Wednesday, 27 August 2014

You Can't Go On, Thinking Nothing's Wrong...

The assembled boardgamers (L-R):  Gareth II; Andy; Dan; Waitress; Phil

A very short blog this week since only our poor souls managed to venture down to the banks of the Thames.  A report was provided to me by the lovely Dan (although classified as "not a report").  But before we get to that, the final list of listens for the week:

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - East/West
Mickey Newbury - An American Trilogy (Possible pick of the month - along with Lee Hazlewood)
Cousteau - S/T
Stevie Wonder - Innervisions
Bombino - Nomad
Billy Preston - That's The Way God Planned It
Ellen Foley - Nightout
Slave - Just a Touch of Love

By the way, anyone venturing into the Oxfam Music Shop in Ealing Broadway or Acton Recycling Charity Shop on South Ealing Road, I have recently got rid of all those albums that I haven't listened to in years - I need space for new arrivals.  Help yourselves - they're all exemplary of course *cough*.  Any way, onwards!

It was a cosy night for just the four of us in the end, although apparently somebody was asking around for us at the bar and left before anybody arrived. We were also almost joined by a random couple at one point, but they preferred to settle down with the pub's copy of Jenga instead of the meagre fair that was scattered on the IBG games table.

Games played were Dead of Winter: A Crossroads GameAirships, and who is going to drive Phil home tonight?

Dead of Winter

Gareth II was a Betrayer but was just a single morale point away from preventing the main objective from completing. He also couldn't quite fully arm the private army that he was amassing to help him usurp the colony and invest himself as dictator for life (no matter how short that may eventually become) and so would not have been able to claim victory even if conditions had turned out more suitable for him.

I had my victory condition, which was to rescue helpless survivors, handed to me on a plate by Gareth who was bringing them in by the van load as a by product of raising his troops. The plus side was that I was able to focus on doing good for the community overall and slaughtered so many zombies that we were able to pile their heads up as a makeshift barricade (that's not really part of the game, I'm just paraphrasing my fevered imagination). As we had to collect usable samples in the hope of finding a cure, this was a big contributor to completing the main objective.

Phil also completed his personal victory condition, all by himself this time, and spent most of the game rummaging around in the Grocery Store banging bin lids together making a god awful racket. This resulted in a number of his survivors being devoured by the shambling hordes that he was attracting with all that noise.

Andy's goal was a bit more pessimistic; in a fit of pique during a low period he had to pile up some wooden barricades around the colony, soak them in petrol, and set the whole thing alight. Not a plan with the repercussions thoroughly thought out, but it was his to implement and not an easy one to complete. We were deliberately attracting as many zombies to the colony as possible in order to knock their blocks off to collect samples, and the overwhelming number of them kept crushing the barricades. At one point we also voted the resolution of an event to end with more barricades being destroyed, so it was an uphill struggle for Andy all game long.


New to both Phil and Andy, but easy to learn and get stuck straight into.

I started by spending my bonus tokens like they were gong out of fashion to secure some early red dice. Andy was the first to build an airship but I promptly stole the bonus marker from him with one of my own. He then made a booboo by replacing a building that was providing white dice with one that converts white to red, promptly leaving him with not enough white dice to make the conversion. Gareth kept struggling with near misses on his dice rolls and couldn't capitalise on the excess of bonus markers he was generating as a result. Phil built a monster dice throwing engine but left it too late in the game to start it up on acquiring VPs, and the game ended before he could properly exploit his position. My early charge for VPs and push for a quick end were enough to secure a convincing victory.
I can't remember who scored what but I had something like seventeen points and a six or seven point lead over the closest competitor.

Some interesting things learnt last night: Phil may be all coy about games that don't involve trains or farmers but he has a secret past as a D&D Dungeon Master; Gareth II is unable to read out loud in anything more audible than a mumble; and dice hate Andy but only when he isn't rolling a bunch of sixes (or fives or eights).

After receiving Dan's report, I asked all of the four players to provide a retrospective opinion of the games played and received a response from all of them:


It is good, yes. I was dubious about the zombies beforehand but they are more of a MacGuffin than the central part of the game. Actually, they are more of a timer for making bad stuff happen and you either drain your resources to get rid of them or take big risks in letting them pile up. The game is more focused on the survival of the colony and personal choices than you would expect from something containing the Z word.

The traitor mechanic is hands down the finest implementation I've seen in any game; the lines are really blurred as not only might there not be one in the game at all, but every honest player also has their own rather selfish objective to complete at the expense of the shared objective so you are all kind of traitorous to a certain degree. If there is a betrayer then their task is not as straightforward as simply tanking the game for everyone else, they must instead achieve something which will require them to co-operate for most or even all of the game if they are to pull it off.

The much vaunted crossroad cards were quite a nice feature. I don't know if they really make the game or not but it was nice to have some random events that added a bit of story and which made sense by being tied to specific locations, characters, and situations. There was one weird moment where we had Christmas fall at the end of January, but I guess that the survivors were all a bit disoriented and hadn't checked their calendars for a while.

I'm not sure what the other guys thought as we were a mixed bag of gaming tastes but it seemed to go down OK with everyone and Phil refrained from stabbing me with his steak knife, so that's a good sign.


While I would rather play Dead of Winter than Love Letter or indeed Through the Ages, I am hoping to play something else for the foreseeable future. We were fortunate no one rolled the "instant death" result.

I'd be happy to play Airships again though.  Thanks Gareth. 


Did somebody say Through The Ages?


*mumble mumble*

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Jon Wooden Trio Plays Chudyk's Brew

The blog's music theme continues.  I hope that enjoy this lovely archive picture of band leader, Jon Wooden, blowing on his favourite clarinet, Sindy.

Albums of the week as per usual:

Lee Hazlewood - The LHI Years Singles: Singles, Asides and Backsides
Wings - Band on the Run
Dion (DiMucci not Celine Dion, you smartarses) - S/T
Seu Jorge - The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions
Steve Miller Band - Book of Dreams
Free - Fire and Water

Now, onwards, to first class reporting!

Valley of the Kings (thanks Jon)

Jon had brought along his latest purchase and Tom, or one, was keen to give it a go. So a two player game was set up – and then Gary arrived. And then Lucas joined in. So a four player adventure it would be.
This is a deck-builder with some nice twists thrown into the mix. Each card has a monetary value, a special action, and a points value, so players must choose what they wish to use the card for (usually you want to use all three!). Cards will only score points for the players if ‘entombed’ during a player’s turn, which effectively removes them from the game. Therefore the game boils down to an issue of timing – entomb your cards too soon, and you lose the ability to buy more expensive and valuable cards, but leave it too late, and you may not get to entomb them at all, making them worthless at game end.

Gary was the only one to have played before and started entombing his starter cards from the first turn. Tom was also keen to start filling his tomb with goods for the afterlife, whereas Lucas and Jon were keeping their powder dry for the time being. The starter cards are interesting in the sense that they have a low monetary value (1), and a negligible points value (1), and their special abilities aren’t particularly useful for the first few rounds. Therefore, the temptation is to entomb them (or trash / sacrifice them) asap in order to thin your deck out. However, their special abilities (protection from attack / adjusting which cards are available to purchase / putting new purchases on top of your deck) become really useful as the game wears on, so it’s a tricky choice over what to do with them.

After the mid-point of the game, each player had made a choice about which set(s) of cards they were trying to collect (cards have a greater points value if you collect sets of them) and were starting to entomb in earnest. There were also a few ‘attack’ cards in play, and Jon managed to force everyone to discard down to three cards twice in succession in the late game. The game has a set ‘timer’ (draw deck runs out completely and all players have had equal turns) which gives everyone fair warning that they should be getting as many cards into their tomb as possible. Gary was struggling with this, as he was finding it hard to entomb more than one card per turn, whereas Jon and Tom were often managing to get two cards entombed, thanks to some neat special abilities.

When the game did eventually finish, Jon had succeeded in collecting a set of six statues, which gave him 36 points on their own, and it was this that enabled him to win by a reasonably comfortable margin.
This is a great little game (in a bullet-proof box) which gives several interesting decisions each turn, and which looks like it will scale well from 2-4 players. All in all – a hit! (well – with Jon anyway…) (Ed:  And me despite my dreadful performance.  Have even snagged myself a copy!)

Jon 48; Gary 33; Lucas 31; Tom 25

Chinatown (thanks Jon)

Four players looking for a game, and after much debate and ‘veto-ing’, Chinatown was the mutually acceptable choice. And then Lucas was persuaded to stay and join in too.

This was James’ original German (Alea) version of the game – not very pretty, but functional. It also contained some random event cards, but more on that later.

Dom had a dream start, being dealt three adjacent lots in the middle of a block, along with three identical ‘6’ value tiles. Therefore, he did not need to do much negotiation. Jon started a ‘4’ value Nursery, whilst both James and Jon had 2 x ‘6’ value Radio Shops. But would either of them hand them over to the other? Andy started with a bit of a mish-mash, as did Lucas, and Andy waited a couple of rounds before committing to placing tiles on the board (which probably led to his downfall).

At the beginning of the second (or was it third?) round Jon needed a fourth Nursery tile to complete his set. James was given one in the tile draw and immediately began excitedly negotiating with Jon (Ed:  which we could hear word for word from across the room!) – waxing lyrical about how much it was worth to him. Jon let him rant on for a good minute and a half, before calmly explaining that he himself had also been given a Nursery in the tile draw, and therefore James’ tile was excess to requirements. Priceless.

This was almost as funny as last week during Libertalia, when James played the Parrot, and then chose to place his replacement character right at the head of the line, expecting a fine haul of booty. However, in his excitement and haste, he had failed to realise that Jon had played the Brute, which immediately killed off James’ newly placed character. Oh how we chuckled (Ed:  any more embarassing James moments, please send on a postcard to IBG Blog Editor, Under Kew Bridge, Kew).

Anyway, returning to Chinatown, Dom had succeeded in creating a set of six tiles, and was raking in the cash. James had soon joined him, following some dodgy wheeling and dealing. Jon had completed a couple of ‘4’ sets, and Andy had finally achieved a board position. Meanwhile Lucas was mumbling bad words under his breath in French...

The final round arrived, and as usual, there aren’t quite so many deals being done, as everyone can calculate the value of each deal pretty accurately. The dust settled, the cash was counted, and as expected, Dom had come out on top, although not by as much as had possibly been expected, with only $8k separating the top 3 players.

The difference with this version of Chinatown, however, was that there was an ‘event card’ turned over each round which gave bonuses to certain tiles on the board (eg $1k for each ‘5’ or ‘6’ tile on the board). The trouble was, there were 9 cards, and only 6 were used in the game. This meant that there was an uneven payout for each tile, which introduced a rather unwelcome random factor into the game. For instance, due to Dom’s initial tile draw, he happened to be collecting the ‘6’ value tiles, and these paid out rather handsomely in the middle of the game. However, there was less of a payout for the ‘3’ tiles, as their bonus card did not get drawn. Jon benefitted from the ‘4’ card being drawn in the final round, although it could just as easily have been a ‘no payout’ card. This would have been a huge swing of cash, which had nothing to do with the negotiations or skill of the players. I guess that’s why Z-Man took it out of their reprint!

But never mind – it was still a great game!

Dom $114k; Jon $109k; James $106k; Lucas $88k; Andy$ 76k


Dan had brought along his current game of choice, Suburbia, and with me also anxious to have another game and Paul also a willing participant, we had quite the menage a trois ready to experiment with the expansion.  Jon did briefly flirt with us but having gorged himself silly on the Suburbia app instead opted for a different kind of city planning in Chinatown.

As the game was set up, I idly mentioned that I had trumped over Dan in three of our previous four outings.  This was contested by Dan to his inevitable folly!

With goals welcoming expansion in business (blue), a brevity of residences (green) and an overall plethora of zones (most non-lake hexagons), we were off!  Paul spent a good deal of his initial cash on a Law Office which breaks ties in respect of any Goals, basically securing him the green Goal from the outset.  The problem was that he had blown all of his capital on this tile, meaning that he was constantly fighting throughout the rest of the game to push either his income or population beyond 4 on his tracker.  Taking into account that both mid-term goals rewarded high income streams, he was also unable to benefit from either mid-term benefits.

I on the other hand had both of these goals in sight so with a one-two combo of Fancy Restaurant (+3 income) and Slaughterhouse (negating the negative income if any further restaurants were built), I was on my way.  Unfortunately, thereafter, matters become somewhat hazy.  I've become a bit of an idiot savant at Suburbia - entering into a form of fugue state where I can see what best benefits my city without quite understanding why.

Dan, on the other hand, knows exactly what he and other players are doing but this has the opposite effect of stifling his play as I and Paul regularly go off script.  Dan was helped by an early Casino which prevented him losing any income if he crossed a red line.  This didn't stop him from uttering at some stage "Tom must be cheating!" upon seeing my double figure income and population tracks.

By game's end, my huge population growth had finally pushed my income into catastrophic negative figures but as it was the last turn there was no effect on my population.  This left me ahead of Dan (who despite his best efforts hadn't been able to haul in my early lead) and Paul languishing well off the pace.  Only goals to go and my victory would be confirmed.

The residence goal went to Paul, naturally.  Then, the business goal (but I thought that Dan had a blue strategy running - never mind).  Then the hexagon goal!  Paul was now 18 points behind me and had overtaken Dan.  I revealed my secret goal - most grey buildings - which thankfully I had secured by acquiring a late EPA Office.  15 points to me.  Paul revealed his - also worth 15 points!  I had triumphed although Paul pointed out that had he chosen his other secret goal at the start, he would have triumphed as it provided 20 points!  What an incredible game to which the expansion adds untold riches.

Tom: 1st  Paul: 2nd  Dan: 3rd

Greed (thanks Paul)

Dan scarpered when Greed was put on the table - surely says something about his generous spirit being threatened. That left two in Tom and Paul who were actively looking forward to a bout of selfishness. Both questioned if the game would work with two.  The lowest number that either had tried it with previously was three and the dynamic would be quite different, as each drafting deck would return every other round.  (Ed:  this was especially considering how badly Sushi Go works with two and the fact that Antoine Bauza is currently working on a two player only version of 7 Wonders)

Paul started off by playing the action to get just as much money as the player to his left. That'd be Tom who played the Thug which gives money, only to have to pay back more at the game end (Ed:  Oh, Generous Jenny.  Not so generous of spirit this time around).  After this Paul went on a Thugfest, laying down tough guys for the next four rounds, including one to take extra cards for all of the keys he'd laid, which totalled four.

In the meantime, Tom started to get some money in and put down a holding or two.  Then Paul played the card to replay each of the abilities from the Thugs already in front of him, so he took another four cards and also stung Tom for some of his hard earned cash.

Undeterred Tom continued with a balanced approach playing several holdings, some thugs and some nifty actions, and so gained cash, bonus markers and was still building by the time the last cards were played.  But it was too little, too late. Paul's early Thugs and late holdings gave him the win, and allowed him to claim the title King of Greed.  (Ed:  Too little!?  I guess so.  Shouldn't have let you take The Ritz!)

Scores: Paul 220, Tom 170

Both players agreed that it was actually a very good game with two, much to their surprise. It gave more control and turned it more strategic, instead of banking on slightly more luck when a player gets to draft from each deck every few hands. Well worth another play like this.  (Ed:  You're not wrong, Paul.  I loved it.  Just a shame that Queen have plonked such an outrageous price on the game!)

Win Lose Banana

With Paul having departed after his Greed triumph and the Chinatown possee disbanding at the same time, Tom, Dom and Jon sat down for a relaxed chat.  Whilst chatting, Tom pulled out his copy of Flowerfall (acquired for a steal at UK Games Expo) and began undoing the shrink on the cards only to discover that included not one but two of his grail game, Win Lose or Banana to which the only player count is three!  Incroyable!

Jon upon hearing about the game's complicated ruleset was incredibly excited to play, as was Dom.  Essentially, there are three cards:  Win, Lose or Banana.  The cards are shuffled and dealt out following which the player who holds the Win card announces that fact.  The Win player then has to determine which of the other players holds the Banana.  If he gusesses right, both the Win and Banana players win.  If not, quelle horreur, as the Lose player triumphs!  It's basically The Resistance in one minute.

So the cards were dealt.  Jon announced himself as the Win player.  As I was holding the Banana, I entreated Jon to choose me.  Dom bluffed by enquiring what sex the Banana was.  Stupidly, I did not riposte that bananas do not have genitalia but instead said that it was a girl, pointing at Jon's win card as proof.  The battle was lost.  Jon picked Dom, only for Dom to reveal the Lose card.  Dom had won.  After Dom's lap around the room had finished, Jon deemd WLB s worthy of throwing off a ferry (a la Lost Legacy) as a gift to the God of Games, the mighty Manatee.

See, Jon.  This is what happens when you keep not bringing Mayday! Mayday! on a Wednesday!

Dom - Won; Tom - Lost;  Jon - Silly Banana


After the agony and the ecstasy of WLB, the Jon Wooden Trio opted for the atual game that I had chosen before we got sidetracked, Flowerfall.

Essentially, a deck of cards, each player is provided with an identical set of 12 cards, each with the same back.  The only difference in the cards is the colour of certain flowers which denote that player's colour.  Larger terrain cards are placed on the table and (after shuffling their respective decks) each player drops the top card from their deck onto the table which a view to controlling each discrete green area with their coloured flowers.  Points for each area are determined by the number of generic green flowers (of which their are several on the card backs, giving players an interesting choice each turn of increasing their control or points).

The rules are a small double sided sheet and naturally the first question was whether the players were obligated to aim for the terrain cards at the outset, as opposed to creating their own small fiefdoms.  It was unviersally agreed that fiefdoms were out of the question.  I then naturally completely missed both terrain cards with my first drop and watched as the card flipped before ending up in front of Dom.  A fine start.
The game soon developed into a back and forth as areas were developed, overtaken and quashed by each subsequent drop.  Dom was having real trouble due in no small part to his unfortunate knack in covering his own cards.  This meant that a back and forth was developing between Jon and me.  Jon, however, couldn't grasp control of the key are with his last drop, leaving me as the winner.

This has been sat on my shelf for three months and don't I feel the fool.  An incredibly fun little filler - I'll definitely be bringing it along next time.

Tom 14;  Jon 7;  Dom 0

Nations (thanks Neil)

What Gazza said...
"If you could [do the write up] as I'm home alone with children this week so without downtime at work to write reports! I know the scores in Speed Nations were Dan 49, Gary 34 and you were in the 20s if it helps... and that you and I essentially ran out of stone in the last couple of rounds so couldn't achieve very much... and that I was proud to end up the most civilised empire by the fact that I finished with most heritage (even if that isn't the aim of the game...!)"

What he means by all of that is: the children will be placed firmly in front of tv/xbox/playstation/cardboard box and told to entertain themselves all day while he studies the Nations forums to work out what the hell it was that Nasher - ta! - did to accumulate all those points.

The definition of 'Speed Nations':  rules run through in eight minutes; Dan reminds Neil and Gary we're playing at speed, they play at speed; Dan takes all the minutes saved by pushing Neil and Gary into sub-par actions and takes as long as he jolly well needs to find THE perfect move.

As Gary suggests both he and I ran out of fuel, as well as time, and thus I let Nasher have even more time in the final two rounds in which to seek perfection. Gary played the conscientious objector role and so Nasher went a warmongering. Gary's heritage - his two children tied to something in the lounge as I write - is secure and peaceful.

Do I mention that the game came out again at the weekend, Philip and Dan were superbly taught by myself into a tight finish between the two of them. I was still congratulating myself on the rules run through to bother playing myself and finished with 18 points - hell, you start with seven!! Dan pipped 'Pip' as he likes to call him, by three points.  I'm glad I did mention this as it explains why I can't remember enough of either game to tell you who played which nation even, confusion reigns/rains...  (Ed: that's what you get for spending your free weekend playing lots of lovely games instead of writing up your report!)

Final IBG Scores; Dan II - 49, Gary - 34, Neil - 25.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Life is like a Hurricane, Here in Isleworth

Right ho, venerable readers, your music homework for this week is as follows:

Doris Troy - Doris Troy
Cory Branan - The No-Hit Wonder
Joe Pug - Live at Lincoln Hall
The Meters - Cabbage Alley

On with the reports!


James had brought along with a gang of three work-mates: Donny, Denny and Mehdi.  Apologies, boys, if this isn't completely on the nose - it does however work for comedic reasons relating to the similarity that this has to Huey, Dewey and Louie.  Let us all now pause to imagine James jumping off a diving board into a pool of gold coins.  Now to back to our regular programming.

So, to commence proceedings, Scrooge, his nephews, Gareth II, Dom and I settled for a game of Saboteur.  Somehow, despite having now been attending IBG for almost three years, I have never before played Saboteur.  Playing wth three other newbies and Gareth II (who as usual wears his heart and allegiances on his forehead) wasn't the greatest of introductions to a game which relies entirely on the interaction between the players (much like The Resistance, for example).

After the preliminaries, it soon became pretty clear very early on where the gold was when Denny asked exactly how the gold should look.  The following round, he outed himself as a Saboteur by breaking the tool of Mehdi who had done nothing to afford such a card-based slap across the chops.  I, meanwhile, as a fellow saboteur, was doing my best to get rid of any useful cards out of my hand, having been dealt approximately three dead ends from the get go.  Dom, to my right, was playing an intelligent game but James was soon pointing his crooked finger at him with a shout of "J'accuse!".  James's beady eye was soon cast upon me as well meaning that all three saboteurs had effectively been outed.

Things thereafter entered into a rote sequence of breaking and mending of tools with a brief spot of Gareth II berating poor old Denny every other turn for trying to lay a route whilst holding a broken axe.  In spite of the saboteurs having been identified relatively early (and perhaps helped by Mehdi's discard of a useful rockfall), it became apparent a good few turns before the end that the expedition was doomed.  I had therefore triumphed over the mean bully boy Sinden.  Huzzah!

Tom, Gareth and Denny:  Victors!   Team Scrooge:  Losers!


Faced with a breakdown of 4-4-3 (with the unconventional use of the goalkeeper to shore up the midfield), Gary, Phil and I embarked to the big table next to the river to house the Yedo and its beautiful (yet bloody gigantic) board.

Cutting to the chase, Yedo is a bit of a behemoth.  Three hours (and eleven game years ) after I had started to unpack various meeples and counters, the scores were finally being totted up.  At the same time, it doesn't feel at the end like your brain has been in a boxing match with Mike Tyson (like Power Grid) - rather, it's a game where you are engaged from the offset but everything moves at such a pace that it doesn't feel overly heavy.

There is player interaction but that is for all intensive purposes limited to the bidding phase, control of the watch patrol and, perhaps, most importantly, ensuring that you are able to place your peons in such a fashion to be able to undertake missions as effectively as possible.

There is an element of worker placement but as Gary identified during the post-game pow wow, the vast majority of the options available will not suit your needs on any given round.  There are some options that are usually worthwhile (the majority of which are concentrated in the harbour area) but purchasing resources is usually prohibitively expensive - at least compared to the comparative winning bid price.  Instead, everything is driven towards acquiring an infrastructure (in terms of weapons, geishas and annexes) which will then allow the players to complete more difficult missions, in turn acquiring greater rewards, with little downtime between each mission as possible.

Keeping this in mind, I rather lucked towards the later stages picking up a number of missions which required a dojo and weapons master, the only two annexes I had.  This allowed me to build up a considerable bank of cash (key to my hidden end game object of most money) which in turn gave me decent control of the bidding phase.

Phil was looking good for a while, helped by his refusing to trade his shuriken to me (which was essential to some of my high level missions).  However, he had been using a number of action cards to avoid the gaze of the watch patrol.  Acccordingly, come Round 10, I lulled him into a false sense of security by placing one of my workers with one of his in the Castle, located two steps down from the patrol.  Phil duly added another worker only to see me play two action cards:  the first to move my worker out of the area and then moving the patrol an extra space where his two men were situated.  Phil, powerless, duly moved his workers back into their purgatory, leaving him with only two workers available to him for the next few rounds.  A lesson for all us on the risks posed by the Watch Patrol!

This really put the skids on Phil's progress and, despite my being stopped from being able to complete my black mission in hand on account of the Temple being blocked by Gary and Phil, I still managed the win.

For another account of how the game ran out, here's the lovely Monsieur Barnetto:

"Sensei(sic) Gary, sadly, started the game blissfully unaware that this is no ordinary worker placement game! He merrily recruited workers in the first two rounds, dreaming Agricola-style dreams of extra actions without the feeding cost (albeit a little befuddled by why there may be so little early competition for said workers)! Sadly, he was totally misguided - and further hampered by his spendthrift approach to the bidding in the first few rounds. His failure to recruit geishas and buildings meant that he had little he could do with his four early recruits - so befuddled was he by this twist on the worker placement he even resorted to profligately using two people (at the palace and then converting the acquired VP to 3 mon) that he could simply have achieved by placing one to raid the church of the same amount! His other early "strategy" involved buying weapons it turned out that he had no use for... a sad sight really!

Around turns 3 and 4 the light did begin to dawn and Sensei(sic) Gary finally managed to please the emperor and make a reasonable fist of completing a few "quests", but really it was all too late."
I think that Gary's being a bit harsh on himself here!  Acquiring the workers early isn't always a bad thing.  The majority of the green cards require only one worker to be activated.  If you manage to set up a position where able to complete a good number of green missions early on then you can establish a sizeable money lead and subsequently a bit more flexiblity in terms of how to approach completing your missions in hand.  I think the most interesting aspect of Gary's play was his focus on completing as many missions, as quickly as possible, often foresaking the bonus elements.

Finally, Gary and I have reached the conclusion that Yedo cannot possibly be classified as a Euro as Phil didn't win it!

Tom 47,  Gary 36,  Phil 34

Port Royal (II) (thanks Jon)

Four players looking for something to close the evening out with – Jon had learned Port Royal a couple of hours earlier, so offered to pass on his knowledge to the others, hoping that he had remembered all the rules correctly.

James was collecting the cards that gave him bonuses for trading with different coloured ships, but the game probably didn’t last long enough for him to gain the full benefit of this. Dom appeared to start slowly, but was soon raking in cash due to the Admiral, who gave bonuses if he revealed five cards without busting (not particularly difficult to do). Gareth II appeared to have his eyes set on sailing to victory with expedition cards (financed by some black ship bonuses), but only got one expedition completed before game end.  Jon was relying on his multiple mademoiselles to give him some juicy discounts off some valuable cards, but could not get this engine going in enough time to achieve the magic 12 points.

And so, it was Dom who quietly collected sufficient points to end the game, with no-one else in a position to challenge.

This is a fantastic little game – simple to pick up, several viable strategies, a healthy dose of luck and works well with different player counts. It’s one of those games which continues to prove the adage that a great game doesn’t need anything more than a deck of cards and some creativity. I’m just surprised that it wasn’t John B that introduced it to me!

Dom 12; Jon 9; Gareth 8; James 6

I cant remember who won the first game of Port Royal, but it wasn’t me – therefore it must have been Gary or Tonio! Probably Gary, as Tonio taught it and teachers never win (unless they are James, which is because he teaches half the rules wrong…)  (Ed:  Using my bat like hearing, I do recall overhearing Gary doing his customary dance of joy so it must have been him)

Finally, there was a game of Libertalia in which I heard that James triumphed but I have received no report via email, post or carrier pigeon so will happily assume that the reports were wrong and that Mr Wooden was in fact triumphant instead.  Pirates Cove was played too but that report was apparently lost in the Bermuda Triangle.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

To The Funny Farm

Right, unlike Paul, Neil and Jon ( what on earth got into you boys?) I have nothing to put forward in terms of my own board gaming habits.  I will therefore use this particular soap box to bludgeon you all with my immaculate taste in music.  So, be prepared for a weekly dose of the albums I'm currently grooving to.  No time like the present:

  • American Music Club - Mercury
  • Nathalie Merchant - S/T
  • Wye Oak - Shriek
  • The Jayhawks - Tomorrow, The Green Grass
  • Paul & Linda McCartney - Ram
  • The Flame - The Flame (1970s South African Power Poppers cum future Beach Boys)
  • Jenny Lewis - The Voyager
  • John Cale - Fear

Go forth and improve your record collections, my disciples!  But, in the meantime, some reports.


Having expressed an interest in playing DXV's latest Queen design (following an initial run with a 40 degree temperature at UK Games Expo back in May), I was very pleased to see it laid out on the table upon my entry into the Apprentice's hallowed upstairs chamber.  This pleasure was matched by the sight of the ragtag group of individuals positioned around the game:  James "The Collector" Sinden; Phil "Mr Linguine" Thomas; Paul "The Model" Dawsey; and Natasha (in all her ruddy glory).

Frankly, with this game, in the initial stages, there are so many cards in hand that it is almost impossible to effectively control the cards being passed left (as at least one will be useful to the left hand player's engine).  This soon switches to there being so few cards available that you simply want to choose a card that will somehow progress your position whilst balancing the benefits to the future recipient of the remaining cards. Accordingly, heads go down and not much attention is paid to what others are doing so this may well read as an exercise in solipsism.

After a very brief rules refresher, we pressed ahead.  Naturally, I misread the card in my first play, resulting in an income of bugger all which somewhat crippled me from the offset (although subsequent thefts by Paul and Phil meant that there was little to no effect upon my final balance).  Thanks to a Seance, I was able to play two cards out of hand relatively early on.  Matching this with no ability or willingness to draw cards from the pile, I was left with a relatively low number of cards in hand of three.

Taking this into account with my rather narrow strategy of looking to pile as many markers as possible on my Bookies (whilst protecting it with the HQ - which is turn was insured by a late play of Insurance Office), I was left with a significant dilemma when the $45k if you hold $90k action card fell to me.  To my left, Natasha had established a beautifully efficient model whereby he was drawing in wads of cash from either playing thugs ($15k a pop) or action cards ($10k or so per gun icon of which he had three) - he was therefore rather cash rich.  Unfortunately, keeping the card for myself would mean crippling my own engine, so it had to go.  Natasha had naturally brought in another large haul of cash in the interim and the card was laid immediately thereafter.

Over the other side of the table, James had an army of thugs and Paul a rather large number of properties with matching income symbols (with almost a dozen markers in total).  Phil's empire wasn't looking particularly impressive but he's always a dark horse in games like this so he couldn't be counted out.
Nevertheless, Natasha's extra $45k saw him push for the win with approximately $15k to spare from Paul in second place.  I need to give this a few more plays to see how much variety is there but I have enjoyed both plays I've had immensely, despite being sat to the immediate right of the victor on both occasions.

The Manhattan Project (thanks Phil)

"The worker placement game where it all blows up in your face" is how I described this to Natasha during set up. Little did I realise how much I personally would contribute to that aspect of Natasha's game experience... but I digress.

I think everyone except Natasha had played before (Ed:  Not so - first game for me too), although possibly only once in my case. I picked up some cheap and fairly useless buildings at the start enabling to mine one yellow cake and train one construction worker. Paul had some early aeroplane production. James, Tom and Natasha quickly developed some efficient engines for making Plutonium, with Natasha's mine producing seven yellowcake an obvious target (Ed:  didn't stop two of you gits spying on my tiny - but essential - mine instead!).

I managed to pick up some better buildings, including some more productive mines, a couple of Uranium labs, and a building that produced three Fighters and three Money. I had no way to make Plutonium, but with only one Plutonium bomb on the table I felt fairly safe. That quickly changed when Tom took the Plutonium bomb plans, but I did manage to pick up two Uranium Bombs over the course of the game, enough for a winning score if only I could play and load them.

James was first to build the Bomb and so Paul bombed him fairly heavily, although refusing to take out his Bomber (whcih would have crippled James's ability to load any bombs he produced). I then decided, figuring Natasha had a good thing going, to bomb Natasha's massive yellowcake mine into the Stone Age - four damage which was all my bombers (I used three fighters killing Natasha's fighters and also refused to take out any Bombers).

James repaired a little, but he had enough stored Plutonium and Uranium to keep going. Meanwhile: Tom built and tested a Plutonium Bomb; I built my first bomb; amd Natasha designed extra Bombs.  Natasha had the opposite problem to me, with no Uranium production but was able to build a bomb once he'd found the Plutonium plans.

James won fairly shortly thereafter- he took the bomb plans action the turn before to get the right design for exactly 45 points. Natasha was nowhere near winning and had a large amount of yellowcake left, so my bombing action had been completely futile.  I did however have the grace to say as much to Natasha as we packed up.

Tom's Two Cents:  I enjoyed my first play of this but it's certainly one which will require a few more goes to get a proper feel for it.  In this game, I built up a rather lovely engine of produce three mine, produce one Uranium and then immediately convert said Uranium into three Plutonium.  However, once the required workforce was put into place to run it, I didn't quite have the cojones to push ahead with a two turn cycle (one turn of actions then immeidate pick-up next turn).  This is due in no small part to paranoia from accumulated fighter forces, the threat of spying by other players and the desire to block vital spaces on the gameboard.  As a result, I ended up with only eight points from my initial test although I was in a position to launch a 22 point Plutonium bomb on my next turn if James hadn't drawn the game to a close.


Everyone's favourite push your luck game featuring Pinchy the blue lobster and Beer Fart, the green gas monster.  Natasha had not played it before but soon got into the swing of things, whilst the rest of us were old hands.

Somehow, the game ended with all players having so many gems that each had to return 10 to the pot to finance further explorations.  Surely, not in the spirit of Diamant where at least one player (usually Dan) should be bankrupt and cursing various Gods, both denominational and non-denominational.

This led to the highlight of the game where, despite the obvious benefits of hiding your money, Phil decided to tip all of his winnings so that he could make some change thereby allowing everyone to know what he had - the magnificent fool.  Naturally, the game finished with Natasha doing his best to beat the Phil's easily calculated leading total on his final run but was just unable to pull it off due to two snakes becoming lodged in his voluminous bosom.  James had built up a head of steam towards the end of play but paid for failing to bring anything in from the first two mines, making Phil a worthy (albeit foolhardy) winner.

Coup (plus Reformation)

Having all eventually escaped the evil blue lobsters of doom, James produced the Coup: Reformation expansion to have its metaphorical cherry popped by IBG.

The C:R expansion simply introduces one additional double sided card for each player identifying them either as a Protestant or a Catholic, plus an Alms card placed in the middle of the table.  Naturally, Protestants can only target Catholics and vice versa unless all players are of the same faith in which case anything goes.

However, the twist is that the players are able to change their affiliation or the affiliation of one other player as their action, paying coins to Alms for the privilege.  A third potential action is to take all money from the Alms card if you do not have the Duke (or ate least you say that you don't which the other players can naturally challenge).  Although, only a couple of cards, C:R really gives Coup a good kick in the derriere, introducing some genuinely interesting decisions in terms of manipulating the players' various affiliations.

Paul took the first game at a canter at which point James (not so sportingly) pointed out that everyone had won a game during the evening except me.  I of course pointed out the fact that it was impossible for us all to have won since there were five of us and we had only played four games.  My future as a maths teacher is looking pretty bright right about now.  Naturally, James then offered the opportunity for me to put my money where my mouth was with a second game of Coup.

Naturally, this game ended with me in an impossible situation where either way Natasha would be able to manipulate matters so that James, the only other player left standing (Phil having miraculously gone out within two turns and Paul incurred James' sizeable wrath), would have to coup me.  This led to tears of laughter, and lots of pointing and shouting although no declarations of love or of jihad.  I was promptly deposited from my throne with Natasha put out of his misery soon thereafter.  Well, at least I didn't come last in any of the games (I think... where's Neil with his notebook when you need him?) and wasn't involved in any tie breaks (I forgot my baby oil).

Andy, Gareth I and Scott played Through the Ages on the other table.  As we left, all three were spotted doing the conga down the banks of the Thames singing loudly Napoleon XIV's one hit wonder "They're Coming To Take Me Away Hahaaa!" throwing little yellow and blue cubes into the air like confetti.  Oh, the humanity!  Since none of the boys offered me a report, they can't prove otherwise.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

A Tale of Two Eclipses

A somewhat select company for the last July evening- and the last of my blog reports. There were 7 of us, split into a four and a three, and Eclipse was the lighter of the two choices available. No flitting from game to game that night...

We begin with Gareth I's version of Eclipse- for Dan read Natasha throughout...

Eclipse (One- Gareth's tale). 

Four gamers sat down to play Eclipse, Gareth and Phil had played it quite a few times, Dan only once with the wrong rules and Tonio was a new comer. After spending around 15 minutes setting up the boards and admiring the new plastic spaceships from the expansion Gareth tried valiantly to explain the rules in 8 mins being timed by Dan unfortunately he failed and only got around 3/4 of the way through. Then the game started everybody played humans as the game was new to some. The first few rounds were quite long as people were getting to grips with the rules. Dan reluctantly made a pact with Gareth, therefore Phil and Antonio also made a pact. All of the space tiles were explored and they were laid in such a way that combat between non pact players was only viable through the centre hex.

After killing off all his aliens and a few of Gareth's Dan moved into the centre hex with his highly armoured black 'borg' cubes. He then proceeded to increase his number of ships and defensive capabilities while the other three players built up the armories in there fleets. Finally in last round combat between players commenced. Phil attacked Antonio's planets breaking the pact and taking the traitor card. Gareth using the warp drive attacked Phils home world destroying it and then went bankrupt. Dan just sat in the centre hex and watched on as everybody else rolled lots of dice. In the end Dan was the winner followed by Tonio then Phil and last was Gareth. Yet another fun game of Eclipse that allows you to roll lots of dice and in Phil's case read a book while waiting for some of the slower players to decide what they want to do.

And in between Eclipses we have a very short session report of a very long game. (Actually it ended before Eclipse did). 

Through the Ages (Andy)

For the record, Charlotte, Scott and I had a very close game of Through the Ages, which was won by Scott, with Charlotte second and me last. Not sure of the scores but there was only about seven points between first and last.

A real thriller!

So thrilling Andy remembers every move in painstaking detail... but "perhaps it would be wise not to carp or criticise" you are about to judge my own session report on the game described above by Gareth.

Eclipse (Two- Philip's tale).

An all human game of Eclipse featuring myself, Gareth, Natasha (aka Dan II) and Tonio. Tonio's first and Natasha's second game so we went all human. I was the Terran Republic, Gareth the Terran Conglomerate, Natasha the Terran Alliance and Tonio the Terran Directorate. We used the variable turn order variant, not that it really mattered and also some of the expansion techs.

Natasha started with some exploration in ring II- everyone else followed suit except that I explored ring I. Gareth pre-empted me by exploring his Ring I hex and orientating it so as to shut me out. We continued exploring and Natasha bought Improved Hull and also picked up a Cruiser from a Discovery tile.

Somehow Gareth had enough resources to buy Plasma Missiles in Turn 2, though he had to burn materials and money. I think he got lucky with some discovery tiles. Tonio bought Sentient Hull. I bought Gauss Shield and by turn 3 had 2 Cruisers which were able to take out some of the local Ancients, finding a bonus Science Discovery tile which then went towards Advanced Economy.

Natasha and Gareth met. Natasha had three cruisers to Gareth's one dreadnought with plasma missiles but they wisely decided not to fight each other and exchanged ambassadors. Tonio and I also exchanged ambassadors. For some reason there was no connection between the two halves of the Galaxy except through the Galactic Centre. Natasha swept into the centre with his cruisers, which now had plasma cannons as well as improved hull, and took it easily. Tonio and I built up defences in case Natasha moved onwards, but Natasha simply fortified the centre. Gareth had Gluon Computer by this point, so his Dreadnoughts were looking really frightening, but there was no one he could attack except Natasha and he choose not become a Traitor.

Tonio had bought Flux Missiles but quickly decided they were pretty useless (they might have been good had he been in a position to fight Gareth). I was collecting the middle row of techs, with Fusion Source and Tachyon Drive. Natasha mused about attacking Gareth and I decided to encourage him by offering an exchange of ambassadors.

Natasha, who was sitting on a pile of 10 VPs from Discoveries, had no interest in attacking Gareth, and we entered the final turns in a state of galactic peace. I picked up the Antimatter Cannon, the Zero-Point Source and, in the final turn, the Antimatter Splitter, a powerful combination which cried out to be used.

I think Tonio was nevertheless surprised when my Cruisers burst into his territory, picking three separate fights (I had three spaces to fill on my player mat). My dreadnoughts then followed suit. I had however, overlooked Gareth's purchase of the Wormhole Generator and he now invaded my territory with his super-dreadnoughts. I scraped together enough resources for a couple of starbases, causing Gareth to spend his last actions rushing even more ships into my home sector.

In the final combat my cruisers with 2 Antimatter Cannons each but no targeting computer proved surprisingly accurate, destroying Tonio's fleets in two of the three battles with him. Gareth's Plasma missiles on the other hand, despite their Gluon Computer, almost failed to destroy my two star bases. Almost- and Gareth's Neutron bombs did the rest, though he could not take the sectors because he had run out of discs.

Gareth's victory was Pyrrhic though. He had placed all his discs, out spending not only his income but his stored resources, and as the sectors he controlled all had money planets, he was unable to stave off bankruptcy, the first time I have seen a player go totally bankrupt.

Meanwhile Natasha, with his four starbases, 2 dreadnoughts and 4 cruisers in the Galactic Centre, had not fought anything apart from Ancients...

Gareth bankrupt Philip 22 Tonio 30 Natasha 37.

As someone said on Boardgamegeek, although the game was indeed all human, all Terran is the more exact phrase. 

Now, since my blogging days are about to pass into that strange land where IBG play:

I'd just like to say how much I've enjoyed writing the blog over the years, despite my recent slacking, and I hope that my successors will carry on the great tradition.

("Perhaps it would be wise not to carp or criticise") is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance