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.

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