Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Red-faced revenge.....

Players: Phil, Neil, Tom, Gary, James, Paul, Gareth, Dan, Natasha, Jon, John B, Andy, Anthony

Natasha forgets the factor 50...
Following on from Paul’s musings a few weeks ago, my games purchases have definitely slowed down over the last 18 months (to the relief of my wife…) and I’m finding myself enjoying playing certain games multiple times (although not necessarily on consecutive weeks) – step forward Railroad Tycoon, Kingdom Builder, Peloponnes, TTR, 7 Wonders, Trains, Agricola ACBAS….

Anyway, it got me thinking, and I had a quick look at the games we’ve played at IBG over the last 4.5 years. Although not 100% accurate, the blog is a fair indication of the games played each week (although it doesn’t reflect the same game being played multiple times on the same evening). For the sake of this analysis, I lumped expansions / spin-offs together – eg all the TTR maps.

We appear to have played a staggering 487 different boardgames, and of this number, we have played 46% of these games only once. However, reassuringly, 20% of games have been played at least 5 times, and 32 games have hit the table on at least 10 different occasions.

The ‘non-filler’ which has seen the light of day the most number of times is Agricola, having been played on at least 25 occasions, closely followed by Power Grid (21), and Small World (20).

So it does appear that we have a reasonable mix of new, and previously-played games.

So, why do some games only appear for a fleeting moment and then disappear into obscurity, whilst others have more longevity? In keeping with the recent trend, maybe I’ll muse upon this topic in a later blog entry…..

Anyway, tonight saw a return to double figures, with 13 IBG’ers turning up, including first-timer Anthony, and a welcome return to Gary. This enabled 3 main games to be going on at the same time, and we even had the freaky occurrence of all 3 of them finishing at pretty much the same time. That almost never happens! (Especially when one of the games is Agricola…)

So what did we learn tonight? Hoarding grain gets you nowhere, Neil really can make a career out of being a fitness instructor, holidaying in Norfolk gives you a beetroot face (and a penchant for religious vengeance), and you should never ever let Tom pass anything to Phil…

Last Call
This game had been played once before at IBG, many moons ago, but Jon had (literally) dusted it off for another outing. It is quite unique and has some lovely components, and also plays in under 30 mins, so shouldn’t leave anyone too offended!
The goal of the game is for players to move various bottles of drinks between a group of bartenders, attempting to leave a bartender with the correct bottles required to mix a specific drink on the player’s cards. Players can choose to mix a drink that has too many bottles with the bartender, but must take ice cubes as a penalty. Each player mixes 4 drinks, and the one with the fewest ice cubes wins.
Neil was the first to mix drinks, creating 2 at the same time, taking a couple of ice cubes in the process. This encouraged everyone else to get mixing, as there is a penalty for having unmixed drinks at the end. But Neil continued to do his best Tom Cruise impression, moving bottles around the table at the speed of light, and had soon finished off his whole set of drinks.
Jon was completely parched, having 2 more drinks to complete, and consequently took a number of ice cubes. Anthony and Gareth both had one more drink to mix, necessitating a top-up of their ice buckets too.
When the bar had been wiped down, and the glasses cleared away, Neil had proved to be the best barman. Jon was the worst, but also the coolest, as he collected a huge barrelful of ice.
Neil 3; Gareth 4; Anthony 6; Jon 9
Romans Go Home (thanks Tom)
Upon his arrival at the Apprentice, Tom was greeted by the sight of Paul and
James alone and game-less whilst others were involved in what looked like a boardgamers’ equivalent of a drinking game.  The cry went up from James for “something quick” and verily Tom did pluck out of his bag of delights one of his recently acquired fillers, Romans Go Home.  Soon after which, Gary walked through the door and unwittingly found himself sat down and a deck of cards thrust into his hands.
Winner of the “Oh My God, That’s Hideously Ugly Artwork” award from perennial favourite Glory to Rome (what is it about those Romans?), Romans Go Home is a 10-15 minute romp where the players choose six cards to be placed in front of them and then activated one by one in a bid to win a number of forts in the middle of the table.
There isn’t a great deal to the game other than perhaps an enjoyable amount of bluff and double-think but it can be genuinely amusing – as it had been during the previous play between Tom and Dan which ended with Tom on negative points and the dummy player (played entirely randomly) a runaway winner on 40 plus points.
This time around, it was soon apparent that there was a real risk that James would be able to acquire three of the four negative point forts, automatically winning him the game.  After James picked up the first two, Tom was able to acquire one; however, during the final round Tom, Gary and Paul fell over themselves to stop James and somehow in the process managed to let him pick up the final negative fort.  Paul, who had actually put a deal of thought into his card selection and therefore had acquired quite a handy number of points, was a bit peeved.  At least James wasn’t sat to his left though.
James – Winner; Tom  - Pompey (beheaded by backstabbing Egyptians), Paul – Crassus (beheaded by backstabbing Parthinians) and Gary - Julius Caesar (murdered by backstabbing Senators)
John B has a good track record of bringing games along to IBG that then end up on Jon’s wishlist. Previous hits include Biblios, Kingdom Builder, Trains, Ligretto and, most recently, Qwixx. And so, when Jon spotted Libertalia peeking out of the top of John’s dayglo orange bag, he was hoping that it could be another winner. The only caveat was that they would be playing with Natasha – who had returned from a recent holiday to Norfolk with a face brighter than John’s games bag.
This is a ‘simultaneous role selection’ game with a pirate theme. Players have an identical 30-card deck, and play with the same 21 of these during the game. There are 3 weeks (rounds) with 6 days in each week, making a total of 18 cards played during the game. Each day there is a treasure on offer for each player, although these can be negative as well as positive. The highest value card played will get the pick of the treasures, however, the lowest value cards get to play their special abilities first – which might screw with the other players’ cards. The treasures and special abilities allow for the collection of doubloons – and at the end of 3 weeks, the player with the most doubloons wins.
John B demonstrated his familiarity with the game at the beginning, by holding onto Granny Waca (yes really) when Natasha and Jon both chose to play her at the same time. Cue mutual destruction, but for some reason, Natasha immediately declared a holy war on Jon in the most explicit terms.
After the first 6 days, the new players had started to understand the significance of the timing of playing certain cards, and so were more prepared going into the 2nd week. At the end of the second week, Jon had managed to eke out a 10 point lead, as he had had a couple of characters in his den that generated doubloons each turn. John B had also taken a bit of a battering, with a couple of his characters being made to walk the plank at the tip of a sabre.
Therefore, for the 3rd and final week, Jon had a big fat target on his slim chest – with Natasha making sure that no-one forgot it at any point. The third week had some interesting characters in play – a monkey that allowed you to pass cursed treasures to your neighbour, and another character that would kill another player’s character from their den (for 3 doubloons).
Jon passed his cursed treasures to John, who in turn passed them (with interest) to Natasha. Everyone had had their most powerful character executed, and the last day dawned with Jon only having 1 character left in his den, whilst Gary had a fine crew still breathing. Surely Natasha would maximise his score and pass the cursed treasures along to Gary? But no, the red-faced buffoon decided to eliminate Jon’s final character, leaving Gary with a fine crew to sail his ship off into the sunset, accumulating doubloons by osmosis as they went.
And so to the final booty-count (Neil has a fine one, by the way, but wasn’t playing…)  John B had gallantly come last in his own game. Beetroot-face had come nearly-last. And thanks to the machinations of the maroon-mug, Gary had just sneaked ahead of Jon by 2 points. At this point, the scarlet pimpernel rose to his feet, turning the colour of a blueberry in the process, and screamed out loud a non-PC religious word, overcome with delight that he had managed to screw Jon over. Dignity personified…..
Despite all these shenanigans, this was actually a really good game. It has a very simple ruleset, there is plenty of interaction, it appears that there would be high replayability value and it plays in under an hour. And it contains pirates. Perfect. John B – you have provided another ‘hit’!
Gary 92; Jon 90; Rosy-Russet-Face 85; John 77

Neuroshima Hex (thanks James)

So not willing to play war games, but quite liking the idea of metaphorically beating the crap out of each other Paul, Dan, Gareth and I all turned to everyone's favourite non-wargame wargame of Neuroshima Hex.
Early on, ‘let’s beat up on Gareth’ seemed to be the order of the day as both Dan and Paul decided to attack his HQ... I was just surprised that Dan didn't turn all his initial wrath on me... but as it transpired that fun was to come later. Gareth lost half his base in the first 1/4 of the game and was feeling bruised... but given the nature of the game he was left more or less alone from here on in, as attentions turned elsewhere. I was trying to get Dan to team up and attack Paul... and Paul to team up and attach Dan... so the end result was that Paul and Dan decided to team up and attack me... (should've seen that coming.)
By the 1/2 way stage Dan and Paul were only a few points down, I was approaching 1/2 and Gareth was doing his best to stay friends with everyone and not get involved... then Paul managed to place a few strong defence tiles and the fighting started to get a bit messy. Dan placed the infamous 3 hit net tile against Gareth and pretty much ended Gareth's hope of remaining anonymous. I started to attack Dan in an attempt to get 2nd place... well that's my excuse, to be honest I'd probably have attacked him anyways... Paul was just picking off everyone behind his iron fortress.
So to the last few tiles and Gareth was finally taken out. I had managed somehow to just get ahead of Dan while Paul was safely in the lead and not looking like anyone was going to cause him much damage.
On the last turns Paul had a chance to play kingmaker (or , well , 2nd place maker) and I think the Yeovil connection helped here as he chose Dan. But then in the last battle Dan managed battle back and we both ended up tied with just 2 HQ points left. Final scores: Gareth-wiped out by Dan (remember that Gareth next time we pay any negotiation game with Dan.... let the feelings fester so that revenge is far sweeter when it happens) Dan and me tied with 2, although I'm sure as Dan was down to 2 first I would've been ahead based on a rule that was omitted from the final revision  of the rulebook.
Paul, (can you believe it) won with something like 17 points left on his HQ... and so at the end we all felt honoured to have witnessed that rare of rare events - a Paul victory. Given that his ratio is about 1 per month, it's going to be a depressing May for the rest of the month for him...

Agricola (thanks again Tom)
Tom has been recently struck down by an especially virulent bug, causing him
to become interested in farming livestock, growing vegetables, building his wooden hut and making as many tiny worker babies as he can, as quickly as possible.  Yes, he’s in love with the fairest worker placement maiden of them all, Agricola (or whatever the heck the boardgame hipsters are calling WP nowadays).
Enablers Phil and Andy were naturally up for a game and Neil was roped in to see if he could assail his previous score of 19 (spoiler alert: he does but not by much).  A card draft was arranged to decide opening occupations and minor improvements.  Second time around, Tom received the Bricklayer which allows for a nice discount on clay when building a clay house or acquiring improvements.  However, his eye was caught by another occupation to help whatever ill advised combo he had in mind and the bricklayer was handed to Phil.
Soon after, he received Clay Supports, a personal favourite of his, which reduces the costs of adding rooms to a clay house.  A tiny voice in Tom’s head muttered “that would have worked very nicely with Bricklayer.  Never mind.  Pass it on to Phil.”  I don’t know if this has been properly established in the annals of this fair blog but Tom’s brain can be a bit of a liability at times.
It goes without saying that Phil having previously snaffled the Bricklayer then, in turn, took the Clay Supports meaning that any extension to his clay house would cost only two wood and one reed.  Soon enough, Phil had a five room clay house and a merry family romping through its halls whilst everyone else struggled to procreate regardless of feeding their French Letters to the family goat.  Andy gazed down at his useless Rancher and made a sad face.
Tom did manage to establish a quite nice food engine with his Well Carrier (did we forget to mention that Phil was able to build the Well, the Village Well and then the Well again - sheer lunacy!) and Goose Pond but it wasn’t enough to beat Andy in the race for second place.  Neil in the meantime had a strange fascination with acquiring as much grain as humanly possible, regardless of Phil’s well placed bon mots:  “that’s the worst plough ever!”
So we come to the end.  Fortunately, for Neil, Andy and Tom, this coincided with the arrival of Jon, Natasha and Gary fresh from their epic game of Libertalia:

Natasha:  (looks at everyone’s farms) Wow, Phil.  You’ve slaughtered them.
Jon:  Tom – do you have some form of aversion to animals?
Tom:  This isn’t All Creatures Big and Small.  Animals aren’t the be-all and end-all in big daddy Agricola don’t you know.  Why, look at my fields filled with grain and delicious vegetables.  Marvel at my rudimentary pasture.  The absence of any wild boars for my sausage dinner means that I only get one minus point in the scoring.
Phil:  What about your four empty fields?
Tom:  Quiet, Philip Thomas, or you’ll get no salmon linguine...
Neil:   Why do I have so much grain....?

Andy ran away with the scores on his scoring app but they don’t call me Tom “Mr Memory” Williamson for nothing.  In fact, they don’t call me Mr Memory at all *badoom tish*
Phil – 54; Andy – 34; Tom – 32; Neil – 22

Suburbia (thanks Natasha)
Suburbia at last! James must have thought the day would never come, but after 1,402 weeks of waiting, he finally managed to get that game of Suburbia. After the reshuffle, he sat down with John, Paul and me - I insisted as ever on a speed explanation #8minrules.
For those who don’t know - this is a Sim City themed economic game, where each player takes a tile (houses, industry, parks etc); places it for synergies; adjusts two income trackers accordingly (money/population); then scores them. When the tiles run out that’s it, most VPs win. There are also goals to hit on the table (most this, fewest that, scored at the end).
Paul wanted a house rule to say you could mulligan your personal goals if they conflict with the goals on the table. John vetoed that, thus 100% ensuring Paul would duly receive personal goals that conflicted with the goals on the table. Bravo.
John and I went first and second and took two airports, which are mutual boosters, thus punching into an early lead.
James observed that it is hard to do well if all the good stuff is taken before your turn. He then repeated this observation every 4 minutes for the remainder of the game.
Paul went last and, presumably still in shock at having crushed all comers at Neuroshima Hex, appeared to forget to do anything until the mid-game.
John became distracted by a bid to build all the sophisticated blue tiles. I believe this to be an advanced strategy. However, he thereby fatally forfeited him the whip hand on airports, where I managed to accrue a monopoly. I believe this to be a beginner’s strategy... of some power.
After a while, James grokked the game and duly went on a power run. Paul had clearly been pacing himself on James, and pushed forward with a couple of shiny power stations earning him $1 billion / turn.
The final results reflected a high-altitude score for me, a return to form for Paul, and James sallying into the night still not entirely clear on how he zoomed into second from a standing start.
Natasha 138, James 87, John 77, Paul 67

7 Wonders
5 players – 7 Wonders. Always a winner. This was new to Tom, but he picked it
up quickly, with occasional help required for the iconography. Dan distributed the player boards – at which point there were several quizzical looks at the weird wonders on the expansion boards. No-one could be bothered to look them all up in the rulebooks, so it was quickly decided to just play with the base game boards, using the second side.
Dan and Tom started the inevitable military battles, whilst Gary and Jon (unusually) decided to remain at peace and focus on other goals. Andy had the fortunate seat in between Gary and Jon, and was able to invest minimally in military might whilst gaining lots of points.
Jon took several markets, which enabled him to purchase resources cheaply from Andy and Tom. Dan invested in Science for some big points, with Tom and Andy the only other players to give him some competition. Gary scored a lot of points from his wonders and civilian structures but his lack of military or science (in common with Jon) left him trailing the leaders.
With 31 points from Science, and a smattering from everything else, Dan scored an impressive 60 points, but this was exactly matched by Andy’s military / civilian / science approach. With coins as the tiebreaker, Andy proved to be victorious.
Andy 60 (18 coins); Dan 60 (12); Gary 49; Jon 46; Tom 41
CV (thanks Neil)
With everyone else dashing off to play 7 Wonders and Surburbia, Philip decided it was time for his mind to have a break from the intensity of Agricola and roll some dice. CV it was. Gareth II joined us for this game.
So, off we went. Philip picked up the bicycle and later traded his car in for another bike. Bizarrely he picked up the intern again, and then got himself a yacht and a child, wow! Unfortunately, his luck took a turn for the worse and he had both his yacht and bicycle repossessed.

Gareth collected a good hand and certainly seemed to pick the game up quickly. He collected quite a few health cards together with a lot of the money ones. His life goal was the latter so this made sense. I think this maybe a slightly under-valued - as in it needs beefing up - goal. He picked up five cards totalling twenty-four points and got a further five in bonuses.
As for me, well I managed to lose a card early on but did collect those that gave me one symbol fewer on each of the health/relationship/science cards and this worked well with my own and the game’s communal life goals. That I was a fitness instructor at one stage was a bit daft, but building relationships was easy, and I even went into board game design, hurrah!
With my CV complete it was time to tot up, wow, second win of the night for me… thank goodness Agricola had my ego in check.
Neil - 74, Philip - 51, Gareth – 45
San Juan (thanks Gary)
A late night romp through San Juan finished off the evening with Jon, Dan, Gary
and Tom.
Tom quickly built up an impressive production facility, including tobacco storage warehouse (perhaps it should have been coffee at this time of night) and was soon double and triple producing. Jon and Dan had doubled up on their indigo facilities – the Guildhall was going to be a prime target in this game. Gary passed up a building opportunity to bring out the very powerful Library as his third building on his turn as Governor – which meant the next two rounds were spent biding his time without being able to benefit fully from the double benefit provided by the Library as others built and prospected.
Dan had built the Prefecture, however, and was soon mining the deck for useful cards and keeping two (indeed I think we made it through the deck three times in total!). Gary too build the Prefecture, which meant that those Councillor turns were also working out well. Jon had the Poor House (one card when no cards left after building) and – a belt and braces approach – the Carpenter (one card when building a purple building), and put up a Statue and Victory Column. However, with Tom producing and trading and Dan using the Councillor, that allowed Gary to make heavy use of the Prospector (for 2 cards) and the Builder (for a discount of 2 cards when building) and build a nice looking row of purple cards, including useful ones like the Market (giving an extra card on selling), the Carpenter and the Tower and ones just for show, including the Hero and Victory Column. Jon took the Chapel and hid a couple of useful cards from sight underneath it, whilst Dan harrumphed about the  contrariness of the Councillor and was joined by Gary whose Library-fuelled 8 card haul from the Councillor equally produced nothing worthwhile!
As the game end neared, and Jon chose the final builder role, Tom had the only complete town of twelve buildings, but had failed to pick up the Guildhall he needed for a high score. Dan had picked up the City Hall and a nice set of purple buildings and Jon had the Triumphal Arch scoring with his monuments to go with his Chapel. However, in the final analysis, Gary’s Library had provided a consistent flow of cards and with the Triumphal Arch, the more expensive monuments and a Guildhall, 32 points was enough for the victory.
Gary 32 ; Jon 26; Dan 22; Tom 20

And that was it. No more until next week, when our glowing faces and vengeance-fuelled exclamations will return for more game-playing goodness...

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