Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The One where Paul got a free meal for being an imposter.....

Players: Dan, Jon, Arturo, Alan, Tonio, John B, Tom, James, Soren, Paul, Mitten, Andy, John H, Gareth II, Philip, Paul A, Tom II, Noel

Another fine turnout this week, with 19 eager IBG'ers thronging to the London Apprentice to enjoy the very best in modern board games. And a real cross-section of gaming there was too - hidden identities, deck-building, gem-dealing, space exploration, word making, cockroach squashing and even some good old-fashioned dice flicking...

And the evening even began with Paul setting himself up as the 'face of IBG' with the new pub landlord, Julio, and consequently being offered food on the house. This tells me that (a) Julio seems to be a real nice guy and (b) Paul will do almost anything for a free feed. (Not that I'm feeling jealous or ignored or under-appreciated or hungry or anything....)

Tumblin' Dice
At the request of James, Jon dusted down his homebrew version of this fantastic manual dexterity game, and a number of games were subsequently played during the evening.
In the first 2 games, Jon annihilated Paul (who didn't care as he had a nice bellyful of free food) and in the next game, Paul triumphed over Jon, Paul A and Tom W - probably as he was suitably invigorated by his bellyful of free food...
Jon 106; Paul 70
Jon 229; Paul 178 (double sets of dice)
Paul 95; Tom 85; Jon 70; Paul 69

Coup G54 (thanks Arturo)
This time we played with interesting cards such as: the communist, who gives
coins to the poorest player (and steals them from the richest), the church, which begs a coin from all players and the standard black ops (kind of Guerrilla card), United Fruit Company and Newspaper cards.
After the usual "remember who did that to you on previous games" crossed accusations, we had some communists cards played by Tom and Paul. Arturo thought that these were too many communists, so first aggression started against Paul, who actually had a communist, therefore Arturo was half way out. After that it was James`s turn, who kept a confident attitude during the whole game, having dinner and talking like a king when he was playing his cards (I could even imagine him throwing his leftovers to an imaginary slave; obviously it was a strategy, and a good one, as he finished second, with almost no-one daring to challenge him).
John and later Jon played some Newspaper cards, so no-one was sure of what they were holding in their hands. Arturo started a long term strategy of keeping a low profile and just asking for a coin every turn, even allowing Jon to steal easily coins with his church.
Then game went crazy with all players challenging each other, some coups, James`s paranormal UFC providing coins to too many people and a final round with James challenging Arturo with his black ops - and losing.

Xia: Legends Of A Drift System (thanks Soren)
Based on a true story...
Tom, Paul and Soren bravely ventured into the unknown exploring a remote galaxy in an unknown corner of the universe seeking fame and fortune. It turned out to be a backwater wasteland of asteroid fields, nebulae and just two outlaw planets - only towards the end of their adventures did they discover a handful of lawful planets - alas, too late to make an honest living as prosperous merchants.
Instead, they all scrambled around in their small, fragile space ships exploring for petty cash and not so much fame as slight acknowledgement.
Tom entered into the dangerous asteroid fields and nebulae in search of profitable, rare metals - with some success but leaving him with a smashed up space ship that could barely limp through space towards the nearest outlaw planet for urgent repairs.
Although Soren, who was nearby, had set himself up for a decent, profitable run smuggling a few goods and completing an important, very profitable research mission; Tom's wreck of a space ship full of valuable goods was too tempting. Although Soren did not have any weapons - just a little nudge to Tom's space ship would rip it apart, so Soren decided to ram Tom - just a little bit. Not very honourable, but the victor writes history, so surely this could be spun a heroic battle for some extra fame.
Alas, the little nudge, of course, went wrong, very wrong, and Soren ended up ramming Tom at full speed - destroying Tom as intended, but also leaving Soren in as bad as shape as Tom had been, unable to pick up Tom's goods and even having to jettison his own goods and abandon his research mission. Tom was soon back in a sparkling new space ship to pick up his own and Soren's goods and delivered them to the outlaw planet for big profits, while Soren limped through space for badly needed repairs.
In the meantime, Paul was messing around on his own in the other end of the galaxy exploring, drilling asteroids, trying out telegates, ferrying emissaries around between remote outposts and doing God knows what.
As we have to leave the story here, the exploits of these brave pioneers barely left a footnote in the annals of this newfound galaxy - most notably Tom as a somewhat successful trader, followed by Paul for honourable efforts, and trailed by Soren mostly noted for his failures.
Xia: Legends Of A Drift System is a game to be played not so much for skills and strategy but for a fun, trashy, space romp experience.

Medieval Academy
Newbies Dan, Alan and Arturo joined old hands Jon & Tom for the 3rd outing in
as many weeks for this superb drafting / racing super-filler.
Dan chose to neglect to provide a suitable education for his knight-to-be, but as he spent the majority of his time fighting dragons and serving the king (affectionately now known as 'brown-nosing'), his lack of knowledge was of no consequence as he achieved victory and became the most ignorant knight in the whole of olde-worlde-lande. The moral of the tale? Book-learning is over-rated...
Dan 35; Jon 33; Tom II 28; Alan 25; Arturo 13

Roll for the Galaxy (thanks James)
Tom, James and John all opted to roll some galaxies as John as usual came along armed with one of the latest hot games... not sure why I played as I never liked RftG, but rolling dice is always fun so worth a try.
Effectively in this game you build up a collection of dice with which you can buy and activate cards. Actions are decided by a hidden role/dice selection process. Different colour dice have different properties so the main goal of the game is to create an array of cards (worlds) that can quickly provide points/additional resources. After 12 worlds have been placed the game ends.

So the game... As usual, when I'm playing a game for the first time and you can gain additional resources that becomes my initial strategy... In this case if I wasn't going to win I was going to try and end up with the most dice... hoping
along the way that while I'm growing my dice empire that I'll start to make some sense of the supporting strategy... John was bagging lots of early points. Tom I'm not too sure about to be honest. I'm sure he had a plan though.  Still I had the most dice... so despite being behind on points, inside I was smiling :)
So midpoint and John looked like he was using his 'played at least 20 times already' knowledge to coast to victory... he may not have had as many planets as Tom and I was KILLING him on in the dice stakes, but had a stack of points that was looking ominous ... At this stage, despite my obvious pleasure at the dice emporium I had built I was getting worried that I still really had no idea what to do with them... other than roll and get more dice... Tom was doing something over in the corner of the table, but the game itself is more solo than multiplayer so I wasn't paying that much attention... and he didn't have many dice so there really wasn't much to see anyways.
Then John reminded me that I only needed 2 planets to trigger the end game... and with that knowledge I decided (after getting a few more dice first) to try and bring things to a close... mainly as the less thought I put into strategy the more likely I was to do well... (it's a tried and tested technique)... and the fewer rounds the game took the less likely we were to end up an embarassing total behind John. So, pausing only to delay one more turn as there was a nice shiny dice available that I had to have... I bought my last planet...
...Even then John announced I had delayed too much and he gained 10 more points due to me not finishing a round earlier (damn those shiny dice)...
So Tom and me were both now resigned to the inevitable embarassment of the final scores... I spent the time just looking at my dice as if to suggest that points didn't matter... and then... somehow... obviously with no relation to any strategic input... the scores were counted and I'd won!
John - 38, Tom - 42 and me - 44

Istanbul (thanks Noel)
Noel and Tom grabbed the fantastic Kennerspiel 2014, Istanbul, from the
remarkable pile o' games brought by tonight's IBGers. Noel and Tom remember the game fondly from a previous play with Neil. Paul and James joined them, but then Tom skipped to the bar and Noel realised in a blind panic that he then had to teach it.
One not particularly stream lined rules explanation later, with Paul gazing at the board hoping it would turn into Lords of Vegas, we jumped into the efficient path optimisation pleasure that is Rudiger Dorn's jaunt through the Mosques and Markets of Istanbul.
Fortunately for Paul, Noel started and headed to one of the warehouses, James went straight to the Wainwright to, with the help of a bonus card, increase his barrow capacity which is always a strong move. Tom started by sending his family criminal out on a few tasks including picking up the first red dice rerolling bonus tile from under Noel's nose. Noel responded to this wrinkle with much hmming and ahing but managed to get the other three tiles quickly and his first of the 5 rubies needed. Paul moved in and out of the post office and cursed Noel's garbled rules explanation. James filled out his wheelbarrow to pick up his 3rd ruby but Noel managed two early stops to each of the money ruby and the goods ruby locations to win the game. 60 minutes, including a longer than necessary rules run through. Top stuff and even Paul was keen to play again now with a learning game under his belt.
Noel (5), James (3), Tom (2), Paul (2)

Tokaido (thanks again Noel)
After several vetos of Camel Up and Chinatown, 5 of us sat down to Tom's Tokaido for a wander along a Japanese byway eaching of us picking up 2 or 3 points with every action. John B's character allowed him a special bonus for picking hidden bonus cards. Unfortunately for him, Noel quite liked that stack and kept taking the spot, although John did trundle around at the back of the chain picking up extra spots. Noel's character given him an extra point at the temple and he did have the chance to use this several times to lead this category. James went for the shopping cards but some poor draws left him with a couple of small sets rather than maxing out any set which meant a loss of lots of potential points. Tom and Hames had bonus's around the meal stations which ensured they always picked up the 6 bonus points that this delivered. In fact everyone did, except Noel who ran out of money for the last meal station. He did however use the last of his money well and jumped ahead to pick a final pink character card which gave him the lead in this category too. Fortunately for him he also picked two consecutive Ice landscape cards, the last of which also gave him the bonus points for completing the ice landscape, much to Hames's disappointment, as this also meant the win for Noel.
A very pleasant game, although the close scoring perhaps suggests that although every points space allows you to do different things, the points accrued from each is very similar, meaning the difference between the scores is more about who drew the card that was worth a few points more rather than any well constructed move. Nevertheless, a relaxing game with beautiful art and interestingly the creative ambience saw both Noel and Tom simultaneously refer to IBG's Car Boot Hero as Hames - a moniker much needed as we decide what to do with all these James and Toms around.
Noel 80; Hames 78; John B 76; Tom 74; James 72

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
John H 150; Philip 133; Andy 103; Gareth 98

James had brought his brand new copy of this game along, but as he was too busy rolling dice around the galaxy (can you roll a dice in space???) Dan took it upon himself to tear it out of its shrink, trying not to bend too many of the cards in the process.
This is a deck-building game crossed with a word game (yes really) which actually works surprisingly well. Players have to use the letters that they draw from their hands to form words, which are then used to buy more cards, including victory points. Some cards also have special actions that can increase the value of words, or hinder your opponents.
Arturo can be forgiven for not winning this game, as English is not his first language (although it's probably better than some of the IBG'ers - mentioning no names...), but Alan cannot be forgiven for his appalling showing, especially as he was most recently a school-pupil.
But it was Jon's Christmases spent playing Boggle that finally paid off, helping him to a relatively comfortable win.
Jon 51; Dan 41; Tonio 35; Arturo 29; Alan 13

Mayday! Mayday!
No Arturo this week, so we were trusting that there wouldn't be any 'unofficial'
infiltrators lurking somewhere on the plane. However, Noel and Tom were playing, as well as Jon, so the likelihood of much subterfuge was almost guaranteed.
Surprisingly, Jon was the only player who wasn't really suspected, and quickly went from 'benefit of the doubt' to 'reliable' to 'in the cockpit'. However, he still had to select another 'good guy' to join him. And that was where the problem lay. Logic had shown fairly clearly that the infiltrators was one of the pairs of either Tom and Soren, or Noel and Tomtoo. Obviously Jon did not want to pick Noel, because if he ended up being an infiltrator, Jon would never hear the last of it. To a lesser extent, but still a consideration, was the problem of picking Tom. So Jon chose the least restrictive option - choose the level-headed, cheerful and generally reliable Soren. BIG mistake! Soren and Tom turned out to be the infiltrators, and if the last week or so is anything to go by, Noel is never going to let Jon forget that he screwed up by not picking him.
Sometimes you just can't win....

Also played tonight was an early-starting Mice & Mystics (they killed some cockroaches and ate some cheese). Have a great week everyone - and see you next time for more of the same...

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

22 IBG'ers - including an infiltrator who wasn't really an infiltrator.....

Players: Jon, Paul, Phil, Rachel, Emily, Dan, Alex, James, Tom II, Arturo, Mittens, Amanda, John H, Theresa, Paul, Jenny, Tonio, Alan, Philip + 3 others I can’t remember right now….sorry!

Well, this was the week that the IBG’ers kept on coming and coming and coming – until we had a record 22 games players in the Riverside Room at the London Apprentice! There was a great buzz in the room, with at least 5, if not 6 games going at any one time. 

This was also the week that we found out that our resident Spaniard, Arturo, is very good at hiding his evil identity in hidden identity games. Of course, it helps if he really does have an evil identity to hide in the first place…. 

Splendor (thanks Paul)
Paul, his friend Theresa and her daughter Jenny and newish IBGer Rachel sat down for some gem Splending at the start whilst the hoards continued to arrive around them.
Paul and Theresa has played a bit before, whilst Jenny and Rachel were completely new to the game. The initial table talk was that no one really knew the right strategy - is it better to specialise by collecting lots of a few colours or to diversify?
Paul had played a little bit more than Theresa and started to collect Emeralds and Sapphires, and a few comments were therefore made that specialising must be best, but actually everyone else had just as many jewels in front of them, just that they were distributed differently. And if an observer were to look closely, the key in this particular game was that Jenny's cards has scores on them too, which proved to be the key difference.
In fact Jenny romped home to victory some way ahead of everyone else as she wasn't dazzled by the volume or distribution of cards, but on the object of the game which was to score points. Would this work every game? Not sure, but it certainly did here!
Scores: Jenny 15, Rachel, Paul and Theresa somewhere behind on around 7, 8 or 9.
Played with the now compulsory Rising Sun expansion, this game was new to
Alex and Phil, with Tom II and Jon being old hands. It was played on the German map, and interestingly, rather than each player selecting their own corner of the board to start on, they paired up, which could have potentially resulted in a fair amount of competition (or co-operation!)
As it turned out, that didn’t really occur. Alex struck out along the northern edge of the board, attempting to complete a route bonus (but falling just short). Phil was finding his feet, being a newbie, and soon realised that waste can seriously clog one’s deck up. Jon had set up camp near some remote locations, which he quickly built into, and Tom obviously had the intention of muscling in there too. Unfortunately, by the time he had arrived, his deck had been diluted and he was finding it difficult to summon up the requisite cash.
All the players were starting to build victory point buildings, and the game ended when Jon (“who else?” I hear Paul saying…) built the last one to finish the 4th deck.
As always, the scoring was pretty close – had Alex succeeded in achieving his route bonus, it would have been closer still, but Jon’s experience proved to be decisive in achieving the victory by a slim margin.

Lords of Vegas with the Up expansion (thanks again Paul)
It was Theresa's first IBG evening and on looking through the games on offer it was Lords of Vegas that called to her, so that's what Jenny, Paul and her opted for. They were joined by Alan who'd enjoyed his Vegas casino building last week and Tonio who enthused about the theme of the game and wanted to try the 'Up' expansion.
Paul took advantage of two of his tiles being next to each other and on the strip by building those ASAP and as the strip came up her got into an early lead and reach the end of the single scoring section of the track in record time, whist everyone else were playing tortoises to his hare. Alan and Tonio started to pick up momentum and catch him whilst Theresa and Jenny were still to gain points.
However barrier of having to score at least two points, plus the fact that his colours had come up early so were less plentiful later proved a real stumbling block for Paul, and everyone else crept nearer and nearer and caught him up.
Tonio was first to build skywards.
Theresa spread her casino's over the spectrum of types and started to pick up single points on almost every go.
Both Alan and Jenny had some backwater casino's which started to appear and that gave him points.
Everyone followed Tonio's lead and added floors to their enterprises, meaning that a shortage of casino tiles in each colour didn;t occur as it had frequently in previous games.
Paul clearly thought he still had the game by the scruff of the neck as he decide to build a four tile casino by making the first sprawl move of the game on his brown casino. This proved to be his undoing, as Jenny, sitting to his left drew her next card and it was the exact tile that he'd gambled on, so she had one low numbered dice in his monster gambling den. She then got into the Vegas theme, opted to pay to reroll her one dice while Paul rerolled his three and it paid off handsomely for her by overturning the odds and she had gained control of a four tile casino that was also on the strip. By the time it'd gotten round to Paul's next go and he regained ownership, the casino had come up twice paying out whoppingly to Jenny and proved to be a pivotal round in the game as Jenny came from behind to take a commanding lead.
Meanwhile Paul, who was also acting as banker, got confused and mixed up his pile of $1s with the banks (okay he added the banks pile to his), and so rectified it to the best of his knowledge and the table were sporting enough to accept this.
Later in the game the green and purple casinos started to appear which evened things out a bit, and by this stage most people were up past the 'two point' scoring gap, and these tortoises had wisely overtaken the hares.Jenny used the same strategy that had undone Paul as she sprawled a two tile casino onto the strip just before the end, knowing it'd come up. When the final scoring round did come, it was a four way tie for the lead until Jenny's recently sprawled, strip touching casino paid out and it won her the game by three points.
It was a close result in a game where the lead changed dramatically a few times, but everyone agreed that they'd enjoyed their gambling trip to Nevada.
And Jenny was able to leave her first IBG evening having won everything she'd played!
Scores: Jenny 23, Theresa 20, Alan 20, Paul 20 and Tonio 14
Machi Koro (and once again – thanks to Paul)
This was chosen as a quickish end of evening game by Alan and Paul, and Tom
and Tonio (who needed to leave as he'd promised that he would head home early) was tempted to join in.
The newer '10 piles only' varient was played and it made for quite a long game as only a few low value cards were on offer and so expansion was slow.
Tom went for the red 'I get money whenever anyone else rolls my numbers' cards and combined this with some purple 'whenever I roll a six I get lots of money from other people', so he controlled most of the cash in the game.
Alan suffered from constantly rolled threes and fours, which only meant he'd pass most of his cash to Tom.
Tonio was first to roll two dice, but kept rolling very low numbers that were lower than six and negated his choice to do this.
Paul kept a fairly low profile, but got some forests and mines before a few furniture factories, teeing up a big combo when an eight rolled.
Tonio was tracked down by his wife who'd called the pub, so he came back from the phone looking horribly guilty and needed to leave mid game. John who was watching stepped into his place and we wished Tonio luck on his arrival home.
Alan's bad luck held and he wanted to leave but sportingly stayed until the end of the game. Tom kept nicking other people's money. Paul moved up to two dice and after several unsuccessful rolls, he managed to get two eights in a row, netting him 36 in cash each time and this allowed him to take the game.
Scores: Paul four cards, Alan, Tom, Tonio / Jon one or two cards 

Medieval Academy
A second outing in as many weeks for this super-filler, this time being tried out with the maximum 5 players. This changes the dynamics slightly, as there is less control with the drafting, and more competition on the tracks, with almost the same amount of points being divided between less players.
This is such a good quick game, with plenty of decisions to make, but very little downtime. On this occasion, it was Jon that got his nose in front with his lack of negative scoring tokens helping him to edge the victory.

Council of Verona (thanks Dan)
Our first game of Verona was four player, new to two and vaguely remembered
by a third. We managed to complete all four rounds (hooray!), everybody scored well but my utter despicable meanness in the final round ensured a comprehensive victory by some margin. The second time around was with five, another two newbies, only two rounds played. Again, we all scored but this time without a clear winner. I would estimate that at least 50% of the newbies enjoyed this game…

And some more of Dan’s memories: 

Nanuk was fun as always, I think we had eight people playing and new to at least half the table. My memory is hazy but I think that Tomtoo and Alex tied with 15 points each? In any case, there was the usual divide between rich and poor in the final scoring.

Forbidden Desert was an unusually easy romp to victory - we owned that bitch last week.

No idea what happened in Innovation as I had to abandon Mittens and Arturo to a two player game. They finished very quickly and looked a bit disgruntled with it all so my guess is they probably screwed some rules up somewhere… (see Arturo’s version below) 

“I remember I played Innovation with Mittens, but as we were just 2 players I took the lead at the beginning and keep playing a couple of aggression cards, so he decided to surrender.”

Mayday! Mayday!
Tom had been bemoaning the fact that Jon hadn’t brought this game along for ages, so he finally did – on a week when Tom wasn’t around. But never mind – there were still 6 willing players to have a go at this ‘Much better than the Resistance’ game.
As always, the accusations started flying around the table from the off, and the tension gradually ratcheted up, but when it came down to it, Phil appeared to be a good guy and was voted into the cockpit. It was at this point that Phil (with a big smirk on his face) revealed his cards to show that he was in fact an infiltrator. And high-fiving Alex next to him indicated who the second and last infiltrator was.
Except – hang on – it was now revealed that Arturo had previously looked at one of Phil’s ‘infiltrator’ cards, and had declared him ‘good’, resulting in Phil making it all the way into the cockpit. But there couldn’t be 3 infiltrators in this game, so…. Doh! Our resident Spaniard played the ‘I’m a foreigner – what do you expect?’ card, and fortunately, everyone else round the table found this inadvertent mistake to be hilarious.
This is such a good social deduction game – even when one of the good guys decides to be an unofficial infiltrator…..!
(Edit: Arturo’s response – “Man responsible: Dan and his Dan’s guilty face - plus my minor mistake. And that’s how I see it...!) 

And another of Arturo’s hazy recollections:
Then we played Splendor, it was a cruel fight; I think I won, but it was a pretty close game. 

Also played tonight was Imperial Settlers (newbie Rach was taken in by the cartoonish box art, and was then hijacked by a full-on Euro….) and a few rounds of Zombie Dice. 

Wow! A great start to 2015, with lots of new faces. Here’s to many more IBG’ers and many more boardgames played for the rest of the year…

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The one where Natasha has a schoolboy flashback...

Players: Natasha, Chris, Andy, Gareth II, Tom II, Paul, Jon, Alan, Dan, Tom I, Arturo, Pete, James, Paul II

As this report is being published at least 3 weeks after the event, and as I turned up halfway through the evening anyway, I have nothing at all pithy, witty or interesting to say at this point (nothing unusual there, I hear you say…)

But fortunately, some of our IGG’ers have pulled together so that we have some reports to entertain and inform you of the evening’s happenings…

Power Grid (thanks Natasha)
The evening augured badly for Chris, Natasha, Andy and Gareth II when it became clear they had all badly lost the first game of the evening – the stand-round-and-choose-your-game game.
A numerically impossible proto-plan to play Through The Ages having collapsed, several of our band still faintly pawed at the idea, like a dog might paw at a patch of carpet, where a long-dead canine playmate once slept the days away. Seconds turned into minutes as all the other players drifted away clutching their hearts’ desires, and at least one of us left behind had a flashback to our first inter-school dance, when other overdressed pairings drifted together in just such a fashion on the dancefloor, and left an acne-cursed and frustrated few quietly marooned at the edges, fighting back a strange mix of anger, frustration and desire for a time machine.
That occasion I recall ended by someone getting utterly wasted on Southern Comfort and throwing up silently on the way home in the footwell of Robert Saunders’s mum’s car. Fortunately this time I was driving, so was spared such a fate. Instead we settled on Power Grid.
Someone wandered by during the course of the evening, presumably somebody called Tom (by the law of averages) and asked – what’s this game about? Someone else (perhaps the Ed?) gamely explained the business with buying power stations and power lines and then powering cities with electricity by buying fuel, which was kind of them.
In effect though this game is all about correctly managing the wildly overpowered catch-up mechanism built into the rules, which is even more generous than Britain’s benefits system to those deemed arbitrarily to be eligible losers. I’m sure that this deep and interesting mechanic largely evolved as an accident, but it was one of those good accidents, like when you’re going to hospital with a dislocated shoulder and someone wings you at 10 miles an hour at the Maple Cross roundabout and it pops the shoulder back in again.
Early on Chris let slip that Power Grid is his favourite game, and I had visions of Fast Eddy and someone saying “the game of Power Grid is over when Chris says its over”, but he had the good grace to follow up by saying “It doesn’t mean I’m any good at it”, and that was more or less the last thing he said for the next two hours. He explained this away at the end by saying that he was waiting for the right power station to come up.
However I suspect he really just wanted to avoid being wrapped up in the hysterical delusion being spun by Gareth and Natasha, who spent the whole game trying to do slightly worse than each other and therefore win. While not doing this, Gareth and Natasha engaged in an equally ludicrous game of saying “I’m going to win any minute” in increasingly booming tones. If all this seems counter-intuitive and more than a little Kafkaesque to you, then you have a good eye, as Andy cantered comfortably to a win by the Machiavellian stratagem of simply being in the lead for the whole game.
Final scores: Andy 15, Gareth perhaps 12, Chris perhaps 12, Natasha I think 11
Medieval Academy
This was a first outing for Jon’s new purchase, and Tom II and Paul were his willing accomplices. This game comprises 7 tracks which players compete to move along to score points throughout the game. This is achieved by playing 4 cards each round (which could be numbered from 2 to 5), which have previously been drafted around the group. Some tracks score small amounts of points each round (or attract negative points), whereas others give larger rewards but only score once or twice during the game.
Jon focussed on scoring little and often on the jousting / tournament tracks, whereas Tom had his eyes on the big points available at the end of the game on the Quests track. Paul went for a mix of the 2 strategies.
When the points were totalled, Tom’s strategy had paid the most dividends, and his dragon-slaying turned out to be the deciding factor in his promotion to most favoured knight.
There had been some concern that this game wouldn’t play very well with 3 players, but in fact it plays remarkably well. It’s not a good strategy to ignore some tracks completely, as this just hands the points to the other players, so there is always good competition for all the rewards. Lots of fun, and a fair amount of game packed into 30-45 mins.
Lords of Vegas (with the Up expansion) – thanks Paul
The Up expansion allows not only 5 or six players to get cosy in 1951 Vegas, but it allows an extra action, 'Rise' which does what it sounds like and allows casinos to expand heavenwards as well as sprawling vertically. This is expensive, especially as all floors need to be built at once, but it can both pay bigger points and act to protect the owner from takeovers (as a hostile casino must be on the same floor).
The expansion probably needs to be played a few times to really explore how it can be fully utilised, but it certainly added another dimension to the game (geddit?)
Paul and Tom were first to build into the sky. Dan opened his doors for uncle tom cobbly to come and gamble, and became the first house to ever lose. Tom I was left to rue not building on the strip. Tom II banked on gold casinos being pulled, but they weren't, so he suffered. Alan got going strongly towards the end but it was too little too late.
Scores: Paul 36, Alan 32, Dan 23, Tom I 16, Tom II 16
Castles of Mad King Ludwig (thanks Paul)
Lots of Castle building fun for Dan, Alan and Paul. Dan's castle was the first I've
ever seen to perfectly tesselate (well, nearly). Paul was waiting for multiple small circular rooms, but they kept being nicked by the other two blighters. Alan caught up going underground and achieved a highly respectable score for his first play.
Scores: Dan 99, Paul 82, Alan 77

Deus (thanks Arturo)
We started the evening with Deus, a game that everybody says that is a classic, but it was my first time playing it (this keeps happening me again and again, but soon enough your endless collection of games will be depleted... or not!)
Anyway, it is basically another game where you are the chief of your civilization and you have to decide what and where to build, struggling with the other players; and includes an interesting extra: the armies.
As my strategy at the beginning consisted on copying what the rest of the players were doing and performing some random moves when this was not possible, I am going to summarize the whole game as: Paul went for the economic lead, but the game ended too soon (at least from his point of view) so he was not able to get all the victory points he was expecting.
James ended in second place, with a consistent combination of armies and buildings. I was third, and our winner is Pete with 51 points, far ahead of the rest. He positioned his armies always on the right place and scored a lot of points from most of the barbarian villages.

Black Fleet (thanks again Arturo)
Then we played this game where you are half a pirate half a merchant trying to
sell goods. No alliances at all were made, so it was an all against all - kind of royal rumble wwf style - where even merchants were attacking innocent pirates.
I was lucky with my cards and got one that allowed me to attack merchants with some navy ships that were supposed to defend them, Even so, I was not getting James or Paul scared, so they decided to massacre my merchant and sinking it without hesitation.
Game continued until I was able to obtain the card that ends the game at the end of the turn.
But James was waiting for his moment, and after crunching my merchant again and looting some doubloons, he almost was able to end the game ahead of me. But he ended just one space from the dock, so no unload no money, and I must admit I screamed "Ha!!!". But in the last moment Pete scored a lot of points and ended just 1 doubloon behind me.
It was a funny game; I do not know why but looting other players boats provided a great satisfaction to everybody...
An interesting card game whereby players must play cards that ensure that they are winning the game at the end of their turn, which may include changing the winning conditions. Last person to have cards in their hand is the winner. Which wasn’t Jon. Or Alan. So it must have been Tom…

Another outing for this social description / deduction game. This week there were 8 players, which appeared to make it much easier for the spies, as they triumphed a lot more often than last week.
Note to group: Jon has yet to be a spy in this game. Just saying…….

And as if that wasn't enough, Pickomino and the ubiquitous Splendor also got a run-out tonight.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Calling all Tom's, Paul's and James's.....

Players: James I, James II, Paul I, Paul II, Paul III, Tom I, Tom II, Tom III, Jon, Phil, Alan, Andy, Caroline, Sam, Emily, Phil II, Rachel

And so, another year begins, and after several weeks without an official IBG event, it was nice to get back into the old routine again. But with the new year came a plethora of new attendees, including Paul II's partner Caroline, and a couple of friends of Jon's, Phil and Rachel, who in turn brought 2 of their friends, Sam and Emily. Welcome one and all! They all seemed to be very keen (and pretty good gamers!) so I hope we'll see them all again soon.

However, as you can see from the list of gamers above, I think that there may be an embargo placed on any new members who wish to attend if their name is either James, Paul or Tom. Having 3 of each of these in attendance at any one time makes writing a blog a migraine-inducing experience...

Anyway, lots of good stuff played tonight - an old classic and plenty of new goodies. Jon was even espousing the joys of some Japanese games. Maybe he has turned over a new leaf for 2015...?!

Red7 (thanks James)

A short card game, new to everyone, but this one came with a truckload of anticipation being designed by Carl Chudyk previous responsible for Glory to Rome, Innovation and other quite complex card games.... sold out in 50 minutes at Essen, so it's taken a few months to reach the club... Dan, James, James and Paul all keen to find out if the hype was worth it.
So the deck is simple, 49 cards... 7 sets of cards  of a different colour, all numbered 1-7. Everyone dealt 10 cards and the winner is the last one with cards left. The snag... each colour indicates a different set of rules for the game, and only the rules for the current selected colour counts. Each turn a player has to play a card to their own 'palette' that places them as the current winner for the current rules, or they can choose to change the rules...  if you can't play a card that meets this rule, you're out. Last man standing wins.
So despite everyone feeling their way into the game it plays really easily. The starting rule is always highest card wins... which lasted a round before being tweaked to the one with the most different colours which then lasted a few rounds until it was changed to most even numbers ... At this point Tom drop out, I'm guessing as he couldn't play a legitimate move, rather than he saw it as an excuse to stop playing...
I lasted one more round, despite having the highest 2 cards in the game (Red and Orange 7)... which left Paul and other James to duke it out...
With a few cards left each we thought James had grasped victory by playing his last card to the table, but Paul was able to respond and as James had no cards left Paul claimed victory.
So a rare victory for Paul, and for me the first of what should be many games of this as it's a really clever little card game with I feel a lot of yet-to-be-discovered clever game play possible. Chances are I'll have this on my most weeks as it's such a tiny box... so if you fancy a game let me know.
Winner: Paul; Runner up: James #2; A worthy 3rd place: James #1; Making up the numbers: Tom

Coup: G54
Newbies Phil, Rachel, Emily & Sam had brought Coup with them, but Jon
persuaded them not to play this, but to upgrade to G54. Not wishing to argue, they relented. Paul A also joined in for a full-on 6-player game.
This game was characterised by few challenges (even though several regular IBG'ers came over to 'helpfully' point out that Jon's track-record of truth-telling wasn't exactly 100%...)
Paul threw his hat into the ring first, and was incorrect with his challenge and exited stage right. Phil was next to go, failing to claim the missionary to keep alive his slim chances of survival. Jon and Rach were next to perish, having dished out a couple of Coups each, so it was left to Sam to collect the requisite 7 coins and take out his partner Emily for the victory.
It turns out that the 4 newbies had been playing the base game wrong, by not revealing the character card when they lost a life, but it remains to be seen if this experience will be enough to persuade them to play it 'right' in the future!
Emily won; everyone else lost

El Grande (thanks Paul)

About two to three months after Essen is the time when the old classics start to make themselves known again through the sea of new games, many of which won't survive more than one or two Isleworth appearances. El Grande is an example of just such a game, with its status proven by luring 'cult of the new devotee' James from his shiny new mechanics and meeples for a good part of the evening.
James was joined in old Spain by Paul, Tom I, James II and Philip.
The first scoring round saw a lot of the 'scoring' cards in play, and so scores were maybe larger than normal at this stage, which Jame cantering off with his caballeros to 50 points, with the others spread out behind him.
The mobile score boards were first used to lower the points Paul took with his Grande in New Castile, but thankfully for Paul the opportunity to move it up to Galicia came soon and he took Grande points there for the rest of the game, whilst Tom suffered in the North West. Philip was throwing a lot into the tower as well as making Valencia his own. James started in New Castile but quickly changed tack under challenge from Philip. James II was taking Grenada and Aragon, whilst in addition to Galicia Tom took Seville.
James was maintaining a lead by the second scoring, but the pack were closing, so the final three rounds made for very interesting placements.
Twice Paul placed his tower people in exactly the same region as other people resulting in a tie, and Tom II forced several ties by way of moving caballeros to the regions where they proved the most worthless to their Grande.
At the end it was super tight but James had maintained his lead by a point from Tom with Philip another one back. Kris Akabusi tactics didn't pay off in this game.
Scores (approx as they are from memory): James 91, Tom 90, Philip 89, Paul 81, James II 78

Abluxxen (thanks Paul A for these 3 reports) After a crushing defeat in Coup Guatemala (knowing where two of the army cards where didn't save me from a bad guess at where the third one wasn't), we drifted on to some lighter games. I introduced Paul, Caroline and Tom to the delights of Abluxxen, which Tom picked up far too easily. After he scuttled off to play hardier fair, we moved on to...

Sneaks and Snitches
...which is a basically a streamlined Hoity Toity / Lords & Larceny / Adelverplicht). After a teaching game, we proved far too good at getting in each others heads, expertly secondly guessing where everyone was going to play, resulting in some dismally low scores and a victory for Caroline.

Splendor Finally, we moved onto Spiel des Jahres nominee Splendor where again Caroline romped into an easy victory by picking up all the cards I needed just before I was going to pick them up.

Machi Koro
 Emily and Rachel had grabbed the box, rather taken by the artwork and intrigued by the title. Therefore Jon agreed to teach his new purchase to them, along with other newcomer Sam. (OK - I know it's technically a Japanese game, but I'm prepared to admit that not everything that comes out of Japan is worthy of deferrystration...)
This appeared to be a big hit, with Rachel keen to play again immediately after the first game.
Emily appeared to take an early lead, taking full advantage of her caf├ęs, whilst Sam appeared to have made a mistake by investing in his '2 dice' building in the first couple of turns. However, he soon recovered, and set up a nice engine which raked in the cash on 8's and 9's, winning him his second game of the evening. Definitely someone to keep an eye on if he returns...!
Sam won; Jon 3 buildings; Emily & Rachel 2 buildings

A 3 player game this time, played on the US board. All players had their discrete

starting positions, but Tom soon made it clear that he was making a beeline for Jon's territory (actually, he was doing it to complete a route bonus, but it got Jon worried all the same!)
Andy collected a scarily money-heavy deck, and built very little on the board, but as there were no 'big point' buildings in the game, he got a little clogged from the waste collected in building the smaller buildings.
Jon focused on the remote locations, and then spread out to try to reach Tom's cities, but didn't quite get there. Jon chose to buy the last card of the 4th deck to end the game, but with little idea of who had scored most highly.
Tom had most points on the board, Andy had the most in his deck and Jon had a bit of both. It looked like Jon had won until everyone remembered Tom's route bonus, which was just enough to pull him up into joint first place for a tie. Andy was only 3 or 4 points back himself, so yet again, Trains proves to be a game that provides a very tight finish.
Tom & Jon - 32 (approx); Andy 29


Several IBG'ers had expressed an interest in playing this one, and James had found a convenient app to dispense with the need for any cards, so 7 players assembled for some end of evening fun.
The premise of the game is that all the players except one are secret agents, dispatched to a known 'secret' location, chosen from a list of about 25 locations. The spy has infiltrated the group and must discover the identity of the location, or remain hidden for the game. The game starts with one player asking a question of one other player - eg "What's the food like here?" The response that he receives must be vague enough to not give away the exact location to the spy, but clear enough that it indicates that he does know the location, and is therefore not a spy. The spy hopes to be able to ask and answer questions in such a manner that doesn't give away his identity too easily. At any point, the spy can reveal himself and attempt to identify the location, and also, anyone can accuse anyone else of being the spy - but only a unanimous vote will enable the spy to be actually accused and forced to reveal their identity. If the spy has not been caught after 8 minutes, then there is one last chance to accuse him or her, otherwise the spy wins.
This is not an easy game. Thinking of appropriate questions can be tricky, and any hesitations in asking or answering are immediately jumped upon as suspicious. Throw in the odd random element such as Philip (enough said), and you have a fascinating game with the potential for many quizzical looks and burrowed brows.
James was the only spy that managed to outwit the agents (although he didn't identify the location), and Paul was outed at least twice (failing to acknowledge that he might become "cross" in a Crusader Army, on one occasion).
Any game that gets played 7 or 8 times in a row must have something going for it, and so I suspect that this might see the light of day (or the screen of an iPad) again sometime soon.

Also played was another game of Splendor, another of Machi Koro (Rachel got her wish...) and a round of For Sale - but no reports mean that we'll never know what exactly occurred.

Hopefully we'll see another bumper crowd next week...