Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Murder, deceit, and men in tights

Contributors: Daniel, David, Paul D

 Murder! Trains! Superheroes! And bland themeless cardgames! Yes, the full gamut of gaming was on show last night.

Deep Sea Adventure was on the go so I set up Wyatt Earp with Sandra and Raj. We thought we'd bought into something that was going to end up being a bit more than a filler but had nothing to worry about as Sandra wiped the floor with us in a comfortable second round victory.

Ticket to Ride: UK was leapt apon like itchy trigger fingers at a buzz-in game show, so the rest of us milled around a bit before settling on games of Loop Inc. and San Juan, the latter being a rematch for Sandra, David, and I, in which I answered the question that nobody was asking: what do you get when you cross a Market and a Library with a Harbour and a Bank? A: a landslide victory. 

We were then persuaded to try out the card game version of Alhambra. A deep and rich historical game with emergent storytelling about the craftsmen of oh god I can't do this. It's one of the blandest set collecting games I've ever seen, a dry activity wrapped up in a veneer of faux gameplay. Splendor does similar stuff much better than this I'm afraid. Some points were scored, I think Sandra won this one.

We had a bash at Sushi Go! wherein people demonstrated their confusion between left and right, and also the difficulty they face in counting up to two. Several rounds of GotY (tm) Tabletop Curling, and a decidedly one-sided debut for superhero smackdown Sentinel Tactics. 

Jury's out on this one - it's fun to play but crikey both games were so one sided I felt sorry for the losing teams, particularly in that second game where Raj and Lucas were completely brutalised and barely had time to stand up before being flattened again. For some reason, being an evil mastermind seems to suit Phil. 
Thinking there must have been something wrong I checked out the rules later on and, sure enough, we had messed up a bunch of stuff that would have made it a bit easier for the team that were on the ropes.


Arrived to find Neil, Philip and Paul A starting a game of 11 Nimmt! so I jumped in. A fun filler where you have to discard your hand with just the right mix of luck and timing which Paul A showed us as he successfully discarded his entire hand to claim victory.Jon and Paul D then turned up so we set up a six player game of Deep Sea Adventure. I decided to play it safe this time by grabbing as much early loot as possible and turning back after my first pick up. This seemed to work well as I made it back each round with just enough loot to propel me to a close victory. There was an awful lot of double ones rolled by those who delved too deep as I watched from the safety of the submarine. It's a tiny box filled with a great game.

As Wyatt Earp was still in progress on the other table we decided on Deception: Murder in Hong Kong. This is the third time in a row I was given the murderer role but thankfully I had a good selection of random items in front of me. I selected the Light Bulb and Injection as my 'Murder Clue' and 'Means of Murder'. I think the others were on to me fairly early on by correctly guessing that Injection was the Means of the Murder but they were fixated on my Leaf that allowed me to bluff a little and encourage some incorrect guessing. I just about survived this one as all the clues were used up on on incorrect calls. 

After that Sandra, Dan and I decided on San Juan (Second Edition). I decided on a different strategy this time, one that didn't involve a Chapel, at least to start with. Deciding on the production route with a Harbour. This didn't really work as I only saw a couple of production buildings and the Harbour wasn't paying out as well as I thought it would so I flipped to the chapel strategy half way through in desperation. Dan meanwhile was not only stacking up lots of points under his Harbour but also stuck ten points in the bank leaving Sandra and I to fight for second place. In the end Dan won comfortably with Sandra second whilst I trailed in last place. I think I'll go back to the short draw Chapel strategy next time laugh  
After that I suggested Alhambra: The Card Game. A simple set collection game that requires you to buy buildings with just the right amount of money. There's pretty much no depth here as you're reliant on a lot of luck and timing. It could also be themed as anything so it's not surprising to see it re themed as the New York Card Game and The Nederland Card Game. Having said that there's something I really like about it. Its set collection and its simplicity and it's also quite fast (or supposed to be). Although I don't think I'll try and convince Dan to play again laugh

To end my evening was a game of Sushi Go!. A card-drafting game with fantastic artwork. It's fast and fun and so fast that at times Raj and I were about two turns ahead of everyone else laugh. I really like this one and should probably pick myself up a copy considering how cheap it is.

All in all another good evening.


Ticket to Ride: UK

Paul D, Paul A, Neil and Jon took no time at all in deciding that they’d like to try the excellent new TTR double map, the only question was whether they’d try the stock options with Pennsylvania or technology upgrades with the UK (although surely it should be ‘British Isles’ - I’ve no doubt that our Irish friends would object). Jon, Paul D and Neil had played them both, Paul A neither, and the previous plays of both sides had all been positive so it was a random choice to play UK.

The key thing in the UK is the locomotive cards because you need them to buy technology. Everyone starts with at least one, but Paul D got lucky as he had two extra ones, allowing him to snap up one of only two cards to draw three from the top of the deck, instead of the normal two. Jon got the other one very soon after, while Neil was bemoaning the lack of locos is his sweaty mit.

All players started their railway empires in the South East (it’s the UK - they’re railroads here), with Paul A and Neil hitting France quite soon. Paul got another technology that gave him an extra point for all routes he laid and set about laying lots of little ones in the home counties, the midlands and East Anglia. 

Jon ventured up to Scotland for some longer routes making the most of his three card pickups. Paul A eventually spread to most countries. Neil eventually collected enough to build the unique Southampton New York routes which catapulted him into the lead by some margin with a 40 point haul. That scuppered Paul D’s plans as he was quietly getting the cards together to do the same thing. However a thought occurred to him which was that he would buy the technology that allowed him to double up on routes for a whopping four locos. Jon was laying like crazy and Paul was glad that he noticed the diminishing number of trains after he’d picked up two new routes. He’d just got enough trains to get the extra technology plus the Southampton > NY route but was hoping to use that as his last go and surpass everyone else, but he knew he could’t wait else Jon’d beat him to it, so executed his master stroke to make sure it actually happened, and then a couple of turns later got shot of his last trains to bring the game to an end just before Jon.

Neil missed a couple of big routes. Paul A finished just above him. Jon got lots of routes but Paul D was sufficiently in the lead to not be bothered as he had secured the victory.

Result: 1st Paul D, 2nd Jon, 3rd Paul A, 4th Neil

Machi Koro with all the expansions.

The TTR players wanted a relatively short game to occupy the time for their fellow players to finish another game and settled on Machi Koro with ALL of the expansions. Plus a few rules variants which did indeed keep the game flowing where previously is may not have, namely that 10 stacks of cards are available at all times, and also that at least three of these cards must be under 6 (for the single die rollers, which everyone is at the start).

The deck was a monster and after an hour it was still a fairly tall stack.

Neil decided to ditch his red card strategy, which got him victory many years ago but has failed him despite his loyalty to it ever since. He went for a two dice and invested in many high value cards for big points, but alas they were never rolled (well they were 11s and 12s), rolled only by himself.
Paul A picked up Neil’s strategy of red cards, and had a few French Restaurants but as building was slow and these cards rely on other players building being in place, he took a while to see any return on them.

Jon got lots of wheat fields and carefully scraped together enough cash for his 22 coin building early on, which set alarm bells ringing, but that was probably the pinnacle of the game for him. He had lots of wheat fields and at the start rolled a lot of 1s, but this petered out as the game went on.

Paul D had a spreads of cards, but stayed on 1 dice for the whole game, although he did have a few higher blue and red cards to benefit from other people’s higher rolls. He rolled a lot of 4s. He had a lot of cards to give him money for 4s. So he bought the airport at 30 coins for his first scoring build, and then he was able to get 10 coins on each of his non building turns. That and income from 4s allowed him to amass enough to buy scoring buildings from the highest value down to the lowest, which was the first time he’d ever done that but was enough to give him victory.

And at the end there were still stacks of cards left.

Scores: Winner Paul D, Not winners Jon, Neil and Paul A.

And before anyone comments, “yes I did really win - 2 games, however unusual that is”, “yes I enjoyed it”, “yes I’m only writing them up to preserve it forever and that's why I'm not writing anything about the diving game, table curling or the one that's 100 times better than mysterium”.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A pucking good time at IBG

Contributors: Daniel, Tom

There was some sort of shouty-shouty musical chairs game going on when I arrived. The music stopped, but I have no idea who went home with the cheap plastic whistle. Meanwhile, Neil and co. were having a ring-a-ding-ding time with Cash-a-Catch, holding onto plenty of reserve despite the racket being kicked up by the hooligans next door.
Moving onto the main events for the night, our table of four settled down to Burgle Bros, wherein we managed to fail spectacularily twice in a row. In the first game we quickly split up onto different floors to better handle the movement of the guards but Soren's propensity to fall off the walkways on the upper floors broke our carefully laid plans. The second time was hilariously awful with Tom's extended acrobat tumbling in the camera gallery of doom confusing the heck out of the guard. Thinking back to it, the set-up we had with adjacent camera rooms could have caused the guard to move in an infinite loop. Crikey, breaking game designs yet again. I really think that this doesn't work very well with four players, there is just too much going on with the guard movement. It might be better served if half the team were to start on the second or third floor, otherwise I'm beginning to think that two or three is the only reliable way to play this.

Some well earned rest was being enjoyed during Power Grid, fortunately the snoring didn't interfere with anyone elses evening. Five players in for the whole night and not a peep about how the game went, so it must have been scintillating. Further up the room, Cultures were Clashed between Tomtoo, Dom, and Phil (who I will now refer to as Pom). I commented that this looked like Terra Mystica, only with plastic bits instead of wood, Pom's news-flash response was "no, not really".

Some train game was smuggled in again by Jon, some muttering about tickets and track was overheard. Something else as well before that I think? Guess we'll never know.
After our failure to slip away with the treasure in Burgle Bros we moved onto flipping a different type of dough in Sole Mio, the upgrade to the barely tolerable Mamma Mia. The verdict? It's better, for what that's worth. We had fun all the same. The 'Grail Games' take on Circus Flohcati also saw some table time, damn thing looks possessed by some freakish Cronenbergian nightmare. Haven't played this for a couple of years now; it did it's thing I guess, sort of a lightweight Port Royale. I think I prefer the weird flea-men to dockside dublooning.
More Loony Questing to close the night out. "That's easy!" says Tom, before realising the catch and quickly eating his words. It's only right and proper, after struggling so hard with the first level, to then immediately jump to level six for even greater amusement. We gave up on the scoring after a while, it's not that kind of game, although it was pretty clear that Soren won and James came last after being docked eighty four points for excessive rules lawyering.

Oh, and then we played "Tantrum Pucks" or "Throw Tom's game on the floor (again)" or whatever it was called, which probably shouldn't have had three out of the four players all playing from the same table edge. Bring back Tabletop Curling, I say.


Coloretto was played! It was enjoyable but giving the cards a shuffle before setting up the deck may have resulted in more tense decisions!

The shouty game was Space Team, the card game version of the much loved (or so I hear) app. Silly but not quite silly enough and seems quite difficult to play well unless you have a certain group. The Alien Probe card did make me giggle though.
I only have one word to describe Burgle Bros: Doodley-doo!

Had a chat with Soren about Mamma Mia. Agree with his that Sole Mio has more control than Mamma Mia but actually the barely contained chaos of MM adds to its charm. Both are surprisingly different all told.

Circus Flohcati did its job as a 10 minute filler. They seem to have downgraded the nastiness of the original card powers but as someone who quite enjoys being a backstabbing shit (okay, I love it) that makes me a little sad. Lovely package and I will continue to pick up future additions to the Mike Line. Really need to give Matcha a whirl.
Apparently, in Tantrum Pucks (better known as Push It) you lose two points if you knock the puck off the table. So Dan got Minus 1 Billion Points as he almost hit the thing into the Thames.

Number of Games Played Whilst Others Played Power Grid: Six.  

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Take me home, to the cobbled streets of San Cristobal

Contributors: Daniel

A bijou gathering last night packed full of shorter, lighter fare. Jon was training up Phil and Sandra in Medieval Academy when I arrived and so David co-erced James and I into a Karlakencracking game about not saying the word ‘Hedgehog’. James was the least able to avoid doing this, and had to hang his head in shame at collecting almost the entire deck of cards as punishment. With things close to wrapping up at the Academy just as Noel arrived, who was thoroughly bemused at the three of us intermittently yelling the names of salad vegetables (and Cauliflowers... hmm... remind me not to order from the salad bar in a German restaurant...), there was little option other than for the four of us to break out that new modern classic Rhino Hero. The highlight here was David’s hilarious hamfisted howler when he brought the tower down on the very first turn. That is a very special achievement!

We then regrouped into two tables, with San Juan on the go at the ‘cool kids’ table, and some weird game about recreating Balamory on a hex-map by a funny sounding dude Danny X Macchiato or something. Well, that’s what all the colourful little houses reminded me of anyway.

In San Juan David went for what I will describe as a ‘short drawing’ strategy where he had plenty of cards that gave him a single card draw here and there, but no real economy to pull up big card drafts. He was also shovelling cards under the Chapel which had both Sandra and I nervous about the score he was racking up in the process, but which was at the same time keeping his hand small and limiting what he could afford to build. Sandra started off with a lean toward city building but switched midway to ramping up production to gain card draws. In the late game she tried to close out with more city cards but David had managed to thwart her by stuffing every 6-point card he found under the Chapel. Unfortunately for him, one of them got away, and the Guild Hall that I picked up was a perfect match for the strong production tableau that I had put together. At the end it was enough for me to clinch victory by a handful of points in what was a close game.

After that we broke out Castles of Ludwig, at which point David, concerned that he needed to have an early finish to the evening, jumped over to join Jon, James, and Noel in a trade for Phil who had been eyeing up the Bezier blue box all night long. Funnily enough they were into a second showing of San Juan when we had finished up with the castles, so much for the early exit! I also noted that David was up to his old tricks with short draws and the Chapel in play – it looked like an odd game with banks and harbours also in play leaving about half a dozen cards in the draw deck. 

This was Sandra's first bash at building Bavarian balustrades and she took to it like a, well, like a German king takes to extravagant castles. Clearly, her childhood visits to Neuschwanstein helped her out here as she went for a very efficient build that crushed her competition on the goal tiles as well as synergising nicely with bonus cards in hand. 

Philip had gone for the compact approach with a maze of small rooms, requiring visitors to march through a series of pantries, kitchens, rest rooms, and the occasional torture chamber in order to reach the bedroom, piling up a stack of bonus cards in the process that didn't quite match up with his build. He hogged virtually all the money in the early game, even forcing both his opponents into taking the dreaded '5 money action of impoverishment' at one point, but then began to spend wildly in the mid-game which opened things up a bit for the rest of us.

I had a vague notion of picking up lots of purple rooms and closing them off in batches with strategically placed corridors which I was getting a bonus score on. However, my spatial awareness skills seemed to have deserted me and I instead ended up with a mess of misshapen rooms that would not allow the corridors I was picking up to fit. It didn't help that my castle was 'disrupted' at one point and I couldn't even seem to get everything back the way it originally was - a total mess! Even so, I managed to pick up a couple of hearty scores toward the end to save my embarrassment, and we all posted good scores of well over a hundred points each; Sandra still raced away with a good twenty-odd point lead at the final counting.

To finish off the night I twisted arms (though not very hard) into a trip to Deep Sea Asshole land. It was Noel’s first time at hogging all the air supply but he heeded our words of caution and ignored Jon’s exhortations to keep diving deeper, and in an IBG first we all made it back to the ship safe and sound in two out of the three rounds. Phil took the honours there by quietly amassing a ton of tiny trinkets that added up to a big boat load of moolah. 


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Lunacy is a serious business at IBG

Contributors: Paul D, Daniel, David

After we'd be suitably humbled by James' well put together but challenging picture quiz (apart from Tom II who would do well on mastermind if 'game fonts' were ever a subject), Dan got us Loony Questing, gallantly stepping aside to watch us draw lines on a clear film which supposedly mapped onto maps with good stuff (to collect) and bad stuff (to avoid). Lots of fun and very challenging. And the only game of the evening which Paul won. Infinite expansion possibilities beckon.

Two long ones and a flurry of fillers last night!
James, Phil, and Paul Moosie were mystified by terra all night long, whilst Dom, Tom, Raj, and James II raged about the blood for a similarly end-to-end event.

Meanwhile, I setttled down with John, David, and Mr. Dawsey for a round of Kakerlaken Poker while we waited for Alex to park his Ambulance and pop on over to the pub. John appeared to be mystified by the point of the game until he suddenly cracked into a series of irrepressible chuckles when the penny finally dropped. Poor David was stuffed twice with royal cards and brought the game to an end. We then started on Celestia which Alex jumped into halfway through - despite his late arrival he still did better than half the rest of the table. David's bluffing skills seemed to improve immensely, however his propensity to crash the flying ship by pushing it one cloud too far was ultimately his undoing and John romped to a convincing victory.

David, Alex, and John wanted to play a card game David had brought along set in the time of the Medici but I'll let him fill you in on that one. Paul and I wanted something a little shorter so we plumped for that old classic Carcassonne with traders, inns, and cathedrals mixed in. It was a predictably vicious affair with a couple of meeple blocked out on either side in the early game, and two massive cathedral cities that were blocked from being finished. Paul trumped me on the biggest meadow by sneaking in his mega-meeple but the end score ultimately went against him.

We finished up with a quick bash at Soccer 17. Paul, playing as Italy, went ahead early and kept the pressure up, but struggled to further his score in the first half despite another couple of good runs. France equalised in the opening minutes of the second half with a rebound into the net and had control of the ball for most of that half, but neither side could progress to a good shooting opportunity. 

The game went to a penalty shoutout where Paul 'did a Southgate' and punted over the bar. Triples all round for Les Blues!


After the warm up games John showed an interest in The Prince: The Struggle of House Borgia so myself and Alex joined in. A card game set in Renaissance Italy with a lot of bloody cut-throat backstabbing treachery. Each player chooses a family and then starts with five cards. The cards vary between play immediately and hold in hand with an imbalance on the play immediately cards. Players can play cities and then fill these with famous artists and other positions of power such as offices of state. The artists and offices of state then provide money and victory points if they can held for the round.
Each turn players auction off cards from a set pool for the round then play cards and attack other players. Mercenary armies provide the ability to seize cities as well as assassin cards to kill off other player's high value assets. It's a very tight game with little choice so when you do have a choice to make it's critical you get it right. Play the wrong card at the wrong time and it's hard to come back from. There are so few hold in hand cards it makes them even more valuable and critical for success. Throw in the ability to vote for a pope and distribution of offices and cardinals and it can feel as though there is a power imbalance.

John started as pope and swiftly built up a good hand of mercenary armies and spies whereas Alex and I set about building cities and hiring artists. This allowed John free reign to seize our land and kill our artists unimpeded. When it came to the second turn I made the mistake of voting for John to remain Pope whereas Alex had voted for me. John then set about continuing to seize more land from me as he and Alex had a marriage arrangement that prevented them from fighting each other. By the third and final round it was clear John had crushed us with Alex coming in a respectable second while I had to pick up the scraps in third.

This is a brutal game with no room for error and it's difficult to overturn a powerful opponent as there is often very little choice. Once someone has seized power by turn two it would require a concerted joint effort to roll that player over. I can imagine it would play slightly better with four of five but would also take a lot longer.