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.