Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Big Ticket and the Last Chance Fluke

Contributors: Paul, Daniel

After the TTR for the British Isles, the map was flipped, some of the players stayed and some were replaced, and TTR Pennsylvania was revealed. This time is was James, Peter, Jon and Paul that took on the different challenge of building routes while collecting shares for the various Penn railway companies in the golden age of the industrial iron horse. Routes between the industrial cities of the American North east were up for grabs.
Most route segments on the board reward the claimant with a share in one of the railroad companies. Each company has a different number of shares and a decreasing reward for the shareholders with the most, second most, third most shares and so on.

This variant is similar in concept to Santa Fe rails or Chicago Express, but is all within the Ticket to Ride system - how neat. Peter commented that it 'felt more like Ticket to Ride' that the British Isles version, which apparently had felt like a whole different game.

Jon set about monopolising the south of the board which has many more little routes, hence more opportunities for collecting shares, but of course which collect fewer 'in game' points. He soon found himself slugging it out for the biggest share company with the most points, the Pennsylvania Railroad, with Peter. Peter also took a set of new routes, 4 in total, and caused the other players to draw breath when he decided to keep them all. Paul was going for the longer routes of the north, which yielded less shares but more points for laying the routes (a la classic TTR). James was also in the North, but with a slightly more watered down 'long route' strategy than Paul.
At the end of normal pay, Paul as predictably in the lead because he'd caused the game end by being the first to lay all of his trains and had created many routes with 5 and 6 sections. But would the points from the completed tickets and the share holdings be enough to catch Paul? Peter also gained 15 bonus points from having the most completed routes, but he'd not managed to complete them all and so had some negative scores to contend with. Likewise Jon and James had one or two incomplete tickets, whereas Paul had only four tickets, but they were largely of high value and he'd completed them all. So after the tickets were added up Paul still had his nose ahead, albeit by a smaller margin. Then the shares were added, which were counted up smallest company to largest. Paul's two shares in the Penn RR which enough for third place in the biggest company, gave him enough points to pip Peter in a hard fought battle which saw two different strategies come very close. James was third and Jon was left lamenting his tickets, shorter routes and huge stock in the PRR which maybe wasn't quite worth the money.

Results: 1: Paul, 2: Peter, 3: James, 4: Jon


Apart from the double-up on the new TTR maps there was some miniatures slaying going on at the top table, some crappy birthday gifts handed out, wonky castles (Soren was persuaded that Bezier do have some good games after all), and a successful run in Burgle Bros (with an exceptionally fluky final event card draw that opened up the victory after we had boxed ourselves into a seemingly impossible situation).

Castles of Ludwig did it's thing as always, with two newbies at the table in David and a rather grumpy "I hate Suburbia" Soren (unless that's how he always is?). The new lads took to the game instatnly and kept pace with myself and Tom, hardy building-site veterans that we are. I tried for a bonus card strategy and had a good run at it but Soren was determined to buy rooms that I needed and had the edge on me in our little competition. He also skillfully leveraged his deep dungeon network to squeeze out every last point that he could, which served him well in a convincing win. Tom came in a close second by working the goal tiles really well while David focussed on activity rooms for a bonus score and a goal tile; four differen't strategies and four very close scores.

With Tom and Soren disappearing to the far end of the room to play toy soldiers, I set up Burgle Bros. with Alex and James, a game I have been keen to have another tilt at after the recent brain wrangling session the otehr week. This time round I had a clearer idea of what to do and the lads picked it up quickly. We spread out onto three floors so that we could better manipulate the guards as well as slow them down (with less players on a floor it takes longer for the guard to exhaust it's patrol deck). We also made good use of hacking the computer rooms which saved us many times over in alarm rooms.

We managed to get all three treasures without too much stress, and Alex made a quick exit as he was hanging out near the rooftop stairs. But then the trouble set in; because both James and I were on our very last 'life' we could not afford to get caught even once. We found ourselves in an awkward situation where the top floor guard was heading toward the entrance to that floor and only one tile away, but the entrance was also blocked on the three other sides. If we went up there then we would get busted one way or the other - cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Without any other option I drew the very last event card, wondering if we would find anything that could help us at all - and drew a 'Freight Elevator' card that allowed me to go up to the top floor in a different place. The guard was released from his stasis and cleared out of the way of the exit at the end of my turn, allowing James and then myself to make a quick exit. An awesome finish to a great game!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

A Rinky Dink time at IBG

Contributors: Daniel, Paul D, David

 Another balmy November evening, we'll be turning up in short sleeves and flip flops one of these nights, and another big crowd with four tables on the go at one point.

I kicked off the night with a few rounds of the future game of the year (tm); Soren played a much better game of it than I did but left the door open for my final rock to cruelly bump him out of his winning position. Still loving this one.

Then a great deal of dithering was had over which games would be played, eventually settling for Inhabit the Earth, Burgle Bros. and Caylus. Some last minute stragglers came through the door but I have no idea what they got up to.
Burgle Bros was intense with thoroughly deserved italics. There is a multi-level dungeon tower block in which your adventurers spies are trying to steal three precious items whilst avoiding the traps alarms and roaming monsters security guards. As you progress the guards begin to speed up, and triggering alarms sends them on a bee-line to your current location (which you sometimes want to happen to prevent them going to a place you want them to avoid). The tiles that make up each level start off both random and blind with the risk that entering a tile without first of all peeking at it can sometimes cause catastrophic reactions, which Tom's nose-dive off a balcony can attest to. You have three evasion tokens which are effectively 'lives'; you lose one each time you are 'caught' by a guard and everyone loses the game if someone is caught without any tokens left.

You also have to explore most of each level in order to be able to collect the treasure so there is a tense game of cat-and-mouse as you try to keep everyone out of the guards path while gradually opening up as much of the map as is needed.

I get the impression that higher player counts make the game harder as there is more chance of being caught by the roaming guards with four movements between each of your turns, and we spent the last few rounds trying to avoid losing rather than productively chasing victory. Eventually we failed on the final floor a good few turns short of being able to collect the last of the treasures and make our escape from the rooftop.

It also turned out to be quite a long game when I think it might be more suited to filler or short game length; it was enjoyable though and I'll play it again.

Royal Goods did it's thing again; Dom picked up the game very easily and put in a good show, but Tom took the win leaving me frustrated at being a single assistant short of matching his score (darn lack of yellow cards, grumble grumble).

We then had a couple of rounds of Fake Artist played the proper way - a single shared picture and not allowed to remove your pen from the paper. Highlights were the world's weirdest looking Duck, James' "no, no, you go first" moment as the fake artist, and the fact that neither Sandra or her sister appear to have been in a pub before despite beer pretty much being invented in Germany and, erm, them sitting in one at the time. 


Tom, Alex, James III and I also played a game of codewords at the start. Love this game and the challenge of coming up with words to tie two or more other words together (not ever wanting to settle for the easy way out with just one answer). 'Lemon' and 'Egypt' were two that I struggled with on Wednesday, and 'sharp' almost did it... but not quite (James wasn't visualising the top of a pyramid in the same moment as me).
I joined the Burgle Bros game with a bit of trepidation as I have seriously fallen out of love with cooperative games in recent times (as my snooze during Robinson Crusoe and badly hidden Scowl in Sentinels of the Multiverse show). I find that it's very difficult to either avoid the alpha gamer scenario or avoid a scenario where one person isn't holding the others back and they try not to be the alpha gamer, but you can tell that they want to get on with things in 'their way', or even just let one player do things because they really want to even if it isn't best for the game. But I liked the artwork and the 'heist' theme so took the tentative step. (BTW - I felt that the theme was great and came through naturally, and I'm not sure that a dungeon is the appropriate 'default' theme for games of this genre - or at least I hope not).

AND I REALLY LIKED IT. Maybe because it was the first play for us all, it seemed to be very balanced in terms of player input, but I think that it was actually a very well thought through, well themed game, in which I felt like I was creeping around a building trying to avoid guards and look out for my buddies and escape with the goodies. And yes I also felt the intensity that Dan mentioned. There were many times when we thought we'd had it cracked and were just about to get away with it, but then someone took an unnecessary risk, fell through the floor, or triggered an alarm that we didn't expect so the guard came rushing in. I liked the combination of puzzle, coop and theme so much that I'd even play it again. Thumbs up from me.


After a bit of umming and erring myself, Jon, James III and Alex decided on a game of Caylus. Even though it's been around for some time now I've never had the opportunity to play it until now. A great worker placement game with resource management and some player interaction. Jon had great timing utilising and maximising the King's Favour to take a sizeable lead whilst Alex played a longer game by concentrating on buildings and attempting to control what was being built. Whereas James and I went for a mixed strategy that didn't really pay off. In the end Jon won comfortably, James pipped me to second place and Alex ended last, although a couple more turns would have seen Alex's strategy pay off but unfortunately he ran out of time.

The high point of the game was convincing Alex that I wouldn't move to Provost and encouraging him to move it up to prevent James from activating the Gold Mine only for me to then stab him in the back and move it up further to prevent him from activating a big resource producing building. Thankfully there was a table between us laugh

It's a wonderful game and something I would happily play again.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Nope, not THAT sort of Curling

Contributors: Daniel, David

Three tables on the go last night, let's see if I can remember as far back as, erm, fifteen hours ago...

Lots of sitting around chatting until some bright spark said "Hey! Let's actually play a game?" and off we went with Royal Goods. It's funny in that it seems to require a lot of explanation in order to get a game going, but is really so compact and simple that it moves pretty quickly once you do get underway. Jon surprised himself by almost winning despite a very slow start and accumulating a massive hand of cards (thus dispelling his initial fears of only drawing two cards per round and not being able to produce or build anything as a result), but the joint honours went to Peter and Tom. Meanwhile, David, Raj, Alex, and James exploded some Kittens in 'that' Oatmeal game.

Next up I was off to Tracey Island yet again, with Tom, James, and Alex joining me in a comprehensive smashing of The Hood's mischevious machinations. We had an early game wobble with three consecutive space missions and Thunderbird 3 stuck in space due to John Tracey not only being a character in play but also last in turn order! It took some judicious planning and burning up of bonus tokens in order for Tom (playing John, our space hero) to prevent us losing the game before the first full round was over. After that we held the game in check without any real risk and motored on to an easy win.

Then the highlight of the night with the inaugural IBG mini all-comers World Championship Tabletop Curling event, or, err, IBGMACWCTCE. Tom strode ahead into the lead with a series of quick wins before James, the consummate Curling-sharp, stepped up to the plate claiming that he didn't really know how to play before totally owning both Tom and myself with a calm, measured performance. However, Tom once again rose to the top by knocking James off his pedestal with some startlingly aggressive play (it's not Billiards Tom!), and began to refer to himself as unbeatable. Despite, or maybe because of, Tom's mis-timed braggadocio, I then hit a golden streak where I simply could not be shifted from the table. We played many many rounds, mainly due to the constant calls of "just five more minutes!" from Jon and Paul, and this game just does not get old. Game of the year, I tells ye.

Some people then went home and, after slipping in a quick game of Codenames, we were left with CVlizations on one table and Medieval Academy on the other. For Medieval Academy we used the alternative boards for the tournament and it really is different; far more strategic as you have to consider the impact of playing both sides of the combat as well as maxing your position on at least one side. It also only resolves every other round so the rewards are much larger. I like this alternate board very much and I'm curious to try some of the other variants now. Other games? Jon and Paul played something about German Trams a couple of times, and there was a long game of something beige that strangely didn't look much like a Eurogame (I'm sure David can provide more details on that one?) Plus there was more Curling action between Jon and Paul, who looked like they were actually playing the game properly and with due consideration as opposed to our smash-up tournament earlier in the evening.


Started the evening with a game of Exploding Kittens with myself, James, Alex and Paul. You play a limited number of cards from your hand before picking up a card from the deck, if you pick up an exploding kitten you are removed from the game unless you use a defuse card which you start with or can steal from others. There's very little in the way of choice or actions to affect the game and it comes down to luck of the draw. I have the same sort of feelings towards this as Love Letter or Fluxx, where I like them as two player games as they are quick, pointless and fun. However when you add more players they aren't so much fun and they take too long.
As Royal Goods was still going strong we started a game of Codenames, Paul was the caller on my team and Alex was the caller on James' team. At one point I guessed Bugle for his clue of Dog, for some reason I read it as Beagle without thinking laugh. Despite my dimwittedness we still managed to comfortably beat James and Alex ninja

After that Raj and then Gareth turned up, I believe Royal Goods was still going on so we played another game of Codenames. Gareth joined my and Paul's team and Raj joined James and Alex's team. This was a thorough pasting as we guessed every clue Paul gave us as James and Raj struggled with some of Alex's cryptic clues. It really is a lovely game.
By the time we had finished the other table had wrapped up as well so we split off into three tables. Raj, Myself, Peter and Gareth started a game of Mercante. Each player controls a merchant house that has it's own unique ability with the objective of buying goods via auctions and then selling onto the open market. It's a straight forward trading mechanic, buy low sell high, however players can play event cards that can affect the price or even close certain markets. These they stay for a number of turns in the calender before they are bumped off by newer events. Raj and Gareth were dominating most of the early auctions and making tidy profits whilst Peter and I were going for the long game, hiring more agents and collecting more contracts. 

However Raj was unstoppable, reaching 80 crowns (one of the win conditions) about halfway through. We were all too busy concentrating on our own actions to really throw a spanner in the works and Raj was making vast profits from selling luxury goods at inflated prices. I fear my rules run through was a bit scatter gun so it took a while to get going although it looked like everyone picked it up quickly despite my best efforts blush The auction and trading works well with the event cards throwing in a bit of player interaction and theme to spice things up. However the Merchant House cards can tend to dictate on how you end up playing.

After that Alex and Peter headed home and we settled for another game of Codenames, with Tom, Dan and Raj on one team and Gareth, myself and James on the other. This was another clean sweep by us as we managed to guess all of James' clues quite easily.