up with some 12 year old jail bait to win... I blame Phil. .."

"Spent evening in pub with makers of cornish smugglers... good group of guys (based in Penzance"

"Neil almost picked a fight with Richard breese... can't take him anywhere. .."

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Small but perfectly formed

Six board gamers tonight - makes the blog easier, but where have all the Autumn gamers gone? Next week a fair few of the players will be in Essen, but numbers of players are typically very unpredictable week on week. We've tried to work out if is the weather, big sporting events on TV, school holidays, but it seems like the roll of a die, so if you're considering coming down to the London Apprentice on the 23rd then you'd be most welcome to come and add the the randomness.

Gamers: Jon, James, Tom, Amanda, Neil, Phil

Mama Mia (thank Jon)

The starter of choice today comprised of 6 early-bird IBG'ers turning into pizza chefs,
attempting to make bold and outrageous pizza recipes using a variety of tasty ingredients. There was a time when Mama Mia was seen nearly every week at IBG, but it's been kept safely in its tin for a while now, so was well overdue another outing.
It was new to Amanda, and a quick refresh of the symbols on the recipe cards (the slightly more complex 'Mama Mia plus' was being used) was enough to get everyone going. As always, no-one seems to play enough recipe cards in the first round, but as the game wore on, they were played with complete abandon.
Both James and Jon played '15+' recipes early on in a couple of rounds, which essentially resets the oven if they are successful (which they were). Neil was constantly a couple of ingredients short of his recipes, and never seemed to have the leftovers in his larder to fulfil them.
Jon and James pulled away in the final round for an honourable draw, and Tom was the best of the rest.
Scores: Jon 7, James 7, Tom 4, Amanda 3, Neil 3

Railways of the World - Mexico (Thanks Noel)

Phil didnt have to wait too long to find two willing players for Railways of the World as Jon and Noel are always keen for some classic train action. Phil was offered the choice of some relaxing gaming through Englands green and pleasant land or the attritional loanfest that often transpires in Mexico's mountainous map. He took one look at fellow Railways veterans, Noel and Jon, and plumped for Mexico.

The starting cubes offered two good spots for starting networks, one in the South East and one in the Northwest. Jon dropped out first in the initial auction at 5k, Noel bid up to 9 and Phil took it with a bid of 10k. Phil duly placed in the SE and picked up the 1st delivery bonus. Noel then took his favoured spot in the NW leaving Jon with a difficult decision. He decided to not go too close to either Noel or Phil and placed in the NE near San Antonio.

Noel built a solid network through the NW and took the first to deliver 4 different cubes bonus. He also picked up the San Antonio hotel to take advantage of the plentiful yellow cubes on the east side of the board which eventually made their way through Jon's network to San Antonio. Jon built a circular network in the NE and delivered the first 3 route delivery coming across to Noel's starting city, El Paso.

By the mid game, Noel was well ahead by around 15 points having secured the El Paso to Guadalajara and Torreon to Mexioc bounties and helped out by a timely Culiacan service bounty. He had 7 loans to Phils 5. Jon was further back in points totals but had more cubes still remaining in his network while Phil and Noel were pinching each others and cities were emptying quickly in the SW. At this point there was only one long route left unclaimed and only one more route out of Verracruz. Noel and Jon had eyes on the route and the auction bidding started. Noel was a bit surprised to pick it up for 3k and duly built into Verracruz. It turns out that Jon had his eyes on Salina Cruz a little further south which unfortunately for him was the wrong Cruz for the long route bonus. Several turns later Noel came across from El Paso to San Antonio to take this long route bonus and mean that he had an extensive network.

Phil was flush with cash having stayed prudent with his loan acquisition and he Urbanised several midland cities for good effect. Crucially Noel was able to build into one of these and siphon off some cubes for 4 point deliveries. The game ended with only 4 cubes remaining on the board and Noel's network won the day.

Scores: Noel 68, Phil 61, Jon 57

Get Bit (thanks Neil)

After the delights of North Wales in pretty good weather it was time for a bit of swim
ming. Now, unbeknown to most for the last 2 months I have started swimming again in an effort to do something about my colossus of a stomach. Every week day morning I swim 64 lengths of the slowest breast-stroke imaginable, that’s a whole mile! Would that help me in this game?

You each have a plastic swimmer making his/her way to shore in single file with a shark chasing them. Each player has a card numbered 1 to 5 and chooses which to play. Once revealed the lowest number played allows the player to move their swimmer to the front of the queue. Then the next lowest and so on… any matching cards mean the players cancel each other out, no movement for them.

Which was the problem James had straight away. I matched his cards and with his swimmer nearest the shark, he lost a limb – literally pulled off your swimmer – at the end of the first three rounds. With James in trouble Tom and then Amanda also lost limbs whilst I remained close to shore. James got eaten, completely. Tom had a couple of bad rounds until Amanda took over at the back. Eventually I lost a couple of limbs but still found my breast-stroke to be good enough to win. It’s pretty easy to swim faster than a man or woman with no legs and only one arm! Hurrah!

Enjoyable bit of fun, one the Horakids would love I'm sure.

San Juan (thanks Noel)

Noel, Jon, Tom and James settled into some comfortable shoe gaming with San Juan to finish the night. Jon built an early Quarry and complimentary Carpenter setting the scene for some quick purple builds. James and Tom both had early Guild Halls and several high value production buildings. (We decided to play with a Guild Hall variant, scoring only with every different production building). Noel had a Trading Post and complementary Building which gave him an extra card when the 2 buildings traded. He also build a City Hall and Triumphal arch with 2 monuments. James added a City Hall to his Guild Hall. Jon closed the game out several buildings ahead of everyone else with an Arch and 2 monuments amongst his well built city. But with James Chapel and Noel's 2 six buildings the final scoring was likely to be close... but Jon squeaked through on the tie break. James also did very well on the tiebreaker of cards left in hand. Unfortunately for him he didnt quite make the tie breaker!

Scores: Jon 31 (4cards), Noel 31 (1card), James 30 (but 4 cards...), Tom 25


Welsh mountains were also climbed, but there is no report for this game.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

3 x 3 = 9

Nine gamers this evening, happily splitting up into three groups of three for the evening for some games with little downtime to fly along at a good pace.

The evening did look like it might turn into a cheesy line fest during Felix, which was played early on and spawned a succession of 'Amanda folds quicker than an origami stork' type lines, but thankfully for everyone, they faded out. [Ed - "and they faded quicker than the dot in the middle of a 1970s TV"... oh come on, I thought we'd put a stop to that!]

Players: Paul, Jon, Tom, Neil, James, Gary, Dan, Gareth, Amanda


Jon had brought along an old two player Reiner Knitzier classic that Paul had never played before, but it proved simple to pick up so they were going in no time. The game is set in nine battles taking place conveniently in one horizontal line. Each battle can only be won by one player, so the first to five victories wins, or one player that takes three adjacent battles.

There are six suits of cards, each numbered one to ten. Players hold seven cards, playing one and drawing one each turn, with up to three cards accumulating on each side for each battle, with the best poker hand winning each one.

There is more than a striking resemblance to that other Knizier game, Lost Cities, but this has certainly stood the test of time well, with Jon and Paul soon engrossed in the agonising decisions that Battleline forces upon the players.

Paul got lucky with an unbeatable 8, 9, 10 flush early on to take one strategic middle placed battle, but Jon rallied and for a while it was neck and neck. Eventually, with Paul trying to achieve his fifth decisive battle, Tom who was watching declared Paul the winner as he'd got three battles in the eastern most three locations, but was so set on his plan that he didn't notice.

Great game, simple and deep.

Score: Paul won, Jon lost

Felix - the cat in the sack (thanks Jon)

Just time for a quick filler before the main crowd all arrived (note to self – this game actually plays a bit longer than everyone thinks – not a problem, but don’t try to sneak it into a 10-minute gap that you have…)

Amanda proclaimed her ineptitude at the game, but was swiftly reminded that she actually won last time she played, and was instantly tagged as a ringer…

Jon picked up a nice little earner early on in the game, but this also wiped him out of cash, and with a couple of rounds passing with no cash on the cards, it took him a while to get back into the game.

Paul, Tom and Gareth were piling up the cash, waiting for the moment to unleash hell. Amanda picked the wrong moment to bid big (stung into action by the jibes that she had previously been folding like a cheap umbrella…) – picking up a nice fat minus-score haul of cats for her trouble.

The last round saw Jon outbid Paul for the final bag of cats, netting him a further 6 points, and when the scores were totted up, it was revealed that this late bonus had helped him into first place (he claims that this was his first ever win of this game – a claim that has yet to be verified…)

To her credit, Amanda salvaged a positive score (just), but maybe she was doing this just to lull everyone into a false sense of security for next time….?

Scores: Jon 56, Gareth 53, Paul 53, Tom 29, Amanda 1

Spyrium (thanks James)

Is this the official start of the new Essen games? Tom managed to bag a copy of this freshly released game, small in the sense the game mainly consists of cards and meeples, but complex in it's gameplay. Neil and myself were keen to find out if it should be on the shopping list next week !

So, despite sounding like the theme should about subterfuge and spys, the game is actually about factories and production (good to see games exploring new thematic avenues... whistle)... a 3 by 3 grid of cards is laid out each round (6 rounds in total?) and players place meeples between the cards. Cards adjacent to meeples can then be activated and the cost is dynamic based on the number of meeples around the cards... its a nice concept, and feels similar to Keyflower in that the costs of actions varies based on the popularity of the action.

Didnt take long for Neil and me to grasp the rules and we were off. I went for a meeple collection strategy, based on not really knowing what else to do but liking the idea of having more turns than anyone else. Tom was already collecting cheap resource (the 'spyrium' of the title of the game refers to the mineral being produced by the factories). Neil was collecting factories... early on he picked up a bonus card giving cheaper building costs for factories and bonuses for the number built so for most of the game he turned into a buidling fanatic.

Around the halfway stage I got lucky as I managed to create an engine from the cards I had picked up to not only provide a supply of Spyrium, but also turn this into vast victory points... the extra meeples had come good. For the last few rounds I was able to score about 20-25 a round, which is a big score.

Tom, at this stage, was starting to wonder if he should try a new strategy of not explaining the rules so well to newcomers so that he could take an advantage into the early part of the game... arrrh

So the game came to a close, it looked like a landslide for me with all the extra points, but I was aware that Neil had a number of bonus points as yet unscored... Tom, indeed had staggered to a respectable, if forlorn 57 points.. I had bagged 74... and after a few recounts Neil managed to get 72... a close game, and much closer than expected.

I have mixed thoughts on this though. The game is fine, works really well and for people who like their euros it will hit a sweet spot... For me though it just felt like there was nothing new. solid mechanics, but another in the long line of Feld-style games that feel more like a puzzle than a game... Won't be on my list for Essen, but I have a feeling it'll be a pretty bit hit on the BGG rankings.

Score: James 74, Neil 72, Tom 57

Stone Age (thanks Neil)

Ug, ug, mm, ug...

hope that's ok! [Ed - no, come on Neil, good use of theme but please try harder to put your creative writing masters to better use than that]

if not, better have the translation... [thank you]

After his Spyrium success James was up for a sprint through this one. Tom and I were out to stop him! Tom decided to go the tool route but got blocked in picking up the tool worker cards, not sure who by though. James was out for resources and consistently threw ridiculously high die, leading to much hut investment. I decided to get some cards early on (must have been me blocking Tom then!), and then moved into huts, including the love hut…

James carried on picking up resources, did I mention his fortune with the dice? I managed to block one hut purchase but it wasn't anywhere near enough. Tom’s tools were coming in handy but he never quite got on top of feeding his workers so didn't pick up the resources that might have benefited him. I got along the food track but wasn't able to collect many cards to really hit the worker bonus at game end. I honestly thought I was closer to James but he’d strolled it!

Final Scores: James 178, Neil 147, Tom 125

Trains I

Trains had made a welcome first appearance a few weeks ago and made a welcome return this week. Dominion meets a very simple Steam - who could resist?

The main delay in getting going was the card selection, but once this had been worked through, placements were made, cards drawn and off they chugged. Paul was in the north west more or less on his own, whilst Gary and Jon were more central. The special cards needed a bit of getting used to, with Gary and Paul going for the landfill to dump their waste; a strategy quietly ignored by Jon who was happy for his waste to build up. Paul went for the tourist trains, which gave him marginally more points throughout the main gameplay. Gary snaked his way towards the cities that Paul had his eye on, so Paul had to spend more resources to cross the river and eventually realised that the game would end before he managed to execute his plan. Jon busied himself on his todd in the south, and started to collect sky scrapers from a very early point, which eventually became too many for Paul or Gary to compete with, especially as Jon realised this and brought the game to the close before the waste that he'd accumulated took too much toll. Gary looked like he was closer to Jon from his network on the board, but Paul was further ahead with points from the tourist trains; either would've needed several more turns to peg Jon back as he best judged the length of the game.

Scores: Jon 42, Paul 35, Gary 30

Trains II (thanks Jon)

It’s a rare event at IBG, but sometimes a game captures players’ imaginations enough that after the first play through, they immediately want to reset for another go. And in the case of Trains, this was the case.

The set-up didn't take nearly as long the second time around, and the game was soon underway. The Tourist Train was still in play, but most of the other cards were different. They included the very popular Station Master (I think) which seemed a bargain at a cost of 2, allowing the action of money, a card or discarding a Waste.

Paul started the game in the North of the map, and quickly started to move towards Jon who had set up camp in the North-East. Gary, therefore, had the whole of the Central and Southern areas to himself.

This game played very differently from the first. For starters, all 3 players had now become more familiar with the layout of the cards and the overall goal of the game, and therefore turns passed much more quickly.

Jon built very little track or stations, but picked up a few bonus points from reaching the bonus hexes in the North-East. This gave him a lower number of points on the board, but he used his lack of Waste to buy up as many high-value Trains as possible. Paul had picked up a couple of Tourist Trains again, which helped him to eke ahead as the game wore on. Gary made the most of his unchallenged position on the board to place as many stations as possible.

Jon then started to buy up Skyscrapers with his formidable wealth, and with no easy points available on the board was desperate to end the game quickly. The interesting thing about purchasing the ‘points’ cards, is that they come with added Waste, which means that Jon’s deck was clogging up quicker than a drain in a Chinese restaurant… [Ed... Jon!!!]

He finally had a turn with 6 coins, which enabled him to buy the last 3 Express trains and close the game out – although he was far from sure that he had got his timing right…. The scores were totted up, and turned out to be incredibly tight, with Jon just pulling ahead, courtesy of his 4 Skyscrapers. Had the game on for another turn or 2, Gary and Paul would have almost certainly overtaken him, as they had many more options on the board and plenty of  Rails and Station cards in their decks.

Another fine game, and had it not been nearing 11pm, they might even have ventured into Trains III !

Scores: Jon 39, Gary 36, Paul 35

Dan, Gareth and Amanda played a game or two of innovation and then Dan and Gareth pushed on with Sentinals of the Multiverse.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The four golden rules of IBG

Players Jon, Tom, Paul, James Amanda, Philip, Sean, Gareth

Tonight James articulated what most of us have known for a long time, a few observations about games at the Isleworth Boardgamers, which all undeniably have truth running right through them. Anyone to have played games to any extent at the IBG will be nodding their heads as they read these:

1) Never believe Jon in a negotiation game (or any game for that matter)
2) Never trust Noel at Resistance. He's ALWAYS a bad guy
3) Never play Phil at a Euro unless you're happy coming 2nd
4) Always sit to the left of Paul

Three of these rules were illustrated kindly tonight, as you will see if you read on. You won't find more scientific proofs if we had double blinds carried out by a Nobel Laureate.


So another microgame from Japan, this time a murder has been commited and players are trying to identify the suspect... Putting on their Poirot (or Marple) hats were Amanda, Paul and Tom...

There are 8 suspects (numbered 2-8 and blank) in the game, one of which is deaded at the start. one suspect is dealt out the players and the rest are in the lineup. In turn players take a peek at part of the lineup and take a stab (whistle) at the killer... subsequent players tend to get less information to work with, which provides one of the main elements in the game as the first guess could be a bluff to encourage others to follow with the same guess. After all suspects are chosen the cards are turned over and the card with the higest number is the killer, unless the number 5 is in the lineup when the lowest number turned out to have dunnit.

So early on everyone was feeling their way with the rules and strategy... it feels pretty random for the first few turns until it twigs that the key element is to bluff and get others to follow your lead... you get more points that way. Suddenly the game becomes a game of trust, and misdirection... with a building suspense as the revealing of the killer gets closer.

I can't remember much about what happened... it's only a 20 minute filler after all... but I know that Tom was sitting to the left of Paul so was odds on to do well.

in theory...

In reality he came a stumbling last... more Clouseau than Poirot... Paul and Amanda were tied... or not... that what happens when you don't make a note of the scores... I know that Tom came last though, that's definitely true.

Also I should note that I won... I'd like to claim a superior strategy, but I'd be lying... However I think it could mean an adjustment to the golden rules of the club that in some games sitting opposite Paul is the best place to be... must be something in that... anyways, it was a fun little game... only 20 mins or so and a lot of interaction, suspense, groans (games that trigger groans are usually good... unless the groan is because you've just realised that you've agreed to a game of Fluxx)... I'm sure it'll get played again at some stage soon....

...bagsy sitting opposite Paul.

Scores: James won, Tom, Paul, Amanda didn't

Sun, Sea and Sand (thanks Philip)

Life's a Beach and then you Score!

James was keen to play this interesting little Euro and Gareth II and Amanda joined me. I'm always keen on games where I can play Pink, and this proved no exception. No one had played before.

The game began with everyone building 3 Chalets for $6, except for me. I build 4 Chalets for $10. Since both transactions cost 2 days time this isn't as bad for me as it looks.

The game involves obtaining different coloured meeples from boats and trying to keep them on your island, where they earn you $1 a week. To keep them on you must build attractions of the same colour as them. All the attractions are worth victory points except the bar. Meeples in the Bar (Red meeples, who are also noticeably fatter than the others) earn you an extra dollar. Amanda was first to build the bar and James and Gareth soon followed suit. I couldn't afford it and built the cheapest Yellow attraction instead (Yellow is the Beach area of the island).

By careful recruiting from the boats I soon had a group of 4 Yellow meeples in my Yellow attraction. By building the other 2 Yellow attractions I kept that group on my island for two more weeks, and I soon had other Yellow people following behind them.

The other players spread their bets, buying several different colours of attraction and arranging them on their island with an eye to the endgame scoring. Towards the end of the game I too diversified, buying a Golf Course (big Green attraction, worth 6 VPs) and a medium value Blue attraction with Dolphins.

Another, minor part of the game are the Backpackers, who wander between islands looking for somewhere to stay. Signs help you attract Backpackers, are worth 1VP in their own right and only cost a day's work- both me and Amanda erected 3 signs, though James with 2 signs seemed better able to collect backpackers.

In the final turn meeples earn VPs rather than Money, and all of us except James profited handsomely from this. James had the most points for attractions and Gareth the most for the aesthetic arrangement, but my combination of attractions and meeples proved victorious.

Scores, Philip 33, Gareth 30, Amanda 30 James 29.

Golden rule number 3 - proven.

Mykerinos (thanks Jon)

This is an oldish (2006) Ystari game of Jon’s that he has brought along several times without generating much interest. However, you can always rely on open-minded Tom to give anything a go, and so this game finally made it to the table, with Paul making up a cosy threesome.
This is essentially an area-control game played over 4 rounds. Each round involves a number of ‘parcels’ of desert being laid out in 4 sections, with each section having enough room for 12 potential excavation tokens (ok – they are coloured cubes…) Players take turns placing cubes, with the goal of having the majority or second majority of cubes in each section at the end of the round. Being in this position will allow that player to choose a ‘patron’ (to give special abilities in future rounds) or place a token in the museum – which will dictate the value of their patrons at the end of the game.

Because players only have (on average) 11 cubes at the start of every round, it is impossible to challenge in every section of the board, but the trick is to try and get something for as little cube-investment as possible. And before you know it, you’re in the 4th round and the game is nearly over.

Both Paul and Tom invested early into the museum, whilst Jon picked up some ‘Sir Brown’ patrons to give him some flexibility later on with museum placement.

The ‘Lady Violet’ patrons did not come out in force until later in the game, and Jon managed to pick up the first 2, giving him the small bonus of an extra cube each round. He had also concentrated on picking up some patrons with in-game bonus scoring, so by the time that the final round was over, he was already 10 points or so ahead of the others.

In the final reckoning, Paul suffered slightly from having a lack of patrons, although he still managed to overtake Tom who had had a canny knack of picking up several patrons for minimum cube-expenditure. Jon had managed to sneak a couple of cubes into the museum in the last round (which would probably have been impossible in a 4-player game) which helped to boost his score and achieve a relatively comfortable victory.

This game plays nicely in 45 mins, but has enough to think about, to leave you with the feeling that you’ve played a ‘proper’ game. Maybe Jon will find it easier to drum up interest in the future…?!

Scores: Jon 67, Paul 53, Tom 50

Golden rule number 4 - proven (all right, so it would have been so if Tom'd won too - but seriously, who doubts the validity of this rule?)

Ra! (Thanks Philip)

Me, James, Gareth (II, although as Gareth I has been absent for so long maybe we ought to promote him), Sean and Amanda launched into this classic auction game, which Sean had never played before.

The first epoch saw Amanda buy a tonne of Niles and a Flood to accompany them, along with a few Monuments- but nothing else. Meanwhile I picked up 5 Pharaohs, a Civilisation tile, and a Nile/Flood pair. James, Gareth and Sean collected some Monuments and some Pharaohs and the occasional civ tile- James also picked up a couple of Gold tiles. The round ended with Sean's 16 unplayed.

The second epoch saw Amanda add more Niles and 2 Floods, only to take one for the team by buying the flood disaster with a lot of other juicy stuff. So she didn't score here Niles. I picked up another Pharaoh, a Monument or two and a Civlisation tile with my rather low suns- Sean disliked my tactic of calling RA repeatedly... Gareth was rivalling Amanda for Niles and all players except me picked up several Monuments. James and Amanda tied for least Pharaohs. The epoch ended with Gareth on his own trying to build up a good set of tiles but being foiled by Ra.

In the third Epoch Amanda and Gareth were able to score their floods, while James equalled my Pharaoh count. There were some good Monument Scores by Amanda, James and Sean. As well as 4 Civ tiles of different colours I was able to accumulate the highest total suns, with Sean and Amanda tied for least. Again the turn ended with Gareth on his own though this time he sensibly took a 3 tile set rather than push his luck.

Philip 50 Amanda 34 James 31 Sean 29 Gareth 15.

Golden rule number 3 - proven again (okay, so Ra might not be the resource engine production cube shuffling Euro that Philip is famed for, but it is surely not one to be challenged - especially now that Scott has left us :(  )


It was time for another sinking of the HMS Leaking Stern and a mad scrabble for survival in a limited number of lifeboats. Negotiate your way to safety, using whatever tactics will aid your survival. The only rule is that you can't continue your negotiating when the black counter is slammed down by the turn leader.

As usual, the game started slowly as there is some spare capacity in the starting set of lifeboats, but also as usual, the leaks soon caught up with the players, loyalties were tested, tough decisions made and pawns inevitably drowned at sea.

Sean was the one exclaiming 'that's just mean' upon hearing the rules and no one could really argue - yes Sean Matey, that's just life on the ocean wave for you.

The meanness was quite cruelly shown to Sean when Paul ended up positioning one of his sailors so that a boat containing 3 of Sean's sank. Sean, probably quite understandably didn't vote in favour of Paul for the rest of the game, although shockingly in at least one occurrence he was up against Jon (see Golden Rule number 1), making it less credible, so maybe it was simply karma acting as the scales of justice.

Dan made an early run for it by using his captain's influence and pushing a boat with his guys close to the line, which did eventually make it to the shore but it contained a relatively even spread of sailors for all players and so his advantage was minimised.

Tom was having a quiet game, although realised that he should possibly not have put so many of his people in the same boats as Sean.

This game certainly tested Golden Rule number 1 on many occasions, namely that no one should ever, ever trust Jon. Of course Jon might argue that there were plenty of other untrustworthy players bobbing up and down on the high seas, and that he was double crossed many a time himself, but a glance at the final scores tells the rest of his seafaring colleagues that he is the master of the double cross and that everyone at IBG really should pay more attention to the truth of the matter from now on. When will we all learn?

The other rule about the eventual winner being most likely to be sat next to Paul could easily have been true in this game, although turn order is largely irrelevant, so it was simply up to Paul to blunder his was through the game causing havoc and king making a little more randomly than normal. He managed to get on the wrong side of Dan, Jon and Sean during the game play, trying to spread his 'help' evenly.

The game was decided when two boats were within striking distance of the shore, but one had 3 of Jon's seafarers in and he managed to steer it safely home gaining quite a substantial victory.

Scores: Jon 27, Paul 17, Tom 17, Dan 16, Sean 13

Golden rule number 1 - proven (although no one seems to learn from it!)

Golden rule number 4 probably would have been proven if turn order had been relevant, so unlucky Dan (who was sat to the left of Paul and had to rely on his own skill instead), Paul's ability to provide the win to people was more random this time round, and happened to clash with another, maybe more powerful, rule.

Golden rule number 2 - clearly would have been proven if Noel had been there. He was probably off plying his bad-guyness elsewhere.

QED and see everyone next week.