Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The one with the wrong Ricky and lots of non-synergised camels....

Players: Neil, Philip, James, Scott, Charlotte, John, Jon, Gary, Natasha, Tonio, Gareth, Jeroen, Ricky, Amo

My last week of editing the blog for a while, so you'll soon be spared from my ramblings and navel-gazing for a few months.

Anyway, I left off last week by wondering why Railroad Tycoon is probably my favourite boardgame, when I seem to have a pathological intolerance for most games that last more than 75 minutes. Well, I've come to the conclusion that it's not just the length, but also the level of complexity and decision-making involved in a game that affects my enjoyment. I have gained a reputation (unfairly IMHO, but millions can't be wrong....) of taking my time to make game-related decisions, and I will admit that I do have a propensity to suffer from Analysis Paralysis. Therefore, a game such as Agricola makes my head hurt. As the game goes on, the number of possible options available appear (to me) to grow exponentially, and I'm afraid that my tiny brain just can't cope with them all. It just shuts down. Ok I admit it - I'm a mental weakling.

However, although Railroad Tycoon takes a while to play, the decision tree doesn't seem to grow much during the game - in fact if anything, it shrinks as the board fills up with track tiles, and the cubes gradually disappear. There are still decisions to be made about maximising points-scoring, but the actual options available remain the same, therefore I find it an enjoyable experience rather than a brain-melting one.

So, game designers, when you’re making a game for me, don’t give me a myriad of different options to choose from, just give me 3 or 4, but make those options interesting and meaningful.
There - I've successfully analysed my games preferences, and feel much better for it. So don't ask me to play Through the Ages with you, but do ask me to join in a game of Libertalia. And I also enjoy the odd game of Caylus (What???!!! Oh crap......)

Tonight at IBG, despite the absence of several regulars, there was a very healthy turnout, including a newcomer called Ricky, who wasn't the Ricky that Jon was expecting to come, but was instead the Ricky that is a 'friend' of Natasha's.
And for some reason, West London was also over-run with camels...

Love Letter (thanks Scott)
Not everyone’s cup of tea at Isleworth, but outside the bubble that is the London Apprentice it’s actually quite a popular game and so I will continue to ply it on to people and force them to like it, if for nothing more than its simplicity to start the evening.
Charlotte and I roped in Phil and Jerry; and fortunately for Phil he was saved by Tonio who came to his rescue after the first round, despite Phil having won it. Tonio hadn’t played before so a quick rules overview and we were off. Jerry was struggling to find his feet as the rest of us clambered to two points each, but a run of success soon found us all playing for the final point. A point that Tonio won in a close fought battle with Jerry, having won with such a low scoring Clown to Jerry’s Soldier.
Tonio, so joyful in his narrow victory remarked at the adjoining table, but his joy fell on deaf ears. They aren’t ready for Love letter yet Tonio… it’s too soon.
Tonio – 3 points; Jerry, Scott & Charlotte – 2 points
2 games of this quick card game. Players play cards to obtain tiles that have
values from -5 to +15.
First game, Neil collected just about every card going, and won by a country mile.
Second game, Neil failed to collect a single tile whilst Jon took over his previous exploits. That was, until Phil laid down his final 5 cards and took every tile left. And won. Easily.
Neil and Phil won; Gareth, Jon and Amo didn't
Galaxy Trucker (and again Scott...)
Tonio, Charlotte and I were keen for a game of GT, most of us having not played it in a long time and Charlotte had only played once before and wanted to try again. We started small and built up a little ship while the rules slowly flowed into our consciousness and I think by the end of the first round we had them remembered. Tonio just pipping us with his finishing first and an extra cube delivery, still plenty of time to recover. At this point James remembers where the club is and with no other options and a smattering of interest he joins us for round 2 with a small boost to his score to stay competitive.
Round 2 is a good time for me, with plenty of cube storage and a solid ship I managed to get the edge over the round, in particular I seem to be the only one really getting much of a crew together and can waste them on salvage missions, giving me the edge I’m looking for over Tonio. Charlotte is struggling with keeping her ship in one piece but is hanging in there with half a ship traversing space. While James gets his head around the rules since he kind of jumped in the deep end after we’d had our practice round, keeping his head in the game and nothing too disastrous. My huge haul of goods and finishing first gets me the windfall I was looking for but fairly good all round.
We opted for our Round 3 to be the interesting Star Trek style design and with just the base game components you pretty much need every tile in the right orientation to build a full ship, so we were all a bit lacking in some senses, particularly me who finished building last and had a significant number of exposed connectors and no laser defence on the left or right. Being at the back proved difficult since the early cards were all planets, and the others grabbed the useful cubes, followed by some open space that saw my lack of engines leave me straggling behind the others. But a few disasters struck for Tonio and he soon found himself without any crew, leaving his fully loaded ship lost in space (although he still gets half value), making me feel a bit more confident about keeping my score lead despite still being last in turn order and my ship falling apart at the sides due to several barrages of meteors from the sides that I thought would mysteriously never arrive. James’ downfall being his lack of guns so when the slavers showed up he was down to a skeleton crew and just stayed in to limp over the finish line, while Charlotte and I were lucky enough to still have enough guns on-board to defend our ships, although not to defeat them and get anything useful. I dodged the last meteor wave, although the pivotal central tile holding my ship together was so close to being destroyed. I managed to secure enough for a strong finish:
Scott – 92; Charlotte – 57; Tonio – 55; James – 41
Camel Up
Another week – another John B new game. And this time it was a SdJ 2014
nominee. This is a light race / betting game, where players compete to obtain as much gold as possible by betting on the outcome of a camel race. The race is decided over several ‘legs’, and players have the opportunity to bet on each leg as well as the overall outcome of the whole race. It has a unique dice-dispensing system, namely a sturdy cardboard pyramid, which spits out a single die at a time. A bag would have done the same job, but wouldn’t have had nearly the same eye-candy appeal.
After the first couple of legs, it appeared obvious which 2 camels would be bringing up the rear in the race, as the other 3 sped off at high speed. However, as it turns out, camels can catch up quite quickly if the circumstances allow, and the result turned out not to be as clear cut as first seemed.
Gary was down to only 2 coins at one point (and you start the game with 3!), but he was the first player to successfully bet on both the winner and loser of the overall race which gave him a big 16-coin haul. Both Natasha and Jon spent a leg putting all their eggs in one basket, which paid off for both of them. Jeroen started quickly but struggled in the last couple of legs, whilst John had the good grace to come last at his own game…
Although he didn’t score well in the overall betting, Jon had consistently accumulated coins throughout the game, which was just enough to pip Gary for the win.
This is a really fun little game, with nice components, and simple enough rules to make it family-friendly. Another winner from John B…..
Jon 24; Gary 22; Natasha 21; Jeroen 15; John 15
Goa (thanks Neil)
Rudiger Dorn designed this one, several years ago now too, 2004 to be precise. That’s about five centuries ago in board game years, a relic from the past. Gareth had recently invested in a new Z-Man edition, paying a fortune in shipping to get a copy from the US. Z-Man are one of the companies that annoy the hell out of me. Since the big buy out they release a load of great German titles in the English language. Result. Unless you live in England. You have to be a US citizen to pick up the English language version.
Funnily enough it was the Z-Man stand I rushed over to at Expo, to see how many copies of the recent re-release of Babel they had, exactly six. And the latest Agricola card pack, the Bielefeld Deck, even less, five copies. Bloody good job Agricola is no longer the most popular game in the world, supply and demand, basics, you know? It’s not as though the company is run by dizzy games enthusiasts either. You might forgive them that. But no, they simply seem to be incompetent. So no copies of Goa for the demanding UK populace. At Essen last year they quickly ran out of Glass Road, and Russian Railroads too. Hell, if you can only get one event a year right you might have picked that one. Obviously my trouble-shooter skills are much in demand… if only.
Where were we? Goa. Philip had played before, several years ago, and in that incredible way of his he immediately spotted the revisions to the board/game. Oh dear, we were in trouble. It was new to myself and Amo, a guest who was trading with James. I should say ‘this week’s guest dealing with James’. And Gareth had only two days earlier been teaching the game over in Richmond. Trouble.
It’s ranked 44 is Goa, pretty bloody high. Whilst not completely getting it the first play through for me was very interesting. I can see it as a good top 500 game but would need to play it many more times I guess to revel in the intricacies of the auctions, the opportunities they give you, and which commodities to concentrate on.
None of were able to set up a useful engine early on. Philip went chasing the money and ships, Gareth and I taking identical actions to gain additional colonies. Philip and Gareth traded the start position throughout and paid for each other to make other useful auction acquisitions. Amo and I could only watch on, although I rapidly developed a taste for cloves, yummy yummy!
The rounds seemed to whizz by, always a good sign of a game demanding more of you. And I never quite got on top of planning for the future. So the last round came and I only had one action - out of three possible - lined up. What a waste! Never mind. Gareth and Philip were well out of touch and Amo and I were fighting it out not to come last. As any respectful guest would he let me finish third, result!
Philip - 43, Gareth - 39, Neil - 30, Amo - 28.
Cheaty Mages
Natasha’s friend Ricky had turned up at this point (not the Ricky that Jon was
expecting, who had emailed him earlier in the day...), and there subsequently ensued a long discussion about whether to stay as a ‘6’, or to split into two ‘3’s’. Finally, it was agreed to stay together and Cheaty Mages became the game of choice.
There was much to-ing and fro-ing of judges and fighters, but in the last round, the Mana limit of the judge was cancelled, resulting in a long stream of cards on one fighter in particular. When the dust had settled, it was discovered that not only had this fighter won, but that its bounty had doubled from 6 to 12. And as Jon, Natasha, Ricky and John had all placed a single bet on it, they doubled their winnings further, raking in a cool 24 points each. John had just been in the lead at the end of the second round, so retained his lead to win the game and make up for his inability to back a winning camel…
John 30; Natasha 28; Ricky 26; Jon 26; Jeroen 13; Gary 10
Machi Koro (thanks once more, Scott)
Apparently the others might have wanted to play with us, but I’ve been to Isleworth before, I’m sure the general consensus is for us to keep quiet in the corner and not mess with their fun games. So when Tonio mentioned he hadn’t heard of Mochi Koro, or Japanese Settlers, we had to play it. As I explained the rules I realised I was setting myself up for disaster, in particular the 6 buildings which target players seem quite expensive with not enough pay-off but Tonio took this as a personal challenge. I went with a simple strategy of grabbing ranches and hoping for 2 while Charlotte went with the Forest and wished for 5’s (which I kindly obliged on several occasions), Charlotte became a big threat and Tonio devoted his time to become chief dick with all of the 6 buildings and regular thefts to keep us under control. Charlotte pushed in to getting furniture factories set-up, a single 8 on the dice would have secured her the game but sadly this wasn’t to be, Tonio kept stealing our resources while keeping a varied portfolio so a win by attrition. I never did roll many 2’s!
Tonio – winner, Charlotte & Scott – not winners
Now it was set-up it would be a shame not to have another quick go of it. I hadn’t learned my lesson of the first game and plied in to Ranches again, hoping for more 2’s this game. Tonio and Charlotte diversified but I got much luckier this game, the ranches paid off early, I quickly went with the 7 card to maximise them and with the power to re-roll the dice I had cleared the finish line before the others had a chance to catch-up.
Scott – winner, Charlotte & Tonio – not winners
There were more interested parties, so the game continued to stay set-up while Tonio, Charlotte and I attempted to collect our purchased games and leave.
John had been touting this game about since the beginning of the evening, and
Natasha and Jon decided to keep him happy and play along. It’s actually a really old game (1993), which was then re-printed by Queen Games in 2005, which is still a long time ago. Very unusual to see John “Cult of the New” with such a golden oldie. Basically, this is a deduction game, based in the camel-strewn deserts of Timbuktu (yes – more camels…), but this time the camels are not racing, but transporting various precious commodities.
Each player controls 8 camels, each laden with 4 sacks of goods. These camels slowly wend their way to the city of Timbuktu over a period of 3 rounds, and must attempt to avoid spaces in the desert where robbers lurk, waiting to steal the camels’ cargo. These spaces are pre-determined each round via 5 sets of cards, and players get to see 3 of these sets as each round progresses. Deductions can then be made about which spaces are safe to place camels on, and which are not.
However, if your name is Natasha, then your strong belief is that “I HAVE NO SYNERGIES!”, and therefore the game is completely broken and luck-dependant. Or another way of looking at it, is that Natasha “IS RUBBISH AT TRYING TO MAKE DEDUCTIONS BASED ON PARTIAL INFORMATION AND LOGICAL REASONING.”
Whatever – Jon proved to be the best at protecting all his ships of the desert from the nasty thieving types, whereas Natasha “HAD ABSOLUTELY NO SYNERGIES AT ALL….”
Jon 158; John 115; Natasha 101
Machi Koro (thanks Neil)
Two games to end the evening for Philip, Gareth and Neil. I decided not to go my normal cafe route and picked up some ranches instead but not enough. Philip seemed to progressing well until Gareth started buying forests. The original tree-hugger he must be. We let him buy all six of them. Giving him a little income every time anyone rolled a ‘5’. Which we then proceeded to do. Between us we rolled five 5s on the trot. And Gareth himself managed to roll four 5s on the trot too. To say that this helped fund his victory would be a good assessment. Philip was only a turn behind mind you.
Game two. Had we learned, never let anyone take control of one number? Had we? Not exactly. I decided this time it would be wise to go for my normal cafe routine. I won once about twenty games ago with this strategy so it must be due another victory some time soon. Philip went charging off this time with more ranches, and Gareth stuck to his forests. Once a lumberjack, always a lumberjack. I had time to expand into restaurants, what with the cafes I might have done alright if… not to be. The boy got wildy ahead with his bloody trees. Even the Philmeister hadn’t got going, impressive victory no.2!
Killer Bunnies (thanks again Scott)
Despite a plan of an early night, Tonio wanted to have a look in the box of Killer
Bunnies, since we’d both heard of it but never played it, this look in the box turned in to let’s try a few hands to see how it works and despite some protestations we ended up playing a whole game of it, although I’m not sure we played it anywhere near correctly. These killer bunnies are certainly vicious, we had a huge batch of them early in the game, only for them to be killed off and difficult to replace for the rest of the game. I made an effort to collect carrots although I wasn’t sure exactly why at the time. We got close to the carrot deck ending (the end game trigger), I set myself up with a bunny to play (you need one out to win) and then a card to grab the last carrot, but Charlotte saw fit to switch my cards clockwise, losing me the rabbit I needed (and only switched due to a misunderstanding of the card she’d played in front of herself, damn!), I held back grabbing the last carrot, failed to find any more bunnies while Tonio got out one and grabbed the last carrot himself.
I had a fair chunk of the carrot deck, all numbered, and apparently you just deal one randomly from another deck to see which is the winning carrot, obviously it was one of mine but with no rabbit to enjoy it I didn’t win, I think technically that meant we all lost? What a strange little game :)
Tonio, Charlotte, Scott – Didn’t win.
(Jon won for selling his copy of the game to Tonio??!)

Also played tonight was Thurn & Taxis, which you can blame James for not supplying any details about...

See you all next week, for more Rickys and less camels...

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