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.

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