Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Le Havre
This week’s report is being filed from the Channel. Yes, I have run away catching a ferry at noon from Portsmouth today, dumping my entire games collection overboard on the trip to Le Havre. Whether I return or not is yet to be decided!

Anyway, last week. Mrs Hora took priority for Wed evening entertainments and I missed the chance to play some great games, damn. Rumours and gossip abound and here’s what I garnered from it all..

Attendees: James, Gareth II, Paul II, Tom II, Tom III (now to be known as ‘mitten’! [WHAT??], Dan, Natasha, Tonio, John, Jon, Philip, Arturo, Dom, Jim.

Playlist: Splendor, Essen: The Game Spiel 2013, Imperial Settlers, Terra Mystica, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Deus, Valley of the Kings, Forbidden Desert 

One Night Werewolf (thanks Jon!)

Noel had previously vetoed this game on the basis of a poor experience with it in the US – however, he was not here to pour cold water on it this evening, so James managed to get it to the table – with Jon, Tom(s) and Dan being the other protagonists.

The premise is simple – everyone gets a role (Werewolf / Villager / Miscellaneous idiots) – and then a night phase occurs (i.e. everyone closes their eyes) when various characters can do various things with various other role cards. The day begins, and the ‘good guys’ have 5 mins to winkle out the werewolves, who in turn need to throw suspicion on others.

Out of the 3 games played. The werewolves won once when, ironically, there weren’t actually any werewolves in play, but the paranoid villagers still managed to sacrifice one of their own. To be fair, with James, Dan and Jon all playing a hidden role game together, the level of suspicion does tend to run rather high….

I’m not sure about this one. It’s quick, which is always good news, but I’m not sure about how replayable it is. The strategy for the villagers appears to be – get everyone to reveal as much info as possible, then get the seer (if there is one) to confirm if anyone is obviously lying. Then decide which of the 2/3 dodgy players you believe most. I’m sure that there’s more to it than that, and when the more complex roles are introduced, there will likely be multiple levels of suspicion and misdirection. However, I think I would still err on the side of the Resistance or Mayday Mayday when it comes to social deduction games. And whatever happened to 2 Rooms and a Boom?!

Not as bad as Noel had made out, though……

Essen 2013 (cheers Jon)

Having both been at the Essen Spiel in 2013, this was a trip down memory lane for James and Jon – and Tom II joined in for the ride as well. This is heavily thematic, with players having to race around the fair, buying too many games for far too much money, and then taking them back to the car-park to cram into Neil’s car. It was almost like being there….

There are big bonuses to be had for picking up games that are on your ‘shopping list’, as well as picking up certain numbers of different game genres. The crowd of gamers will also randomly turn up on your location and slow you down to a crawl – and if you’re already crawling due to a bursting bag of games, then that pretty much means coming to a halt!

The game plays relatively quickly, although the last couple of days were characterised by a bit of min-maxing, as players (Ok – mostly Jon) tried to calculate exactly how many games they could pick up and still return to the car-park in the same turn to unload and return to the fray.

In the end, James pulled comfortably away from the rest, as would be expected by the ‘Master of Essen’, with Tom and Jon sharing 2nd place together, after having failed to pick up quite as many bonuses as James.

The verdict: great theming, and a real nostalgia trip, as the game contains the actual box art from many of the new releases from Essen 13, as well as the publishers’ stands being in pretty much the same place as they actually were at the event. The game itself is pretty fun, and the random nature of the games’ appearances should make it replayable. There were a few random elements (crowd / shopping list cards) which could really affect players’ actions and scores, but otherwise, it was fairly solid. I think that the turn order needs looking at (clockwise from the player with the least games in his bag) as this can give an advantage to the player that already has the most actions in a particular round, and a disadvantage to the player on their right, but I think that this has already been noted on the BGG forums. Anyway, definitely not worth throwing off a ferry. The only things missing from a true Essen 2013 experience are the marvellous range of Jacket Potatoes on offer, and the gorgeous blonde playing Mayday Mayday. Sigh……….

Terra Mystica (thanks Philip)

Myself, Dan II (aka Natasha), Paul and Arturo playing the expansion. Arturo's first game ever, Natasha's first game with expansion, Paul's 2nd game ever (and 2nd with expansion), my 3rd game with the expansion and first 4 player expansion, previous plays being 3 players.

There's no doubt the game is better with 4 than 3. Water cult tiles in the first two rounds lead me to suggest the Mermaids for Arturo. Natasha saw the Yeti's obvious power (and picked Wasteland as his terrain): Paul I think was just attracted by the look of the Darklings although much the same could be said of me and the Acolytes (I picked Forest although it doesn't matter except for my starting locations. Mountains or Desert would have worked better in terms of limiting Natasha's options). The extra VP goal was "most settlements" which I hadn't played before.

I only worked out when taking my first round income that the Acolytes get shorted a worker: ouch. That made my double temple strategy not only hard to achieved but fairly dumb: reducing your income to two priests is bad enough for most races but when you don't get a basic worker income it is worse still. Myself, Paul and Arturo all took the Water 2 temple so as to benefit from free spades in round 1 and priests in round 2. Arturo combined this with the priest starting tile to reach space 8 on the Water track in the first turn.

Natasha kept saying he had miscalculated, but he was going from strength to strength: he completed his stronghold in round 4 after which he had good access to all resources.

I was not very skilled in the masterful manipulation of the cult tracks which the Acolytes require. I refrained from terraforming much early and found I had burned too much power compensating for that missing worker in round 1. My stronghold power helped but not enough given that I downgraded 4 priests to workers in order to build it.

Arturo played well for a beginner, taking the two spades power action to terraform two tiles at least 3 times and easily establishing two towns, one of which was the 2 keys town. Paul's Darklings were not as successful, partly due to one of his starting dwelling's isolation in one corner of the board. He did manage to correctly time his Stronghold so the conversion worked. 

As the game ended we competed to build isolated Dwellings so as to win the "most settlements" goal. Natasha easily won this with me and Arturo joint second. Paul hadn't managed to connect his two sets of buildings and neither (more surprisingly) had Natasha, so I came second there. I scored ok on the cult tracks but Arturo scored better. The game ended with me last and Paul just ahead of me, Arturo about 10 points ahead of us, and Natasha about 20 points ahead of Arturo- Yetis proving their worth again.

I have seen Acolytes lose three times now: possibly there is a strong way to play them that we're missing. I'd like to try the other Volcano race at some point although they also look oddly weak- Natasha pointed out that they only start with 8 power...

We used the variable passing order which worked fine. 

‘Very enjoyable game of Terra Mystica, particularly given that we played the first 40% of the game in two and a half hours, and the last 60% in one hour! I heard the Deus players pretending to enjoy themselves, but I presume that was just out of spite.’ Natasha [paranoid]

Forbidden Desert (and thanks to Jon again, top reporter!)

As Jon’s copy of Valley of the Kings was being played on another table, Jon decided to postpone his imminent departure and break out a quick co-op instead. Tom and James (sort of) joined him in trying to locate the legendary flying machine and escape a sandy demise.

It turns out that the boys managed a relatively straightforward victory, despite James being distracted for most of the game by talking to anyone else who would listen about something probably related to game trades. Having said that, there were only a handful of sand tiles left when the great escape was made, and another turn would probably have seen the 3 of them entombed in sand forever. Which would have put paid to James’ latest trading exploits for a bit…..

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