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...


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