Sunday, 27 July 2014

Nobody's business...

Natasha called this* blog entry the "worst blog ever". I wonder just how many bad blogs Natasha has browsed, because personally I think that this isn't even in the bottom 500, but, hey, I'm not going to argue with someone who can win Eclipse without fighting a single opponent (more of that in the next blog entry). 

Now, in its original version there were no pictures because I had a temporary attack of idiocy. In case anyone else should suffer from this, when you want to add pictures to a blog from your hard drive you need to press the "Choose files" button and not be mesmerised by the menu on the side.

See, a picture! (Not a picture of a game we actually played at any point in the several weeks covered, but, still, a picture). 

All reports were written by Neil, except for those that weren't. Thanks Neil. 

This next game is a bit like

Well, not its not really. But I like that picture.

 Glass Road 

A final appearance from Woody, who is off to sunny Portugal. Woody's first game of this classic Rosenberg, with Neil and me joining him. Collecting Ponds looked like a good strategy, with collecting Pits another possibility. Woody and I took the direct approach to Pond collection, with me playing an early immediate "gain 2 clay from each adjacent pond" building, but Neil headed us off at the pass by buying the building which gives you VPs for Ponds. Stymied, I espied a useful claymaking building- but Neil beat me to that as well.

Meanwhile Woody set about collecting Pits with a vengeance- I think he had 9 contiguous Pits by game end. I picked up the points for Clay and points for Wood buildings (although the later was only half points), and a method of turning Ponds into Wood, which was handy for all those stupid Ponds I had dug earlier. I had three bricks at the end of turn 3 and no earthly use for them. I was then extremely lucky in the final turn to see the building which scores points for used Bricks and have the resources available to build it, combined with the fabulous Water Tower (costs 3 Bricks and is worth 4 VPs- makes ponds) and a neat "re-use an adjacent immediate use" building which gave me 6 more clay.

Final Scores Me 27 Woody 22 Neil 17 (roughly).

The next game is not Constantinopolis...


Another outing for this gem collection game which sounds a lot more exciting than it actually is.... anyway same three players, Neil and Woody doing the obvious money-making strategy, me trying to be clever and picking up gems in other ways, Woody beating us to the punch with the old "not moving this turn" card- 5 gems to Woody, 4 to Neil and 4 to me but me with much less money than Neil.

I wish the next session report was about Pax Porfiriana which looked really good. I'd also like to apologise to Dan for suggesting that Theodore Roosevelt should be in Pax Porfiriana because he wasn't President. Not only was that insensitive but it was also dead wrong (The period covered by PP includes TR's Presidency.
Anyway, this is another game set in the same country.

 Railways of Mexico 

A different (earlier evening), a different group of players, a different kind of game... anyway I managed to set up the cubes with minimal redunancy apart from 3 reds in Mexico City. I won the bid for start player and rushed into an early lead in the North-West which seemed to accelerate into the mid game. In fact I was so far ahead I confidently declared I had won, only for Jon to put me in my place by a one point victory right at the end.

From Mexico to Mantua. Well, close...

 The Council of Verona (thanks Neil)

One I nearly backed on kickstarter due to it’s Shakespearian theme, until I realised it was yet another ‘micro’ card game, get three cards with different abilities, play them and then somebody, completely randomly, wins. Might as well play snap, noughts and crosses or any old dice game….
Anyway, I was wrong. No surprise there. I was right once last week but so got confused in the ensuing discussion I changed my mind to wrong.

This is very, very good. Your three cards will be either a Montague, Capulet, neutral or a combination. Your goal is to place your drafted cards into either the Council of Verona - hey, that must account for the game title! - or Exile. You then place tokens on any card you wish, which is where you can gain VPs from, or influence otherwise. Amongst the tokens in the expansion we were playing with are a vial of poison and another with the antidote.

After placing all your cards and three of your tokens the latter are revealed and poisoned characters die off. The remaining cards are resolved according to their agendas one at a time with any remaining tokens scoring VPs for their owners.

During the card drafting I held on to three Montagues; the Lord, his Lady and Benvolio. I played the Lord into the Council in the first round and put my ‘0’ token onto an Exiled Capulet. Next round I played Benvolio into the Council which allowed me to move a card from there to Exile, so I shipped out a neutral to ensure Montague Council control. I placed my ‘5’ token onto the Duke this time. For my final card Lady Montague joined her husband in the Council, used her ability to switch my ‘0’ token onto the Lord to remove one of Dan’s from a ‘likely to score card’ and I decided to place an ‘antidote’ token onto another Montague, just in case he’d been poisoned.

As the tokens were revealed it was looking good for the Montagues on the Council. Then each card was resolved and I managed to have 2 VP tokens in play, the same as Jon, with none of the other three surviving the cull! 5 VPs to me, damn, Jon had 6. Never mind, cracking little game.

But was Juliet poisioned Neil? Answer, of course she was, she always is!

Next up a game which has as much to do with British India as Chess does.

 Raj  (thanks Neil)

Jon's turn-to filler in the absence of Mr Dawsey and Tenakee. Bet on the tiles, hope no one else has bet the same, and win the tiles. John opted for the reverse psychology during the first game picking up all the negative tiles he possibly could. Jon and I seem to stay out of the main clashes and so towards the end should have picked up the remaining tiles cheaply. I did, Jon didn't!! I won the first round my a good distance.

Round 2 didn't go quite so well, for me that is. John had clearly go the hang of the game by now and stormed into an unassailable lead. Second place was up for grabs but I blew it by matching with everyone and having all my bets voided. Not sure how the final scores came out, I think Jon noted them down.

But Jon didn't tell anyone- judging by our next report, he must have got the hump!

 Camel Up (thanks Neil)

So, hot game, might have won the Spiel de Jahre by the time this is published. My pre-game impression: race game - tend to be single faceted and thus do not appeal; camels - mmm, not my favourite animal, in fact i'm not particularly animal-friendly so also off-putting; betting game - being instituted by Lloyds, Abbey and some Irish bank I have a natural inclination to avoid betting.

On set-up I was able to add, 'contrived dice mechanic' that makes those old pop-up dice things look like the mac of dice mechanics. The wooden camels that stack - more mmm, bit chunky, yellow and green, yuk; the blue and white, hurrah, get stuck at the back, wrong.

Right, so the game; great fun, great laughs and a real treat, that's what i've read. My inhibitions tend to kick in during these 'party' games and I start analysing play a bit too much. By their sheer nature they're not designed for this.

Anyway, five of us took the reins (?) and did some actions and dice fell out of the pyramid, sometimes, and we gambled and tried to influence something or other. Green camel and orange camel took a lead and held it. White camel looked doomed from the start until blue camel did and then didn't. At the end of each round I picked up 2 coins compared to everyone else's 3-8, wow! And then the game ended, orange camel, representing the Netherlands, won, huzzah!

As the big bets were by paid out by the tote I won 8 coins on the first camel, maxed out! and then I won another on the last camel, maxed out 2 'maxier!' One to play again, undoubtedly.

Final Scores; Neil - 27, Soren - 25, Noel - 24, Philip - 23, Jon - 22 (well it is his game after all!)

Next report is about a completely different game from

Granny Wars (thanks Neil)

My ninth outing at Granny Wars, more than anyone else in the whole wide world who's logged their plays of this great little thriller!

We were five, an odd five to say the least, me, Philip, Dom, Woody and Tom (his 4th logged play!). All started with it's usual no idea of who's sponsoring which Granny until about half way through when there's a glut of useful cards to play. A few Grannies got nailed to and by their sponsors and it was left to the power cards at the end of the game.

We obviously all let Woody win. His possible last outing at IBG for a while if his adventure tales of living in Portugal come off... but it was close!

I didn't let Woody win, I was just incompetent. Probably channelling my blog-writing skills...

And now for something completely similar, except on a Saturday. 

Bring & Buy (and Play) Report

So, the first B&B (&p!) at the London Apprentice. Despite a few weeks notice this gave more punters the chance to change their minds. Anyway, there'll be another one, it'll be called Play (and Bring & Take Home Again) next time, catches the day's events a bit more literally.

Saying that, Woody sold a few, I sold a couple and had several pre-sales too so the Essen budget is getting towards the 'travel and accommodation paid for' stage; it's the games I might like to buy that need funding next!

Essen budget? It isn't until October, plenty of time.

Right. Me and Basti (Hora jnr) set up and had just started a 2-player Istanbul  when Soren and ladyfriend/wife/mistress arrived but there were no stopping us by then. Despite a good start my son soon took over and thrashed me 6-4. Good news though, he loved it, it's coming on holiday with us, hurrah!

I hope the holiday didn't consist solely of games of Constantinopolis

By the time we were finishing attendance had almost reached it's peak with Woody arriving but deciding to sell his wares straight out of his boot, and Tom came plodding in too. Scott and Charlotte arrived and set up 6 Nimmt! for three enthralling rounds, I know I lost all three, Basti won one and Scott amassed in excess of 40 points in one round, is that possible? 

We were joined by a friendly gent who later purchased from Woody and then Canadian Barry arrived announcing his imminent departure from the UK back to his native North America as they say in RotW, Calgary to be precise.

Pretty sure that is Canadian Barrie! Anyway, everyone seems to be fleeing these shores. Its like the end of the Third Age. Except without that hideous eye thing

Next up Scott and Charlotte were happy to try Splendor, great to find someone who hadn't played before! We gave it two goes with Charlotte taking the first narrowly from all of us, and me winning the second just ahead of Scott, Basti was asleep by this time I think, 2 points, a record low!

2 points is pretty low. I could get lower though.

Having purchased Egizia from Woody - yes I know I wasn't supposed to but it's been on the list for yonks and I've never seen an English version this side of the Atlantic so I just had to have it - Charlotte and Scott were keen to give it a run out and teach me in the process, always good to have Scott running through the rules I find, top man! As it was I probably wasn't listening too well as they and Basti managed to score handsomely with me some 30 VPs behind, oops!

Woody still sells a good game then.

So, four hours of gaming, good bonhomie and very little buying, it was time to drag it all back home and face Mrs Hora with the clutter I had hoped to shed. Ah well, another day, different result, fingers crossed.

*Of course, really he gave that title to a previous version of the blog, which I subsequently edited, turning it into this version, which is probably worse still!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

An Avian evening.

I think I missed this particular session. But it looks like everyone had fun, even if Natasha appears to be channelling Emperor Palpatine!

Agricola (thanks Natasha)

Neil, Andy, me and new-boy-Walter-White-lookalike-Scots-Italian-Mauro, sat down to a game which I thought showcased one of Agricola’s great strengths as a game.

Mauro obviously chose blue. Forza Italia! After a powerfully efficient start, he acquired quite an extraordinary ability, to transmogrify vegetables into animals. I could only think of The-Fly-style disasters ensuing - Cowliflower, Boargette, Ewebergine etc.

Neil managed a "PB" (as Noel’s athletics chums would say) by pursuing a delicious-looking grain, vegetables and veal strategy. At this rate of improvement he will be unconquerable in three games’ time.

Andy ended up through no fault of his own with a rather motley draft and was last to grow his family - quite the handicap even for a player of his quality. He retaliated by surprisingly gobbling up all of Mauro’s sheep in Round 7 - taking Mauro from catbird to bird-in-cat’s-mouth.

It mattered little as the other three were no match for my young Apprentice. He provided a food income every harvest for nothing more than owning major improvements, and alongside my 3 food-giving ponds (Duck, Goose and... Unidentified Aquatic Avian), I amassed the equivalent of the EU butter mountain.

What struck me as interesting though is that the game seemed awash with food and reed, but was starved of wood. Of course it was! Neil and I were pumping out food like crazy, and the Sheep card was turned in Round 1. Andy and Mauro meanwhile had improvements that meant they didn’t need Reed. However - nobody had free fences, discounts for room building, or much in the way of free wood - thus, wood was scarce.

Every game of Agricola seems to have lots of something and none of another thing - like this. It’s obviously one of the main mechanics that gives the game its variety. I think perhaps if one were very good at Agricola one would notice these trends during the game and react accordingly - rather than work it out in the post-mortem. Something to aspire to?

Final scores (only Andy's app knows the numbers) Natasha then Andy then Neil then Mauro.

Remaining reports all thanks to Jon. Five games in one night is pretty impressive...

Queen’s Ransom
This is a quick deduction / memory card game, where players have to deduce who kidnapped the queen and where she is being held captive, by examining a series of face-down cards - and then screwing with their opponents…
Neil and Jon had time for a couple of games of this, with Jon edging a win in the first game, and making the correct deduction in the second game whilst Neil was still making preliminary searches of the kingdom. A quick, clever card game, that plays really well with 2. 

Paul had now joined the early birds, but only to tell them that he had been unexpectedly called away, so they settled down to a 2-player game of Attika.
Jon was the first to make a dart across the board, but Neil managed to block his progress without too much trouble. Jon had his capital on the board quite early, and was subsequently able to get some free builds out.
Neil had a sudden burst of putting down a new landscape tile, and using a couple of amphoras, he built several streets in one turn and was close to making a connection of his own. Jon had to do some highly inefficient building to block Neil’s progress, but soon had only a handful of buildings left and was looking favourite to get them down first. However, unknown to Neil, he didn’t have the necessary cards to get them all laid, allowing Neil the opportunity to sneak in himself. But Neil also ran into a resource deficit, which meant that Jon just managed to get his last building down for the win.

Council of Verona
Amanda, Jon and Dan all wanted ‘light and fluffy’, so this was an opportunity for Dan to bring out one of his latest purchases. A handful of cards and a few wooden tokens. And all contained within an unnecessarily sturdy little box. Would there be a real game in there, or was it going to be another Love Letter  (ie in Jon’s opinion, a non-game that’s worth throwing off a ferry…)?
Players draft a hand of 4 cards, which represent characters from Romeo and Juliet, who are either Montagues, Capulets or neutrals. Players take it in turns to place a card in either the Council, or in exile, and then activate their action. They can then place a scoring token face down on one of the scoring cards (if available). Once all cards are played, the scoring cards and tokens are revealed and resolved, and players collect their points. Rinse and repeat x 3.
The interesting wrinkle comes with the ‘expansion’, which gives players a ‘poison’ token, which if played, will kill the character and not allow it to score. However, as with the scoring tokens, they are played face down, so it becomes a tricky game of bluff and trying to read your opponents.
Amanda was finding it hard to score points, and was questioning the amount of control that players could exert. However, Jon and Dan were doing their best to shaft each other, and enjoying the experience. Jon managed to score points in every round, and ran out winner.
So what were the thoughts regarding this latest micro-game? Amanda didn’t appear to be overly impressed, but both Dan and Jon were very positive. The expansion tokens are a must, and with them, you have a terrific little filler, with plenty of interaction and some clever card-play. And all in a bullet-proof box.
Jon 16; Dan 12; Amanda 7

Mad City
This was a game that Neil, Jon and Tom had played at the recent UK Games Expo, and Neil had been sufficiently impressed to make a purchase. Each player has a set of 9 tiles, representing areas within a city (residential / industrial etc) along with a road network. Players then have 1 minute to rearrange the tiles to maximise scoring which is based upon putting like areas together. There is a small bonus for the longest road, and for the first person to finish rearranging their tiles. First to 100
points wins. And that’s it. There is a more advanced game, but the ‘light and fluffy’ brigade were happy enough with the basic game to bother with reading the rules for this.
After the first round, Jon let out an audible groan. He had just remembered that this was a real-time speed game, and the 5th unwritten rule dictates that no-one should ever play one of these types of games with Dan (see previous reports for Adios Amigos, Galaxy Trucker, Santy Anno etc etc) as he is a speed-genius. And so it proved in this game, as he quickly sped into a healthy lead. However, Amanda and Jon were catching on quickly, and were soon constructing some efficient zones within their cities. Dan and Amanda were competing to build the longest roads, whereas Jon seemed happy to construct multiple little cul-de-sacs, and take the first player bonus several times.
The final round began with Dan having a few points advantage over Jon and Amanda, and after a frantic final minute of city building, it was all over, with the scores ending closer than anyone had imagined. Dan had still triumphed though, retaining his reputation as the king of speed…
Dan 108; Jon 106; Amanda 102

Amanda took her leave, so Dan pulled out this game that works well (if not best) with 2 players.
The swings of power in Innovation can be quite incredible. Dan pulled out into a big early lead thanks to having lots of military symbols in his tableau, whilst Jon had almost none, leaving him free to pull off the same combo on a number of consecutive rounds. However, Jon then managed to start picking up cards from a future age (more powerful) which enabled him to get back into the race.
Dan had a more varied tableau, giving him more flexibility, and soon found himself only one short of the required number of innovations. But Jon was able to find a neat combo that allowed him take a couple of high numbered cards each turn, and Dan’s only response was to immediately destroy them. However, Jon’s ability to pick up higher cards soon paid off, as he delved into the game-clinching 10th deck, and pulled off a very tight victory.
There is a bit to think about in this game, with all the icons and needing to look at your opponent’s tableau, which is why 2-player seems to be a good fit for a 45 minute game.

By the way follks,  if you can find your way to our guild you can read about Gareth I's cracking 2-player boardgames club, which it seems Jon would be interested in...