Quite literally so...
Contributors: Daniel, Peter, Jon, David
A busy old night, four tables on the go and jam packed with all kinds of games. Milda, Paul M, Gaz and Shaz spent the evening referring to one another as carbohydrate preparation kitchen appliances in an all-night bash at BSG.
We had Blood Bowl: Team Manager followed by the bi-annual appearance of The World Cup Game on our table; Tomtoo insisted that I show him the proper way to play these games so it was only fair of me to thrash him in both... BB:TM was a bit of a one-sided affair as my team, the Chaos Bastards, stomped, stamped, poked, gouged, and relentlessly flouted the regulations to a solid victory.
The highlight of the evening though was the tit-for-tat rivalry between myself and Pleco James in the World Cup Game (2002 tournament) that resulted in China knocking Brazil out of contention in the group stages with a magnificent three nil victory. We even tried our best to get them all the way to the final stages, but alas they were knocked out in a close second round match against Belgium. It all started when both James and I found ourselves with only one decent team each, caught up in the same group with another two of James' sides. Eschewing the opportunity for a gentlemans agreement in letting Brazil and Turkey coast through to the second round, he instead decided to go for the throat in an attempt to dump me out of the competition. Anybody who has sat down to a competitive game with me will know where this was headed next: after Tomtoo decided to join in by helping China get a couple of goals ahead against Turkey I mercilessly used every opportunity and resource to bury Brazil and Costa Rica, with the hilarious result that China came out as group champions with Turkey a comfortable second.
After the group stages were resolved, James and David had to make a move so we split their remaining teams evenly and carried on. I somehow ended up with teams in both the final and the play-off and as of such the second best highlight of the night was Magnus, having resigned himself to losing the final, playing a total dick-move card on Tom simply so that my other team Sweden (Magnus' home country) could come third. Turkey ended up lifting the cup for those that are interested...
Animals on Board started it all off for Jon, James, Neil and myself. I seem to remember Jon and Neil attempting to be "big on Gorillas". But I may be wrong as all the animals in Animals on Board look alike. I believe Jon's (or was it Neil's?) animals made a break for Noah's Ark at the end which meant his ark dwindled. I kept my 100% record in this game and managed to win.
Imhotep followed. There is a lot in this game for 30 minutes. Decisions decisions. Really there are only 3 options and they are all very straightforward but it is amazing how challenging those simple decisions become. I again maintained my 100% record. This time for coming last. James won with ease.
Finally Guilds of Londonwith Phil coming on for Jon. It is a fairly fiddly thing first game as you constantly have to check what the icons and cards do. This was my second game and by your second game it all becomes second nature and the game feels a lot smoother. James was streaking ahead with his plantations and Guilds flipping in his favour throughout the game. However in the end I managed to overtake thanks to a raft of game-end scoring cards. Like any game with game-end scoring cards which can be drawn throughout the game, there is a fair amount of luck if you manage to draw a card which exactly matches your strengths. So it was with me - I got lucky. I'm liking this game a lot more with this play and hope to get a few more in before the new Essen season destroys anything that went before it.
Always fun to play one of James’s games that he introduces by stating – “I’ve played this at least twice before, and have got the rules down pat.” Also fun when said game has only got about 3 rules. Absolutely hilarious when another player questions the main rule about scoring, only to discover that James has it all wrong (again). Snigger.
Anyway – it’s a bit like ‘Piece o’ Cake’ (I cut you choose) but with animals. And animals, if you happen to be a rhino or hippo, that look very similar. Nice mechanisms, but no-one (apart from Jon, whose score completely bombed) managed to collect the magic number of 3 animals, which seemed to be the point of the game. And because you couldn’t see what other players were collecting, it made it difficult to split up the animals into meaningful groups.
Hmmmm – so much hype – such nice pieces – but it didn’t grab me too much, mainly because of the hidden (but trackable) info and the luck of the draw. But it was worth it, just to play with ‘rulesmeister’ James…
OK – now I am partial to games which I would class as ‘super-fillers.’ Genuinely 30-45 mins (or less) in length, but leave you feeling that you’ve played something much meatier. Step forward Agricola: All Creatures Big & Small, or San Juan or even Paris Connection. Imhotep definitely fits this category. Only 3 choices of what to do each turn, plenty of meaningful decisions, and opportunities to screw over other players, if you’re that way inclined…
James won this one by a country mile, having picked up several bonus cards which paid out increasing amounts as more blocks were added to certain areas.It feels a bit like Medieval Academy (another excellent super-filler), with the different scoring ‘zones’, but without the card drafting. But if does have lovely chunky wooden cubes, which you actually build stuff with (well – sort of). A worthy SdJ nominee and straight onto my wishlist….
Paul, Noel and Jon couldn’t bully anyone else into joining them for some settlement-building action, so 3-player it was (which works fine with KB – it’s 2-player that pretty much sucks!) Having said that, Neil was leaning over from his game of Guilds of London almost constantly, so maybe he would have been better off joining the party……?
1 expansion board was in play, which gave rather a nice bonus of moving a little ship around the rivers, allowing a neat way of crossing into otherwise remote locations. Combine this with the basegame special ability of placing settlements on the water, and a powerful combo was possible. Only Paul managed to get one of both of these, with Jon and Noel having to settle for one or the other.
Paul got himself a bit hemmed in at the start, while Noel went for his usual strategy of getting the bonus tiles that allowed him to place extra settlements each turn. This meant that he was placing 6 settlements rather than 3 for most of the game. Consequently, he finished the game at a point where Paul and Jon still had several settlements to place – although his last turn wasn’t overly productive in terms of points. Unfortunately, Paul had failed to score in several categories, and after 3 scorings he had only 4 points – surely a record! Jon had managed a large joined up area, and had also been the only player to score the bonus for 7 settlements in a diagonal row, which was enough to allow him the marginal victory by a couple of points form Noel. Really fun game, which plays quickly with 3 players – good stuff!
The 3 amigos stayed together (with onlooker Neil still casting an interested gaze their way every 30 seconds or so) to play 7 Wonders with the ‘Cities’ expansion (which is pretty much obligatory with Jon’s copy now…) 3 players is great, because you interact with every other player (as opposed to simply your neighbours, which is one of the complaints against the base-game with higher player counts…)
Paul had a Wonder-board that enabled him to avoid battles for a couple of Ages. Jon then bought the same ability in the second Age, which left Noel effectively fighting himself for one Age (no inappropriate comments about being from Northern Ireland should be added here….)
Paul & Noel both chose to pursue scientific discoveries, whereas Jon went for a mixed strategy, including blue ‘points’ buildings, as well as sneaking a third Age ‘double military’ victory over Noel. However, this wasn’t quite enough, as Noel had a useful Wonder ability to copy one of Jon’s Guilds, which netted him enough points to pip him to the post.
Say what you like about Mr Knizia, he does know his Maths (that’s MathS plural, for our transatlantic readers, not singular as you incorrectly like to call it….) Poison is a simple card game, where you have 3 suits, place them in 3 piles, and try not to go over a total of 13 in any of them. However, the numerical values of the cards are designed specifically to make this darned difficult, so a game that is easy to explain, can be a real head-scratcher to play.
As well as The World Cup Game the other game I played was New York 1901. I convinced Phil to give it a go, Magnus joined shortly after then Noel came in to make it four. It's the second time at the club and it played a little differently than usual. There was almost no blocking of each others lots or any active attempt to fight over territory. This meant it was more of a solo affair as we built up our skyscrapers unhindered and each of us managed to build a legendary skyscraper which was surprising. The win therefore would come from one of the bonuses which Phil managed to score and sneak a win over Magnus (iirc) as I managed to share two bonuses with Noel and Magnus and thus gaining no points. I think it's a bit more interesting when players fight over lots and it's more of a challenge.