Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Welcome to the friendly Dystopia.......

Players: John, Paul II, Scott, Charlotte, Philip, James, Dan, Jon, Tom, Gareth II, Amanda, Mark

A nice round dozen IBG'ers tonight, including a welcome return to Paul from LOB (James must have been doing some more dodgy dealing to tempt him along...) and a first appearance from Mark, who has the unfortunate claim of knowing James from work. (Don't worry Mark, you'll soon make plenty more friends at IBG and can ditch James altogether....)

There was a complete Smorgasbord of stuff played tonight - old classics, old games that have been reprinted, and the obligatory totally new games. There was even a game about building a Dystopia - which the ever-reliable Wikipedia tells me is "a community that is in some way undesirable or frightening." Must have been a game about forming a Boardgames Club I guess.....

For Sale
Early doors  - time for a quick go at this classic filler, which was new to Mark but everyone else was an old hand.
The first 2 sets of properties came up with little difference between the top and bottom values, meaning that some bargains were snapped up. The rest of the selections were more spread out, Philip bid ridiculously high for the ‘30’ rather than the ‘29’, and for some reason Charlotte called Jon “a dick” (add that to the long list of things that Jon has been called at IBG…)
Anyway, when the cheques had been distributed and counted up, the scores were pretty close, with Scott just pipping Jon by $1k.
Scott 49; Jon 48; Charlotte 46; Philip 41; Mark 40; Dan 38
What the Food!? (thanks Tom) John B had brought a copy of his new Kickstarter filler game, What the Food!?
 and managed to rustle up four willing participants in Gareth II, Amanda, Paul A and yours truly (Tom).
In this game the players take on the roles of ringleaders in a high school cafeteria food fight (rather than fighting food as per Cryptozoic's risible effort of a similar name).
Each player starts with the same hand consisting of a mix of three basic action cards plus three fight cards (food, topping and condition).  This is barring one additional action determined by the players' starting characters.  For example, I had been designated as The Shark capable of "hunting" other players.
Five cards are placed face up from the deck in a central market.  This market therefore consists of a random mix of action and fight cards which can be acquired by way of a variety of actions.
Each round, the players nominate one other player who they wish to attack. Each player then choose three cards from their hand and placed face down in front of them before being revealed in three separate phases (i.e. ducking with your second card will not help you if your aggressor chooses to throw a rotten jacket potato topped with pinto beans with their first play).  The players start with zero damage tokens - the game ending when one or more players acquires ten or more damage tokens at the end of any round.  Accordingly, there is a balance to be struck between diversification of actions, acquiring fight cards, avoiding damage and causing destruction to others.
So the game itself:  with everyone unsure as how to determine who best to attack various spurious reasons were invented, normally "you're attacking me..." or "let's form a nice triangle".  This soon gravitated into the slightly more cultured strategy of "bash the leader".  Luckily, at around this time, I had one damage token in front of me whilst Gareth had none (the others all having two or more) which resulted in numerous arrows pointing his way.  Of the numerous action cards that he had acquired, Gareth's only real defence remained the basic duck which he performed in the first phase.  Unfortunately for him, an airborne package of food, topping and condition was launched his way by me immediately afterwards resulting in four damage to him.  What the food!?
This coupled with other taunts and pranks pulled on Gareth by other players saw Gareth pass the 10 token threshold.  Since non-one had chosen me for their food based assault (other than Gareth's own small effort), I emerged triumphant from the rubble of the cafeteria clutching a celebratory bourbon biscuit from the tea trolley.  Huzzah!
Tom - won.  Gareth, John, Paul A and Amanda - Lost.

Expedition: Famous Explorers
This is a reprint of an old Wolfgang Kramer game, which was brought along by Paul II (or it might have been John….) Anyway, Paul did the rules explanation, which is remarkably straightforward and the game was soon underway. The board is a map of the world, with routes and locations printed on it. Players have 9 location objectives (5 of which are secret to them) which they must visit during the course of the game. There are also always 6 common locations available which any player can visit for points. The trick is that the players are together on 3 expeditions, and can make any expedition move where they want, which leads to much groaning and gnashing of teeth, when the expedition that you had carefully directed towards South Africa suddenly takes a right turn and heads instead for Venezuela!
The games moves along at a steady lick, and it was fairly obvious that Amanda was going to be the explorer to catch, as she was visiting her locations at a steady rate. Jon picked up several of the common objectives, but suffered from several minus points at the end of the game due to not having been able to visit his non-secret locations.
John did a good job of picking up a number of tickets (which give players extra abilities), whereas Paul seemed to have trouble directing any of the expeditions in his desired directions! (He bemoaned the fact that he had been unable to visit a location that was only 2 away from the starting space, until he was reminded that he himself directed the expedition in the completely opposite direction at the start of the game!)
All in all, this was a fun little game – think TransEuropa with some rules – which played quickly and had enough decisions to keep it interesting.
Amanda 19; Jon 12; John 9; Paul 6
Carcassonne (thanks Tom)
I will keep this brief to spare myself too much fully due humiliation.
James's work colleague Mark had come along, presumably as a result of James's entreaties rather than cosmic coincidence, and was sporting a stylish blue bag full of Carcassonne goodness.  Unfortunately for me, this included:  builders; cathedrals; rivers; giant meeples; and happy pigs wearing ribbons.  As someone who is still barely able to comprehend scoring for farmers, I was pretty much doomed from the offset so it was always going to be a three horse race between the other competitors Mark, James and Dan to see who could best take advantage of my "sub optimal" plays.
When Mark started citing the likely probability of particular tiles appearing it looked pretty bleak for James and Dan but, through nefarious tactics, schemes, and good looks (???!!! - ed) James triumphed in the end was also able to set up a lovely new barrel & ribbon business - very much in demand in medieval France.  The loons.
James - 123;  Dan - 115;  Mark - 97;  Tom - 96 (or 72)
The Scepter of Zavandor (thanks Philip)
This was my second game of Sceptre and Gareth's first. Scott and Charlotte were a little more experienced. I was the Kobold, Gareth the Elf, Charlotte the Fairy and Scott the Witch.
I opened by buying an Opal and a Sapphire. Charlotte started an immediate auction and bought a spell book. In the following turns Gareth bought a Spellbook and I, having reached the penultimate step on Knowledge of Accumulation, started an auction on the +1 knowledge artefact- Charlotte out bid me but I was able to buy its twin at cost. Scott and Gareth split the Crystal Balls between them.
As we headed into 10 points I was leading, with Charlotte 2nd and Gareth last- but Scott deliberately hang back and was soon in last place. Charlotte and Gareth were collecting Emeralds. Scott bought 2 of the Emerald items. I bought a Belt and later a Wand and kept collecting Sapphires- soon I had 8 Sapphires for 44 income a turn, though by then others had almost as good from other sources. I lost a couple of Opals to Magic Mirrors, before buying an Elixir and starting to collect Diamonds. Scott also bought an Elixir. Scott and Charlotte bought masks, although Charlotte paid a lot more for her mask than Scott did. I bought one Ruby item and Scott the other and about this point Scott shot into the lead by buying his first Sentinel- the Sapphires Sentinel. Since I'd been collecting Sapphires I was displeased- also I felt nowhere near buying a Sentinel.
Scott had invested in Knowledge of Artifacts, which together with his Mask and his last place had given him a massive discount on the Sentinel. I belatedly invested in Knowledge of Artifacts and also the fairy's track (which gives you cash), after freeing up a knowledge chip by buying a Shadowcloak (Gareth bought the other one, Scott lost a Sapphire each time, which meant he was no longer in the lead, which suited him well). Gareth and Charlotte also went for Knowledge of Artifacts- and Knowledge of Gemstones, and Knowledge of Accumulation. Gareth never reached the end of his starting track (Knowledge of Energy Flow)
Charlotte also built a Sentinel (2 VPs per completed Knowledge track). Gareth and I came up slowly. In the penultimate turn I moved to the second space of the fairy track and bought a Medallion, paying 116 in a nasty auction with Charlotte, putting me on the last space and with plenty of cash coming for the last round. I think Gareth had earlier bought the other Medallion...and that turn Scott bought his second sentinel (points for artifacts).
In the final turn me and Gareth bought Sentinels- Gareth the Emerald one and me the Diamond one. I was also able to buy a Diamond. But if I'd had 5 Dust more I could have bought another Diamond after selling 2 Sapphires, for one extra VP.
The final scores were something like:
Scott, Me, Gareth 44 Charlotte 42. (the numerical values are estimates but relative position is correct).

Euphoria (thanks James)
So a game named after the emotion it's hoping to elicit when being played... in
contrast to Pants! Card Game.
John brought this along and Paul and myself were both keen to get involved... just the vanilla edition from John B, but luckily Neil wasn't around to show off his kickstarter special edition with all the fancy meeples.
The game is your basic worker placement fare, using dice as meeples with an interesting twist around needing to re-roll each time you re-used the dice and wanting to avoid high numbers. Players were working together to build markets and dig tunnels on the board between 4 factions, while grabbing resources. The aim being to use the resources to earn places to put one of your (10) stars and the first to place all their stars would be crowned the winner. A very busy looking board, but not too much actually going on once you got your head around all the icons and options. Players start as one of 4 factions, which gives a slight advantage in some aspect of the game, and can gain another mid/late game... this gives an element of teamwork in some areas to accelerate the use of the 2nd faction.
So early on John had the upper hand being the only one to have played before... I have a theory this is why he always brings lots of new games to share ...(Neil, you might want to try this strategy to improve your win ratio... oh... you already do...!!!

Paul and myself were feeling our way, I was basically trying to copy John given I really didn't have much of a clue about strategy. Getting resources seemed to be the best option.
Then John decided to start building a market and dropped hints I should join him in order to shut out Paul... never one to turn down an offer to screw over another player (although it's more enjoyable in games with Dan) I accepted and the first market was finished with Paul looking in from the outside... Star's were dutifully placed and Paul then had to spend a few turns getting into the market to remove this disadvantage.
At this point we realised (I say we, probably just Paul and me) that for each 'star' area there were only places for 3 stars, so once full, players had to move focus to another part of the board to place more. I started to get a feel around this time how the game was meant to play out as I started to look to how I could use the resources to ditch stars... the game seems to start as a resource gathering exercise and the accelerates into a quick end game of ditching stars as quickly as possible while spaces remain.
By now I was the only player without his 2nd faction in play, but managed to get this sorted. John also decided that ganging up once against Paul wasn't enough so offered once again the chance for me to help out in another market.... and of course I did (I was only following orders Paul, honestly)... This market also opened a window of opportunity for me as I could see a way of placing 3 stars in as many turns and putting me within a turn of ending the game... John was suddenly aware of this, but a little late as we realised I could end the game on my next turn. I say realised - I was helped by a rule that Paul and me hadn't understood correctly... it's an age old strategy at the club with new games for a few important rules to be 'omitted', a level to which I'd never stoop to myself... In this case though I'm glad someone was paying attention !
So the game ended quite quickly after a slow start when Paul and me were trying to make sense of it all... I think we took about 90 minutes for a 60 min game, which seemed right for the first time out, but I'm sure would be quicker next time.
If I'm honest though I wasn't bowled over by the game, I love my worker placement games, but I like the actions to have some kind of theme behind them. This felt a little too abstract for me, similar to Russian Railroads. Glad to have given it a go though, it's one of the current 'hotness' so it's always worth seeing what the fuss might be about.
Thanks for bringing it on John; and Paul, I can only apologise on behalf of John for his less than friendly demeanour in the game itself... Perhaps you should both have a game of lifeboats next week at LoB guys, a chance for retaliation !
James - 10, John/Paul not 10..
Dan and Tom were experienced pros at this game which was new to Jon. Fairly straightforward in terms of gameplay (2 actions per turn) but plenty of text on the cards to keep track of.
Tom shot into an early lead by picking up some bonus dominations, but Jon pulled back into it by using an ability that let him swap his lowest influence cards with Dan and Tom’s highest influence cards. He did this twice running and gained enough influence to dominate the required number of Ages to end the game.
Maybe Tom & Dan were being nice to newbie Jon – or maybe he just played a superior game! We’ll let you, the reader, decide which is more likely…..
The consensus seems to be that this is best as a 2-player game, although 3 player seems to work OK too.
Jon won; Dan & Tom didn’t
The Little Prince
This is one of Tom’s acquisitions, and a fine little filler it is too. It’s a set
collection game, made up of some nice tiles with whimsical art based on the Little Prince story. As should be expected, Jon was stitched up by being given 3 tree tiles (which meant that they were all turned over and didn’t score), although he managed to recover by picking a scoring tile that gave him points for each turned over tile.
Tom was looking good for the win until Dan also stitched him up in a similar fashion. Jon had first choice of the last 3 tiles, and chose one with a rose on to give him an extra 14 points (although he also lost points for having the most volcanos).
The points were totted up and (after a recount) Dan & Jon had tied for the win, with Tom languishing in last place again.
This is a lovely little family-friendly filler, and has certainly moved onto Jon’s wishlist!
Dan 36; Jon 36; Tom 25
And that was it. In 3 1/2 hours we had circumnavigated the globe, built dystopian societies, erected castles in Southern France, constructed entire planets, and done something with witches, fairies and elves which we won't mention too much. Just another regular Wednesday evening in West London then...
See you next week!

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