Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Isleworth Boardgamers reach for the skies


 Contributors: Daniel, David

Another bijou night of gaming. Plico James was showing us all how to breeze to an easy win in Deception again (I'd love to play Poker with him someday), then we split into two tables.
Soren and Phil joined me for a three player bash at Android. Phil still likes it, Soren hated it, and I totally crushed them both as Bioroid Floyd 'master of unlocking the conspiracy'. 

A funny moment was that virtually all the points the Soren scored came from me connecting social favours up to score 4pts each, particularly as circumstances meant that I ended the game without any favours myself. 

Phil focussed heavily on gathering evidence on the murder suspect, and when tokens began to pile up into a cardboard ziggurat on one of the suspects they immediately became a target for the hit-squads and were taken out of the game. Fortunately, he was able to find a way to change his suspect card, however it wasn't to be as I had already thrown a couple of purgery tokens down on my target along with a juicy alibi that was destined to fall apart in the courtroom.

Then Raj replaced Soren for a couple of rounds of Spell Wizards, silliness and crudity for a few minutes to wrap up the evening.


James B and I were there quite early so played a game of Carcassonne with Carcassonne: The Tower expansion. I think the expansion is great for two player games, it prevents one player from playing farmers early and dominating the game as there is always a way of removing each other's meeples. This does lead to smaller cities and quick scoring which James was doing to build up a small lead. It was quite a close game for the first half up until James used his last tower piece. After that I was able to start playing farmers and running interference on his meeples as I still had 5 tower pieces left. In the last few turns I maximised farming and finished a couple of large cities that had laid dormant due to previous tower removals. When it came to scoring James made 97 and I was on 186 or thereabouts. After that was a game of New York: 1901 with Raj, James B, Peter and myself. I picked it up a few days ago as I was looking for something similar to Ticket to Ride and the theme was appealing. It looks fantastic and they obviously went all out on production quality. As for the game play, players compete by building skyscrapers in a small district of New York. On a turn players can take a lot card and then optionally build on their land or they can demolish one or more of their existing skyscrapers and build in its place. On top of this are bonuses for controlling certain streets or building certain types of skyscrapers. 

There's a certain element of tetris as you try and fit skyscrapers into position as well as trying to grab all the land around your existing skyscrapers so you can build much larger ones later on. James B managed to stop me from doing this a few times by grabbing plots of land right in the middle of my planned construction areas, Peter and Raj meanwhile were busy getting most of their early skyscrapers built as well as securing future land. Towards the end it was obvious it was between Raj and Peter for the win and it would come down to who would score best on the bonuses. When it came to scoring Raj won by 5 points ahead of Peter with myself about 20 points behind and James B a bit behind me. I really like this one and will bring it next week if anyone is interested in trying it out.

The next game after that was Palazzo. Back from a time when Reiner Knizia made some great games. I would put this up there with Medici and Ra. It's a bit ugly and bland but has a simple auction and building mechanism that works well. The objective is to construct the grandest palace with the most windows using the same type of material to score the most points. As there is only three types of material and four players it meant that there was a lot of competition for the same types of building. Peter won comfortably, ahead of James whilst I came in just behind in third. Raj meanwhile was unlucky to have quite a few negative palaces still left in play as the game ended which pushed him back into last place.

To end the evening was a game of Jane Austen's Matchmaker, I convinced Raj to play and James B was keen to play again, he must love the theme more than I do. Interestingly Raj referred to the romantic courtship as attacking, which he did quite well, as he launched a series of unsuitable cads against my defenceless ladies. I was struggling to offload my useless and penniless gentleman whilst James was trying his best to catch Raj. It wasn't to be, Raj won with a landslide of heroines, whilst I ended last with James one point ahead of me.  

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Nobody puts Phil Eklund in a box!

Contributors: Daniel, David

Those of us who weren't being exhilerated by Sevilla's magnificent performance in the European Kickball Cup settled down to a fine nights gaming, no less tense and with equally disappointing second-half collapses in form.

Paul D said something interesting at the end of our game of Pax Po, in that he thought it was a lot like a Euro game, something which took me back a bit. Thinking about it now, I'm not too sure where the parallels are, other than the large amount of beige ink in use. As an example, during the game Paul bought some ranch land in Chihuaha.

In a typical Euro he would have taken the Ranch Action, precluding the rest of us from doing the same, or taking the best land available and leaving us with a choice of increasingly poor stony ground, where even the Cacti struggle to grow, as penance for being de-prioritised in player order. We might then have taken other things that blocked Paul in similar fashion, our revenge for him swagging the best turf, or tried to devalue the strategic ‘value’ of ranches within the game in order to peg him back. It's the gaming equivalent of sticking two fingers up from a safe distance, and pretty far from the more direct interaction in Pax Po.

What actually transpired was that Paul settled his ranchers and expanded the land, creating a rich and fertile enterprise. Seeing such a ripe venture propped up in the shop window I levied some troops and sent them into his land to extort a generous slice of his profits. Unable to find better equipped soldiers to take me on in a fair battle, Paul retalliated by greasing the wheels with some crusty greybeards in the corridors of power and saw that command of those troops was transferred to him, diverting the proceeds from their protection racket back into his own coffers. Incensed by this, I whipped up a storm of discontent amongst the native workers who instigated a riot that burnt the whole place to the ground, leaving nothing of value in the charred ruins. Of course I got banged up in jail for liberating them from their toils, but a small bribe saw me cleared of any connection to the incident and back making mischief again, idolised as a hero by the revolutionary faction to boot. Meanwhile, Paul A was interfering all the way by attempting to unionise the workforce and blockading the area to dry up the income stream altogether. I think this is all pretty far from a typical Euro gaming experience laugh

Following an interesting discussion on our BGG guild forum about labelling games to a type, wherein we pretty much agreed that this particular game defies attempts at classification, I believe that one of the key tenets of Ameritrash is that the gameplay experience is front and centre. In that respect I'd say Pax Po is leaning more in that direction as the Euro-centric mechanics of the game itself are a fairly uninspiring exercise in building and maintaining a simple card tableau. All of the experience rests in the interaction between the players; I can write essays about my games of Pax Po, even remembering things that happened in games from years ago, but I couldn't ever easily explain how somebody put a cube here or there or paid some money tokens when taking an action. It just doesn't feel like a mechanical experience at any point. But whatever, it doesn't need a label, I'm just glad that Paul was able to appreciate and enjoy this awesome game. 

The game in review started with some bruising antagonism across the table, mostly between the two Pauls – Dawsey was setting up enterprises in Sonora, with me piggy-backing through a mix of extortion and upgraded railway connections due to a lack of direct income opportunities coming my way. Agapow decided to give his intensive mining within the Gadsden Purchase (an area of land now forming parts of Arizona and New Mexico) a boon by funding a full scale revolution in Sonora, which promptly declared independence and disappeared from Dawsey’s tableau as a result. Later in the game, Dawsey paid for an expensive assassination of the Sonoran leader in order to destabilise the breakaway republic and to bring it back into the Mexican fold.

Not content with murdering Sonoran rebels, Dawsey also took some time to give me some special attention in trashing my one working enterprise with a stack of unrest tokens and sending me to prison twice during the game. Agapow also gave me a black eye by killing off two of my business ventures, canny moves that kept him far ahead in the rich list with his largely invulnerable ranches and mines situated in US territory.

Agapow made a strong move on Outrage and was very close to taking the game – as often happens though he fell foul of being either just one action or a bit of cash short of being able to close the deal. Meanwhile, I used the cover of our focus on stopping him to have some cosy time with Diaz, amassing loyalty points to get to the top of the class. With the ‘Pax’ topple disregarded in the exchange I was able to make an incisive push for victory, persuading Diaz that it was time to retire to a sunny cottage on the coast in order to make way for my own brand of lunatic dictatorship. First against the wall in the new regime would be a tough decision, but would likely be somebody named Paul.

Also of note in Pax - I had a raft of revolution points, a regular Wolfie Smith, which meant that I came to power as Diaz's most loyal lickspittle who also happened to be the secret master of the revolutionary forces that were fighting against him. Bwah-ha-ha! I love this gameI also had a quick game of vanilla Carcassonne with John, boy it’s weird to play without Inns, Rivers, Cathedrals, and whatnot. No Mega Meeple either! John took an early lead while I sat in cities and roads that kept expanding seemingly forever. I was able to close off attempts to sneak in and so received windfall scores midgame when they eventually completed. John kind of got stuffed by pulling monasteries (or are they abbeys?) near the end that couldn’t be played for more than a couple of points each, and as I had already sown up and blocked off the only worthwhile meadow he had no option other than to take weak turns. My big meadow score put me out ahead by some margin in the final countup.

I really get the feeling that the base game is heavy on the luck of the draw, so with two players it gets lopsided as there isn’t the level of chaos you get with more players. This is particularly pronounced at the fringes of the build area as it’s much harder to sneak in or to screw with completion without the claustrophobia of having the map close in around your opponent’s ventures. Castle is still the king of two player carc as it’s optimised for direct head-to-head conflict in an enclosed space, and I think that the regular game really needs some of the ‘vital’ expansions to bring it alive.


Gareth, Sarah, Paul A, Philip and I started the evening with a game Drakon with the Drakon Expansion. Players enter the lair of Drakon in hope of stealing the dragon's treasure. However the main objective seemed to be how much you can screw over the other players with the side objective of collecting gold coins. Philip and I split off in different directions early on whilst the other three were spending time rotating rooms or outright destroying them. This lead to a few headaches as we battled the ever changing dungeon. Phil managed to grab victory with 5 coins whilst Gareth and I were just behind with 4 coins. For a simple tile-laying game there is perhaps too much screwing people over or maybe it was just the way we played it.

Alex, Raj, Philip and I followed that up with a game of El Caballero. An often overlooked game from the late 90s which is probably best described as Carcassonne meets El Grande or as James B likes to call it, Carcassonne with maths. Players explore the New World by drawing and placing tiles. They then claim either the land or sea with Caballeros or ships and then compete over these territories with the larger the territory the larger the score. This was particularly relevant during our game as we set about creating the largest possible single island that we then preceded to fight over for the seven game turns. It looks simple at first but there are a lot of complexities and we really pushed these in our game, placing land tiles and Caballeros tiles in a such a way that prevents other players from muscling in or blowing your Caballero tile off the board. 

Each turn players have the option of removing their Caballero tiles from the board which opens up previously locked areas and allows players to change the landscape, this allowed for some particularly interesting moves which Alex used to force me from the high scoring Island just before the first scoring round. After I was unceremoniously dumped out of the running from the main island I set my sights slightly lower just to regain some pride so I joined in with Raj by building ships on a large sea zone. Towards the end the control of the main island swung this way and that as we found new ways of removing or adding influence. When it came down to the crucial turn Raj had managed to add enough influence and in such a way that we couldn't force him out. The final scoring was Raj on 103, Alex on 50 something with myself on 33 and Philip on 31. The victory could have easily gone to either Alex or Phil had they just had one more turn.  

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Playing nicely at IBG

Contributors: Daniel, David

A quiet night with only two tables on the go, but plenty of fun had by all!

An early start with Show Manager for myself, Tomtoo, David, and Raj, meanwhile Tom got his Dragon Eggs out at the other table to occupy the later arrivals while we finished up.

Tom and David seemed to be trying to outdo one another for the theatrical equivalent of a Golden Raspberry, both managing to attract a critical savaging and first night closures with their debut productions. Raj looked like a early bet with a tremendous performance of Moonlight that wowed audiences in the theatre capital of London, but financial struggles meant that he was unable to repeat that success and went into a slow decline. I coasted into a comfortable win by being the bridesmaid in the biggest scoring cities and raiding the coffers from smaller locations where the point spread is less brutal.
Noel brought along Vegas Showdown and it would have been rude to refuse a game, so we settled down with the two Toms. Stone Age or something was on the other table, could have been Mombasa/Caylus/Cuba/etc. I really cannot tell just by looking these days.

Noel went straight for the mantle of Slot King with row upon row of shiny one-armed bandits, and Tomone managed to resist the urge to turn his casino into one giant food hall this time around with a more balanced build. Tomtoo fell in love with lounges, later bringing in some restaurants to feed the corpulent slouches infesting his premesis. I competed for a short while with Noel on Slots before swagging the first Table Games tile that came up, which took me in another direction. Noel ended up coasting to a very comfortable lead and spent the end game adding Lounges to keep his score moving forward - in retrospect we could have been more competitive against this but were all so wrapped up in angling for the bonus tiles that we wanted that he rolled us over, like a true Casino boss oughta.

Screwage, bluffing, guile, and more screwage in Intrigue, which then spilled over into No Thanks! I managed to play the temporary alliances in Intrigue against each other pretty well I think; Despite screwing Tomtoo over very badly in the first round I got him onboard with Team Dan by then offering an Olive branch while the other guys were kicking him while he was down. In response, Noel and Tomone formed an uneasy alliance that fell apart with some careful prodding; it was particularly flaky as Noel didn't do himself any favours by adding plenty of 10k notes to his hand while only handing out 1k ones in his bribes, and Tomone seemed determined to burn bridges on every side. With a smidgen on cajoling I got Tomone onto my side, ditching both Noel and Tomtoo into exile in the process, setting myself up nicely in incontestable positions. The hammer dropped in the final round - as the last player to make appointments I kicked Tomone out of my tallest tower to even out my opponents earnings in the final round, preventing anyone from lurching ahead with their final income. At the final countup I was ahead by some margin, my realtively low earnings throughout the game allowing me to fly under the radar with the strong final positioning giving me a massive payday that sealed the deal.

No Thanks! ended up being almost an extension of Intrigue, with enmities from the previous game encouraging cards to be passed purely for the sake of dumping a bad score on someone else. I picked up two cards fairly early that were around twenty odd points each then eventually fluked into connecting them together in the last couple of turns, once again coming from a seemingly untenable position to swipe a sneaky victory.

Noel was then coerced into Magical Athlete against his will, not sure if he's recovered from the expereince yet. Making a correct guess with the prophet was pivotal in keeping me on a winning streak, then we finished up late with a round of Epic Spell Wizards (Raj replacing Noel for this one - I don't think we could have got away with getting him to join in on this one), it did it's thing with a tense finish where Tomone managed to hold on tightly for several rounds despite being right on the edge, ending in a grind of single-card spells that should have been strong enough to finish things off but always seemed to fall just short.


The game on our table was A Council of Four, Phil, Raj and I had all played this before a month or so ago, so thought we would give it another go now that we knew how to play. Last time I did incredibly poorly so was out to make amends this time around. Both Phil and I went for the same opening moves of building in the two blue cities and claiming the early victory points and related bonus. I was luckily enough to beat Phil to this by a single turn which then allowed me to link a number of cities and claim a few of the extra bonuses. Raj meanwhile was working towards the larger city objective and scoring well from his connections. At the end it was a race between Raj and I, my early move putting Phil a bit too far behind to catch up. When it came down to final scoring I had just managed to pip Raj to the win by a single point thanks to the various end of game bonuses. I enjoyed both games of this even with a few of the production issues it has a nice balance to it. After that we played a quick game of Meteor. A bit like Spaceteam but with a lot less shouting and musical chairs. The objective is to destroy 7 meteors before they hit earth, working together as a team to construct and launch rockets. There's a lot of communication required as you only get 5 rounds at 1 minute each but we still found time to destroy all the meteors with time to spare. We did play the easy version though and I can see this being a lot of fun and more pressured with five or six players.

I ended the evening with a couple of games of Council of Verona. Raj won both games and the second game was notable as I ended up with a hand of 'move' cards which swung the game this way and that laugh

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

It takes two Baby...

Contributors: Jon, Neil, Paul A 

I was wrapped up in a cosy twosome with Neil for most of the evening, we started wth a game of Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small.

Neil picked up 3 new tiles, looking to max out on some nice points for filling them up. Jon picked up two of his own, but stupidly placed one on the wrong side of his cottage and so was never going to be able to build over it.

Jon picked cows to breed, Neil took the horses, and they both took plenty of sheep and pigs (although not enough to get big bonuses.) Near the end, Neil had obviously got his eye on a building that could be built for free if he had 2 of each type of animal, and would then give him 4 extra animals to boot. But Jon was wise (for once) to it, and took the last cow to prevent him getting it. As always, the end comes incredibly swiftly, and the count up revealed that the points for Jon's buildings (cottage conversion and stables) helped him pip Neil to the post. Great game!  


Following that loss I couldn't resist getting 7 Wonders: Duel out. I managed to beat Tommy teacher last Friday, narrowly avoiding a military wipe out and rather fancied I'd remember more rules than Jon might. Age I passed cagily with us both getting an early wonder. Going early for science cards I managed to pick up a progress token as the first move of Age II which allowed me to build the Wonders for 2 less resources. Just about my next move chained the building of my remaining three wonders in one turn and I think we were both convinced it was game over.. having three extra turns one after the other must be the prefect storm.

We played it all out, Jon picking up more and more civilian and commercial buildings and money, me avoiding further military losses and still picking up the science cards. And there we were, at the end of Age III with Jon turning over the penultimate card, a face downer, and it's a science card which he has to take and leave me with the final science card to ensure a scientific victory with a collection of 6 of the 7 science cards. We decided to add up the scores to see by how much I'd conquered him in normal play..

Well, blow me down, if he wouldn't have beat me, and quite comfortably too. His civilian and commercial cards and the guild to score for the latter had wiped out my advantage in science and progress. We was shocked! Flipping balance in this game must be calculated to about a thousandth of a decimal point, amazing.


Paul, Tom, James and I played Skyway Robbery. It's a steampunk themed game of assembling teams of skilled experts & equipment to pull off heists (e.g "I defeat the Tesla coil with my engineer"). I think we all felt the same way: it carries the theme well, is colorful and had some interesting mechanics but takes far too long and is too dependent on luck (e.g a lucrative heist shows up and you have just the right gear to solve it).