Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Wo ist mein Luftschiff-Kapitän Hut?

Players: Paul A, Sarah, Gareth II, Dan, Andy, Jon, John

  I must confess that the recent predeliction for SteamPunk themed everything has gone right over my head. Slapping a few cogs and a pair of swimming goggles on a pirate hat just doesn't excite me a great deal, but thank god for variety so I'm greatful that it exists as a thing even if it's not one I can personally get into. That sense of diversity in personal experience is a running theme for this week's blog, both in James' question of the week and in the games we played; Small World has recently been revealed as the Marmite of boardgames at IBG with equal amounts of lovers and haters, there is an ongoing debate about whether CoMKL is really better than Suburbia or just newer, and Machi Koro delivers a mixed bag of of warm fuzzy love and scratchy heads. Join our compact septet this week who crazily eschewed the opportunity for an all-night 7 Wonders marathon for castles, balloons, and faraway lands - it's all a bit like going to Disneyland, except with a few more firing squads thrown in.

Coup: Guatemala '54 (thanks Paul A)

We started by introducing Sarah to Coup: Guatemala 1954 and the pleasures of a game that's all about lying. The random selection of cards turned up an interesting combo in the Communists stealing from the rich, the Church stealing money from everyone, the CIA quietly taking income and the radio station in for good measure. It got down to a situation where I was was pretty sure what everyone had ... and couldn't do a thing to stop John winning. (FLIPS TABLE)

Castles of Mad King Ludwig (thanks Paul A)

Then onto The Castle of Mad King Ludwig, and some strange castle were built indeed. There was a bonus tile for downstairs rooms but such was the rush for them that I missed out entirely and settled for building many music rooms for a personal bonus, while Jon studied every new tile with the intensity of a man trying to unify string theory. High scores all around, so we may be getting too good at this game. 

Machi Koro Harbour (thanks Jon)

 Chosen whilst Dan was visiting the little boys' room (or else he would probably have vetoed it...)
This one played out beautifully, with a great mix of '1-die' and '2-die' cards coming out. Jon focused on building a solid '1-die' engine whilst Andy quickly moved on to 2 dice. Dan and Paul traded coins via their various cafes and other nefarious establishments.
Andy built his Airport relatively quickly, following a massive windfall from his Veg Market, and never looked back. Jon was within one major landmark of equaling Andy's achievement, but, in reality, was miles behind. Paul and Dan - also ran...... 


After the lightweights had cleared out it was left to Dan and Jon to keep the flag flying with a welcome return of this dice/tableau filler. The first game saw an early rush from Dan to build Airships before Jon got his factory into action and took back the Airship token. Dan struggled to get red and black dice into hand making it very difficult to bring the game to an early close. His clear lead began to rapidly erode before completely disappearing, but securing a couple of VP scoring elements started to balance things out again. Jon started to build elements of the Hindenburg to keep his score moving forward but Dan swiped the final Airship required to end the game. Totalling up the scores it was very close, however Jon's late rush on production saw him clinch the win.
A second game was set up amid some musing on how the game very rarely seems to end with construction of the Hindenburg. This time Jon got his production into gear much more quickly and held the silver Airship for most of the game. The regular Airships were proving tricky to acquire and after Jon built the first stage of the giant Luftschiff Dan went directly for red and black dice, then proceeded to build the remaining stages in quick succession. And so it ended up as a comprehensive victory in a very short game rather typically with the exact thing we were discussing as never happening in this game.
One game all then, and a nice way to round off the night!

Also played this evening: Small World

On our Boardgamegeek guild page James has initiated an open Q&A session with a new question each week. Feel free to play along at home, and even if you are not a regular IBG attendee you are more than welcome to join in with your own answers!

Last weeks question: "We all like to win, but what games do you play, that you love to play, but could care less about winning….. (obviously for Paul, this is every game… else he’d never turn up )"

 James: "I'll set the ball rolling on this with Bausack... you might end up with a pile of rubble in front of you, but while it's standing I think everyone is enjoying the process of constructing their own little piece of modern art and feeling that it should be in the Tate. "

 Gary: ""Could" or "couldn't" care less? I'll assume the latter... In which case, any game I play with my kids! In fact, I prefer to lose when playing with them as they invariably have a better time if they win and are more likely to want to play again...
The only other games I didn't remotely care about were ones I just wasn't enjoying and wanted to be over! Thunder Road and Battlecon come to mind!"

 Peter: "I agree with Tash re Agricola. My aim is to hit 30 points. If I do that I am satisfied and always have great fun building a farm. Same goes for Caverna, Le Havre, Ora and Labora... All the Rosenberg classics. Dominion also, build a satisfying engine and buy lots of shiny action cards instead of boring money and vp cards even if you know it will lose you the game...far more entertaining. Phil Eklund games where the story is intertwined with the strategy similarly: Greenland which we played last night is really about being in the game and surviving the simulation rather than playing well or winning. "

Paul A: "High Frontier on the top of the stack. The sheer feeling of achievement when you manage to land on Mars / slingshot around Saturn / die screaming as you plummet into the Venusian atmosphere outweighs any small consideration of "victory".
It is, of course, pointless to try and win Tales of the Arabian Nights, so you may as well sit back and enjoy the story. For something more gamey, many of the old classics offer an imbalanced but fun time. For example, Source of the Nile offers a rich and strange tapestry, as players traipse around Africa, get lost, suffer attacks from natives, marry a comely native girl, get attacked by animals and die horribly. It seems unsporting to try and win. "

 Dan: ""Couldn't care less about winning" applies to pretty much every game I play, so the focus for me is always on the "love to play" aspect. I find this question to be heavily linked to both of the previous weeks questions as it asks us to touch into why we choose to spend our precious time playing games instead of any other meaningful activity we could be doing instead.
Games for me need to either encourage plenty of above the table interaction or to be evocative of the thematic setting, preferably both. If I feel like I am accomplishing something, whether it's building a farm, raising an empire, or simply following a virtual beings extraordinary life, then I'm doing an activity that I can find fun, even if there isn't a great deal of Nanuk/Diamant/Apples level interaction going on with the other players.
But I also get bored quickly laugh so I turn over games fairly rapidly if they don't entertain. At the moment I guess it's most probably Castles of Ludwig and Imperial Settlers that I like to play and I'm looking forward to Thunderbirds arriving in the summer. I'm starting to get a little bored with Sentinels as it's kind of collapsing under it's own weight, but I have played some games recently with just the base game characters that were a lot of fun and reminded me of how good a game it can be.
I like Medieval Academy too, and would love to play Android again sometime. Arabian Nights is fun but it should really be a paragraph gamebook as the actual game and board are a complete irrelevance. I liked both Mysterium and Paperback, both of which seem to have come and gone quite quickly from the club's game table. And oh Pax Porfiriana, in the context of James' question let me write you a love letter for your wonderful blend of theme, mechanics, and back-stabbing douchbaggery. Eklund may come across as having eaten to many of the funny toadstools but he got it together long enough to put that one together. "

 Jon: "Sorry - I don't understand the concept.........."not winning????"  
OK...OK...I'll answer the question if I have to......
I must admit, my default position is 'competitive', but there are some games which are more about the experience:
1) Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective - I guess you don't technically really 'win' this one, and it's a co-op so probably doesn't count anyway, but I love the game as an experience as much as anything else.
2) Coup - I love bluffing games, and this one is quick and fun - who cares who wins....?!
3) Railroad Tycoon - hmmmmm - I love this game so much, I'd like to think that I don't care if I win or not, because the pure joy of playing it is enough. But then again, I often play against Noel, and I can't help feeling a pang of discomfort if he pips me by a point or two.... shake
4) Tumblin-Dice - who cares if you win - as long as you can knock one of James' dice off every turn..... devil
5) Tammany Hall - who cares if you win - as long as the interminable torture ends as soon as possible cry (not that I'm scarred by my one play of this game at all.......) " 

 Tash: "Er... I vote for Agricola
Folks are talking about how the theme of games they love helps them enjoy themselves, irrespective of the result, which I totally agree with in very many cases. This chimes with the Agricola thing "for beginners / intermediate players" - where the abstracted VP process makes it hard to even see (let alone care) if you're winning.
But there's also the "for intermediate/expert players" side of Agricola. In this case, your cards simply might not be as good as the next guy, which basically means your ceiling is not as good as theirs. So you can theoretically play perfectly and lose (although if you played perfectly I imagine you probably would not lose...!)
Now some gamers hate that element of things. "I was doomed from the start". But I enjoy games where it's about beating the odds - or making your odds count (whether you know the odds or not). There is something intriguing to me about the idea that you are not running an even race. As a Diplomacy player, perhaps my attitude is unsurprising.
I guess that another game that does this for me is Poker.
I am no expert, but I do know that, in Poker, once you reach a certain level of accomplishment, the most important thing to do is play right - rather than always to win.
Rudimentary example:
You have AA; the other guy has 72 off
You bet heavy before the flop and get called
The board comes A 7 2.
He goes all in, so do you
The cards come 7 7 and you lose.
The chances of that are minimal, you have the guy utterly dominated, and you played right. That is play to be happy about (although obviously it is frustrating to lose). By contrast, the guy who walks away with all the money can be relieved - but can he be happy with the way he played?
It is obviously rewarding to be both those guys - but I would rather be the guy who plays right and lost that time... than the guy who plays wrong and won that time.
[Of course we would all want to be someone who plays right and wins... should that person exist... presumably]
Perhaps that is a peculiar way of looking at gaming? I don't know. "

 Paul D: "I think that my default position is exactly the opposite of Jon's and much more in line with Dan. I like playing games a lot and would much rather play and enjoy than play and win. Quite convenient, me being me and all. However if the win happens, which lets face it is a rare occurrence, it does feel quite nice if it was the result of a well laid plan coming together. And if it means that Jon or James haven't won, it is kinda satisfying too. "

This weeks question: "Imagine you're standing in the upcoming election on behalf of the Board Game Party.... what would be in your manifesto ?" 

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