Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Let's go exploring......

Players: John I, James, Scott, Charlotte, Andy, Philip, Gareth II, Jon, Paul, Neil, Dan, John II, Steven

It was a very warm welcome to newcomers Steven and John tonight. Steven was picking up games purchases from James (of course), but John is a local (well, Hounslow..) so hopefully we'll see him some more in the future (especially as, in the fine tradition of IBG, we let him win his first game!)

 Tonight saw the relatively unusual occurrence of the same game being played at 2 different tables - the latest love that is Lewis & Clark. And to go along with that exploration theme, the other table decided to venture out into the desert not once but twice - in search of a mythical flying machine. And did they find it? (They're not called mythical for nothing you know...)

A quick little card game to start the evening off, courtesy of Paul. A game of totem poles and ‘native Americans’ (hereafter called ‘Indians’, as per Lewis & Clark), hand management and bluffing. Players have the same decks of totem cards, which include 5 ‘caps’. Everyone picks 3 cards to play each round, and then lays them down in order, creating a maximum of 3 totems between them. Anyone can cap a totem at any time and score the corresponding points – but only if they elected to put one of their precious caps into their hand at the beginning of the round. Throw in some Braves and Squaws for a few rules wrinkles, and you’ve got yourself a pretty neat 15 minute game.
As no-one was quite sure what they were doing, they all played almost identical cards in the first round – low value totems and no caps. Thereafter, it was a case of attempting to guess when a high-value totem might be available to cap – and having the appropriate cards in hand to take advantage.
And it was newbie John II who found himself in an unbelievably good position – only one totem available for all players to place their cards, and only John having a cap to take the points. It was this one totem that probably won him the game, but with James not far behind. The less said about Jon and Paul the better…
John 73; James 65; Jon 43; Paul 35
6 players needing something quick and fun to play at the beginning of the
evening, so it was time to bluff and assassinate in equal measure.
The game was new to John II, and he bravely tried to call out 2 other players early on - but failed! As usual, there were about 7 Dukes declared around the table, so coins were mounting up fast. Jon used his Ambassador to choose a couple of characters, but was then immediately Couped and lost his Captain. However, he then claimed that his second card was also a Captain - would he have chosen 2 Captains?
Jon took the opportunity of having 7 coins to Coup James and take him out of the game, so it was down to Jon, Neil and newbie Steven to fight it out. Jon was using his Captain, which Neil eventually (unsuccessfully) challenged, but as Steven had been using his Duke, he raced to 7 coins and took Jon out for the win.

Peloponnes (thanks Neil)
It’s been a while since I played this and inbetween times I had bought myself a copy and collected no less than 8 expansions from the designer Bernd Eisenstein himself at Essen last year.  In fact, it was one of the funnier moments as he produced more and more bits and pieces from numerous different areas of his stand!  Nice man.
So, Jon was ready to remind Paul and I how to play and teach it to our newcomer John II – sounds like a pope!  And just as that was all sorted Peloponnes addict Dan arrived.  To make sure I’ve remembered some of this let me recap the rules; you bid on a tile, either land or building; you pay any cost or mortgage your building, then take the one off benefits to increase your population, your resources and/or your money.  Then you collect your regular benefits and it’s time for the disasters to be unveiled.  You know what they are, you have reasonable indicators as to when they’re coming, you can buy land or buildings to protect yourself from them… but they still bite your arse!!
Dan was playing speed Peloponnes adding to the rumour mill that he only goes home early each Wednesday to practice Peloponnes.  Jon seemed to be doing a little of this and a little of that, not making the strides I guess I was expecting.  Paul was collecting resources and had a fair few building/land points too.  I concentrated on buildings and tried to keep my population growing but was a little short of resources truth be told.  John II was finding his way through his first game, some aggressive bidding perhaps cost him in the long run.  
Those disasters.  To be fair we got rid of a couple early on that had little effect. The rest hung around, that big black cloud on the horizon, and then it erupted.  My population was decimated – the origins of this word come from the ‘dec’ bit, and it therefore means to reduce by a tenth although modern usage is more the inverse, and that’s certainly where I was coming from – I lost 6 of my population in one go, game over!!
Scoring is the genius lesser amount of population times three or buildings plus coins.  I walked the buildings side of play although everyone had scored well; 22 to 28 points.  Population however, was handled poorly by me and John II with only Paul and Jon scoring higher than their buildings.  As ever, well it is his game, we let Jon win and it was close between Dan and Paul for second.
Jon – 26, Paul – 23, Dan – 21, John II – 12, Neil – 12.
Lewis and Clark (thanks James and Scott)
(A joint effort this one - James’ comments in italics, Scott’s in normal  font)

I went with my strategy of the first game I played, getting a card that used just wood to move in water ( ditching my Lewis movement card because this historical necessity was just slowing me down), followed by a nice mountains move based on all goods I was holding and a second water movement based on cards in front of me. My lean deck and synergy of cards not needing to transform my wood in to anything else proved the winning strategy.

---Sitting to the left of Scott I could see that he was setting up an engine using lots of wood... I'd decided to try and replicate my strategy of last week, but with a bit more thought involved as opposed to a random process while we were all learning the game last time out. I managed to pick up early a good resource gathering recruit, and also the card giving access to on-board Indian spots without placing Indians... I thought this card was overpowered last week, so had high hopes when I picked this up early this time out.
We all felt there should be some penalty for ditching the Lewis or Scott cards given the name of the game...
Oh, and did I mention yet about giving Scott a few 2nd chances early in the game when his internal computing powers hit a few bugs... it s a good job we're all so nice hey Scott :)

Charlotte had a discount for buying rafts and used that to propel her up the water but mountains were a bit trickier, however she seemed to always produce her goods at the right time and she never seemed to help me with colours showing, she was hot on my tail by the end and only a couple of moves away.
James had an expensive travel itinerary but made use of many Indians to do his hard work and keep his boats loaded, he got off to a slow start and the turn order with Charlotte cost him to go back one space further than he had hoped in the mountains which prevented him being close but still he was not far behind.

---Whereas last week Neil went to the move small, move often approach I was trying to ave up for big moves and in one turn managed to leap about 16 spaces on the river... however the mountains started to impede progress and despite getting a good recruit to help out I had a few turns lost while fiddling around the first mountain stage.
John mentioned something about sticking with Clark as he knew where he was going and unfortunately the odds seemed to be against him and didn't get a great set of cards to press ahead, just about getting the deck going and in to the first mountains as the game came to a close.

--Towards the end it looks like John was always struggling to keep up. Scott and Charlotte were setting the pace and I felt I was in with a shout, but was going to run out of turns... and as it happens when Scott managed to produce one big final turn Charlotte was about 3 turns away and I was probably a few more. Trying to finish the race at the same time as finishing your current deck is something to aim for and Scott has this sorted perfectly to end the game. The hand management aspect of this game is an interesting one, and not something I've really focused on in the 2 games so far... recognising that it's better to rotate the powerful cards quicker and ditching the starting set is probably a good option, and something I'll focus more on next time round.
Fun game, I feel like there is a lot of luck in the card combo and if you fall too far behind there isn't much you can do, it's a nice game though and enjoyable every now and then!

-- I'd agree that John didn't have a lot to work with, it's probably best to play this game simply from the start and to just decide on a strategy based on the recruits available in the first few rounds and then just hammer them. The game is ultimately a race game and although getting a nice engine going of cards is something personally satisfying, it's not going to win many games... both games so far have been won by the person most focused on the end goal... which is interesting to me as I enjoyed the game as I'd played it and felt like I'd have been happy to continue longer with a different objective. Perhaps a way to consider it is as a game of Dominion but with the winner being the first to 25 points...  or perhaps not... whatever... it's a good game :)
(And the only thing we know about the other game of Lewis & Clark was that Gareth II won, Philip was second and Andy and Steven came elsewhere!)

Forbidden Desert
Game 1; 5 players; 1 newbie (John II). Dan bravely strode off into the desert in search of missing flying machine parts, oblivious to the parched cries of help from John and Jon who were already dangerously low on water. “We need your expert Navigational skills to find water,” they cried. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine!” replied Dan with a grin. The sun beat down. John and Jon were burnt to a crisp. The explorers lost the game in record time.

Game 2; 4 players; no Dan. Neil was the Water Carrier (or ‘Camel’) who kept everyone topped up with water. Exploration was methodical and was going well. But then the sand started to build up. And the sun started to beat down. And the storm level was growing. Jon had got down to his minimum water level. Should the players use a precious Jet Pack to transport him to the safety of a tunnel? The deck was reshuffled and 1 card was left to turn. It’s a very low possibility that it’s a ‘Sun beats Down’ opined Neil. “Let’s risk it…”
The moral of the tale – never take Neil’s advice regarding odds. (Or maybe don’t let Jon shuffle the deck).

Nauticus (thanks John)
Four intrepid shipbuilders (Charlotte, Scott, James and John) gathered at the
London Apprentice to see how many ships they could build and how many goods they could ship during a play of Nauticus.
The game last five rounds and each round 7 of 8 possible actions will be chosen. The main way to score points is to build ships and ship goods.
The first action of the game was build holds, which immediately showed the players the main thing you have to contend with.  With buy actions there is always a free choice but anything you get for free goes to your warehouse and you then need another action to move it from your warehouse to your shipyard. So paying for things is better? It's quicker, but money is very tight.
So all the players splurged and bought lots of hull pieces. Then it was a case of trying to complete them. Scott who seems to be able to pick up most euro games in a matter of nano seconds soon had two ships built, which gave him bonus actions which could have snowballed into a runaway lead. Surprisingly this did not happen as Scott seemed to slow down a bit mid game giving the other players a chance to catch up.
When you complete a ship you get one reward for each mast on the ship and this is a very critical part of the game, as money is very tight it was proving a popular choice to take 7 coins as a popular benefit.
Meanwhile all the players were starting to collect cargo, but by a twist of fate it always seemed to be the coffee or fish goods that were free or low (1 coin) cost, so everyone was collecting the same two goods.
Around the middle of the game John became the first (and the last) to build a four hull ship. This was a big deal as points for ships of 1,2,3 and 4 hull are 2,8,20 and 35.
Towards the end it was realised how many points were available from the crown action. Although the action had been chosen earlier the players had used it as a cheap pass. (If you don't pass at least some of the time you forfeit points.) It was only actually used on the last round and as everyone scored 15 points from it (the max) it really did not make a lot of difference.
Soon five rounds were over and it was time to count up the points. Scores on goods delivered were pretty even and it was the ships that made the difference. John's big ship scoring 35 turned out to be the difference. James was one part away from finishing an 8 point ship, with which he could have taken 3 points as his bonus to steal the game, but was left wondering, what if?

John  105; Scott  99; James  96; Charlotte 90

Kingdom Builder – with Nomads expansion (thanks Paul)
We even managed to tempt Neil to play Kingdom Builder when there were two other games of Lewis and Clark occurring simultaneously at the other tables - how decidedly unlikely.
The terrain cards to come out this time were the paddock (jump a settlement already on the board two spaces), the harbour (move settlement already on the board to the water), the oracle (place an extra settlement onto the same terrain that is drawn) and the gardens (from Nomads - place an extra settlement on 'flowers'). The Nomad ability allowed three extra resources to be placed on 'desert'). The scoring cards drawn told us that we'd be scoring for all settlements next to a castle or city, the highest of the least populous of the quarters of the board and during the game points were scored if the original three settlements were placed in order.
The in game scoring made for interesting playing as we were all acutely aware that if we didn't place in a row of three then we'd be slipping behind. John and Paul kept a 100% record of this all game, although with drastically different results by the time the total scores were totted up.
Jon got the nomad to place three desert tiles. He also struggled to add any settlements in the fourth quarter, amassing zero points for that mission.
Paul realised early on that he'd missed out on any abilities that allowed for any extra placements to be made, so he had to rely on his cunning and guile in making the most of the limited numbers that curl place down. He failed miserably, meaning that he had less settlements down, and also that his settlements also never made it to quarter number four, equalling Jon's zero points.
John managed to lay everything down in rows of three and also spread out nicely across the quarters.
Neil managed to get some settlements down in all quarters, and used the special abilities to throw his settlements down on the board in record time, shocking Paul as he still had almost half of his left! Not quite enough to beat John, but sufficient to trounce Paul and Jon.
John 46, Neil 42, Paul 35, Jon 33

The start of the evening saw early (love) birds Scott and Charlotte play out some games of Balloon Cup and Cribbage (yes really!) - apparently Charlotte crushed him at both!

See you next week, for more of the old (Neil) and new (Paul winning a game)...

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