Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Flicking good fun.....

Players: James, Neil, Gareth I, Gareth II, Barry, Andy, Philip, Jon, Paul

It was a very welcome return back to IBG to founder members Barry and Gareth after a long period away, although Andy was a bit disappointed to walk in alongside them and therefore received a slightly less enthusiastic welcome as a result. Don’t worry Andy – we’ll get the balloons and bunting out for you next week…
James was doing his usual games-selling thing, and had persuaded some guy to cycle all the way over from Brixton to pick up a stack of games. Therefore we had the opportunity to play some of these games for the last time, which was probably just as well, as we discovered that one of them had several pieces missing, and another was a cracking manual dexterity game which we will probably never get the opportunity to play again. Never mind – I’m sure that James won’t be able to resist picking up another ‘bargain’ copy sometime…..

Blueprints (thanks James)
...or the ever expanding game...
So first there were 2... Neil and myself looking to pass some time whle Jon and Paul finished Agricoling... We managed a round of this, that Neil won convincingly, with my building looking more council house than Taj Mahal.
...Then Gareth (II) showed up...
So we started again with 3 (them's the breaks Neil)... Gareth's first time with this game and as ever gracious teachers Neil and I showed little mercy in the first round and I managed to nab the gold prize, while Neil took some bonuses
... then Phil showed up...
We decided that given Phil usually wins games with maths involved that a 1 round advantage in a 3 round game was about right, so we carried on into the 2nd round, but with 4 players.  This time I remember coming 2nd, I think Phil got the Gold... and a few bonuses were shared.
Last round is a bit of a blur in my memory, but I picked up the all 'clear' dice bonus and scored the silver.
A full set of final scores were not recorded for future game historians, but I do recall I won with 10 points, and I think Neil had 9... Phil was obviously saving his mental powers for the upcoming game of Lewis and Clark !

Jon and Paul arrived early at the pub, and decided to have a go at some animal-
rearing whilst waiting for everyone else to arrive. Paul was also supposed to be buying the expansion for this game from Jon, but had somehow got it mixed up with the base game, so no deal ensued (nearly as bad as Jon getting the 2 expansions mixed up at Essen, which is how he ended up having an extra copy of the original expansion to sell in the first place!)
Anyway, Paul took an early expansion tile with the accompanying fences, and was first to fence in a nice big area. Jon picked up some early horses and a stall, and started breeding, leaving the fences until later. He also built a Joinery, allowing him to build a feeding trough for 2 wood before each breeding phase, and a carefully positioned Large Extension, which gave 2 points for  each adjacent building at the end of the game.
By this time, Paul had started breeding plenty of cattle and sheep, and was looking to upgrade both his stalls into stables for extra capacity. Jon fenced in a newly acquired expansion tile, but had limited his livestock to horses and sheep only, with only a couple of cattle thrown in for good measure. Knowing that he wasn't going to score big animal bonuses, he chose instead to upgrade his cottage for some points at game end.
As usual, the game feels like it ends 1 round too soon (although Paul genuinely thought it had!) and when the scores were totalled, it could hardly have been closer, with Paul's menagerie having just pipped Jon's building-site to the win.
Yet again, a whole lot of game packed into 30-45 mins, with the expansion buildings giving each game a slightly different feel. Top stuff.
Paul 40; Jon 39

Carcassonne the City (thanks Paul)
Gareth I had stated on the blog that he'd like to play Carcassonne. Jon brought Carcassonne - the City, a similar variant to classic Carc. Gareth I hadn't played this before (er…actually you had, Paul – ed), and although the rules were the same his disappointment was palpable.
The first tile down was one with a building in the middle and one segment of road leading from it. Paul spotted this as a good opportunity for what in classic Carcassonne are farms, although are called something different in this, and within a few turns he'd committed himself with a valuable meeple tied up in a field for the rest of the game, which was not normally a strategy he'd recommend, but the roads stayed away and the farms kept coming. With each new one he mentally rubbed his hands together and hoped that no one else noticed. Jon was the first to place the city gate and soon after used the walls to hem in a couple of Gareth's farmers, and so poor Gareth was handicapped for the rest of the game. Jon also picked up some good early points with his towers and positioned some men on walls which picked him up good points. Both Paul and Gareth warmed to the walls more slowly, but later both picked up some hefty scores for the walls, although by the end of the game Jon was the only one to have used all of his towers.
Paul spotted Jon positioning himself to muscle in on his field first and Gareth a little afterwards. he didn't manage to keep Jon out, so placed another farmer to regain the lead in his monster field, but just before he was about to execute this plan, Jon scuppered it and ensured that he shared the spoils.
Paul picked up points late on in the latter stages of the wall and with some late fields that had a surprising number of farms and this allowed him to take a narrow victory.
Paul 151, Jon 147, Gareth 92

Lewis and Clark (thanks Neil)
Wow, what a game!  It looks great and game play is certainly on the brain-
burning side of heavy for sure.  Saying that, it’s a race game, pure and simple.  The first one to the other side of the States is the victor.  How you get there is via an incredible combination of worker placement, deck building and player interaction.
You begin your expedition in St Louis with 6 character cards and 1 Native American meeple (hereafter ‘Indian’).  Amongst the cards you have a commander, an interpreter and four resources specialists.  On your turn you have to take one action, either play a card or place an Indian.  You then preform the action; collect resources, trade resources, move your scout forwards, or increase the capacity of your expedition.  That’s it, simple!  As well as the compulsory action you can do two other things at any time during your turn; recruit another specialist – card, or, set-up camp.  Still straight forward, no?!
So what makes the decision difficult?  Well, you need to be building your own plans every turn to maximise your hand and Indians of course.  Timing is everything, you don’t want to be trying to move up river with boats full of resources or Indians, you’ll end up going backwards.  When you make that decision to camp you have move your scout back one place for every card left in your hand, and one place back if you have 4 to 6 resources, or an additional place back for every resource over 6, AND, one place back for every Indian in your expedition apart from the first one!
Next is the card play.  For each card you place face up to action, you have to add ‘strength’.  Now this can be another card, and each ranges in strength from 1 – 3, or using Indians, up to 3, or a combination of card/Indian.  The good news is you then get to do the action multiple times; once, twice or three times, it’s up to you.  The extra good news is that if you want wood, you play your lumberjack who gives you one wood per strength AND you collect wood for every other wood simple on the cards you and your neighbours has played in front of them.  Man that’s a lot of wood… now, if only you had capacity to store the stuff, and that’s another dilemma.  In fact that dilemma is something you have to consider when you play your cards, you don’t want to help your competitors by giving them more stuff do you?  Hell, no!
So, to our three man game… Early on Philip went resource chasing and setting up a crew of useful explorers including Joseph Gravelines who gave a 2 furs discount on recruiting, and Cut Nose who added one movement place through the mountains.  James did a bit of this, a little bit of that, you know what he’s like.  I decided to go racing off and picked up Pierre-Antoine Tabeau who helped me gain canoes, good man!  When it came to our first camping I’d moved up 7 places, James 2 or 3 and Philip had gone back 1 place.
After that I continued with my movement quest keeping resources to a minimum.  Philip continued to build up his expedition numbers and resources, and James, well he was still doing some of this, a little of that.  I soon reached the mountains and Philip had leapt forwards into a comfortable second place.  James, now what the hell was he doing?  He had loads of Indians, had expanded the size of his expedition but wasn’t gaining much ground.
And then I realised I didn’t actually have any means of passing over the mountains.  It’s all fine and dandy having canoes but your only way over the top is by horse.  And I had no Indians to get any horses with, Philip made sure of that.  I perused and cursed and then spotted Weuche, recruited this chief and he allowed me to move my scout through the mountains based on the number of equipment badges in everyones’ playing areas.  Off we go!  By this time Philip was moving forward step by step and you’ll never guess, James, well he’d actually started to get his shit together as they say.  He’d recruited Sacagawea who allowed him to use the Indian village actions for free, and was also managing his resources and Indians much better when it came to camping.
Too late though, I’d got over the mountains and the stretch of river left needed a little planning but neither were going to catch me.  Not sure who finished second in the end, I think James may just have sneaked it.  And they were gaining by that time too but it was never going to be enough.  Can’t wait to play again.  Great fun!

With Gareth threatening to leave early, Paul pulled out this manual dexterity oddball, which was enough to keep Gareth around!
Players take it in turns to place different sized blocks within a giant hamster wheel, and the first player to place all his blocks successfully, wins.
Gareth did his level best to defy the laws of gravity, Paul suffered a critical block-collapse to put him out of the running, and Jon managed a skilful block-drop from the top to the bottom of the wheel to win him the game.
Completely novel game, and a great way to kill a few mins if you've got a steady hand.

As James was selling off a large number of games at the end of the evening, he
had a good selection of 'weird and wonderfuls' to choose from, including this manual dexterity game that no-one had heard of. It was originally brought out by Jon, Paul and Gareth to finish the evening off, but as the other tables finished, it turned into a 6-player fun-fest.
Basically, the game consists of a small square 'arena', which contains several zones. Players each have a wooden disk, and take it in turns to flick this around the arena, attempting to hit each other's disks, or stop inside a certain zone, as dictated by a set of 'goal cards.' Whoever completes their 8 goals first, and returns to the start zone with exactly 2 of each of 3 coloured gems wins the game.
If you take into account that Philip and Neil's flicking skills are legendary, as well as the fact that the game contains a wooden stick that can be moved around the arena to create a very effective barrier, you have all the ingredients for 30 mins of flicking fun.
The game drew to a climax, with both James and Jon needing to visit only 1 more zone and then get home to win. James managed his shot, which meant that Jon needed to use his turn to cannon into James and send his disk across the other side of the arena, to have any chance of winning. And so, with a stunning one-in-a-million shot, Jon managed to...miss James' disk entirely, rebound off the side wall, catching James coming back and sending him within millimetres of his required destination to hand him the victory. Awesome. Cue much mirth.
And after the battle had ended, and it was generally decided that this was a great flicking game, James sold it to his late-arriving games mule, and so it will never be seen again. Sob.
1st - James; 2nd - Jon; 3rd - Paul; 4th - Neil; 5th - Gareth; 6th - Philip

Also played tonight was Through the Ages, which as usual lived up to its name, and was cut short with a turn or 2 to go. I believe that Barry and Andy conceded defeat to Gareth II, but it just looked like a mish-mash of hobbit cards and coloured plastic cubes to me…

We look forward to seeing everyone again next week – with a promise that all will receive an equally warm welcome…!!!

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