Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Tonight at 8pm it's Gardens and Guillotines, only on IBG - The Gamers Channel

Contributors: Daniel, David

I've been struggling for some time now, maybe as much as a whole year, to find a genuinely popular new game, one that isn't tired and derivative and which can survive more than one or two outings at the club. I don't think it's just me either as we've reverted to playing some old classics for many months now, something which is great to see but which also highlights the opinion I've held for a while now - which is that the current state of game design is lacking in innovation and is stuck in a lazy rut of retreading stale old ground, with poor gatekeeping and kickstarter hype fuelling the lowering of standards and a celebration of mediocrity. Some people stand aghast at this point of view, but it bears out with the only games that have stuck around being filler material like Happy Salmon, Karuba, and Codenames.

Last night however was a pleasant change with two new games that were good enough to hit the table multiple times in the same night (although one of these is far from being a new design, despite certainly being new to the club).

The Networks bucks the trend of unpolished Kickstarter folly and delivers a truly original and, thankfully above all else, fun experience. We liked it so much that we wanted to play it again, with James stepping in for Dani after he had to leave early. I personally liked it so much that I turned up late having already played it with the family before leaving and played it again solo when I got home - I don't think I've ever played a game four times in one day before

 The other new but not new new game that we had on the table was a veritable antique, a pre-war copy of Plus and Minus. I used to play this with my flatmate donkeys years ago and was delighted to recently pick up a copy of my own that was complete and in good condition, so I knew what to expect but was keen to find out how it would go down at IBG.


First up was Felix: The Cat in the Sack with James, James B, myself, Gareth and Sarah. Second time I've played it at the club but in the intervening time I'd completely forgotten how to play. Everyone throws a card into the pot and then players bid on the pot, when a player passes then one more card is revealed. This slow drip of information will tell you whether you're bidding on a great set of cards or about to be screwed. It's all about knowing when to jump out or stay in. Nice enough filler, it's neither superb nor is it terrible, it does what you want most fillers to do. Gareth won this by a single point over Sarah.After James B, 

Phil and I played Alhambra from the big box using three modules from Alhambra: The City Gates expansion. We used Characters, Camps and City Gates. I would say Alhambra: The City Gates is probably the best expansion in the box whereas many of the other expansions and modules are take it or leave it. Characters add new abilities that players can bid on, City Gates allow you a bit more freedom in your Palace layout and the Camps reward certain Palace layout. Phil won with 120 something, I was second about 10 points behind and then James B was about 30 behind. I scored incredibly well on my last round but it was the first scoring round where I lost it. It came out a few turns too early for me and then I was playing catch up. Phil scored nicely on the bonus Camp points and came second on the Tower and Garden tiles which was enough to keep him ahead.

To end the evening was Guillotine sans "Callous Guards". I don't really mind the card although I can see why it is recommended to play without it. It does stop the game from being played the way it's meant to be played. Players play a card to affect the line and then take a noble. If you remove the play a card to affect the line aspect then all you have left is pick up a card which isn't much of a game. If someone plays it in the first day then it's quite feasible for it to remain out for the rest of the game. I personally think its power can be reduced by saying it is discarded at the end of a day. That way it can still be used but won't ruin the entire game. Anyway, Phil won this one with a massive haul of nobles, I came a little way behind with James B bringing up the rear.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

IBG gamers prove they are just big kids at heart

Contributors: Jon, Daniel

Ticket to Ride:Pennsylvania

OK - this was supposed to be TTR:UK, but as we were setting it up, we realised that it only took 4 players and we had 5. No-one seemed overly-keen to bail out, so the board was flipped and Pennsylvania it was. This is the 'stock' map, where each time you claim a route, you have the opportunity to take a share in one of a number of companies. Majority of shares at the end of the game score points.


- James cannot count. Up to 5. Period. 

- It was about 3 turns into the game before we realised that TomToo didn't really know how to play vanilla TTR. He came last.

- Tom1 and Jon annoyed the heck out of everyone with their Madonna impressions everytime someone said "Two Blue". Funny though, in a juvenile sort of way....

- The spread of scores at the end was huge. 200 down to 100. James won, after keeping and completing all 5 of his starting tickets, which also attracted the globetrotter bonus. Well played sir!


With Karuba playing on the other table, this other Haba release also got an airing, with Paul, Jon, TomToo and James II as the protagonists. We played the third scenario (get your adventurers into cities by game end, or suffer potentially massive minus points).

The end sneaks up on you in this game, and with Jon taking his final turn, he had 5 Adventurers in no-man's land, which multiplied by the number of Fog Monsters still at large, would have decimated his score by 30 points. He therefore spent his last 2 actions killing 2 Fog Monsters, netting him 14 points for the kills, a 7 point bonus for killing the most and reducing his minus points by 10.

After all this carnage, the scores were totted and were incredibly close, with only 5 points between the 4 players. It turned out that Jon's final battles had not been in vain, as he won - just. 

Paul and TomToo were fairly lukewarm about the game, but Jon is keen - especially as a family / gateway game. May have limited appeal at IBG though... :-(

7 Wonders

Could we fit in a 5-player game of 7 Wonders including a new expansion into the last 45 mins of the evening? With OAP's Jon & Paul being 2 of the players? You betcha (and with time to spare!)

The new expansion was the Great Projects (comes in the Babel box), which allows players to contribute to a joint building in each age, that will give bonuses if successfully built, and penalties to non-contributors if not. It seems to fulfill my rules for a good expansion - doesn't add too much complexity or extra time, but tweaks the base game enough to make it interesting. In fact, it turned out to be a game-winner for TomToo, who picked up 4 bonus tiles in the last round, each worth an extra 6 points for his Science. This resulted in Tom's 6 Science symbols being worth a mahoosive 50 points in total - catapulting him into a convincing winner's spot.

Everyone pointed fingers at each other (but mostly Jon) for letting him get away with it, but it shows that this expansion has introduced another nice subtle way of introducing interaction between all the players, not just your immediate neighbours. 

The regularity that this game is hitting the table is meaning that the game-time is dropping like a stone, and with 3 interesting expansions (Cities / Babel Tower / Great Projects) to choose from, this could run and run.....


A welcome and long awaited return for Paperback, or "Scrabble you can win with a shit vocabulary" as I like to think of it. I made a bee-line for cards that would increase my draws and quickly nobbled the first bonus card as a result. 

Tom managed to grab a handful of double letter cards and began to spew out his typical sixteen syllable thesaurus mangling words. Despite the grandeur of his garrulous gabble my short and sweet high money cards were paying better by the letter and allowed me to hoover up the scoring cards by the handful, including one of the big ten cent ones. At the end I had scored a magnum opus against Tom's potboiler novel (five stars from three reviewers on Amazon though!), meanwhile James (who was also playing, or at least he claims so) was content just to scribble in the margins.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The one where David made a lot of noise in a short space of time.

Contributors: Daniel, David, Jon

A rowdy game of the old classic Pit was underway when I arrived and despite how tempting it was to join in I instead settled into a slightly more refined game of Deep Sea Adventure with Jon, James, Paul D, Paul M, and Milda, the latter two having their first go at this perennial favourite.

Jon and Dawsey raced ahead in the first round with their prudence paying off as the only treasure hunters who made it back with some loot, while James and Moosie started to catch up by just scraping through on the last dregs of Oxygen on the second dive. It looked like a lost cause for Milda and myself, with both of us stymied by chucking high numbers on the way down and snake eyes on the way back up (not to mention Milda's determination to pick up every shiny trinket she encountered - ahh, that first game of Deep Sea Assholes...)

However, tables were to be well and truly turned as the shortened treasure trail enabled us to grab some of the stacks at the bottom and provided an easier route back to the boat. While everybody else quickly ran for safety our deep-diving tactics paid off - at the final counting Milda had picked up a massive 35 points on that one dive and I just pipped her to the win with 37 that I likewise collected in that single haul, the other chaps knocking about in the teens and twenties.

We then broke off into two threes playing Glen More and Ra (plus something else?) and a six-top adventuring into a haunted mansion in Betrayal at the House on the Hill. 

After David got his chopper out and bashed Philippe over the head with it, we transitioned to a different kind of bloodshed in Blood Bound which is some kind of 'Vampire Masquerade' style hidden role game. We were split into two teams with everybody knowing which team one of their neighbours was on and the objective to slaughter the opposition leader, stabbing the wrong person resulting in a loss. Cue political satire here if you will. 

For some reason we all took a liking to attacking David on spec and had to pull up short before inadvertantly tanking the game unecessarily early. Each time you get attacked you have to reveal a piece of information about your character (no I don't know why either, I think 'because game' is the reason), so everyone is destined to get a shanking at some point. Eventually, we figured out who everybody was at which point it became apparent that the blue team had a slight advantage and were guaranteed to win... so we stopped playing... erm...

I'll be kind and say that this one probably needs a big table of ten or more (if you can find that many people who are into Vampire fan-fiction) where it takes longer to figure out who the leaders are and maybe some additional character powers can mess with people's heads... but I think this will still fall down to whichever team's leader has one more life point left than the other at the point of reveal and constantly end in a bust.

More Happy Salmon ridiculousness followed this, then I sat down with the two Toms to play Valeria, which is really just an activity wrapped up with some pretty pictures. It's a total rip on Machi Koro except this game is tilted so that everybody collects far more resources as the dice are rolled around the table. As a result there is very little tactical edge in which cards you decide to buy into your tableau, and with even fewer and less interesting decisions to be made you just roll dice and pick up stuff until you run out of stuff to pick up. Someone eventually throws their hands in the air and yells "woo" at all the victory points they have accumulated. Total shite. This really ought to have spent a lot more time in development before being dumped onto Kickstarter.

Realising that this was one of those occasions where we were taking part in an activity rather than playing a game, I abandoned ship and allowed Phil to take over my spot so that I could go and play Legendary: Aliens with James instead. We set up in what passes for 'easy mode', using objectives and characters canonical to the original movie with two 'drone' cards in each objective deck, and as a result it was a bit of a cakewalk if I'm honest. We encountered two face huggers along the way which were dispatched with ease and toward the end were able to wipe out pretty much anything that came our way while we kicked our heels waiting for the big bad to appear. Think we need to dial up the difficulty quite a bit for the next time we play and introduce some of the 'advanced' content with the Weyland Yutani 'traitor' and the Alien player involved.

San Juan and Coup:G54 were also on the go at the end of the night.


The first of my noise creation came with Billionaire, which is a nicer looking variant of Pit. Along with a small bell came a lot of shouting, in the midst of which Philip made and then lost a fortune and Philippe continually added to his winnings. After much shouting and grabbing someone won and it must have been Philippe.

Then came Betrayal at House on the Hill, I was relatively quiet during most of this until Tom triggered the haunting and I became the traitor. Facing insurmountable odds...ok everything was perfectly laid out for me....I managed to chop Philippe with an Axe and haul his lifeless corpse into the Chasm to open the gates of hell, all the while being chased by a knowledge draining statue. Victory came with the last roll of the dice and at which point I decided it was appropriate to make more noise just to let the others know I had won. This wasn't a great haunting, the rest of the players were effectively ruled out of the game and everything was laid out for me to grab victory.

By this point I had used up most of my energy on a quick game of punching, slapping, tickling with Happy Salmon and I was more restrained for the following game of 7 Wonders. A great game where Paul pipped Jon and I to win by 60 points to our 57 by being the only player to build science and score nicely from it. I should also mention that Paul and I were the only players who did not build any military and were happy to co-exist (there's probably a life lesson in there)


After Milda's first experience of IBG a few weeks ago, where she found herself involved in an evening-long game of BSG, it was nice to see that she actually returned! And as a reward, she was asked to choose which game she wanted to play, which turned out to be Glen More. Jon & Paul were her co-gamers, neither of whom had played before.

Glen More is a nice little mid-weight Euro - not particularly complicated, but with plenty to think about. It has echoes of Alhambra, with its tile-laying mechanism, and a nice little 'choose a tile from a pathway, and whoever is furthest back on the path keeps going until they overtake someone' mechanism.

Milda was a little taken-aback that the game played very differently to how it did when she played with her husband (no comments about the OAP nature of her opponents required, thank you Dan...) as players built more tiles than she was used to. Paul ended up taking his time to build the most efficient tableau of Scottish landmarks (and when I say 'take his time', I mean, enough time to allow Jon to visit the bar, return with a drink, converse with gamers at other tables, return to his game, to find Paul still taking his move. OAP indeed....) Jon came second, and a bemused but happy Milda came third. Glen More - certainly one of the best Scottish-themed euros out there....

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The thrill of the hunt

Contributors: Daniel, David

San Juan and Deep Sea Assclowns with Philippe and Tomtoo, then a couple of rounds of Codenames. Deep Sea was amusing in that absolutely nobody brought back even a single treasure due to everybody starting on the heavy breathing every time anyone looked even remotely likely to make it back to the boat. Andy's Codenames clue of "Street" was fabulous seeing as there were two cards labelled 'Wall' and 'Bond' right next to one another; unfortunately, neither of these bloody cards were ours and he was trying to hint at something else entirely. Despite a catastrophic start in both games the trinity of James, Philippe and Tomtoo won both games handily (we blew up on the assassin in the second game but they would have cantered to the win anyway).

We followed all this with a spanking new (and probably KickStarted I'm guessing) game of Sneaky Alien Battleships (probably not the real title, which I cannot remember). In this one you track your movement in secret with the twist that everyone is moving in secret. Some areas on the board require you to draw a card which will do one of three things - either you will be quiet (meaning you don't have to say anything about where you are), you will have to report your exact location, or you can report any location on the board. This leads to all kinds of hi-jinks where the other players can't be sure whether you really are where you say you are or you are yanking their chains, a little too opaque in this area I would say. Players are divided into two teams, fleeing Humans and rampant Aliens intent on devouring them as fleshy treats, and of course nobody knows exactly who is on their side.

Tomtoo went too far in protesting his innocence and was mercilessly hunted down by his own side for looking too Human, resulting in him having to sit out the rest of the game. Meanwhile I confused the heck out of Tomjuan, convincing him that I was everywhere other than the bee-line I was making for one of the escape pods. Not sure how you quantify winners and losers in this game, but as both Phillippe and myself were the only ones to make it off the beseiged base I am going to count that as a victory for us. Quiet in all Sectors!
Good Cop Bad Cop was next, I nearly shot Paul in error but avoided doing so as I felt it would be a dick move to take someone out of the game after only one turn; when Andy later switched the roles belonging to Jon and myself it turns out I probably should have done it anyway. C'est la vie.

A little flurry of Fake Artistry followed, in both games the fraudlant finger-painters flummoxed their foes, but on neither occasion could they work out what the blooming heck everybody else was trying to draw - ahh, the sweet feeling of winning due to the incompetence of your opponents was in the air.


James B, TomToo and I began the evening early with a game of Shitenno or 'Shite-No' as James likes to call it, making it sound more like a blaxploitation movie from the 70s. Anyway the game is about Japanese generals competing for control of various Japanese provinces. Each round the first player gathers that years selection of troops and money and offers them to the other players in order. If he makes an offer too worthless the others can decline and he'll end up with it, if he makes it too good the other players will accept it. There's a really fine balance between dividing up the perfect slices of cake so that everyone is a winner. TomToo won this one comfortably by maximising the bonuses for overall control on over half the provinces. I followed up in second having wasted a couple of turns due to James offering me a worthless slice of cake and me foolishly accepting it and then James ended last.
Next was a game of Trains using the Trains: Nagoya Map with Jon, Paul, Philip and I. It was quite a tight map with a lot of mountains and other obstacles. Jon started at the top right cut off by a large mountain range, Paul position himself right in the centre of the map whilst Philip and I chose different corners at the bottom. I went for a strategy of building as many stations as possible early to try and make it more expensive to move into cities near me whilst working towards one of the easier bonus routes. Philip went straight for completing as many routes as possible and completed a couple whilst Jon pipped me to one of the routes as well as buying a lot of the victory point cards. Paul meanwhile built up a lot of cities and also collected quite a few victory point cards. It was quite a close game but Philip managed to win thanks to his routes with Jon a close second and Paul a close third. I was then about 10 points behind. I scored well on the board but not well enough with the cards.
To end my evening was 7 Wonders with 7 Wonders: Babel. I play a lot of 7 Wonders and it was nice to see an expansion that changes the way you play and creates a bit more interaction with your neighbours. The tower of Babel has three face up pieces at any one time that changes various conditions in the game, such as not being able to utilise the market cards, or military losses giving out two -1 tokens instead of one. At the end of the first round Philip played the tower piece that compounded military losses that really hurt Paul and I as both our neighbours went down the military route. I worked my way back from this setback by building as many civic buildings as possible, it wasn't a planned strategy it just so happened that no one else was building them and they kept coming around. Paul meanwhile went for science which didn't pay off quite as well as I believe Jon was putting them under his wonder and discarding as many as possible when building his tower pieces. At the end Jon won by about 8 points with me second, Philip third and Paul 4th. My last wonder level allowed me to copy a neighbours guild, only Jon built a guild and it gave me a grand total of 1 extra point. I should have chosen the other side...