Tuesday, 28 January 2014

"The next card will be a 17......."

Players: Jon, Paul, Simon, Mark, Neil, Philip, Gareth II, Dan, Barry, Amanda, James

11 IBG'ers turned up tonight, including first-timer Simon, a second appearance from Mark and a welcome return after a bit of a break from Barry. I think he's been keeping a low profile due to the extremely poor performances from his football team, Fulham, but with more than one Yeovil fan, and a Tractor-Boy at IBG, he needn't be too ashamed. (Come to think of it, Noel has been conspicuous by his absence recently, and he's a ManUre supporter - hmmm...)

Anyway, enough of football. Tonight saw another outing for the latest hotness that is Lewis and Clark, some mail being delivered by German stagecoaches, and nothing being delivered by some Japanese trains. Oh yes, and a game of Diamant characterised by some very suspicious card-dealing that made us all wonder if we were playing with Dynamo..... 

Big Points

Paul had brought his work colleague (let's not flatter Paul by calling him a friend...) Simon along nice and early, and Jon joined them for a quick abstract game, that bears a passing resemblance to Quandary / Botswana. Players collect tokens along a pathway by moving coloured pawns of corresponding colours - and at the end of the game these tokens are worth differing points according to how quickly the pawns move along the path. So, do you put your eggs all in one basket, and only collect 1 or 2 colours, hoping for a jackpot, or spread your bets, knowing that some will be worth very little?
Jon went for the former strategy, collecting mostly blue and purple tokens, which turned out to be worth a fair number of points. Paul picked up a fair number of white tokens, which, because he had collected at least one of every other colour, were worth 6 points each. Simon picked up a few blacks, which gave him extra turns which he used to good effect.
The game ends quickly - and the scores were tight, with just 3 points between each player.
Jon 37; Paul 34; Simon 31


More quick card-laying fun, with the game about building totem poles. James
picked up some healthy erections (?!) whilst Paul managed to confuse his active cards with his score pile, resulting in him having to play the last round with cards selected randomly by the newly-arrived Amanda. And yet he still managed to achieve an unbelievably low score, that could probably be bettered by playing cards blindly all game (maybe that's what he had been doing...?)
Anyway, James won, although his victory was questioned on the basis that he was sitting to the left of Paul - a well-known advantage in any game....
James 72; Jon 61; Neil 56; Simon 50; Paul 24

7 Wonders
A welcome return to this fun card-drafting game, that plays 6 players in well under an hour very nicely. Simon was new to the game, but James did his best to lift the fog of confusion that can often occur in one's first game.
Jon and James ensured that they had enough military might to score heavily with their armies, whereas Paul and Amanda picked a more peaceful path. For some reason, money wasn't really an issue for anyone during the game, with coins actually running out at the end (mainly thanks to Gareth hoarding 36 coins).
Paul went big with Blue victory points, with a few culture cards thrown in for good measure. He failed to score at all with his Wonder, needing one of every resource in his tableau - which he fell short of by 1. He also built an illegal duplicate blue building, but James felt sorry for him and allowed it to stand...
James racked up a fine collection of yellow Market cards, scoring heavily with them, whilst being able to pick up resources cheaply throughout the game from his neighbours. Amanda was the only player to major on culture cards, but didn't quite pick up enough to receive full benefit from them - maxing out at 17 points. Jon and Simon were the only players to lay down Guild cards, picking up 9 points each from these. Jon was also able to use his Wonder to copy the effect of Simon's guild for a further 9 points.
The end result was a bit of a 2 horse race between James and Jon, with Jon just squeezing ahead by a couple of points.
At the end of the game, Paul bemoaned the fact that James has so many Markets, allowing him to purchase resources cheaply. It was then pointed out that Paul had actually passed most of these to James during the course of the game...
Next week, we have decided that it is only fair to toss a coin to see who gets to sit to the left of Paul...
Jon 62; James 60; Gareth 47; Amanda 37; Simon 32; Paul 30

Thurn and Taxis (thanks James)
A welcome run-out of this classic game, new to Gareth, and semi-new to Amanda. A brief rules overview and we were off... I had decided to take a slow route this game and just try to get the best cards going each round rather than aim for any set... I'd also decided to try the end game tactic of building the 3-4-5-6-7 routes in order. Dan was first to collect solid points with a couple of sets while Amanda picked up the first 6 route bonus...
By mid game I was pondering my choice of strategy and feeling out of it with only 1 bonus while Dan was looking good having been first to claim the set of 9 routes and several other bonus's. Gareth was finding his way for his first game, while Amanda was looking to pick up the large bonus for the grey region. However I did managed to keep up progress of being the first to the latest carriage card.
Then, towards the end of the game I saw an opportunity that if it worked would put me in with a chance... I could look to complete the 7th carriage card while at the same time finishing a couple of regions and taking both the 9 set bonus and a 7 route tile... a long shot but things started to work out for me... it also helped going before Dan and thus being aware of what he needed I was able to scupper his plans... I got no pleasure from this of course as I have nothing but the greatest respect for Dan, but you gotta play to win... :)
With the last round looming I saw my chance, and managed to pull off what I think would have to be my greatest final move in this game ever, claiming about 20 points in bonuses across several tiles... Dan however was still looking smug as we counted the scores (you know that look he has... yes, that's the one...) and a little confident as he'd already run the numbers before my move...
We counted scores... and... horror, the horror... he had 1 point more than me...
...and then the gaming angels smiled and I realised I'd missed a 2 point bonus tile from my last hand... Dan's look turned from glee to something not un-similar to Freddie Kruger while I claimed  my unexpected victory in a calm and very subdued manner.
Final scores were me ahead of Dan by a point. Amanda came 3rd and Gareth last, but I suspect he'd do a lot better next time out...  It didn't help that I'd forgotten to mention the rule about losing points for any left over houses... although that didn't make much of a difference at the end of the day it probably didn't help.
Great game again of T&T... I always wonder why we don't play this more often... especially with Dan :)
And now, for 2 different reports of the same game - of course, the ubiquitous -

Lewis & Clark (thanks Philip)
Can't remember names of cards. Nor in some cases what the cards did,
especially the 3 strength I bought near the beginning of the game and never used face side up (it was too busy powering my movement card). I didn't trash many cards this game.
Neil had a slow start, falling behind with his first camp and taking time to build some extra spaces for Indians. However, he picked up the permanent +2 Water character and the Canoe+Horse for 6 movement (in either medium) character and in one single turn he moved 24 spaces. Well he would have moved 24 spaces if he hadn't hit the mountains and been forced to stop. He then camped and unfortunately hit Barrie's camp moving backwards.
Barrie had been taking a more conventional Canoes and Buffalo route up the river. I had added the +5 water for 3 different resources character into the mix and thereby taken the lead, marching into the mountains with a Buffalo and 2 Horses- getting the Horses took a lot of Indians.
Indeed all game after the first water stretch I was reliant on Indians whom I was putting on the board to gather resources and turn them into Horses, and then recovering with my card. Neil had a card which allowed him to take Village actions- and Barrie had one which allowed him to take them if Indians were there, so were less dependant on putting Indians in the Village- they preferred using them on cards.
Neil and Barrie's camps kept being entangled, although on one occasion it was due to a miscount. Neil's 6 move card proved its worth again although the first move was only two spaces as he got out of the water. With 2 more horses and a Buffalo I entered the second water area and shot to its end with my +5 water card. Barrie, now using a Horse=3 on land or 3 on water card, and Neil were not far behind, indeed Barrie now landed on top of me and went into the second mountain range.
However I was now able to finish the game with another 2 horses+buffalo followed by 5 on the water combo. Barrie was in second place- he had put together 4 horses but in his last move could only spend one of them as he had (temporarily) run out of high strength cards and Indians...he wouldn't have won had he spent three though.
The 5 on the water card, which turns the raw ingredients for a horse into more movement than you can get from a horse, seems a little powerful. The permanent +2 on the water card seemed less impressive- but maybe if you use it with weaker movement cards it comes into its own.

And now, Neil's take on the game...

Lewis and Clark

Three player game with Philip, Neil and Barry; great to have you around again!
Philip’s game explanation was as impressive as ever, and because there’s little advantage in going first in this race game we managed to get Barry’s scout to drop first of course. Anyway, Barry had listened well and picked up some early resources and added a useful recruit to his team. Philip seemed to start moving straight away, and I, well, truth be told, didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Had I really won this game last/first time out?? First camp saw my scout zipping backwards, which would have been fine if I was building up for an impressive sprint along the river… that happened but not before the others were in the mountains and working their way through them comfortably.
Philip was certainly concentrating on keeping resources tight and collecting and then using a mass of Indians from time to time. Barry spotted the wisdom in doing this and also picked up some large helpings of Native American assistance. I’d realised by now that I still didn’t have a clue what I was doing, strategy... what the hell’s a strategy? And then I picked up two good recruits; Sacagawea who’s great for picking up village actions free of charge, plus Old Toby who finally got me shifting along, all a bit late, but nevertheless vague respectability was forthcoming. Philip was suddenly out of the mountains and was sat on the perfect recruit, Cutssahnem. He paid up three resources to move the final 5 spaces and past Fort Clatsop for a pretty comfortable time setting up camp and claiming victory. If only I’d woken up earlier! Barry had a good first game and knowing him he’ll be serious competition for Philip next time.
Trains (thanks Paul)
Jon and Paul had 'Trained' quite a few times so far, Mark had played Dominion
before, but deck building games were new to Simon.
The cards that came out were a strange bunch, including all three that allow someone to build on different terrain without paying the extra bonus (river, mountain and city), the Ironworks giving more cash is used when laying track and something that asks you to name the next card and if you get it right you can use it. There were no 'in game' scoring cards, meaning that all scoring would be counted at the end.
Simon started in the west of the board and began a campaign to lay as much track as he could from the outset.
Jon was in the North West and decided that he was happy only laying four rails for the majority of the game, a few more at the end and concentrated largely on getting a high scoring hand with lots of skyscrapers.
Mark began in the middle of the board and started to face up to Jon in the North and Paul in the South, spreading in both directions quite quickly.
Paul began hoping for a quiet life without any encroachment, but Mark soon put paid to this, and he realised that he'd not have enough points on the board unless he extend his reach.
Paul and Jon concentrated on their engine, picking up as many limited express trains (the highest scoring trains) as possible. Jon used his to pick up many of the aforementioned skyscrapers, whilst Paul split his between high scoring yellow cards and spreading out on the board.
Mark decided that the most profitable route was to piggyback off Jon's area in the Northern Osaka suburbs...
Simon was well positioned but didn't find the cards came out to allow him to enter the remote bonus spaces.
Paul got the card to allow him to spreads across cities on the cheap, so snaked across Simon's existing cities and stole the three pointer Simon was eying up from under his nose. He also benefitted by drawing the ironworks alongside his lay rails cards on several occasions, which gave him a bit more money in each turn and allowed him to hold onto Jon's coat tails.
Simon brought the game to an end by taking the last card in the fourth stack to be used, and the winner before the scoring took place was very difficult to predict. Jon had clearly collect many more yellow scoring cards than anyone else, but his sparse board action wouldn't add much to it. The yellow cards were counted first so Jon took a commanding lead, but after the board was totted up, Paul managed to get his nose in front. Just.
Paul 54, Jon 50, Simon 38, Mark 36

No Thanks (thanks James)
So a filler while we waited for 10 minutes for the neighbouring game to end (no, not Lewis and Clark, that was going on all night... but Trains...) It transpires that 10 minutes in a game of Trains is similar to the 10 minutes that BR tell you a real train will be delayed by before it turns up 45 minutes later...
Early stages saw a few high 30's picked up by Gareth and myself... both of us positioning for a few freebies and some cash. Due to the luck of the draw I managed to get the best outcome from this. Dan was collecting some adhoc numbers in the 20's but not sure why really... However a few more good cards (for me) came up and I was soon rolling in money while the others struggled... This game has some interesting tactical decisions when there's a card you want as you want to get the most $$ but need to time the pick up for when there is no cash left... this backfired a few times on us this time round as money was short...   actually money was short mainly cause I had most of it, which I hadn't actually cottoned onto as something to take advantage of.
As the game drew to a close it was looking good for team Sinden, I had some nice runs and a wad of cash... Dan's numbers were (like Gareth's) looking dis-jointed.... and as scores were counted I won by a landslide... :) Little did I realise this would then form the basis for some rather retaliatory game play in the next game up...
Pickomino (pronounced Pick-OM-ino) (thanks again James)
A nice find from a charity shop this and great components... there's definitely
something to be said for a game that 'feels' good to play and the bakelite dominos give this a sense of quality even if it's packaged in a cartoony box.
Dan, Gareth and me gave this a roll (pun intended) after the game of No Thanks and soon discovered this was a game of nasty, nasty shenanigans... something definitely suited to Dan and my usual playing techniques. You roll dice, you push your luck to get the dominos, but, if you can roll the right numbers you can steal dominos from other players... which immediately became the true challenge of the game... who wouldn't get more pleasure taking points from another player rather than from a common pool ?
So... for some reason Dan and Gareth both ganged up on me (well that's my excuse for doing badly)... I'm guessing due to my previous victories at No Thanks and Thurn and Taxis... oh shallow people that they are... and between them it made for a close finish as the last tile was taken.
To tell the truth, I can't remember the score, I think Dan won... but it could've been Gareth... I'm kinda hoping it was Gareth but I have a sinking feeling it was Dan... ok, lets just all agree to pretend it was Gareth ok... it definitely wasn't me, that much I do remember.
Final scores, lots to Gareth (probably)... slightly less to Dan ;) and for me just about enough points not to be embarrassed but with no chance of actually threatening to win...
Will need to bring this along again as it's all done in 20 minutes but there's a neat game in there.

The evening wrapped up with a fun couple of expeditions down the mines - except, we had forgotten that we were playing with master magician James, who can apparently manipulate a deck of cards any way he chooses....
This was first demonstrated as he stayed in the first mine by himself, despite dangers lurking at every corner stating confidently - "Don't worry, I'll just stay for one more card which will be the 17." Which it was. And there were many suspicious looks cast in his direction.
And then there was the next mine, which James was still dealing cards for. And lo and behold - 7 (yes 7!) danger cards turned over at the top of the deck, so nobody could score any points. There were many more suspicious looks cast in his direction.
Except, that James now relinquished his card-dealing responsibilities and passed to Philip - who immediately drew 5 more danger cards in a row. The suspicious looks continued to be cast at James though, as if his magic powers had somehow transferred into the less likely entity that is Philip. Anyway, James won the first game by a landslide, and so a re-match was called for, with Philip retaining dealership responsibilities.
This time, it was Jon left in the mine by himself and decided to invoke James' special powers by declaring - "Don't worry, the next card will be a 17." And it was. And this time, no-one knew who to look at suspiciously...
Suffice to say, Jon won the second game by a similar landslide, and everyone was left wondering what the heck had just happened.....

And so another fun evening at the London Apprentice drew to a close. Dan and Gareth had been playing Sentinels of the Multiverse, but we have no details about what happened, except that they seemed to be having a good time!

See you all next time for more suspicious shenanigans...

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