Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Sun, snow, and intergalactic imperialism

 Contributors: Daniel, David

I arrived later than usual last night and despite James' best efforts to prevent me getting involved in any gaming, the two Jo(h)nnies graciously made a spot for me at TTR: Nordic.

After some initial confusion over the difference between ferries and tunnels (no idea how Jon has managed to make it across the channel so many times in the past on his way to Essen) we got into the swing of things pretty quickly. John and Jon were both trying to run long connections down the length of the map, so while I was struggling to pick up any Locos (which I desperately needed to even get started on my routes) I amused myself by blocking their paths here and there. Things eventually opened up for me and I got so carried away with grabbing additional route cards that I completely forgot what the endgame conditions were. Eyeing up the heavily depleted pile of carriages next to me I asked Jon the fateful question and the penny dropped that I had gone ahead and picked up a hefty route that I couldn't hope to complete - oops!

Despite my disruption through the mainland, John managed to find a more circuitous connection, something which made the difference in being able to score two 20+ point routes. This was more than enough to swag a comfortable win, with Jon's late game acquisitions from the stack of route cards proving a mixed bag that left him around ten points off the boil. I was lagging quite far behind with the 36 point deficit for my incomplete route only mitigated by having the 'most routes' bonus card.


We were then joined by Dani for Machi Koro with all the things mixed in. Dani went down the route of hoarding loads of cash and quickly buying into the expensive landmarks like the Airport. As the rest of us were going for the more mean-spirited cards this turned out to be an excellent strategy as he was able to avoid the worst of any impact from this. All the way through he looked a dead cert to take the honours, however Jon was keeping pace with a flush of income from his stack of cornfields despite having earlier declared them as a useless purchase.

There was to be a twist in this tail though, as Dani's empire was built on mortgaging his way to supremacy and in what should have been the very last turn the bailiffs finally came calling. Left impoverished after their visit he was unable to purchase his final landmark despite it's ridiculously low cost, tantalisingly short of cash after being Scrooge McMoneybags for most of the evening. This left the way open for Jon to snatch victory, with the rest of us a landmark or two short of the finishing line.


Next up was Roll for the Galaxy, wherein I was completely foxed by the addition of an expansion and provided the kind of rules explanation that James would be proud to give. It's a fairly straightforward game when you do get going but boy is it convoluted to begin. After a slow start everybody managed to click and it was interesting to see how we all took very different routes. Dani quickly set up a production engine and began to crank the handle very early on, bringing in a consistent stream of VP tokens and cash. It looked like another unstoppable juggernaut was in process, but as it was fairly slow moving there was breathing space for the rest of us to catch up.

John was piling dice into his cup like there was no tomorrow, which meant that he was able to piggy back on pretty much every action due to the large numbers he was chucking every turn. Maintaining that size of population required a lot of cash so despite the versatility of his pool he was accumulating VPs at a slower rate than he might otherwise have been able to achieve.

Jon eschewed the advice of his homeworld setup, which was encouraging the collection of red dice for a rampant militaristic conquest, and took the hard route to spreading his empire to new worlds with lots of exploration and settle actions along the way.

I had a very tight economy with a relatively small number of dice compared to my opponents, but what I did have was the ability to use cash to make my conquests cheaper. Along the way I picked up a couple of blue worlds with matching dice and so started to piggyback on Dani's actions to churn those for a decent handful of VP chips. Most of my game was focused on getting a 6 point development into play, something which eventually won me the game - except that it didn't as I forgot to include the base value of the development in my score at the time (blame it on habits from the card game). It was tight though with both Jon and Dani on 35, John on 34, and me on 30/36.


James B and I arrived early with Philip turning up just after so we started with a game of Patronize. It's the AEG re-print of the Japanese original and another game set in the tempest universe, although that doesn't add anything other than a series of characters no one has heard of or has any interest in. Although it's quick and effectively a simple trick taking game it has a convoluted scoring system and requires a bit of experience when it comes to timing. Knowing which cards to protect, when to steal and when to pass is all important. It was a one sided game where I dominated from the first turn to the end. Having played it a few times I knew exactly when not to win tricks and when to steal. This allowed me to rack up a pretty big score of 83, James B came second with 64 and Phil last with 50. It's a bit wonky to start with but once you've played it a few times it really turns into a nice game.


After that was a game of North Wind with Karolina, Magnus, James B and myself. A surprisingly thematic exploration game with wonderful components. Large cardboard ships and various upgrades and wooden good tokens that fit snugly onto your ship. Each player is attempting to fulfil contracts at three different ports, the first player to complete 8 contracts wins. The first quarter of the game is Luck driven, learning where certain resources and events are and then exploiting them. However once you've upgraded your ship the luck element is almost completely negated and it's then a race to beat the other players to the contracts, knowing when to ditch or sell certain goods is key. I started quite slowly, as last player the contracts I was aiming for were completed by the others before I could get to them. Magnus meanwhile raced into an early lead by beating pirates and delivering pirate captains to face justice. I managed to complete a few bonuses such as having a full crew and completing a contract in each port that allowed me to catch up towards the end. James B steadily completed the harder contracts whilst Karolina dominated the wine contracts. At the end Karolina managed to pip Magnus to the win by completing the last few contracts as well as the bonuses. So Karolina won with 8 cubes, James and Magnus were on 6 and I ended on 5.


We then moved onto The Grizzled. I'm not a huge fan of co-ops but the artwork and theme were enough to tempt me and I wasn't to be disappointed. This is perhaps the most fun I've had playing a co-op, but as I don't play that many take that with a pinch of salt. It's set in the trenches of WW1 and each player is a French solider. The mission is to survive by relying on each other for support whilst battling the never ending horrors such as shelling, mustard gas and various traumas. Each round a player becomes the squad leader and leads a mission into no man's land. The objective is to complete missions safely, if you succeed the cards are discarded if you fail the cards are added back in. In our first game we were totally demoralised from the very first mission, Magnus was rendered mute for most of the game and James B was a tyrannical leader who refused to give up command and who continually made life hard for us. So it didn't take long before we failed, the never ending battery finally killing our morale. In the second game we failed again but came within a whisker of winning it, we unfortunately ran out of support at the crucial time. I thought it was great, a real challenge, which makes me want to play it again.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

In the future we'll all be carrying baggage on the Moon

Contributors: David, Jon, Peter

The first game was one quick round of Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper with James, Neil, James B and myself. We made it through about two thirds of the deck wondering why no one was playing Victim cards that matched the colour of the evidence cards in game before Jon turned up and explained that you can meld any evidence cards once any victim has been played and that the evidence cards don't match the colour of the Victim. We could have been there a while longer before we figured that out laugh

After that was Port Royal with Magnus, Peter, Philip and myself. Only Peter had played before but it seemed simple enough to pick up. Both Peter and Philip went for a strategy of buying Pirates so they could control the ships being drawn which then allowed them to buy the higher priced cards and claim contracts. I meanwhile went for the luck of the draw that failed badly as I went bust at least four times. Pushing your luck with no pirates isn't the greatest strategy. In the end Peter won with 13 points compared to Philip on 10 and Magnus and I on 6. 

After that was half of Android, the game is dripping in flavour text and background, the sort of game you could spend half the day playing. However we only had two and bit hours and some of that was a rules run-through and grappling with a lot of different parts. So we only made it to the half way point before calling it but it's definitely something I would love to play again now we know how to play it which should speed things up. As for the game I spent most of the time on the Moon, gathering clues and completing my story in a positive way despite a huge amount of bad baggage. The others in the meantime were completing the conspiracy, laying down contracts and gathering evidence on earth. My favourite moment came when I played a card on James that forced him to spend a full turn moving to a location to fulfil his duty, something I don't think he appreciated laugh By the time we called it Dan was leading with 38 points with Raj and myself a close second and third. Philip was fourth and James was on 3 points laugh so it was all up for grabs.


As alluded to above, my favourite moment of the evening was hearing the increasingly frustrated remarks from the Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper table, and on closer examination, discovered that they were trying to play the unfinishable game. That is what you get, ladies & gentlemen, when James gets to explain the rules.....

We then got to play one (which turned into two, as no-one else was near finishing their games) games of Pandemic Legacy: Season 1. Still in January, we tonked the game when Jon handed a squillion cards to Paul in one go, who then cured not one, but two diseases in a single turn! What a guy... (or actually, Cecily Petri-Dish, as his character has been named... kiss )

Moving into February, we were excited to find out that we could now XXXXXXXX XXX XXX X XXXXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX and more importantly, that meant that we could XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXX and XXXXX X XXXX XXXXXX!!!

But - we still lost! To be fair, it was an unlucky draw of a card that caused so many outbreaks, rather than James's poor personal hygiene standards, so it was a bit gutting. The only consolation? We're getting our money's-worth out of it.....

Then we played Pairs - Paul lost - and Too Many Cinderellas, that James won by default following the introduction of the random card at the end, which stuffed both John and Jon. I'm sure we've never played with that rule before (although Dan claims otherwise.) Good that pure random luck and chance gives James a chance to win something every now and again though.......


After Port Royal the inside of the Stockpile box saw the light of day (not strictly true since it was dark outside, more, saw the half-light of an English pub).

The two John's and Magnus invested in some Electric Company which I just ignored for the whole game. Round after round the share price of Irritating Electric, I believe it was called, just rose and rose as the cards fell its way. Shares split and doubled in price again and again. Meanwhile, my Appalling Automobiles company went bust just as I bought the shares. So, in the end John B won closely followed by other John, closely followed by Magnus, not closely followed by me. It is a good game with loads of hidden information giving it great entertainment value, and it gives me complete freedom to blame the cards for my poor financial record. However I have now played this twice and come waaaay last both times so my excuses may start to wear thin.

Kingdom Builder followed and we choose to play the new House Hurling Expansion. Here the idea is to randomly hurl the houses around the floor of the venue you are playing in. This must be done one by one. The card draw between hurls allows you to admire the pictures of flowers, desert, grassland and other landscapes whilst you are hurling. Marvellous stuff. Magnus beat us, followed by the Johns and last of all me. I prefer the base game.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Night of the unnecessary Swans

Contributors: Daniel, James, Soren, David

‘Twas the night of the long games.

A long game of Orleans, a long game of Ludwig's Secrets, a long game of... uh, I dunno what they were playing on the other table. No Madame Ching despite three copies being brought along.

I've come to the conclusion that I really don't like the Ludwig expansion. It's a real PITA to set up with having to separate every single room tile in the game before building stacks with a specific blend of old and new tiles - Bezier have also done this with their latest expansion for Suburbia, it's a terrible idea so no idea why they have such a fascination with it.

Gameplay also slows to a grind as it enters VP min-maxing territory with all the extra considerations with moats and swans. Watching James agonise over whether to score three points or two points plus a bonus point almost led to the insertion of the master builder token into a painfully small orifice. Anything to relieve the boredom I guess.

The secret passages are okay but unnecessary, they don't add anything other than a gimmick, and everything else is dilutive junk. The game does not need this; simple, quick, and fun has been turned into convoluted, slow, and murderously pernickety. I think this might even end up as turkey of the year for me, unless Tom can discover some new filler games for us.

After a brief dalliance with Too Many Cinderellas (for the record, it’s important stuff, James won) we followed up with a gear shift into the always welcome Sentinels. Raj picked ethereal mythos mage Nightmist, Gareth plumped for shapeshifting animal-man The Naturalist, Tom went intergalactic with Captain Cosmic, and I made up the team with Skyscraper, the size-shifting Thorathian who spent most of the game as a two storey giant stamping up and down on everyone, friend and foe alike.

We lined up against Apostate, who had turned up with his demon horde and tainted relics to deliver some smackdown in the temple of Zhu Long (an ageless mystic who has mastered the art of preserving life after death, and also occasionally turns into a dragon – oh my). The bad guy initially got the upper hand with a pair of ancient relics that were both increasing the power of his attacks while also allowing him to get some extra shots in at us. Things went from bad to worse with the appearance of Zhu Long in his dragon form along with some pesky shinobi that kept interfering with our card decks. Nightmist eventually decided that she had had enough and literally exploded into a fiery rage that blew up pretty much everything on the board, with the unfortunate downside that it left all of her companions on the ropes at the same time.

The Naturalist snuffled about in Rhino form for a while, soaking up damage and healing himself, before flipping out toward the end in a major Crocodile tantrum that involved biting the villain down to a single hit point over the course of just a couple of rounds. Captain Cosmic did his ‘Green Lantern’ thing and was throwing cosmic constructs all over the place that were handing out additional attacks and damage bonuses/reductions, whilst Skyscraper spent most of her time going large and delivering big stompy ground-shaking strikes. Apostate cleared the field at one point with a play that blows up all the other cards on the table, but we were able to take out the rest of his toys before it took effect and so there was minimal impact. In fact it inadvertently helped us by getting rid of that pesky Dragon that kept popping up.

Although we all ended up with single digit HP we were comfortably in control for the last few rounds and sent the bad guys packing once again.


First time playing the expansion and yeah, I'm not sure either.

The swans feels a bit pointless to be honest... something added on for the sake of adding something on.

I like the Moat - I think the points bonus is overpowered so you really need to all be building at the same time to stop someone completing 4 sides and raking the points for the rest of the game. But so long as noone else lets this happen then it creates a nice additional space-ial awareness challenge to the game. whch is a lot of what the current game is all about already. and is very themeatically pleasing

The hidden passageways... nah... there's a good idea in there somewhere, but this isn't it.

...and the extra cards/tiles are just fluff... nice to have but not vital.

So yeah, I guess give me the moats and ignore the rest which isn't a good value for money for a £20 expansion these days !soblue


We played a much too long game of Orleans. Just yet another very multi-player solitaire, resource conversion Euro game.

As interactive as your dog taking a dump in the woods and someone else accidentally stepping in it next day while shuffling for something in their handbag.

Apparently, the expansion adds solitaire and co-op - well, that can not have taken much time and effort to add. Surprisingly, the scores ended up fairly close although Tom seemed to have runaway engine.

Not awful, though - would not completely refuse to play again. At least better than Feld's and Rosenberg's rubbish.


The other game played was League of Six as I protested against playing Battlestar Galactica. Not that I have anything against Battlestar but it can take a long time and I think I would prefer to play Dark Moon or Homeland: The Game instead as I'm not a fan of the Battlestar TV show either. As we all know there's only one truly great SciFi TV show and that was Babylon 5 laugh

Anyway back onto League of Six, after umming and erring over a few games Alex decided we should play it as it looked like Settlers of Catan. Of course it ended up being something very different. So Gareth, Sarah, Alex and I set up a game just in time to fit Raj in. Each player takes the role of a tax collector, sent to collect tax from one of six medieval cities. Each player is bidding for the right to collect tax from one of the six cities by bidding their guards. The more guards you have the more chance you can force a player to give up the rights to a particular city. Add to this a random siege that closes a different city each round as well as random placement of goods and it makes for an unpredictable experience.

I started strongly by claiming the strongest city by outbidding Gareth, little did I realise this would send me into a downward spiral in which there's almost no chance to escape. As turn order is dictated by the player who has bid the most guards and the first few players will end up with the most guards by outbidding each other it generally means those with no guards after the first turn or so have no say over which city they will claim. The first players will forever increase their strength and dominate the bidding which continues to allow them to go first. The bidding also creates a domino effect, you can bid for a city on your turn and then watch as someone forces another player out of their city into yours and then you are forced to move onto someone else's city and before you know it everyone has a city they didn't really want all because of bidding war started far away.

Raj at one stage tried to fight his way out by spending his victory points on more guards but this set him so far back in the points it was impossible to catch up. In the meantime Alex was racing into a comfortable lead with Gareth, Sarah and myself not too far behind. However when it came to the last turn Gareth managed to win by utilizing various victory point conditions. The final scoring was Gareth first, Sarah second and Alex third all separated by a point each. I came third about 10 points behind and Raj a bit further back.

There's some nice ideas in the game but I felt a bit powerless to the domino bidding and I was reliant on a bit of luck to just stay in the game.

Headed home early after that as I was tired and the game finished me off laugh

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

It was a drastic solution to a little flambe problem

Contributors: David, James, Peter

Gareth, Sarah, Philip, James B and I started the evening with a game of The Great Dalmuti. Steve Jackson lists this as one of his favourite games so I've always wanted to try it and whilst fun I'm not sure we played it to its full potential. I think it could be great with more interaction and inventiveness from the players by ordering the peon about, switching seats and wearing hats rather than just a straight card game. Which is how we played it.

Once Tom and Dan turned up we followed that with a game of Family Business. It was an early blood bath and I could only look on as my gang (the infamous gang the Bank Robbers) were set upon by everyone else. However I bravely managed to hang on, that or the others felt sorry for me, to see at least a few other rival gangs take some hits. It came down to a 1v1 scrap between Dan and Peter (iirc) and Dan managed to come out on top by defeating Peter's Purple Gang (ehm)
Once a few more people turned up we split into a few tables and Raj, Peter, James B and myself opted for a quick game of 7 Wonders. Raj was new to the game but the rest of us were seasoned hands, this meant that the game went very quickly which threw Raj off a few times but I think he managed to pick it up by the second age. I concentrated all my efforts on science, as no other players were doing so this allowed me to build up quite a large selection. Peter meanwhile was building up a nice selection of civic buildings as my nearest rival. When it came down to scoring I ended on 61, Peter 47, James B 44 and Raj on 37. With no real competition for science I was free to score some massive points while ignoring military and I didn't even have to build the last section of my wonder. After 7 Wonders and Bohnanza (played on the other table) had ended Dan, Tom, Alex, James B and I started a game of Flash Point: Fire Rescue. I think we used Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Extreme Danger or some characters from the expansions. We got off to a terrible start, James wasted his first turn as the Dog, hanging around outside waiting for us to open the door for him whilst I managed to completely miss using the Fire Engine hose. However we soon turned it around and Tom went about removing hazardous materials from the building (although they weren't anywhere near the fire we were confident enough that we could contain it without his help). This was yet another mistake as some terrible rolling meant the fire spread rapidly trapping both Alex and I in the basement with no easy way out. Dan bravely fought the fire alone with a little help from James but it was too little too late as the entire building collapsed killing us all. We had only managed to save one person laugh

To end my evening was a game of Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Rumble at Castle Tentakill with Alex, James B, Dan and Tom. A pretty funny game with great artwork and tongue-twisting spells that should be fast and furious. However I think a few of us over thought the spells rather than just playing which slowed it down. Would happily play again but maybe faster next time


Was a week of lighter fare... with Jon/Phil and Paul providing most of the opposition.

Started with Karuba which feels like you should pronouce it like some kind of Mexican chant... to cut to the chase a great little family friendly Haba game where everyone has tiles numbered 1-36 and is looking to build routes and move explorers along the routes to temples... It was so good we played it twice ! I think Jon won the first time, but to be honest most time Jon wins tend to be wiped from my memory soon afterwards... Beginners luck for sure. Second time through Paul triumphed with me second and I definitely remember Jon coming last... That definitely happened.

After Karuba we upped the difficultly stakes with a game of CVlizations... a semi-hidden role game with wonderfully cute graphics, again a simple game play and (as I didn't win) oodles of luck involved. Phil got off to a flyer collecting many many cards, while Jon opted for this 'Hey, look how well James is doing' strategy to distract attention... WHY OH WHY do people still listen to him, he's been pulling the same trick for 6 years ! yuk Anyways, Jon picked up a card allowing him to make 2 purchases per round, and used this to great advantage with all the resources he'd been hording... Paul was picking up lots of bonus resources each round in a smooth and 'under the radar' kind of way... and Phil just seemed to be dominiating with loads of buildings, a seemingly endless supply of resources and the (ever) luxury of being seated on the left of Paul.
So third age was a points fest. Jon starting piling up VP's Paul continued to build and Phil kept taking the cards I wanted before I could get them... I had about 5 cards at this stage... nowhere near a winning position, but I had a nice engine going... you know the type - if only the game lasted another 10 rounds I'd have wiped the floor with everyone... I think Phil won (to be honest I can't remember)... might have been Paul. Given I can't remember it suggests it was Jon, but I'm *sure* it wasn't... convinced... bet the house and sell my granny convinced it was someone else... although not me... I'm also sure of that. Last... crySo last up, by process of elimination, we played Carcassonne. A much malaigned game which is way way better than most people give credit... James brought his big box +++ version with a zillion expansions but we opted for the basic river plus inns & traders and some other stuff, but not the pigs... and the ones that let you take a bonus tile... and the giant meeple that counts twice... bit random for sure.

This was more like it... surely the hours spent on the ipad version would give me an advantage.. Paul got off to a bad start with several meeples viscioulsy trapped before the 1/2 way point. Phil was builing in his corner, maybe because it was a good strategy, or maybe because he didn't want to have to get up and reach over the table so was easier to focus on one part of the map. Early on there was a small farmer battle between Paul and myself... more on this later. Midpoint a few largish cities were build benefiting James and Jon.. Paul was trying to build a metropolis but it always seems a long short. Jon had a lot of goods for the end game trader bonus scores... At this point I noticed a few good farmer spots and took advantage knowing I had a nice score at the end coming my way... noone else seemed to be worried about this (these guys were definitely not as cutthroat as the ipad) so it felt like a good strategy... At one point Jon put a cathedral in Pauls' city, and only then chose to explain the rule about this nullifying the points for the city... nice time to add a new rule Jon Jon was also insisting that we played by some rule from the 1850's around completing a 2 tile city being only worth 2 points... get with the show grandad.
So as the game drew to a close Jon was going to bag a lot of points from goods by wasn't involved in much farmer action. I had about 4-5 farmers on the board and could see $$ signs as I anticipated the scoring. Phil had lots of cities in his corner, but not much more.. and Paul was still desperatly trying to finish his super city.. Then... with the last tile Paul had a chance to finish... but the tile didn't fit (OUCH ! SO CLOSE)

To be honest we kinda lost count with the scoping having lapped the board twice and forgotten to use the 50/100 tile to track this... but with the farmers counted it was obvious (well to me) that I'd romped home with a large win... ahead of Jon (I think... again it gets hazy here) and Phil/Paul someway away back...

The farmer fight I had with Paul earlier was a tie, but bagged us both 36 points or something... I guess thats what having an EU farming subsidy can do for you. I look forwards to the Brexit expansion.

Oh, I forget... we also did some Deep Sea Adventure at the start and I won that as well... but being the modest chap I am I'll not talk about this anymore... blush 


There were a couple of rounds of Deception: Murder in Hong Kong early on, which was new to me. I made it a little easy for everyone in the first round by drawing the Murderer card and promptly managed to get the rules wrong and choose a card of an opponent. The detective put me right but the investigators used the full powers of their perceptive detecting skills and concluded that a new player might just be the murderer, someone, perhaps, who didn't know the rules. It was all over pretty fast. In the second game I drew the murderer again, but this time, in an attempt to avoid detection, I correctly choose two cards from my own tableau. Foiled by this deception a number of wrong guesses were made before Dan honed in on my weapon and motive, or whatever it is the cards represent. I liked the game, a refreshing change from the usual social deduction resisting werewolves in Avalon.