Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Rage Against The Caramac

Contributors:  Daniel, Soren

AvatarDownstairs at The Apprentice this week, but we had the whole back room to ourselves and the lighting is so much better now it was almost better than being up in the Riverview Room!
I had an early game of Too Many Cinderellas with Neil, Sandra, and Peter, followed by Jon joining us for No Thanks (Sandra claimed she had never played before yet managed to hammer us all in a convincing win) before saving the Multiverse with Neil (oblivious), Paul (disgruntled), Tasha (ecstatic), and Gareth (Hamster). This was then followed by the Dan Lester red-eye breakfast hour, largely comprising an epic rant about the state of the Diplomacy world championships, but also some revelations about his prior relationships with Texan death row inmates (you'd be surprised at how little hyperbole there is in that paragraph).

Things then got serious with a few rounds of Fake Artist, joining the dots in Traxx, and arguing over card placement in the IBG Pictomania Cup (sponsored by Caramac). Heavy stuff indeed.

Also seen doing the rounds were Council of Verona, Stone Age (I'm guessing that Philip had already secured victory by the second turn), Shakespeare (no monkeys, but plenty of wooden blocks on a beige board, plus an interloping pawn that looked like it had snuck in from Jame's car-boot sale copy of Cluedo. How did it play? Very seriously apparently, but at least they got the rules done and dusted before closing time for a change). Meanwhile, the five Toms crushed innocent Vikings with hairy storm gods in Blood Rage. They liked it so much they were at it all night, so it must have been a good one. 


AvatarBlood Rage

As we all know from the Nordic mythology and sagas, the vikings invented the drafting mechanism now widely used in many board and card games as the way to divide the spoils from their raids. So very appropriately, card drafting is the core mechanism which drives the epic, build your own special powers engine dudes on a map game that is Blood Rage.

Over three ages players have to make agonising decisions to choose between the many cool special powers and quests to put together an efficient combat engine. The viking clans and their house-trained giant monsters then slug it out for glory in the provinces around Yggdrasil while the whole world is falling apart in Ragnarok. "We need a bigger Valhalla". The casualties pile up high in Valhalla, often with a sneaky happy grin on their players' faces as they wanted them to be slaughtered in battle for the glory of being resurrected from Valhalla at the end of each age.

Tom and James, having played the game before, drafted some very efficient cards and avoided obvious operational and tactical mistakes and quickly pulled away ending with a runaway victory for Tom. First-timer Raj also did very well with Soren and Patrick trailing some way behind.

Very good, in your face confrontational game with lots of hard choices to be made throughout and with great miniatures (bigatures?/maxiatures?). Highly recommended Eurotrash game. Definitely a keeper to sit proudly next to Kemet and Cyclades.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Off to Ikea with a cider-soaked singer

Contributors:  David, Peter, Jon, Noel

Arrived early with James II yet again to find Paul A and Philip there already. We wanted something fast so started with Hey, That's My Fish!. It's a fast paced and cut-throat children's game about grabbing fish and cutting off rival penguins on a decreasing ice float. Philip crushed us quite comfortably by locking off a large chunk of the ice float to himself as the rest of us fought over the scraps. The set up time probably took longer than the actual game.

A few others turned up and we started another game of Hey, That's My Fish! this time with John, Anne, myself and Philip again. Lo and behold Philip managed to do it again and crushed us all quite easily.

After that myself James II, Paul A and John started a game of Florenza: The Card Game, a card game (a lot of cards) about renaissance city building with some hand management and engine building. There is very little player interaction so everyone was involved in building their own engines in order to build the larger victory point Monuments and hire famous artists. Everyone went for slightly different strategies and I feel that building workshops (Bottegas) that provide extra resources at the end of each turn seemed the most efficient. I went for building as many workshops as possible which then allowed me to build quite a few Monuments in the last turn as I had quite the stockpile of resources. Paul A was building Civic, Church and Government buildings that was giving small but constant victory points whereas James II and John were doing something in between. It finished with myself on 76, John on 72, Paul A on 69 and James on 60 something.

I really like the game but it's not for everyone and it could really do with a more player interaction as it can feel a bit like a solo experience. However I think the expansion adds this Florenza: The Card Game – War and Religion Expansion so it is probably something I will have to seek out. It also suffers from a large and messy footprint with a daunting number of cards.

My last game of the evening was Welcome to the Dungeon with Paul A, James II, myself, Magnus and Karolina. I was mistiming a lot and ended up being forced into the Dungeon with limited supplies which lead to my two deaths quite quickly. Only Paul and Karolina braved the Dungeon and lived to tell the tale with Karolina winning.


A great game of Aquasphere with Phillip, James & Neil. Aquasphere is the most Feldian of Felds and is therefore VERY GOOD INDEED. If it wasn't for the poor graphic design it might be close to a classic.

As with all good Feld's there was a barrage of points coming at us from all directions. No matter what you did you couldn't avoid them. However I was the most successful at ducking the relentless point delivery mechanisms and came in with the lowest point score by some considerable margin. What? That wasn't the aim of this game? Oh. In which case James must have won as he had more points than anyone else. Damn.

Prior to this I enjoyed two excellent and entertaining games of Raj. A new to me game and one I instantly went out and purchased today. I think this eliminates the need for For Sale as it does what For Sale does but even more elegantly and simply. Terrific game.

A game of the good Doctor's classic High Society between James, Neil and myself reminded me just what a great design this game is and how it never ages and always feels fresh. The player who spends the most money being instantly eliminated is a great feature and one I fell foul to last night. I think Neil won by a small margin.

And after all of that A Fake Artist Went To New York. But on the two games I participated in the fake artist was immediately apparent. The IKEA drawing was brilliantly observed with the flat-packed furniture, alum key and sad face (Dan I think was the creator of that masterpiece?)*

* Sadly, I cannot take credit for this masterpiece in Fake Artist as it was Jon's drawing. However, Peter did miss out on my rather tremendous depiction of Lemmy singing the Ace of Spades as a reference to the clue "Poker"  (hence this weeks rather obtuse title).


Neil, Peter, Paul A and I played Raj (the game, not the gamer...) at the beginning of the evening.
In the first game, Neil looked like he was nowhere, until he stormed to a win by picking up the last couple of tiles. Paul had pretty much failed to pick up anything, so he came out of the gates with all guns blazing in the second game, slapping down high cards and picking up several early tiles. But it came down to the last card, with a double tile worth 12 points in total, which Peter picked up for the win.
This is a great filler - so simple to teach, but loads of fun (especially with more players). The box insert does cry out 'style over substance' though... shake

Noel and Jon introduced relative newcomer Anne, and absolute newcomer Sandra to Trains. In honour of Sandra's first appearance, her homeland of Germany was chosen for the map, and she started at a fair pace, slapping rails and stations down whenever she could.
Jon was initially going with a money strategy, to try to pick up the 11-coin / 6 point Stadiums that were on offer. However, the game didn't look like it was going to last long enough, so he switched horses mid-stream and inevitably ended up soggy....
Noel did his usual trick of stealing someone else's hard-earned points (ie Sandra's), but she was apparently unperturbed by this, falling for the Irish charm, and ended up adding even more stations to Noel's network.angry

Jon was his usual whining self, complaining that he had managed to shuffle all his waste to the top of his deck, so that for his last 3 turns he revealed 13 waste cards (not a bad feat, actually) and could not add a single point to his score. Noel was within a gnat's toenail of completing a route and adding another city on his last turn, which would have scored him shed loads of points, but no matter, he won comfortably anyway.
As always, a great game which played quickly, even with 2 newbies.
Noel 57; Sandra 46; Jon 39; Anne 29


Noel convinced Sandra, John and raj to play Hab and Gut which a great stock market game with simple rules, interesting decisions in under an hour but is always a bit of a hard sell in part because of the name. But no more... Native German Sandra informed us all that it means Have and Good... So there you have it, that clears that up...a game that sums up James's philosophy for game acquisition.

Noel had played once before and gave a quick run-through. Six goods, starting at the same price, everyone takes turns to buy or sell shares in some goods and then everyone has a chance to raise or lower the price of the goods. Repeat 8 times and you're done.

The two brilliant twists are; firstly that the cards that are used to manipulate the market are shared between you and your neighbour so you know half of all the cards that will change the good's prices, having to infer the rest from how other players buy and sell. Secondly, each turn you can donate a share to charity which the charity will cash in at the half way point and then again at the end. The player who is least charitable is automatically eliminated at the final scoring and shunned as Have but not Good. Noel won with 1600 odd made, John had 1400 and sandra 1300 ish. Raj also had about this but was the Scrooge of the table.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Gaze deeply into my eyes, you mad apple-obsessed fool

Contributors:  Dan, David, The One and Only James

The evening kicked off with a big Greedy game, full of smack talk and finger pistols under the table. Meanwhile, James was positively quivering at the prospect of getting Cafe Melange onto the table and Paul A and I were happy to oblige, if only to see the smile that cracked open on his fuzzy little fizzog. Turns out that it's not a bad game either, a bit like Ticket to Ride but more of a puzzle angle to it (both James and Paul mentioned that it is also similar to Tobago, which I haven't personally played).

The game does however hang heavily on the choices that players make. I don't think Paul will mind if I use such colourful similies to describe some of his moves during the game as "schoolboy error", "like a blind badger trying to cross the M25" and "a fatal connection between head and rectum". Essentially, he handed me an enormously convincing victory in the space of only a couple of turns, although I will take credit for using some of the action cards to mess with the seating plans to my advantage. So it was okay, but I think the game can swing too hard if not all the players are on the same page and ultimately I'd rather play TTR for a similar feeling experience.

Then we played Sheriff of Velvet Bagingham, a game whose front cover just screams “this game is for wankers.” I hated it, right from the base principal that anyone would actively want to ‘be’ the character of the sheriff, a sneering petty tosspot who tries to bribe, blackmail and bully the other players who at the same time are trying to be conmen of the first order. This one l would set on fire before flinging into the sea.

Fortunately the evening picked up with a couple of rounds of Fake Artist. Having played this with the family a few times over the last couple of weeks (thanks again for the loan James!), I am firmly of the opinion that it’s actually better with a small crowd rather than a large one. The fake artists (Paul A and Tomtoo) won both games, able to guess the clue easily.

Elsewhere, the trail was tinned in what was described as a "quick and easy" Martin Wallace game (ho-ho-ho), the chaps seemed to enjoy it all the same. Up in the far corner the Arctic was Scavenged very thoroughly, and there was also Lancaster seen on the table as well as some other very similar-looking game that preceded it (I dunno, they both had a beige board and wooden cubes so could have been the same game played twice for all I know).


Arrived early with James II before Paul and Gareth and Sarah turned up and we started a quick game of Greed. It's a nice fast game with a bit of engine building. I went for playing as many holdings as possible mostly because that was what was being passed to me rather than actual strategy whilst everyone else went for something in-between. Gareth won at the end with 130k with me trailing in second with 109k and James, Paul and Sarah with around 90k each.

After that I jumped into a game of Tinners' Trail along with Andy, James II and Raj. I would never turn down a opportunity to play a game set in Cornwall and it also turned out to be a lovely Martin Wallace game. The objective is to auction off a plot of land so you can build your mine and then set about mining as much Tin and Copper whilst battling fluctuating market prices and a limited number of building improvements. The early auctions were a cut-throat business, in keeping with the theme, with both James and I overspending in the first round (a trend continuing from last week!). This immediately put us on the back foot and meant that James resorted to selling pasties at an alarming rate just to make money and he was also hampered by a lack of mines. Andy and Raj meanwhile were competing for the prime positions at the tip of the peninsula having more money to compete. I was forever running out of money so had to set myself up to make sure I could go first each round and thus have first pick of the building improvements which then allowed me to mine for free. It was a tactic that worked quite well especially on the last two turns which almost propelled me to victory. It ended with Raj on 86, myself on 79, Andy on 70 and James II on 59. After this I feel James has a new calling selling pasties. It's a lovely game and will try and pick up a copy for myself. 


Cafe Melange - really like this game as it's quick, not too hard to learn, tricky to play well (or in other words... quite random) and has a fabulous theme. Dan won by a landslide... I'd like to blame Paul but a landslide is a landslide... he's obviously spent more time in Starbucks than the rest of us and has perfected the art of optimal seating...

Via Appia - stopping to add another Paul we tried this mix of arcade attraction and family game... I really like this one... has a nice uniue method of adding randomness, some themeatically (is that a word?) rich gameplay and all over in about 60 minutes. Dna's already gloated about his last minute victory, but then again his strategy for 'shoving' the coins involved more table thumping than gently pushing......

Sheriff of Nottingham - Great to finally get a game of this after owning its predecessor Hart an der Grenze and never getting it to the table. the game plays as I imagined... bluffing and guessing and eventually someone wins. Our strategy seemed to a case of the sheriff accusing everyone, everytime, which probably highlights the lack of trust in the club (enough games of the Resistance will do that to you)... but doesn't really give the game a chance to work. Maybe some ruling about only being able to accuse 1/2 the other players each round might be better... Stlil harmless enough, if slightly disappinting after wanting to give this a try for about 3 years... Not sure who won this one, but hoping it wasn't Dan... 

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

IBG triumphs nine-nil in away leg victory

Contributors:  Noel, David

It was an away day at the Wharf last night due to the London Apprentice renovations. 9 of us were slowly toasted by the roaring fire and some lighter, gentler gaming options were on offer.
Medieval Academy was really good with 3, rattled along with everything changing on the last 2 moves when first Phil tied Noel, who had a healthy lead on the Dragon track until the last round, and then Paul tied both of them to take the 17 points, Noel going from gaining 17 points to 0 in two moves and rueing a passed Dragon 3, and Paul winning a great game from Phil:
Paul 34, Phil 32, Noel 25


James II and I arrived early to find Paul A already there so we thought we would start the evening by playing something very light in Timeline: Inventions. It's not the greatest game ever made but it only takes ten minutes or so and there's some joy to be had knowing exact dates for certain cards such as James II playing the invention of Role Playing Games in 1973. After a few misplaced cards it soon came down to a shoot-out between Paul and I and I believe Paul won by correctly placing the invention of the Hot Air Balloon whereas I had misplaced the Steam Engine by a good few years. I'm sure the game would play better by mixing more versions together such as Film and Music. 

After that both Andy and Raj turned up so we moved onto a game of Murder of Crows. The objective is still spell out the word murder in front of you whilst preventing others from doing so. Each card has a letter from a pool of M, U, R, D, E, R with a part of a story on each card. Each letter also has an action so by playing M allows you to steal a card from another persons murder and so on. The first person to spell murder wins and then reads out the story they have created. Raj won with his murder involving someone being bludgeoned to death with a frozen turkey or something.
When everyone else arrived we split into tables of three and I settled down for a game of Medici with Andy and James II. James and I were novices having not played before but it was simple enough to pick up. James overpaid on the second round and crippled himself to such an extent it was too much to come back from even though he hit quite a few of the higher bonuses. Andy was successfully waiting towards the end to win valuable bids at a low cost and rack up quite the lead whereas I was somewhere in-between. By the time it had ended Andy had a comfortable 144 to my 115 and James' 85 or thereabouts. I really enjoyed this one and would like to have another stab at it sometime.

We followed that up with another Knizia auction game with Palazzo. This time Andy was the novice as James and I had played it a few times recently. The objective is to construct the grandest palace with the most windows using the same type of material to score the most points. We were all concentrating on constructing our own palace rather than foil the others which lead to all three of us building rather grand palaces. I unfortunately made the fatal flaw of running out of time before scrapping my negative point palace as James and Andy gleefully ended the game. It ended with James on 38, myself on 33 and Andy on 29. I did have the satisfaction of building the perfect palace so there was that.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Learning to count the sides of a triangle

Contributors:  Dan, David, Original Flavour James, Tom One

So, another great night - we are rapidly running out of table space at this rate!
So let me see how much of this I remember. There was a game with numbered cards that went up to 23, not sure what it was other than that the number 23 was important as it was mentioned several times (no I wasn't playing, before you doubt my attention span during one of Tom's rules explanations). Sounds like a late attempt to jump on a meme to me.

There was then a bash at One Night Ultimate Finger Pointing; I'm only theorising here that James was out of control due to imbibing his extra strong ale during the procedings.
Meanwhile, myself, Soren, Anne, and Phillipe enjoyed a nice quiet moment of swooning over adorable Pandas, except they weren't always adorable but sometimes they were, tricky little beggars that they were. I seemed to win more by default than by skill, but it was a pleasant little game in any case.
Then we went to the Dark Moon once again with another full house of seven players - I'm starting to think that is too many, maybe four or five is the sweet spot for this one?

Next up was Pictomania, blimey let's not talk about Tom's five sided triangle shall we?

And to finsh off at the 'head table' was four player Mysterium, in which Soren showed us all how to play. Hmm, need to ramp up the difficulty next time he's at the table!
Also seen doing the rounds was Runebound (I feel for you all), Tragedy Looper (not Paul's sort of game apparently, but I was envious having wanted to try this one for quite a while now), the 'hilariously' titled and ridiculously over-produced (but in a good way) Flick 'em up, plus there must have been some other stuff going on surely?


Myself, James, Tom and Paul started the evening with a game of 23 which I think was everyone's first time playing. The objective is to discard your hand by playing numbers in an ascending order. If you play a number which is out by two you take a penalty chip rising on the number difference. It was a fun quick game with probably more strategy than we were throwing at it such as raising the number higher to try and shaft everyone else rather than just raising by one or two.
We then moved onto One Night Ultimate Werewolf once more people arrived. This time, it was myself. Alex, James II, Anne, Tom, Danny, James and Philippe. I was a Villager so had to rely on everyone else to reveal who they claimed to be and who they thought was the werewolf. Suspicion quickly settled on the corner with Tom, Danny and Anne all suspects. After a bit of deliberation and finger pointing Tom was accused of being one of the werewolves. Turns out the two werewolves were James, who had claimed to be a Insomniac and who had led the calls against Tom, and Anne who had revealed a flaw to her claim but which we had passed off as a simple mistake, to our cost.
After that was the game of Dark Moon with myself, Tom, Dan, Neil, Jon, James II and Alex. It was my first time playing and I enjoyed it immensely. I think Alex revealed himself too early as I don't think many of us suspected him but we were onto James II from the start whilst Dan had slipped under the radar as we wrongly accused Jon and stuck him in Quarantine. I felt I did a fairly good job until a critical miscalculation on a task towards the end, thinking we had enough dice to finish it but not realising both Neil and Jon had no dice. (whoops) It was pretty close and without the sabotage on the shields we might have had enough to win. I thought it played well with seven as it seemed there are more decisions and deliberations on who are the infected although there was a bit of downtime between turns and it took a while to complete with seven.
To finish the evening was Pictomania, hard to see in the light (with my eyesight) so ended up guessing towards the end but I felt my expert drawing/scribbles more than made up for it, although I did rather let myself down my with giant naked Homer, doh.


After FlickEmUp (this game really should be played alongside Colt Express) we continued the wild west/new frontiers theme of the evening and started a game of Discoveries... yet another new toy supplied by John B... Dany, Soren, John and me all looking to traverse mountains and paddle rivers to get to the West Coast...
No time to write a proper report, but it's a neat game... more compact than Lewis & Clark, and nowhere near as heavy... I suspect a lot of L&C fans may turn to this in the coming year... Soren won, I tihnk he was hiding dice from another game somewhere... I somehow landed 2nd despite feeling like I was struggling to keep up the whoel game (or maybe that's just my usual outlook on life...?) John came a gracious 3rd and Dany ... well Dany came along and had a fun evening. Good show Dany.
It's a neat game though, if Neil brings his copy along one evening I'm sure it'll get another run out !


“Anne who had revealed a flaw to her claim but which we had passed off as a simple mistake, to our cost.” - I beg your pardon, sir! There I was pointing out the mistake as a crystal clear indication of her lupine nature and I then get lynched on the grounds of "you revealed last" by none other than James! I was the Drunk, you fools! *sigh* Great game.
23 - I had played before but a while ago and it wasn't helped by using a rules summary rather than looking at a straight translation of the rules. Rather than each round ending when someone goes out, all players have to go out or quit (taking a penalty based on cards in hand). This allows a lot more for screwage and bonus chip economy.
Dark Moon was great as per usual. Understand what Dan is saying in terms of 7. think that a game of 5 or 7 with people who know what they have to do will really sing. Will be interesting as and when we finally get an Uninfected victory. Possibly could have got one if Dave hadn't played that task card.

Pictomania was hilarious and remains my favourite drawing/party game. I dreamt of giant, naked Homer last night.