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.

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