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.