Wednesday, 19 March 2014

There's a Rat In Mi Cloister

Players: Paul, Jon, Natasha, Mark, John, Philip, Andy

Many thanks to Jon for providing no less than four session reports - more than making up for your intrepid editor's absence.

A very select band of IBG’ers turned up tonight, with a number of old classics being wheeled out (if you can call Agricola an old classic…)

Battle Line

Paul and Jon were the early implementers this week and, with minds nice and fresh, Battle Line was the chosen option.

As usual, there were the constant hard decisions about which cards to lay down (Ed:  not as hard as if you played with the tactics cards, you heathen!) and with subsequent groans as the next card drawn would have been perfect two turns previously.

The game went down to the last few cards again, with Paul running out of options first, and Jon having the necessary cards to close the game out.  The tactics cards weren’t used, as both players prefer the ‘purity’ of the base game (Ed: BOOOOOOO!  Go play and Schotten-Totten then, you puritans).  Might be fun to try them sometime though (Ed: I was hasty. Let's never fight again xo).

Jon 6; Paul 3

For Sale

With a few more IBG’ers starting to turn up, the opening filler of choice was the perennial favourite: For Sale. New to Mark and John but, as usual, the rules are easily explained in two minutes flat (looking at the scores, maybe Paul should have listened more closely as well…)

Paul somehow managed to acquire both zero cheques, which effectively put him out of the running, whilst the other 3 players ended with incredibly close scores – with Mark just ending up top of the pile.

Mark 67; Jon 65; John 64; Paul 48

TTR: Nederlands

A second outing for this game at IBG, with the For Sale crew staying together to play. It was actually Mark’s first experience of TTR, and although the Nederlands map adds the bridge tolls to the game, it is still easily explained even for a first game. The trick with this game is to try to be the first to claim popular routes, so that other are paying their bridge tolls back to you. However, knowing which routes will be ‘popular’ is not always easy.

Mark, John and Jon all started out placing routes in the middle of the map, radiating out from Amsterdam, whereas Paul chose to keep himself to himself and headed up north.  Jon built east to west along the bottom of the map, and as he got to the south-western corner he was joined by Mark. This resulted in much sighing and head-holding from John, which indicated that he may have been blocked out of a needed route.

The game was heading towards a conclusion, and twice running, Mark chose to pick new tickets. Eyebrows were slightly raised from the TTR experienced players, as this is a difficult map to lay extra routes late on in the game, but they gave Mark the benefit of the doubt as he has demonstrated his ‘gaming intelligence’ on more than one occasion in the past.

Paul spent his last few turns laying trains on longer cheap (toll-wise) routes, and Jon, after careful consideration, decided to pay Paul one token to also dump trains on one of those routes. Jon then paid one more token to lay enough trains to trigger the last round. Curiously, as no-one wanted to use any more toll tokens, for fear of losing the end-game bonus, nobody did anything in the last round. Jon considered the lottery of the final turn ticket-dive, but being cautious by nature, he decided against it.

And so to the final scores. John revealed that he had indeed been blocked out by Mark and Jon, and failed to complete a massive 34-point ticket, leaving him on an unfortunate 45 points. Jon only had his starting three tickets (which were not especially high in value), as did Paul, whereas Mark revealed that his two ticket-collection turns had proved fruitful, and had enabled him to complete seven tickets, putting him way out in the lead.

And so it was all down to the bonuses for the most toll tokens – and Paul had pipped Jon for the 55 bonus points by a measly two tokens, which was enough for him to just sneak past Mark for the narrowest of victories. Had Jon not paid Paul that 1 token and laid another down, there would have been a 40 point swing between the two of them, and a different winner (probably Mark). But how many games could we say that for??!!! (Ed:  Answer on a postcard to the usual address)

The toll tokens definitely give this game a different feel, although there was a feeling that the size of the bonuses may be a little much (nearly a third of the winner's score). Good fun though.

Paul 180; Mark 177; Jon 157; John 48

Notre Dame

Just 3 IBG’ers stayed until the bitter end, and Andy was happy to pick another of his games to finish the evening off. It was new to Natasha, but he refuses to have a rules explanation last longer than four minutes, so any misunderstandings on his part were his own fault.

Newbie Natasha came straight out of the blocks, hitting the sector that gives straight points as often as possible. This is an unusual strategy, but he was fed by Andy and Jon both passing these cards on in the first round. Jon made the mistake of passing on the Notre Dame card in the first round, which allowed Andy to go in by himself, as Dan had trashed his copy of that card.

The rats were proving to be less problematic than usual, with the doctor coming out at an opportune moment, which helped Dan to focus on his points accumulation.  Jon was trying to steadily amass cubes and money, whilst Andy had a good presence in the hospital, and also had a stack of cash.

As often happens with this game, the end seems to suddenly approach at a rate of knots, and Jon realised that he had waited too long to start collecting points, and was never going to catch up. Natasha'ss engine (or lack of) had started to stall slightly, with rats becoming more problematic, whilst Andy appeared to be storming onwards.

The last round saw Andy placing two cubes in Notre Dame to Jon’s one, and had used his vast wealth to max out on points each time. Natasha had never had enough coins to bother with Notre Dame, and used his actions elsewhere.

With the points counted, Jon was miles behind, but Natasha had just managed to hold on for a very impressive newbie single-point victory. Good to see a slightly different strategy win this game, which is always a fulfilling experience, especially with three players.

Dan 70; Andy 69; Jon 55

It would appear that Agricola was also played by Natasha, Phil and Andy but the results have been lost to the mists of time.

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