Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Do you love Trains?

Players: Phil, Rachel, James, Paul A, Paul D, Theresa, Dan, Tom, Andy

Sushi Go! (thanks Paul D)

Sushi drafting by Andy, Theresa and Paul. Andy killed time waiting for Agricola by joining Paul and Theresa in some sushi set collecting. A lot of similar cards were played and somehow Andy ended up on top by being a touch more efficient, even when Paul tried passing multiple chop sticks in the last few turns. Theresa and Paul were left to draw for last place.

Ra (thanks Paul D)

New to Rachel and Theresa, but they both wiped the floor with Paul. Paul had the highest bidding tile in the first epoch but missed out on playing it by being greedy waiting for more tiles to come when those that came were Ras (the crux of the game). Theresa started off very well and in the second epoch came within one bid of collecting all of the monuments with the three that she had outstanding coming up in one go, but her highest Sun Tile was outbid by Rachel, who wanted one of them, and also didn't want Theresa to get them. Rachel quietly went about collecting everything and lots of it, and crucially picked up things for all of her tiles, even though in the second epoch she had low numbers. By the time the third epoch came around it was between Rachel and Theresa. Theresa waited for more tiles to get a clear run after Paul and Rachel had finished their bidding, like Rachel had successfully done previously, but was met by multiple Ras closing out the game in record time, while leaving Theresa with no floods to activate her stack of Niles and more short that was predicted in several other areas. This meant that Rachel won by many points, while Theresa was left to lament to succession of the dreaded red tile and Paul to smile weakly as he'd been beaten soundly by the two newbies.  

Isle of Trains 

A four way report for the long-awaited debut of this game (by James in any case, as it finally got played after the fifteenth straight week of him hopefully waving it in the air at everyone passing by, including the waitress, the landlords dog, and a table of elderly folk who wandered in to the Riverview Room one night to enjoy a quiet pint).

First up is James with a totally unbiased review of his newfound favourite game:
"Despite Dan's dislike of I heart Trains (and we know you do Dan... in an unhealthy way)... it was quite a neat little card game... one of those card games that really wants to be a grown up board game but isn't too sure of itself, so it packs a lot of gameplay into the same size as 6 nimmt...
The game is basically a card game, but cards provide multiple play options. There is also a *board* made of cards in the middle showing delivery options. Players build trains (yay), and load trucks, or more usually try to entice others to load your own trucks for you, and then look to complete deliveries... You use cards similar to San Juan to pay for train upgrades or new carriages.., All quite simple once you get the swing of it.
So Dan did terribly... came last... (hmmm, any clues here as to his opinion...)... which did provide a certain level of joviality with his x-rated outbursts each time he realised he'd screwed up his turn...
It felt to me like I was having trouble getting others to load goods into my carriages, while Tom and Paul both seemed to be reaping the rewards to lots of freebies. as a reuslt I was the last to pick up an initial delivery,
As the game progressed Paul and Tom seemed ahead, I felt like I was struggling and Dan was just making soft groans of desperation each time he realised that he was 1 card short of his plans... at one stage he even had the gall to accuse me of misreading the rules... the cheek !!
After the initial delivery you have to complete a secondary delivery to proceed which gives bonus points, and allows you to pick up a second delivery card. Tom and me both managed to get this done... no idea how I got there before Paul, I'm assuming because he wasn't watching... ??? !!!
Anyways, it made no difference as soon afterwards Tom and me picked up both remaining delivery cards and the game was scored.
Dan came last... i * think* tom won... although to be honest I can't remember the scores... Tom and Paul were 1/2 and myself 3rd... did I mention Dan came last yet ? Ho hum.
I liked it... the cards look great, and the game feels deeper than your average card game... I'm not sure how much repeatability there is without more cards as the options feel like they'll run out after a dozen or so games... but then again none of us tried to play any building cards, so there are lots of things for the next game...
Thumbs up from Tom, Paul and myself... for Dan, well it was probably good that the windows were closed given the proximity of the Thames.." 

Whereas Paul A is a little more terse yet still as enthusiastic:
"Isle of Trains finally got to the table. It was a little opaque at first and arguably would be best with a small player count, but it's a definitely a winner. Small grumble - the "cargo" icons are close to being just different shaped blobs. Still, good fun."

Tom's take is as follows:
"I won Isle of Trains - thanks to my handy bonus card.
I liked it quite a bit despite the downtime - James failed to mention that I was able to go away and teach Sushi Go to Paul, Andy and Theresa whilst the others were taking their turns.
For a game that uses only 54 cards, it's rather ingenious and I think that it will work rather nicely for two. Highly portable too. Will definitely be picking up a copy for myself when it makes its way over."

I myself can only reply that that my opinion was safely formed by the second turn rather than the end result many, many, many turns later (or maybe it just felt that way as there was a lot of downtime). To be fair I did spend much of my time after that giving people the cards they needed to complete their damn routes already and speed up the end game which would probably be deemed a little sub-optimal for anyone actually invested in the scores at the end. 
I agree that Isle of Trains probably works better with two players than with four. I can see how the thought process would be more interesting as you decide whether giving your opponent a good to snag a card/action bonus is worth the risk of putting them closer to completing a route, or whether you want to hand them opportunities for big bonuses just so that you can score a few more VP on a bigger/better train. With three I reckon there will be a king-maker problem, or one player being stomped on as the lame duck which is rubbish. Four was just messy, dull, and lacking in any interesting motivation to compete.

Orleans (thanks Paul A)

Finished the evening with Orléans, having wondered what it was like after seeing it feature in the Kennerspeil nominations. On first glance, it threatened to be the sort of game that I'd hate: the usual gloomy medieval dude theme, drawing things to get workers to draw things, special buildings, bonus tokens, a board of bonus positions, resources ... y'know, a game that's just so full of STUFF, you suspect the designers kept throwing mechanics in to disguise a lack of depth?

But I really enjoyed it. Paul Lister recently described another game to me as being fun for everyone because even if you lost, you felt there'd been a lot to do and that you'd managed to work with and build something. Orleans gives me that feeling and I look forward to another game, although I suspect three players may be the sweet spot.


We tried to give Andy some prep for the Expo tournament, and I think I succeeded in showing him how not to play with my unique 'four sheds' strategy. Tom reports that "Agricola was great fun and suprisingly tight in the end. Both Dan and I thought that Andy had trounced us but the gap between him and me was only 2 points with Dan close behind me. Probably the most sweary game of the Gric that Andy has ever taken part in. Stupid f&*^%*ing Glass Blower and his oven." 

Super Rhino! (thanks Tom)

Super Rhino! was a bit hit. The tete a tete between myself and Dan in the final game was quite something - as was the height of the tower. Shame that Rachel's pictures may not grace the blog as it was quite something! Will definitely be bringing it again next week.

Too Many Cinderellas

There may be too many Cinderellas, but there certainly weren't too many games of this played tonight. I think that pretty much everyone jumped in to a hand or four at some point and with at least a dozen rounds played there are a couple of session reports submitted for this one.

Paul A reports"The gossamer-light Too Many Cinderellas is child-like but not childish, a microgame where you convince Prince Charming to marry your candidate, by prodding his memory in the right direction. It takes mere minutes to play (although it arguably has to be done as a set of rounds) and is admirable for how much it packs into such a simple game."

Tom adds "Too Many Cinderellas was marvellous. Really enjoyed it. On the way back, was thinking that it could become quite strategic when you know the cards, especially monitoring whether or not the cat has (or will) make an appearance. But, even if you don't want to engage with it that deeply, you have the regular giggles at the old Granddad and Man in Drag. It also had the rather wonderful coup de grace in one game where a number of our prime candidates were foiled by the blind reveal at the end - a rather lovely gaming moment."

Personally, I love it - I think that it isn't quite as jam-packed with decision making as Council of Verona but is in a very similar vein of being a much bigger game than the dozen-and-a-half cards would imply.

Pairs (thanks Tom)

Pairs did a sterling job as per usual. Would maybe like to try one of the many variants one time - such as the more Push Your Luck focused Port.

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 have a concept for games felt to be a waste of cardboard..."ferry fodder". This dates back to a trip to Essen when traveling back on the cross channel ferry Jon decided that most of the games I'd picked up from Japon Brand should be ditched overboard rather than completing the journey... *
So as we all like lists... what 5 games would not survive a crossing of the channel if you had a chance to dispose of them en-route... devil
* Obviously this was before Jon discovered Machi Koro and Trains and realized that he actually loved Japanese games... how times change "

Tom Juan: "Hmmm, ferry fodder. When considering what qualifies, I'm happy to forgive a bad but well intentioned game, but less so one that didn't really need to exist in the first place:
1. Ivor the Engine - As a fan of Fzzzt, Coppertwaddle and Snowdonia, I was expecting so much and this just doesn't deliver on any level. It isn't helped either by the highly unintuitive board or the random take that gameplay. I will be still gravitating towards the Surprised Stare stall at the Expo to look at Guilds of London but will be a lot more cautious than I may have before!
2. Principato - So bland. There is simply no reason for this game to exist when there are games which do what it is trying to do so much better.
3. The Resistance - As I've said before, I don't want to spend my game nights shouting at someone else without any real information on why I'm doing it. Mayday! Mayday! is just superior in every way to TR.
4. Donburiko - An example that not everything that comes out of Japan is gold. Minimalism for minimalism's sake isn't something to be celebrated .
5. [I'm obviously too nice - I can't think of a fifth!! I'm sure that I'll think of something.] Seasons - Was excited to try it but it's just an overlong mess. " 

Neil: "1. Galaxy Trucker - like doing a jigsaw with no idea what the picture's supposed to be.
2. Don Buriko - Tom is so right about this ridiculous excuse for a game. I'd even take John Bandettini with me on the ferry to do the chucking over.
3. Worker Placement - one excursion into the kickstarter world that was hideous, an absolute no game experience with a pathetic quality of cardboard.
4. Planet Steam - it's a big old box, full of crap! Drown you F*@+er
5. Quarriors - I wonder if dice float? "  

Noel: "Boo to Tom for The Resistanceshake, I suppose if you have a spy face what can you do... (I do like Mayday too but can drag on a bit..)
Here's my floating turkeys:
1. Are you the Traitor - complete nonsense.
2. Power Grid: First Sparks - takes the Power Grid economy, makes it more complex, less intuitive, adds some randomness and packages as Power Grid Lite (a title which only works if its Cockney Rhyming slang)
3. Quarriors. Not sure Neil, lets try again.
4. Space Cadets. 2hrs playing minigames that are interesting for 5 minutes (if you get a good one)
5. Peloponnes. 8 decisions, random hosing, not very good but really only on this list as Resistance Retaliation.
and all weighed down with a Super Dungeon Explore sized anchor.." 

John B: "Well I would dump pretty much every Japanese game I have played apart from Trains and Parade as they tend to range from mediocre to awful.
I would add to them all the bluffing ‘games’ that forget to actually be a game, like Coup and Skull.
Finally the game with one of the best mechanics ever that somehow manages to fail miserably in the game it’s included in, by feeling totally generic and not really changing the way the game plays in any meaningful way. I am of course talking about the snore fest that is Small World.
Well that was very satisfying, to get that all of my chest." 

Paul D: "Now being a die hard 'glass half full' person I thouht this would be tough, but no, only a few minutes thought and I got five. And most cross over with other people's lists so they must be bad, right?
- The Resistance - I echo exactly what Tom said and can see why people are drawn to it but it then falls flat. My favourite end of evening game at the moment is Spy Fall.
- Mysterium. Similar to the above I do get why people think it might be fun, as I did when I heard about it, but I think it's actually more random than a game of bingo
- Quarriors. Just blah. And after all the hype too. There must be loads of better bag building games out there by now and I'd like to try something else.
- Super Dungeon Explorer. Might not be bad if you like this kinda thing, but I don't and therefore it is painful.
- Santy Anno. The only game to ever give me a headache. I thought I might be good at it cos I do super well at psychometric tests, but I was last every time and I got really angry with everyone else for talking when they'd finished and I was hobbling home. This is my worstest game and I'll weigh it down with lead are swear like billy o when I hurl this off the Dover - Dieppe.
Yep, that was satisfying." 

Peter: "5 games...
Space Hulk Death Angel: coop and sci-fi. Enough said.
Robinson Crusoe: playing this whilst learning it in real time from THE most appalling rule book was a painful experience.
Tales of the Arabian Nights: our boat will be so much lighter with this overboard. And more of a story experience than game.
Concept: hard work.
Mysterium: I'm with Paul on this one. Overboard." 

Dan: "O' my cup runneth over. There is a danger of sea levels rising with the amount of garbage cardboard I could sacrifice to the triple threat of Poseidon, Neptune, and Arnakapfaaluk, but if I had to pick just five it would be the following:
5 Acquire, a game about squares with numbers in them. But that's not all! Oh no! Sometimes the squares have other numbers in them. Ha! Bet you never saw that coming, eh?
4 Quarriors because it is simply pants.
3 Fluxx, oh my god please don't ever make me sit through this again. I'm actually debating which version of Fluxxxx is the worst as I could simply have filled this top five list with five different versions of Fluxxxxxxx, which is coincidentally the sound I now make every time anyone suggests this game.
2 The Resistance - this is debatably even a game and just an exercise in finger pointing and yelling. Quite frankly, I get enough of that every time I leave the house. Absolutely the worst game I have ever played at IBG.
1 My number one seabed hugger would be Pictionary. If you've tired of the company of your friends then I can heartily recommend plying them with a few beers and cracking open a copy of this turd; it's guaranteed to stoke flames of hatred and bile that you never knew existed. I've never seen a game that didn't end with fuming resentment in a very bad way, but on the upside I've seen a reduction in my christmas card budget. " 

James: "A glaring omission from paul would be Kings of Mithril, a game that already survived a trip on the ferry back from Essen, but in retrospect should have been jettisoned to perhaps speed up the trip by a second...
Next up Ghooost!, by the same designer of king of Tokyo...picked it up on a flyer, played it once and somehow managed to sell it to the person I played with despite the game having all the subtlety of jeremy clarkson ordering coffee from a sub editor... Rubbish... And overboard.
Ok, with apologies to some of the locals but I have to add Greenland... Games can be random, or long... But rarely both. This manages to be both and seems to take some kind of delight in this. Greenland may not be underwater yet, but when the pole caps melt it's the first to go.
Ok, time for kickstarter... Kremlin... I picked up and original of this several years back at a car boot, and sold it for a song without playing... So jumped at the chance of having the ability to play the new soupped up kickstarter edition. Disappointing... An interesting concept, but just no game... I can't see what all the fuss was about, and why this game was considered sought after for the years it was oop... I'm guessing it was more the theme than that anyone had actually played it.
Lastly... Hmm... There were a lot of candidates of games I never actually played, but to keep this on personal experience I'll finish with The Red Dragon Inn.. A game I thought I'd like... A game I made a conscious effort to track down... A game I played once and sold. Given all the expansions this could cause some kind of tidal wave if they were all ditched in the channel at the same time... But the wiping out of a few coastal towns would be a worthwhile price if this game never again darkened the tables at Isleworth...
Cool. So Why is it that creating negative lists feels like more fun than positive ones

Paul A: "I've held back on my list, because there's not many games I consider a waste of cardboard. Certainly there are games I wouldn't play again, but I got something out of them, even if it was just company. So what would I throw overboard?
* Talisman (Revised 4th Edition): random, over-wrought, over-extended bullshit that just never ends. For a fast game, roll a d6. Whoever gets the highest number wins.
* Fluxx wins a position due to having the kernel of an interesting idea (a game of ever-changing rules, as implemented in the far superior Nomic), but then using this to make a totally random game that also just goes forever.
* Panic Station wins a position for the most severe theme-mechanic mismatch ever seen in a boardgame. So there's aliens hiding amongst the crew, and you are periodically forced to trade your equipment with others, which might infect you, unless you have gasoline. And you're simultaneously a robot and a human. Don't like the game? It's because "you're not playing it right".
* I should be more tolerant of Munchkin but it's the favoured filler of some friends of mine. Thus I've played too many games of what should be a quick and fun filler, but instead turns into a 3 hour session of bash-the-leader. The relentless "zany" humour palls after the first hour.
* My final entry is just a global vote for the endless number of soulless Eurogames that have a truckload of systems (produce this, build this, auction this, add on stock speculation), trying to produce game depth with rules width. You know who you are. " 

Tash: "Since this question is a transparent attempt to get me to rant about some games I don't like, I am going to dodge it and try to save some games from deferrystration.
I see that Kremlin and Acquire are getting some grief. This is surely unfair. They are not bad games at all - they are just old, and time has passed them by. Would you throw your grandfather off a ferry, because he is boring now? NO! You would put him in a comfortable nursing home and ignore him while he and his pals reminisce about the days when they were fun. Surely that is a better fate.
Meanwhile Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island, Mysterium and Tales of the Arabian Nights are in danger of getting wet, simply because they are "not games", but rather just "story telling experiences". But nobody is suggesting they throw their James Bond DVD collection, collected works of Bernard Cornwell or Game of Thrones box set off a ferry, because they are "story telling". Nor is anyone throwing deckchairs and Mars Bars off the ferry because they are "not games". Unfair, I say.
OK I will chuck a game off the ferry. Tulipmania 1637. Quite simply the single worst game ever made in human history. For those who haven't played (hopefully everyone) this is meant to be a mediumweight combo-building economic euro, lasting 90-120 minutes. Unfortunately the play testers forgot to notice that, with the right opening (which seems obvious to me), there is a 1/12 chance of winning the game on your first turn. This is not easily houseruled away. Off the ferry with you!" 

This weeks question: "After the condemnation of Pictionary last week, what's your favourite party game... ?            

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Sails, Rails, and tall tales

Players: Paul A, Peter, Dan, James, Andy, Tash, Jon, Noel, and Bryan.

Ye Olde Undersea Sons of Bitches (thanks Peter)

 Deep Sea Adventure provided the usual thrills and spills. Despite having played many times I still rarely make it back to the sub but tonight I succeeded twice. Alas it was not sufficient to beat Paul who I believe made it back with a level three treasure. Quite something.
Paul A was the most selfish diver, pushing everyone else back down into the briny sea by stepping on heads in his rush to get back on the boat.  Peter was a close second with Andy and Dan barely making it back with some rusty old trinkets.

Love Letter

A rare outing at IBG for this popular micro game to fill a bit of time as we waited for No Thanks to finish up, new to Andy but still confusing to the rest of us as it was some strange Samurai variant with unfamiliar names on the cards. Like many games with broad appeal, the simplicity and direct play that make it so accessible also causes it to grate with many and I think we added Andy to those ranks as he didn't seem too impressed after his first ever experience of this. Still popular with the rest of the table though!
Dan won, with Paul A, Peter, and Andy managing to deliver one or two letters each.

Pax Porfiriana (thanks Peter)

It was good to get Pax Porfiriana back to the table again. I was well-rusty so my thanks go out to both Dan and Paul for their patience with explaining the rules to me. Dan impressively nearly won twice: once with Outrage (with defeat saved in the nick of time by Paul who Outraged my factions and saved us from Dan's majority), and then with Loyalty when I managed to buy the topple card moments before Dan was going to succeed in a Loyalty revolution. Meanwhile Paul & I were making the most of an abundance of income-generating ranches and mines. And with both of their troops maxed out in ability, thanks to some handy Partners, conflict was light and unrest minimal. With the last topple card gone Dan was completely broke and his mass of Loyalty was no good to him. So at that point the game was abandoned with me just marginally ahead on cash over Paul thanks to a benign set of income generating mines, mainly in the US. Thank for the game, it was most enjoyable. We must play it again soon...before I forget the rules again.  

 Ed - "As an addendum I feel obliged to point out how well both Paul and Peter closed me out of the game - right from the off I picked up two newspapers that would allow me a very quick and cheap move for either a Loyalty or an Outrage victory and strangled my economy to push for it, but they both kept the regime in a flux of anarchy and martial law while buying three of the four topples from the 16-spot as soon as they could. 
Paul looked like he might be in scope for a quick push to a Revolution victory in the early game, or at the very least to force me to flip my Hacendado in support of the revolutionaries which would have completely scuppered my chances for a Loyalty victory, and so I diverted some of my efforts into closing this avenue off. This slowed my game further as it meant that I missed the first topple which was a sterling opportunity for me to invite a US invasion and to take the game; when it dropped off the end of the exchange Paul played some orange cards onto Peter to block any further viable attempts on Outrage and so I switched focus to kissing Diaz's butt with a Loyalty-strong tableau. However, for at least eight rounds in a row I was either a couple of money or an action short of victory, or had the topple taken before it could come back to my turn. So frustrating, yet I loved every moment of it!
Both Peter and Paul were going for a cash heavy long game and I very nearly put us into a depression to wipe the tableaus clean but too many Bear cards followed into the exchange to make this a viable strategy as I would have damaged my own position more than theirs.
I would also note that Peter is being quite modest in his description of being 'slightly' ahead. With by far the biggest stack of money and a strong tableau of well guarded ranches and mines his cash victory was inevitable; as Paul put it, Peter could either accept our capitulation right then and there or take the win after 45 minutes of slow burning income-building card play later, and so we called the game in order to regroup with the other table that had just wrapped up at that point"

TTR: Marklin 

Bryan's first week at the club and so Noel had brought TTR:Marklin as a classic TTR gateway game with the additional twist of each player having 3 passengers that they can move along their network 3 times in the game(or an opponents with the right cards) and pick up ever decreasing bonus points from the cities that they move through. Jon joined Noel and Bryan and as the board was perused and the choke points visualised the tension had already begun to rise.

Jon placed his first train on the same 1 length route that Noel had eyed up so Noel secured the other route out of Koln a key city in two of his hand tickets. Bryan started in the SE away from trouble and fear of blocking. He did leave one or two opportunities for either Noel or Jon to block his connections but being the renowned as the Gentlemen of IBG this was not even considered.

The addition of the passengers adds a nice element of tension and decision making as the usual train card collection had to be balanced with getting routes on the board to claim the higher value bonuses. Noel built West to East into Berlin and was able to pick up a few of the high bonuses in Berlin and a 7 train route out. Jon had an extensive circular network that yielded some high bonus runs but despite connecting a number of cities he drew a blank with some late ticket draws. Bryan also timed the passenger routes well and picked up some high bonuses through the many cities in the South. However, not getting involved in the early route laying of Jon and Noel in the North West proved costly as he wasnt able to fulfil his long route.

In final scoring Noel ran out winner with 190 points, Jon 150 and Bryan 115.

As we left the pub after another enjoyable evening Bryan remarked, peering down at Noel and Jon from the top of the slippery slope, 'So where do you buy all these games then....'

The Beige Game (thanks Tash)

I'll have you know that the game with the beige board did not just have a beige board. Oh no. It also had beige cards. AND it had a set of components in GREY. AND the most terrifying of all possible cards in that game was the devildevildevildevil BELL TOWER devildevildevildevil

SO EVIL is this BELL TOWER that noobs are recommended to play without it!

(I will let James explain the actual game of Firenze which was really quite fascinating actually, thank you very much, so there.)  

King Up
It's been a really long time since we last saw this game at the club so it was great to have this candidate for 'game most begging for a Game of Thrones retheme' back on the table. There is a castle full of backstabbing hooligans who are all desperate to sit on the iron throne and every so often some fool will make a play for it and be thrown out of a nearby window. All the players have a card with a list of wannabes that they can score points on and some voting cards that give them only two shots at vetoing a candidate for kingship. Hijinks ensue as everybody jostles for the best scoring positions while the bodies pile up in the castle moat, unless everybody hilariously mistimes their bluff by voting 'Yes' in the first round which we managed to do in the second game. We played three games and it was fun, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you what the scores were.

Also played this evening: No Thanks, Red 7

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: "2 games are generally considered to have done more than any others to push the gaming hobby we all love...

Carcassonne... and... Settlers of Catan

Which side are you on ?

Paul A: "I slightly prefer Settlers to Carcassonne, but it's a tough battle:
* Carcassonne is by far the more elegant and clever design. Pick up a tile, put down a tile.
* But in terms of "the hobby", Settlers is the clear winner. It boosted the eurogame into the public eye, restarted the genre and has sold 18 million copies. No contest. " 

James: "For me I think I prefer Carc... just because I find myself playing it far more than Settlers that needs 3 and takes 3 times as long. My 8 year old loves Carcassonne, and my parents even have a copy of their own... I did try to introduce on of the variants (Carcassonne: Gold Rush) at Christmas though and it was resounding failure... serves me right for trying to be clever...
On the iPad I've probably played both more than any other game... the implementations are flawless... but over a table Carcassonne wins.
Also the small modular expansions are much easier to bring in for Carc while the expansions for Settlers are chunkier and generally change the games quite dramatically.
So +1 for Carcassonne " 

John B: "I loved Settlers back in the day (The 90’s), but I have never been that keen on Carcassonne preferring Alhambra as a tile laying game.
Nowadays I would rather not play either of them." 

Dan: "Out of the two I would go for Carcassonne, it's dead simple and the abstract design allows people to play their own game. I find that Settlers can be a bit flaky as it largely depends on people playing the game as they are supposed to, i.e. trading and bashing the leader. As soon as someone paddles against the stream it can go a bit wrong as the trading helps to mitigate the uneven resource spread in the early game. Regardless of personal tastes, Carc always delivers whereas Settlers can be a bad experience simply because of the starting setup or the way the game is played." 

Noel: "Team Settlers for me. Not really that keen for a game at the club but has been the perfect 4 player gateway for us and lots of friends. Though I have an unplayed Catan Histories: Merchants of Europe if anyone interested in a game (that might be a good one for Wednesday)" 

Jon: "Definitely Carcassonne for me. Easy to teach and learn. Some interaction without being too aggressive (unless you want to be! arrrh ) Traders & Builders / Inns & Cathedrals are all you need of the expansions.
Settlers is still ok (and we've just started playing with the kids) but I always get taken unawares by how long the game can go on for - too long for a gateway in my opinion. TTR:Europe has taken over from Settlers as our alternative to Carcassonne...) " 

Tash: "I don't know anything about gateways for children. I can only speak to the teenage and adult hobby.
Settlers for me is the better game and the better gateway.
Not sure about the love for Carcasonne. Imo, it's just another tile-laying snoozefest which relies (like so many tile games) on you pulling the better tiles at the better times - or, more to the point, not pulling the worse tiles. There's no strategic element, there's no battle of wits, there's no moments of sudden excitement/tension and there's no direct interaction between players. I am not sure what other kind of game it is a "gateway" to.
Settlers has its flaws (for instance, every expansion ever made for it) and frustrations (those damned dice, and needing 3 other people) but it does have meaningful choices and strategy and interaction and moments of terror and market economics and probability. The best part about it is that after a while you can "master" it, and that encourages you and gives you confidence to go out and find a deeper game. And it is a gateway to any number of games because of its variety." 

Paul D: "I enjoy carc and settlers. I like settlers more as a game to spend my time playing and I'm always willing to overlook its flaws as I have enjoyed it so much over the years. But I think carc is a better gateway as settlers is okay if you've got The right set of players but it's still too complex for some. And Ticket to Ride is better as a gateway than both of them - that is the ultimate gateway game. " 

Peter: "I am also in the TTR camp as a gateway. Tense and exciting and very easy to teach.
Of the the other two, Settlers drives more tension and I find gateway gamers get quite a buzz from this if they are on the verge of their ten points and it becomes a race for the final point or two. That adrenalin is very addictive and will often sway them into asking for another game. Carcassonne lacks that dimension. " 

This weeks question: "We have a concept for games felt to be a waste of cardboard..."ferry fodder". This dates back to a trip to Essen when traveling back on the cross channel ferry Jon decided that most of the games I'd picked up from Japon Brand should be ditched overboard rather than completing the journey... *

So as we all like lists... what 5 games would not survive a crossing of the channel if you had a chance to dispose of them en-route... devil

* Obviously this was before Jon discovered Machi Koro and Trains and realized that he actually loved Japanese games... how times change

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Bell Tolls for the Picture of Mad Dogs and Englishmen By Edgar Allan Oscar Coward

Players: Paul, Paul, Paul, Jon, John, John, along with Dan, James, Gareth, Sarah, Noel, and Andy, all of whom had the decency to turn up with their own individual names.

Subtitle: "A thoroughly confusing book. Or was it a play?"

Arboretum (thanks Jon)

I didn't play, but I watched Paul, Noel play with John B who was teaching the game. Seems like a nice hand-management / set collection card game with a spatial element (planting trees to make paths through the arboretum).

- nice art and novel theme
- Paul takes longer than Plato to think
- Noel only likes one type of tree
- John B won on a tiebreak

 Kingdom Builder (thanks Jon)

Paul A opined that using an expansion for KB was an 'aberration'. So we played with one anyway.
As always, a very cool game, which plays differently depending on which scoring cards and which special abilities are in play.
On this occasion, Paul D pipped Jon by a single point thanks to a profitable last move of the game, leaving Jon to moan about how few flowers and deserts he had seen all game.
Paul D 54; Jon 53; Paul A 45; John 43

In his defence, Paul A notes the following: "So why would you take a clean, elegant design like Kingdom Builder and screw it up with special "objectives" and "missions" and other twaddle? So Jon could like it? Anyways, I remain baffled as to how good I am at this on the tablet, but how poor I am at the physical tabletop version. Must be the company."

The Hipster game for Hipsters called "Don't spill the cards!" (thanks James)

Design Town is an interesting Taiwanese game, with a deck builder mechanic ivolving 2 sided cards which you could flip at a certain cost to access additional bonus's... Quite fiddly as it was important to always keep the cards the right way round... tricky when shuffling etc. Gareth romped home to victory (I think)... I do remember doing absymally though, I'd like to blame the game, but I suspect it was my (lack of) strategy... the juries out for me on the game... may need to play again to confirm my opinion
Paul A would like to add "as with many Asian hipster games, an initially confusing experience that started to make sense only as we ended the game. You might look at it as a mini Card City or Machi Koro, with a bit of push-your-luck to it. I'm not sure this has a huge amount of play to it, but it was fun enough and I'd certainly play again."


A three player game between Gareth II, Sarah, and Dan. Gareth built up some Influence very quickly  and dominated the first two ages in the early game, but then his engine stalled and Dan pulled ahead by stealing Influence cards and competing some of the secondary goals that brought in additional dominations. There was a tight tussle for many rounds with the players digging into the deck for the 10th age until the deadlock eventually broke in Gareths favour.

Firenze (thanks James)

Great game - Noel, John and myself played, and basically Noel wiped the floor with us, collecting ooodles of bonus's and shooting into an early lead that only seemed to get bigger... A rematch is required.

Baseball Highlights 2045 (thanks James)

Just a 2 player game this one as only John and me know the rules to baseball... had to make sure I wasn't the NY or Boston teams... luckily John had all the expasions already so I could play as SF. V simple game really with each game lasting the time it takes to play 6 cards which involved advancing your own base runners while blocking your opponents. The first 3 games were a warm up to determine home advantage in the World Series... the deck building element was nice as after each match you were able to 'hire' a new player to your squad... early on these didn't impact much but as the game progressed your whole team started to consist of the new signings rather than the starter cards.

So I managed to sneak home advantage in the WS, and then, somehow, walked away with a 4-1 win from the best of seven.

I really liked this... but I suspect given the theme it's going to next to impossible to get this played... Still would recommend this for anyone into sports games, it's worth a try.

Dixit (thanks Jon)

A welcome return!
Dan insisted that everyone gave clues that were longer than one word.
Jon mistook Edgar Allan Poe for John Donne in his clue, except that no-one noticed as they were all just as illiterate as Jon...
Noel sways between 'Mr Obvious' and 'Mr Obscure'....
Jon won by an urban mile.....  

Happy Birthday (thanks James)

A final couple of games before hometime, and this was a good variant on another game that John brought before 'Crappy Birthday'. Players select gifts (apples to apples style) for the 'selector' who then picks the best and worse gifts... first to 6 (?) wins. Simple game, but lots of fun trying to mind read others... Dan won both games, which is slightly disturbing if he knows us all that well.

Also played this evening: Ninc Kegylem (or No Thanks to the uninitiated), Two thirds of a game of Airships, Hanabi, and a two player game of Agricola

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: "I have a friend who loves Monopoly... I'm very keen to get them into a game of Agricola but I know this is too big a leap in one go. Create a boardgame path that takes my friend from Monopoly to Agricola in, say 5 games (or whatever works for you) and share this below."

Gary: "1. Machi Koro - you are still rolling dice and still acquiring buildings and it is still a bit of a luck fest, but it is much shorter, more engaging and there is Some strategy in the cards you take
2. Ticket to Ride - just to prove that not all board games need dice! You are also trying to second guess what your opponents may do.
3. Stone Age - OK this one does have dice! But it introduces the concept of worker placement and the idea that having more people (actions) comes with a cost - feeding them - and it does have those comforting dice!
4. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small - bit of a cheat, I know, but it would introduce some of the fundamentals of Gric, without the feeding pain or family growth agonies.
5. Agricola - boom. Fact is nothing is going to prepare you really. If you want to be prepared for the feel of that first game, try staying up all night doing mental puzzles and see how you feel - that is how mentally exhausted you will feel after your first game of Agricola!
Alternatively, just tell them to go away and play 20 games on the iPad and then come back and play it. By that point, it will all finally make sense... " 

Paul M: "The answer to the question is a question: what kind of person loves monopoly? I'm not sure I've ever known a game of monopoly to finish before everyone gets bored. Almost as bad as mouse trap which holds the children's attention for less time than it takes to set up!!! " 
Tasha: "Paul has hit on the question that unlocks a way to answer James's enigma.
Gary has gone with the dice-rolling element of Monopoly as a jump-off, but there are other elements to explore - cash management, trading, acquisition.
1. First earn their trust. For Sale In the early game, you buy assets with a limited pool of cash. There is some luck which makes the choice not-so-hard. In the late game, you torture your opponents with your assets. There is some luck. OMG it's the best of Monopoly, delivered in a delicious short burst.
2. Next, introduce balance and knock out some luck. Catan This time, you start with some assets and skip straight to the part where you roll dice to see whether those assets pay off. There is some luck. Then you use those assets to trade with other people to make sets. Make enough sets and you win. OMG it's the best of Monopoly, plus, you actually get to play with other people.
3. Next, let's learn about workers: aka moveable assets. Stone Age We learned about how dice rolls make your assets create resources in Catan. Stone Age is the same - but your assets are not fixed on the board, but moveable by you: workers. Each turn you decide, afresh, what they make. But, ah, the scarcity! The ruined plans! More workers are better, but, I need to feed them! Gah! We also learned about how sets of resources buy VPs in Catan, at fixed exchange rates. Now let's vary those exchange rates, via cards, buildings and multiplier rewards.
4. Let's kill the dice and get some multiple currencies going. Puerto Rico Time to step things up and get rid of the crutches. Puerto Rico is a step back, in that the workers have temporarily disappeared. But your job choice is similar, except it forces you to think about how your choices directly affect everyone. PR also teaches the tableau concept, and other techniques you need for Agricola: You need money to survive; and barrels/colonists/buildings to do things; but focus too much on those - and you'll end the game with no VPs. Oops!
5. Remember: games are fun. King of Tokyo: Power Up! We are nearly ready to play Agricola. But there are three reasons to play this first. (a) It teaches about how cards can appear and be amazing, or dreadful, and definitely make a game asymmetrical (and sometimes feel unfair because of that). This is v important to know if you are going to enjoy Agricola. (b) It also reminds you that games are fun and not just like going to work or school. (c) This game should now feel "a bit silly" to your player, because the randomness of the dice plays such a big part, and their choices not so much. This will hopefully stop them feeling nostalgia for simpler games of luck when the Agricola train hits them in 3.... 2.... 1...."  

Dan: "Step 1: Play Monopoly with them. It's their favourite game after all and there's no room to be a dick about it. You like to spend time with your friend so does it have to be about you? Start off by showing them the correct rules as it's likely an absolute certainty that they don't play it correctly.
Step 2: Show them your games collection and ask them to choose something, anything, they like the look of, and then play it with them. This notion that gaming is a dark art that people have to be led into gradually is complete BS. If they don't have it in them to enjoy complex games then playing Ticket To Ride first isn't going to make them any more likely to love Agriocola later.
Step 3: If they don't choose Agricola then stop being a whining pussy about it, you've always got Wednesday nights to get in a game.
Step 4: If they decide that they like tabletop gaming then invite them along to IBG!

Paul M: "(Tongue in cheek mode activated)
We need to take a step back here.
How long has this person been a friend? Monopoly is a game which divides the world into two: mostly people don't enjoy it while a small proportion do but complain that no-one else wants to play it with them. Is it the case that this monopoly-phile has recently wangled a friendship with you just so they can get a game of monopoly going? Are they the type of friend who'll be there when you need them? I think not.
Secondly, as Dan explained, Monopoly is a game which no-one plays properly. Should we be encouraging play of a game where the rules are ignored or even deliberately misread? Should we encourage play of a game which defines why some people call it bored-gaming? I think not.
I say - save yourself the cost of two postage stamps a year (that's right they won't invite you to their birthday party as that's for their real friends so you'll have to post that card along with the Xmas one) and simultaneously improve the quality of your friendship group.
(Tongue in cheek mode off) " 

James: "No meta-answer from me... being non-meta is the new meta.
So the first game is simple... Chinatown... not only as it's one of my favorites but it fits the theme of Monopoly and also improves on the negotiation tenfold... very beginner friendly as well. Easy win.
From Chinatown we move to El Gaucho... time to show that dice are not just for moving... but can be far more flexible in games... not a lot of overlap with Agricola on the mechanics, but there are lots of cows
Let's now mix a few of these thing together and also introduce some gaming history and bring out CATAN 3D Collector's Edition... ok, I don't have this fancy version, but what a way to impress a newbie... yeah Monopoly has a little silver boot... so what, I have 3d sculpted mountains ! Here we bring back negotiation, add some dice, some spacial planning on the board, card management... there's a lot going on in Catan.
From here we're almost there... Time to zone in on the core mechanics of Agricola and introduce some worker placement... time for Lords of Waterdeep... Dan's favourite game as I recall... good job Dan's not playing though as we don't want to put anyone off. This gives us all the remaining tools for Agricola... worker placement... resource management... in a very beginner friendly package... just hope they're not put off by the D&D branding on the box... I should really put some tape over that.
...and here we are at Agricola although as I still don't know the rules chances are I'll ot actually get around to playing this with my friend... so would plump for a game of Twilight Struggle instead as it's better

This weeks question: "2 games are generally considered to have done more than any others to push the gaming hobby we all love...

Carcassonne... and... Settlers of Catan

Which side are you on ?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Three plus three is twelve

Players: Gareth, Sarah, Jon, Dan, Paul D, James, Dan II, Andy

Another great night, a lot of fun was had with prancing parades, crafty Cathedrals, delirious dreams, and trans-Asian trading. We also witnessed the undersea equivalent of Bungee Jumping, which has to be a first for IBG if not the world.


Ahh, I remember that bit of Alice In Wonderland so well, when all the core characters decide to clone themselves ten times over before forming a long orderly line. And who says that filler games don't have theme? A bunch of us played this to get the evening started, scores ranged from terrifically wonderful to hilariously bad but the eventual victor is sadly lost to posterity.

Marco Polo (thanks James!)

Ok, so it did play in just over an hour with 2 players on my first game... wasn't expecting this to be a 2 hour game with 4...

Apologies out of the way, Andy, Paul, Natasha and myself all dived into one of the hot games of the month, from the designers of T'zolkin a lighter, dice worker placement game about exploring the far east and bagging camels (no, that' not what you think that means Jon)...

This games most striking aspect are the unique player roles. When Dan heard about the dice element he was skeptical about the luck element in the game.... however one of the player roles gets to pick their dice results rather than rolling... a natural fit to cover Dan's skepticism... Paul could avoid the costs for using already selected actions, I gained additional resources from the market and Andy had an extra dice for the game... very powerful abilities. This feels to me like one of the key motivators to reward additional games and the roles will require different approaches each game.

So as the the game itself, turned out to be an interesting journey... I jumped out to a commanding lead mid-game due to completing lots of contracts due to my easier access to resources. Dan and Andy were both exploring while Paul seemed to be specifically targeting certain cities. In the last 3rd suddenly Dan scored like a zillion points in 1 turn and we ended up neck and neck.. Andy and Paul were struggling to keep the pace, I'll admit I'm not sure the extra dice ability is as good as it sounds.. but haven't played the game enough to really know for sure. Right at the end I managed to turn in a few more contracts and ended up ahead by about 8 points or so... but it went from feeling comfortable for me to a nervous last few turns... trying to max out points at the end is quite a brain burner.

For me I enjoyed it although not sure how the others felt... I think there's a risk that you can be limited in options towards then end which doesn't help... Paul got a bit stuck this way. Dan and me took totally different routes to scoring and were close, which is promising for future re playability... as I already said, I'm not sure the extra dice gives enough of a benefit, but maybe I'm wrong... felt like Andy wasn't able to do much with his advantage.

I think the game though is really solid... and easily the best new game this year (post Essen)... wouldn't surprise me at all to see it up for some of the big awards later this year



 Two plays of this long-absent but much welcome game of un-co-operation, general confusion, and pictures of spiders. The first was a two-player endeavour between Jon and Dan with Jon playing two investigators, which plays surprisingly well as there is a stronger unspoken dialogue between the ghost and the investigator. It's definitely much easier to be the ghost without people interfering in each others interpretations of the dream cards (not mentioning any names here *cough*spiders!*cough*). A fairly easy victory all told with only one refresh of the dream cards.
Paul joined us for the second game with Jon taking over spooky duty, once again we got right to the end but with only one opportunity to guess we chose the wrong suspect.

Deep Sea Shrimpy Bungee Jumpers Are Ok!

This one is fast becoming a club favourite as an end of evening game; veteran James took a tactful approach plunging not too deep and quickly coming back up with a single treasure in hand. Everybody else went crazy like a bunch of bag-ladies with brand new shopping trolleys and found themselves struggling to survive with any treasure. Both the Dans did some remarkable undersea bungee-jumping, diving down only to immediately come back up empty handed. I managed to acquire only a single level 1 artifact for all my troubles which was decried as the equivalent of shrimp fishing in this game. Revealing our tiles at the end of the game it turned out to be an ex-shrimp that had climbed up the curtain and joined the choir invisible. A rather tragic end to the night, but I shall forever treasure my brief moments with "Bubba" and remember him always.   

Jon mentions that he only realised halfway through the game the reason why everyone was rolling remarkably low totals with 2 dice, and why he could ever roll more than a total score of 6 - there were only the numbers 1-3 on each die.... "Despite this, I think I might have won the game with a remarkable final desperate dive. But I might not have. Who cares - it was fun anyway!"

Also played this evening: Catan: Germany Edition

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

James: "To start this off I'd make it an offense for any other activities to be arranged on a Wed evening that could conflict with club night...

Also, any company found scheduling meetings on Thursday mornings at 9am, or similar will be fined severely... "

Neil: "Tighter controls at ferry ports: all Japanese to be tested thoroughly before being allowed entry.
Moratorium for mythological, fantastical games: hand them over to any council dump during the month of June. After that the police state will hunt you down and you will be convicted.
The rebranding of The Monopolies Commission to 'The Feld Academy'.
A new structure of education taught completely through board games: History - Through the Ages, Geography - Ticket to Ride, Sports - Subbuteo, English - Council of Verona, Maths - from 6 Nimmt and For Sale through to advanced Feld, etc, etc."

Paul A: "If you elect me for the Boardgame party, I will ensure that truth in advertising is enforced for boardgames: piles of miniatures can no longer be called "theme", those launching Kickstarters will be forced to admit if they have no idea what they're doing, game manuals will have to meet minimal standards of English and comprehension. "

James: "Prior to any game of Small World there will be a referendum whether Jon should be gagged for the duration of the game.
If I'm elected I'll also pass a law that permits upto 1 incorrect rule to be acceptable when covering new games for the first time...
2 incorrect rules would go on record, but not result in any further action.
3 incorrect rules - you're out ! (...or forced to proof read the next Phil Eklund game...)"

Soren: "I would tax empty space in game boxes - that should sort out both the economy as well as the housing shortage."

Dan: "So if we vote for James he has to throw himself out of the country?
My ticket is the same as the one I had in my recent abortive bid for the world presidency, which is the promise of free Beer, discount balloon rides, and a two-day working week for all. Like any good politician my steering wheel only does u-turns though, fair warning!

Tash: "Vote for me and I will:
1. Increase productivity and wealth exponentially across the Dominion by holding massive numbers of Festivals.
2. Refocus our Trains industry on its true #1 priority: efficiently disposing of toxic waste
3. Skyrocket national wealth by producing vast quantities of much-needed Indigo thanks to our new forced labour "colonists"
4. Give everyone in prison a chance to escape if they can reach the car park and then roll 20 or more on 4 dice
5. Outlaw the use of Wet Nurses and Chamberlains in the farming industry, as an anti-competitive practice "

Jon: "Vote for me and I'll abolish:
1) All cube-pushing games over 1 hour long...
2) All fantasy-themed games (special dispensation for Small World)...
3) All space-themed games...
4) Cards with too much text and too many icons on them...
5) Any Japanese game... except Trains... or Machi Koro... or String Savanna...
6) James... "

This weeks question: "I have a friend who loves Monopoly... I'm very keen to get them into a game of Agricola but I know this is too big a leap in one go. Create a boardgame path that takes my friend from Monopoly to Agricola in, say 5 games (or whatever works for you) and share this below."